Nothing kills the magic for an autistic child faster than a crowd. The noise, visual stimulation, and being bumped can all lead to instant sensory overload. Add to that the fact that cast members are likely to be more rushed and less relaxed, and the entire experience can be overwhelming. If your child is a wanderer, like mine, you know how quickly they can disappear in a crowded park.

I recently exchanged emails with Christine Hardenberger of Magical Mouse Plans while planning our next trip to Disney World. After explaining that avoiding the crowds was one of our biggest priorities, she offered so much great advice that I asked if she would write a guest post here at Return to Disney. Thanks Christine!

Here is what Christine had to say:

Monorail at Epcot

Every day, I am asked this question.  Everyone wants to get the most out of their time at Disney and they want to avoid crowds and long lines.  Is it possible?  YES!  These days, there are always some crowds at Disney but there are still times when you might find yourself walking alone for a few hundred yards in the World Showcase.  Here are some tips to help you make the most of your next Disney adventure:

Travel just before or just after school breaks. For instance the first two weeks in December and January have some of the lightest crowds of the year.

Travel just before school lets out for the summer or just after it goes back into session. May (with the exception of Memorial Day weekend) as well as late September/early October are excellent in terms of crowds and the weather is great!

Check for special events at Disney or the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Disney looks to bring in guests at slower times of year and will often host sports competitions or other special events.  This means packed parks and resorts. You don’t want to get stuck in a resort with several hundred practicing cheerleaders!  Check here to make sure you aren’t traveling at event time:  http://espnwwos.disney.go.com/ and http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/special-events/

Once you are at Disney, there are some strategies you can employ to visit the parks at the least crowded times:

Take a rest from 11am-2pm These are the peak park hours and everything will be at its most crowded.  Go to the park in the morning, take a lunch time break and return in the late afternoon.

Skip Morning Extra Magic Hours These tend to be packed.  However, the Evening Extra Magic hours are much less crowded and a great time to ride the most popular rides.   Many people (especially those with small kids) have spent the day at the parks and are too tired to hang around until midnight.

Take a weekend break If you have scheduled a day in your vacation to rest by the pool, do it on a Saturday or Sunday.  The weekends see day-trippers added to the normal vacation crowd and the parks are more crowded.

The truth is that there are no empty times at Walt Disney World.  However, you can avoid the major crowds and spend your time riding the rides rather than standing in line!