For many, visiting Walt Disney World during the summer is their only option. Whether you have work obligations or prefer not to take your children out of school, you may find yourself planning a trip during some of the hottest and busiest months of the year. As someone who falls into that category quite often, I thought it would be helpful to share a few tips to help guests make the most out of their summer vacations to the World. These suggestions are tried-and-true from my years of visiting the parks, and I hope they will be of use to you over the next few months.
Planning Your Trip
1. Set Priorities: Just because you’re going on a Disney vacation, it doesn’t mean that you can’t relax. So many guests go in with the mentality of having to do everything and see everything. Set goals. What are your must do attractions? restaurants? entertainment options? I like to pick three things that I focus on each trip; anything else that I accomplish is considered a bonus! Manage your expectations and make the most of the experience. It will be more fun in the long run.
2. Organize Your Day & Plan a Break: The heat during the summer months can be brutal; there’s just no changing that. To combat this, it’s important to have a rough sketch of what your day will look like. If you are an early riser, plan to be at the parks about a half hour before they open. This will ensure that you visit many attractions before lines get long and the sun begins to scorch the skin. The hottest part of the day in the parks occurs between noon and 4 pm. With this being said, the sun is most prevalent early in the time period and the temperatures peak starting around 3. This would be a perfect time to go back to your resort room for a break; nap, swim, enjoy an activity at the resort, or hit up a movie at Downtown Disney to stay cool before returning to the parks later in the day.
3. Dress Lightly & Wear Sunscreen: Knowing how hot it can be at the World, make sure that you bring light, comfortable clothing with you and a big bottle of sunscreen. You’re at Disney, not walking down a runway, folks, so leave your stilettos and best outfits at home. Bring clothing that is airy and of light colors (black, blue, and other dark colors attract the sun’s rays). Before you leave your resort, liberally apply sunscreen – even when it is cloudy – to protect your skin. I prefer the spray as opposed to the cream; it’s quicker and can be applied to the scalp for those of us who do not wear a hat. Similarly, take a trial-size bottle with you in the parks so that you can reapply later in the day. Carrying a normal bottle will just weigh you down.
4. Extra Magic Hours & FastPass+: Both of these programs offer fantastic solutions to avoiding the summer heat and crowds. Walt Disney World resort guests can enter the parks an hour early and stay up to three hours late on select nights. While those with young children might find it more reasonable to take advantage of the morning Extra Magic Hours (EMH), other guests will find a lot of success at the nighttime offering. I regularly sleep in, shop for a few hours or visit the pool in the afternoon, have a nice meal, and then hit the parks around 6 or 7 pm until EMH is over. There’s nothing better than walking on attractions late at night! It’s a fantastic experience. With the new FastPass+ and My Disney Experience app, you can make your own version of EMH by scheduling a time to visit attractions with little to no wait times at any point of the day. This will allow you to spend less time in the hustle and bustle of a hot crowded park. Don’t forget to hit up the nighttime shows like Wishes and Celebrate the Magic!
5. Make a Lunch ADR: If you’re headed to the parks in the morning, be sure to have an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) at a restaurant inside that same park for lunch. This will give you a chance to cool down, unwind, and recharge. Avoid peak lunch hours, if at all possible, and make an ADR for in-between 11-11:30 am. It may sound early, but if you’ve been out and about in the parks since opening, you’ll welcome the break.
6. Bring a Cooling Device: When I was a kid, those blue mister fans Disney sold were all the rage. That still holds true today, but the price is pretty steep. At about $20 a pop, you might want to consider purchasing one at home and bringing it with you. There’s nothing more refreshing than a cool mist on a hot day, so these fans can be lifesavers. If you’re not keen on the idea, consider bringing a small hand-held fan with you that can be used while waiting in lines. My personal favorite option is to use a cooling towel which can be purchased at local sporting good stores, Target, Walmart, and even Christmas Tree Shops. These towels are activated when wet and provided hours of refreshing comfort; just place one on your neck, and you’re good to go. It’s amazing how much of a difference they can make.
Once You’re Inside the Parks
1. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate: Did you know that feeling thirsty is your body’s way of telling you that you’re dehydrated? It’s true and enjoying a Disney vacation in the summer requires a lot of water. While everyone’s bodies are different, it is important to maintain a regular consumption of water throughout the day. Make sure you drink a bottle in the morning, in-between meals, and at night. Steer clear of caffeinated beverages including energy drinks as well as alcohol; these liquids actually dehydrate you in the sun. If you prefer something with a taste to it, try adding a few drops of a liquid flavoring or powdered packet. I also recommend carrying a bottle in your hands – not in a park bag – because you are more likely to drink something that you are holding than what is out of reach.
Know the characteristics of heat-related illnesses and monitor yourself and your friends and family accordingly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, be alert for the following warning signs:
- Heavy sweating
- Cold, pale, and clammy skin
- Fast, weak pulse
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle cramping
These are signs of heat exhaustion which can quickly creep up on you during the day. If anyone in your traveling party experiences these symptoms, report to First Aid immediately. There, trained nurses will be able to assist you. First Aid can be found in each of the parks:
- Magic Kingdom – Between Casey’s Corner & Crystal Palace
- Epcot – In the Odyssey Building before Entering World Showcase & Mexico
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios – After the Turnstiles in the Entrance
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Next to Creature Comforts along the Path to Pizzafari
If you have difficulty finding First Aid, simply stop and ask any Cast Member nearby including custodians. They can direct you and offer added assistance, if needed.
2. Feel the Breeze: Let’s face it. There are some outdoor attractions at Walt Disney World that bring with them a huge breeze. If you’re up for it, consider riding a roller coaster or similar thrill ride as a way to cool off. Big Thunder Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, and the like all get you up in the air and feeling the breeze. It’s a great way to cool down.
3. In & Out: Stick with this philosophy when deciding what attractions and entertainment options to visit. Experience one or two outdoor attractions, then one inside, and repeat. The air conditioning will help you cool off especially during the hottest times of the day. Indoor attractions can also provide a much needed sensory break for those feeling a little burned out. Here are a few of my favorite spots:
- Magic Kingdom – The Enchanted Tiki Room, Hall of Presidents, Carousel of Progress, Mickey’s Philharmagic
- Epcot – Ellen’s Energy Adventure, The Seas with Nemo & Friends, The Land
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Voyage of the Little Mermaid, American Idol Experience, One Man’s Dream
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Finding Nemo – The Musical, Festival of the Lion King, Rafiki’s Planet Watch
Most of these offer an indoor line queue, so you can cool down immediately. Some, like The Seas and The Land, have multiple experiences to enjoy within the same building. This gives everyone a chance to decompress a bit while still having fun at the parks.
4. Avoid Direct Sun: It always boggles my mind when I see guests waiting for the afternoon parade on the sunniest side of Main Street. If you’re scoping out a spot, take a minute to see which direction the sun is facing. Avoid sitting in direct sunlight at all cost. This will increase your chances of not only feeling burned out but also getting a sunburn and even heat-related illnesses. This holds true for lines as well. If you notice that a line is in the brunt of the sun, come back at another time or schedule a FastPass+ to enjoy it later in the day.
5. It’s Okay to Get Wet: I get it. You worked relentlessly to create the most presentable and cool hairdo that morning; you might have even gotten a bit creative with the eye shadow or have on your best pair of shades. Still, it’s okay to get wet, folks. Don’t run from the squirting camel in Adventureland. Embrace the Coca Cola misters near Test Track. Frolick through the Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak station. It’s okay, and you’ll be more comfortable for it. Getting wet will help you feel better both inside and out. Remember my tip about staying hydrated? Water on the skin will help you stay safe and cool. In fact, consider a trip to the Laughing Place on Splash Mountain or even to Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach during the afternoon. These will make for great fun during your visit. You can always go back to your resort afterwards to freshen up before dinner.
Overall, visiting a Disney park during the summer is not as bad as some make it out to be. Go with a positive attitude and remember to have fun. You are on vacation, so do what is right for you and your traveling party. It’s okay to break away from the original plan if need be. What is your best tip for enjoying a summer vacation at Walt Disney World? Share it in the comments section below. Happy summer!
Category: Disney World