I have just returned from my very first summertime trip to the Walt Disney World® Resort. Truthfully, it will probably be my last. I much prefer to go when the weather is more pleasant. It was hot, like HOT hot! Like heat index 108 degrees, hot, humid, and sweaty; and that makes for cranky children which makes for cranky parents. But I wanted to experience it as many clients are only available to go over the summer. So I tested a few popular internet theories, as well as some of my own, and a summer trip can be manageable if you plan and prepare. Here are some tips for “beating the heat” if your travel plans must occur during the hot summer months.
First, plan your FastPass+ wisely. While selecting the most popular attractions are usually the way to go, in summer, it may be better to use FastPass+ on attractions that have outdoor queues. (So as not to stand waiting in the heat.) Sure, Soarin’ might be a long standby wait, but that wait is indoors and air conditioned; you can eat a snack in line and it will also be a reprieve from the elements and give you time to recharge. To avoid waiting in outdoor queues, good FastPass+ selections in Magic Kingdom would be Tomorrowland Speedway, Jungle Cruise, and Big Thunder Mountain. In Hollywood Studio, you could choose Tower of Terror, Star Tours, Great Movie Ride or Disney Junior Live on Stage. Good choices in Animal Kingdom would be Kilamanjaro Safaris, Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo the Musical, and Kali River Rapids. At EPCOT, Spaceship Earth is the longest outside queue, so definitely select that one. Also, schedule your FastPass+ for late morning/early afternoon - between 10:30 am - 1:30 pm is a nice timeframe. This will allow you the opportunity to spend the afternoon over a long leisurely lunch or back at your resort pool, as well as time to schedule a fourth FastPass+ for when you return in the evening. Tomorrowland Speedway
Plan to arrive at Rope Drop. I am really not a morning person. Having visited so frequently, I do not mind sleeping in, arriving after everyone else has made it through security and then just experiencing fewer attractions. (I tend to hit up only my favorites.) But if you are not able to go often or especially, if this is your first trip and you want to see as much as possible, you will want to wake up early and be at the park first thing. Rope Drop is a term used to describe the park opening. Sometimes, cast members inside of parks, beyond the admission area literally hold a rope blocking off access to the park until it is officially time to open. Others, is just simply a cast member staffing the entrance. This typically occurs about 10-15 minutes before the advertised park opening time. Essentially, you want to arrive at the park around 45 minutes before park opening in order to make it through security, past the ticket entry point, and up the main entrance to each park and to the rope area before it “drops”. Cast member set the walking pace and escort the crowd further into the park to prevent running. While it may seem crowded when you show up, most guests do not take full advantage of the early park hours and you can get a LOT done before the masses truly arrive over the next couple of hours. I was able to do 5 attractions in my first hour of Magic Kingdom which is a pretty great rate! This method does make for long days and you will need to build some time into your trip to relax and unwind.
Cool off with a ride on Splash Mountain
Take an afternoon break. Did I mention it was sticky, sweaty hot? In the height of the afternoon, we were ready for a long break. The heat just zonked our “get up and go”. After arriving for rope drop to experience many attractions in the standby lines and then using our strategically planned FastPass+, we headed back to the resort each afternoon for a break. On the bus back to the resort, we used the My Disney Experience App to book a fourth FastPass+ for later in the evening when we planned to return to the park. I was honestly impressed with how many were still available. I thought the “best attractions” would be all used up, but there was plenty to choose. Back at the Resort, we ate an air conditioned, uncrowded lunch at the food court and then changed into our swimwear for a refreshing dip in the pool. I was able to relax in a shaded lounge chair while my child played along with the poolside activities. It was a win-win for sure, greatly improving both of our moods. On a couple of the days were even both opted for a short nap. Even if you are not traveling with children, the afternoon break gives you more stamina for an evening in the parks.
Visit attractions with indoor queues in the afternoons. If you elect to stay in the park all day, take a break from the midday sun and heat by visiting attractions with air conditioned waiting spaces. Mickey’s PhilharMagic and Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor are large theaters shows offering indoor waiting for the next show’s audience. Space Mountain, Soarin’, The Seas with Nemo & Friends, and Under the Sea- Journey of the Little Mermaid are examples of attractions with meandering indoor queues. This names just a few, there are many others at each park!
Hippy Dippy Pool Entrance at Disney's Pop Century Resort
Stay hydrated. Do not underestimate how much water is needed to combat the heat. Water fountains are plentiful and any quick-service restaurant will give you a free cup of ice water upon request. We each brought in a chilled bottle of water to get us started and we refilled it throughout the day. Some attractions make you discard a fountain drink before boarding (think lidded cup with a drinking straw that could spill). With a water bottle that you can cap, you are good to go and do not have to dispose of it. Just tuck it in your bag for later.
Stay as cool as possible. We used cooling towels/pads around our necks and found that they really took off the edge. Bought locally, the towels were under $10. I highly recommend this method for a summer vacation. I saw plenty of small battery operated cooling fans and misters being used as well. Some clipped onto strollers, others hung around guests’ necks. Walt Disney World® Resort does sell one water bottle/mister combination but it is rather large, bulky, and heavy when it is filled with water, so a smaller one may be more convenient. Alternatively, I saw some guests walked around with umbrellas for their own bubble of shade. Whatever you think will keep you coolest, do that. Do not forget your sunscreen- a sunburn does not help anything! Moisture wicking clothing is also wise, but as long as you are dressed as comfortably as possible, you will be ok. Hats and sunglasses sure help too!
Bring a poncho and rain friendly shoes. With Florida’s sub-tropical climate, almost half of summer days include a thunderstorm or rain. Do not run away from the parks when this happens; duck into a store or an indoor attraction and wait it out. Ponchos are available at an inflated cost at all the gift shops- might as well just have a cheaper one from home stowed in your backpack. At least, the storms tend to cool things down for a little while! It will likely remain muggy. Many advice sites recommend wearing sneakers in the parks as it is A LOT of walking. While this is true, there is little worse that squishy wet socks and shoes. Alternatively, I recommend strappy sporty sandals for the whole family -- Not so much flip flops in which wet feet can slide and lead to a twisted ankle (learned that one the hard way), though I do still often wear them quite successfully. The sport sandals do not require socks and dry out rather quickly after rain. No matter which you choose, you definitely want something tried and true that you know does not give you blisters. Walt Disney World® Resort is not the place to try out a new pair of shoes!
Pack your patience. I saved this for last as it is perhaps the most important. If you are a parent, you can expect your child to complain. You will most definitely become frustrated with the heat and the crowds, that double stroller in front of you that you just cannot seem to pass, or the family that stops to look at a map right in the middle of the walkway. You kind of have to go into it knowing that as much as it is all about you, everyone else thinks the same about them. Wearing a smile even when you feel cranky inside goes a long way to make your experience better. When you find yourself or your children frustrated, take a break! Sit in the shade, have a snack, browse the shops, order a cold drink and take your time consuming it in the A/C. As with all things, every situation is what you make of it, and overall you are going to have a very magical experience! Make the most of it!