How To Stay Hydrated at Disney World
A visit to Disney World is not fun when you feel awful, and dehydration is one of the most common causes of a medical interruption to your day. Whether you’re looking to tackle the roller coasters or the PeopleMover, our guide to hydration at Disney World will help you stay refreshed and ready to go.
Tap on any of the links in the table of contents below to jump straight to that topic.
Three reasons to stay hydrated at theme parks
The best things to eat and drink for hydration
Where to find water at Disney World
Hydration tips for touring – adults and kids!
Signs of dehydration
The Importance of Hydration
Yah, yah, you’ve got lots of planning to do, why should you spend 5-10 minutes reading about hydration? Here are three big reasons why you should care.
Reason #1: feeling bad sucks, and getting dehydrated can make you feel pretty bad. Headache, nausea, dizziness, charley horse, and more can all be signs of dehydration, and none of them are pleasant. Ever had a hangover? That’s mostly dehydration you were feeling.
Reason #2: you’ll have more energy to tackle the parks. Like most things in life, hydration is a spectrum. You’re not perfectly hydrated one minute, and then dizzy and shaking the next. Even mild levels of dehydration can contribute to feelings of exhaustion and fatigue, and that’s the last thing you need in a theme park.
Reason #3: you’re more likely to stay healthy. Maybe you’re just visiting for the day, but Disney World is a vacation destination. Mild dehydration over a few days can impact your immune system, making it more likely that you’ll get sick during your holiday.
What to Eat and Drink to Stay Hydrated
Hydration equals fluids and fluids equals drinking, right? Wrong. Of course we’re going to talk about what to drink, but about 20% of the water we need usually comes from food. Including food as part of your hydration plan is helpful because fiber and other nutrients make it easier for your body to absorb the water you’re taking in.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to buy everything you’re going to eat or drink in the parks. Guests are allowed to bring food and drinks into the theme parks at Disney World, as long as it isn’t in glass containers, doesn’t contain alcohol, and doesn’t need heating or processing. Hydration packs are allowed, as are backpacks and coolers that are within the size limits and don’t contain loose or dry ice.
The Best Foods for Hydration
Watermelon comes to mind immediately; it’s pretty much a cliche. More picks with more than 90% water content: other melons such as cantaloupe, along with cucumbers, celery, lettuce, tomatoes, and zucchini. One that was a surprise to me? Strawberries. Just down in the next tier at 80-90% water are most other fruits that we think of as being juicy: citrus fruits, grapes, and stone fruits like peaches and pears. Carrots are here too.
I hope it goes without saying that I’m talking about fresh fruits and vegetables: a dried cherry is, well … dehydrated. But even the least hydrating fruits and vegetables (starchy ones like bananas or avocados) still have a water content of 70% or above. And you don’t have to stick to produce either. Dairy products such as yogurt and cottage cheese, soups, and other semi-solids such as applesauce can all have 80% or more water content.
What to Drink – Water, Sports Drinks, and More
Over a day in the parks, we’re not going to get all the fluids we need from food alone. The recommendation from health professionals of all kinds is to drink water. If you don’t like the taste of water, you can add simple flavors such as lemon or citrus, or make it more palatable using flavorings that don’t add a lot of sugar.
Sports drinks such as Powerade or Gatorade are touted for hydration, but they’re not always better than water. What sports drinks are good at is replacing fluid at the same time as electrolytes that have been lost through sweating. What does this mean for you? Well, if you’re visiting in the summer then sports drinks or other electrolyte replacement might be a good choice for some of your fluid intake. If you’re visiting in the winter and you’re not sweating a ton, you’ll still need to drink but you might want to stick to water.
Sugary drinks such as sodas or juice get a mixed review on the hydration front. If you’re otherwise in good health, the main disadvantage is that if you’re drinking a lot to stay hydrated then that’s a lot of sugary calories too.
Colas are where sugary drinks cross over with caffeinated beverages such as tea and coffee. Caffeine is a mild diuretic (it makes you pee more) and for a long time the word was that coffee, tea, and soda were dehydrating. But science says the effect is mild enough that you generally don’t need to worry about it unless you’re using caffeine pills instead of drinking a beverage. Energy drinks often contain more dehydrating additives, and you shouldn’t rely on them for hydration.
That brings us to alcohol. Your preschooler won’t need to worry about it, but as adults, we sometimes like to indulge. Like caffeine, alcohol is a diuretic. Unlike caffeine, alcoholic drinks will be dehydrating: your net intake of water will be negative. If you’re drinking lower alcohol content beverages like beer or cider, you might not notice it as quickly. But a good rule of thumb is to drink at least an extra glass of water for each alcoholic drink you have. And that’s just to keep even – if it’s hot and you’re sweating a lot, you’ll need to do more.
Finding Water at Disney World
Unless you carry in a hydration pack or several individual bottles, at some point you’re going to be looking for something to drink. You can buy water throughout the parks; many vendors also sell Powerade. There are two places to get water for free: water fountains and Quick Service restaurants.
Both the water fountains and the free ice water from Quick Service will be Florida tap water; the main difference between them will be the temperature. Many people aren’t fond of the taste of Florida’s water, and there are two common solutions. You can carry added flavoring such as small packets of Crystal Light or Mio. (Powdered electrolyte packets can be used if you’re looking to avoid paying for sports drinks as well.) Or, you can use a filter bottle: Brita and LifeStraw are popular brands, but there are others.
Bottled water, along with Powerade and other bottled drinks, is easily found throughout Disney World. Every snack cart or snack stand sells it, as well as many stores and Quick Service locations. Due to Disney’s agreement with Coca-Cola, the water you find for sale will almost always be Dasani. SmartWater may also be available, usually at a higher price.
Finding Water Fountains at Disney World
As a general rule, where there is a restroom you will find a water fountain nearby. The reverse isn’t true, but restrooms are listed on the park map in the My Disney Experience app and water fountains are not. If you’re looking to refill a HydroFlask, a Yeti bottle, or the like, a few locations in each park have water bottle refill stations. You can also refill bottles at the fountain drink stations, though not all Quick Service restaurants have them. For a complete list of good places to refill your reusable bottle, see Water Bottle Refill Stations at Disney World.
Free Water from Quick Service
You can get a free cup of ice water at any Quick Service restaurant, even if you’re not buying food. One thing that’s often a source of confusion is that these need to be actual Quick Service restaurants, not snack carts or snack stands. If there’s no dedicated seating for diners, then there’s no free ice water at the counter either.
You’ll often see advice to “never pay for water at Disney World” because you can get free ice water at Quick Service. But one thing I’ve found is that time is money: sometimes it’s faster to grab a bottle from a nearby snack cart with no line than to wait in the queue to get to a counter and ask for the free water.
Hydration Tips for Touring
The biggest tip I have for staying hydrated while traveling around the parks is to be aware of it, to have a plan. We all have different touring styles and some strategies will suit some groups better than others. But if you just assume it’s going to happen, it might not. So the good news is that you’ve already won half the battle just by reading this article.
It’s more effective to take in small amounts of water frequently than to go for a few hours and chug a bottle at once. Kids especially need to hydrate often since they are more susceptible to dehydration than adults, and seniors may not feel thirst as rapidly in response to dehydration. For both of these groups, offer water on a routine basis. If you’re using Lines to make a custom touring plan, one of my favorite tricks is to always set the walking speed to the slowest setting; this automatically builds in some slack time for snacks, bathroom, and water stops.
Here are some specific tips and strategies that my family and others have applied over the years. You won’t want to do all of them (and I think some are even mutually exclusive!), but there should be a few that strike your fancy as something your group could take in stride.
- What goes out, goes in: drink every time you stop to use the bathroom.
- Drink every time you pass a water fountain (even if you’re not drinking from the water fountain).
- Drink whenever you get off an attraction where you waited more than 20 minutes in line.
- If you’re in an outdoor queue for more than 10 minutes, pass around water or small snacks. (Snacking and drinking may or may not be allowed in indoor queues. My experience has been that passing around a water bottle or a small packet of Goldfish is not an issue, but YMMV.)
- Have a small snack or a meal at least every two hours. You don’t have to stop touring; eating grapes in line counts.
- Have at least one glass of water with every meal.
- At Table Service meals, have a single serving of soda, then switch to water. Alternately, drink only water until your food arrives, then switch to whatever beverage you choose to enjoy with your meal.
- At Quick Service restaurants, send someone for cups of ice water as you’re clearing up. Use these to top up any refillable bottles that you’re carrying.
Signs of Dehydration
When it comes to dehydration, prevention is the best approach. But nobody’s perfect, so it’s good to know the warning signs that tell you it’s time to top up your fluid levels. Dizziness, nausea, and headaches are very noticeable, but there are less obvious symptoms that can be easy to overlook.
Thirst, dry mouth, or chapped lips. This seems like a “no duh” entry on this list. But be aware that your sense of thirst in response to fluid levels can decrease with age, and don’t wait until your thirst is extreme to do something about it.
Muscle cramps. It can be easy to write off a small cramp or discomfort as a result of your day’s unaccustomed exercise. Don’t. Even if exercise is a contributor, staying hydrated will reduce the impact.
Fatigue, irritability, or confusion. Theme parks are pretty stimulating, and you might be inclined to write off crankiness or fatigue to how much you’ve been doing. But these symptoms can be a sign that you’re dehydrated, and they can also be a sign that you need some food.
Lack of sweat, dry eyes, or blurry vision. If you’re not used to Florida’s humid climate, you’ll find yourself perspiring a lot, especially in the first few days while your body adjusts. If you were sweating earlier in the day and now you’re not, that’s a sign that your body doesn’t have the fluid it wants. Dry, itchy eyes or blurry vision tell the same story: your body doesn’t have enough water to go around.
Your pee – less of it, less frequently, or color changes. It’s common wisdom that dark-colored urine is a sign of dehydration, but you need to put that in context. Your pee can take on a wide range of colors influenced by everything from medications to what you eat. Still, you know what’s normal for you. Take a look in the toilet when you pause for a bathroom break; if your pee is darker than normal it’s likely a sign that you’re dehydrated. If you can’t remember when the last time you stopped for a bathroom break was, that’s probably not a good sign either.
Dehydration in Kids
Everything above applies to kids too. But it’s on you to be extra alert as they may not be old enough to communicate well or understand why they feel lousy. For infants, be wary if the soft spots (fontanelles) or eyes appear sunken, and take note if diapers don’t need to be changed as often or aren’t as full. Arms or legs that feel overly cool with dry-feeling or mottled skin should be a cause for concern, and if you press your child’s fingernail and the white doesn’t fill back to a healthy pink within 2 seconds, that’s another sign. Over the course of a few days, unusual constipation can signal low-level dehydration.
Where to Get Help
If your symptoms are mild you should be able to get yourself rehydrated. Get out of the sun, sit down, and take in some fluids. But if your symptoms are more serious or you have other signs of heat-related illness, head on over to the First Aid center. They see a lot of it, and the nurse there will either be able to help you get back on your feet, or triage you over to more advanced medical assistance.
Making an effort to stay hydrated can help you feel your best and have more energy while touring the parks.
- You can buy food and drink in the parks, or bring it with you.
- Food can help with hydration: look for foods with high water content.
- Water is the best thing to drink, but if you’re sweating a lot you might mix in sports drinks or other electrolyte replacement.
- Drink a glass of water for each alcoholic beverage you take in. If it’s hot and you’re sweating a lot, you’ll need even more.
- You can find bottled water all over Disney World. For free water look to water fountains or ask at the counter of Quick Service restaurants.
- Drink some water with every meal. After a glass of soda or lemonade consider switching to water for the rest of the meal.
- For kids and seniors, don’t wait until they say they’re thirsty to offer water. (Or food!)
- Have a hydration routine. It doesn’t matter what it is, just that you’re making time for hydration on a regular basis.
- Don’t ignore early signs of dehydration like muscle cramps, thirst, or irritability. Keep an eye on the frequency, quantity, and color of your liquid output. For kids and seniors, be extra alert.
- If you’re having more severe symptoms of dehydration such as headaches, nausea, or dizziness, head straight for the park’s First Aid station.
When you visit the parks, how do you plan to stay hydrated? What are your best tips? Let us know in the comments!
3 thoughts on “How To Stay Hydrated at Disney World”
We were in Disney last August and it was blazing hot! Our plan was to include gallon size jugs of water in our grocery order to our hotel, then bring in our Brita Water bottles and refill at water fountains. We quickly found out that the water from the fountains comes out slow and warm…We ended up buying a few water bottles at the start of every morning so we could keep refilling our water bottles. We also would stop at QS and get ice to keep the water cool. When we go again, I would plan to order cases of water bottles instead, since they would be easier to throw in a bag and bring to the park. I would also purchases water bottles that keep things cold instead of the plastic the Brita bottles are made out.
Hi Brittney, yeah, August is hot. If you’re throwing water bottles in a bag, one tip is to put them in the fridge the night before and carry them in an insulated bag with a couple of ice packs. They’ll stay cold for quite a while that way.
We went a few weeks ago and used hydration packs. We could each bring 2-3 litres at the beginning of the day, which would last us until lunch. I found it much better than using bottles that we would have had to refill multiple times in the morning.