Walt Disney World (FL)

Surviving summer at Walt Disney World

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I’ve literally sweated to get this blog post to you.

As the husband of a teacher, my family’s Disney vacations typically come during the summer months. The heat and crowds of June, July and August keep some away, but we’ve learned to love our summer trips.

While the summer crowds were once substantially heavier than other times of the year, Disney has managed, through events and promotions, to even those crowds out. So long wait times shouldn’t necessarily deter you from a summer trip. Wise use of FastPass+, crowd calendars and a good touring plan can greatly reduce the time you spend in lines. We find that by getting to the parks early, we can knock out a lot of attractions before the sun is straight overhead.

We’ve learned that summer has its advantages, too, such as longer park hours and fewer attractions down for refurbishment. Along the way, we’ve figured out a few tips and tricks that should help you if you’re currently preparing for your summer trek to Walt Disney World.

Midday getaway

The pool at Port Orleans French Quarter.
The pool at Port Orleans French Quarter.

If you think you’re going to be able to do the parks from rope drop to closing, think again. A key part of enduring a summer trip is planning for daily rest and relaxation at your resort when the parks are at their most crowded and hottest. If you’re trying to decide whether you’re going to stay on or off property, you’ll want to factor in the travel time of returning to your resort midday. Thanks to summer park hours being the longest of the year, you’ll still be able to accomplish plenty, even with spending a few hours at your resort.

Ideally, you’ll be able to hit a park at rope drop, head back to your resort after lunch, grab a quick nap or perhaps go for a swim. Then head back to a park refreshed and ready to enjoy more attractions and evening entertainment. This kind of touring is ideal for park hopping, where you can hit one park in the morning and another in the evening. You might even consider saving your FastPass+ reservations for your evening park on select days. The new Frozen attractions in Epcot’s Norway and the evening Kilimanjaro Safaris will be tough to get FastPasses for if you’re trying to add them the same day after you’ve used your three initial FastPasses. If you’ve never done Seven Dwarfs Mine Train during dusk or evening, it’s the best way to experience that final scene.

Crank the A/C

You won't have to wait for the cool A/C in Country Bear Jamboree.
You won’t have to wait for the cool A/C in Country Bear Jamboree.

In the summer, indoor attractions are your friend. Luckily, Disney has plenty of them. Are you starting to drag after riding Splash Mountain? Take some time to duck into Country Bear Jamboree. You would be surprised at how just 10 to 15 minutes sitting in a cool attraction can recharge your batteries. People say that Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the hottest park, but I think that’s a function of it having most of its attractions outdoors. Indoor dining can be a big relief as well. The new Harambe Market might be a big draw to diners at Animal Kingdom, but it’s outdoors and crowded. If your family needs a break, you may be better off heading over to Restaurantosaurus.

Air conditioning is also one of the overlooked advantages of taking Disney transportation rather than your own car. Hopping on an air conditioned bus can make for a relieving ride back to your resort, as opposed to getting into car that’s been baking on an asphalt parking lot all day.

Mind your body’s needs

High heat and humidity can cause big problems if you’re not paying attention to your body’s signals. First and foremost, make sure you and your entire family are staying hydrated. Luckily, you can get a free cup of ice water at any counter service location. Be sure to take advantage of that service. It’s no problem bringing (non-alcoholic) beverages into the park, so grab a few bottles from your resort room fridge before heading out the door.

If you're wearing shoes and socks on Kali River Rapids, you could end up with soaked feet.
If you’re wearing shoes and socks on Kali River Rapids, you could end up with soaked feet.

Apply sunscreen early and often. No one wants to endure the discomfort of a nasty sunburn on vacation. Make sure to cover the areas you might overlook, like the tops of your feet if you’re wearing sandals. Speaking of feet, comfortable, broken-in footwear is a must if you want to avoid blisters. I like to alternate between athletic shoes and a comfortable pair of waterproof sandals, saving those sandals for the day we’re planning on riding Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom. Otherwise, you could end up walking through the park with soaked shoes and socks.

And finally, as much as we may not want to talk about it, it’s an unfortunate reality. The combination of heat, humidity, moist skin and constant walking can lead to painful chafing. Applying an anti-chafing powder to those problem regions at the start of your day will keep the rashes away.

A hard rain’s gonna fall

During the summer, you can expect almost daily rain showers. Be sure to bring rain panchos from home, I guarantee you’ll use them and you’ll save a good bit of money over buying them at the parks.

The thing about Florida showers is that they rarely last more than an hour or two, even though they can be heavy at times. The midday rain storm has a tendency to clear out the crowds in a park. So if you can wait it out, you might be able to jump on some attractions with much lower wait times.

Water parks, better late than never

Hit the Disney Water Parks in the couple hours before closing for lower crowds.
Hit Typhoon Lagoon in the couple hours before closing for lower crowds.

If you’ve never been to Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach, summer is a great time to enjoy the theming and attractions. While conventional wisdom may say that you should get to the water park at opening to avoid the crowds, I take a different approach.

When you use a morning of your trip to visit the water park, you’re missing out on early morning touring at one of the theme parks, which I find far more valuable as far as maximizing your time. Instead, I like to head to the water parks for the couple hours before closing, which is typically 7 p.m. By 4 or 5, you’ll see the day crowds begin to dissipate. By the last hour, you’ll have very little wait for most of the parks slides. I’ve been able to virtually walk on to Crush ‘n’ Gusher at the end of the day. The great thing about this approach is that it still allows you to head to a theme park to catch an evening spectacular and ride a few attractions.

One other essential for the water parks, and your resort pool for that matter, is swim shoes. When the sun is beating down on the concrete, it can be painful to walk on with bare feet. Swim shoes eliminate that problem. Also, anyone who has been in the fantastic Surf Pool at Typhoon Lagoon can tell you that the rough bottom surface, while helpful to prevent slipping, can be rough on bare feet. Swim shoes will save your soles in this situation as well.

What are your tips for touring the parks in the summer? Please share your experiences in the comments.

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8 thoughts on “Surviving summer at Walt Disney World

  • I love going to Disney in the Summer though it’s a bit harder with a toddler. August has lower crowds but high heat and humidity. Agree that you must take full advantage of the extra magic hours. We always went to a park early in the morning, then back to the hotel in the afternoon to rest and back to a park at night. I love Disney at night, it’s a whole new park!!! If you have small children that don’t nap in a stroller or nap at all, I would recommend skipping the Summer months until they are older, unless you are ok with spending more time at the resort. There is nothing worse then an exhausted child in 100 degree heat screaming while in line for Peter Pan. I have a non napping toddler now and we have moved our Disney trips to the Fall/Spring until she’s a little older.

  • “If you’re trying to decide whether you’re going to stay on or off property, you’ll want to factor in the travel time of returning to your resort midday.”

    We have a lot of experience staying off-site, and my wife has a lot of experience staying on-site before we met. We remained firmly convinced that extra travel time to our offsite accommodations does not exist. In other words, it takes us the same amount of time to drive to a nearby VRBO as it would to take Disney transport to a resort of equal pricing.

    Factor this in with the fact that you can get a 3br/3bath town home with private pool for the same price as a tiny room in a value resort, and there is no way we would every stay on-site again.

    Even when we paid $415/night for a couple nights at the Poly on our honeymoon, we felt cheated. Was it nice? Yes. Was it worth the price? Not in any conceivable way. For the same amount of money we could have stayed in a much bigger, much nicer place for over a week (we did in fact go to WDW for a bit over a week on our honeymoon, but had already planned ahead of time to move to a VRBO after a couple nights in the Poly. The only reason we stayed in the Poly in the first place was because we got engaged on the Poly beach during Wishes 🙂 ).

  • We’re going Aug 20 to Set 5th, and I was planning to do the opposite of your suggestion. Go to the water parks first thing in the morning until the rain hits, then head to the parks afterwards. Would that be just as effective or not?

    • From our experience, it’s better to do water activities in morning and go to parks later in the day. The trouble with pool time in the afternoon is that pools are closed for 30 minutes after last lightning noted, and it’s almost a guarantee of a daily afternoon thunderstorm.

    • It would definitely be as effective. The one negative is that if you’re hitting the theme parks on the same day, you’re losing the advantage of morning park touring. But if you’re doing a water parks-only day, morning is an ideal time for the water parks.

      • I did an opening to closing day with my wife and two sons (ages 10 and 9 at the time) and the crowds were non-existent in the last hour before closing. The water park made for a good rest day for me and my wife. The boys could play in the 12 years and under area while my wife and I could watch them in deck chairs.

        One thing I did discover a need for at the end of that day was talcolm powder. Had a bit of chafing in some sensitive areas after 12 hours at the water park!

      • With three teens, we’re past the morning park thing, and more the “sleep in and stay until closing” type of touring. Last trip my kids were on Splash Mountain at 2:45 AM.

  • Another great time to visit water parks is right after a storm. We went after a heavy rain in the late afternoon, entered the park as lots of people were on their way out, and didn’t wait in a single line at Blizzard Beach!


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