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Beating the Summer Heat in Walt Disney World
By Carol Garcia
As I sit shivering in the winter weather, thinking about a summer in the Orlando heat seems like a wonderful idea. The thought of being able to feel my now-frozen toes again is very appealing. But as someone who has spent the last few summers vacationing in Florida, I know full well that my idealistic dream really translates into some seriously hot and humid weather.
Of course Floridians are used to dealing with the summer weather, but for those of us who aren’t in that kind of heat every day, it pays to plan ahead.
Is it possible to have a fun vacation in the middle of the Florida summer heat? Of course it is, but it takes a little bit of planning.
Be prepared. First, it pays to be prepared for the heat. Know that it will be in the 90s each day with about 95% humidity, and a chance of afternoon thunderstorms. Some days ar hotter than others, but that is the norm. To think that enjoying a warm day in the northern U.S. is the same as a warm day in the south isn’t quite accurate. So before you hop on the plane or jump into the car, spend some time gathering the necessary items to help with the temperature (see below for the nitty gritty).
Hydrate. Probably the single more important thing to do is hydrate. A lot. Plan on bringing or purchasing lots of water. And don’t wait until you’re thirsty to have a drink. Keep drinking throughout the day to avoid problems.
There are many ways to get the necessary water when at Disney. First, bottled water is sold everywhere on property. A bottle will cost around $2.50 at most locations. Second, a more economical option are water fountains. These are not quite as plentiful, but they can still be found throughout the parks. Be warned, though, that some people report a sulfur taste to the tap water. And a few (like me) get sick after drinking the tap water in the area. A greener way of dealing with all of those bottles is to refill a bottle with a filter on it. A great option can be found at YourGuidetoGreen.
If you are using a fountain or bringing your own supply of water, a cup of ice can be obtained (for free!) at any of the counter-service locations. For those who don’t normally drink a lot of water, there are bottle-sized drink mixes that can just be poured into a bottle and mixed. They go a long way to promoting hydration and providing a different taste, too. There are many kid- and adult-friendly flavors and brands that are available at most grocery stores.
Remember the kids. Speaking of kids staying hydrated, it pays to remind them to keep drinking. Infants and toddlers should be offered drinks frequently. Some even give their infants, who might not normally drink plain water, a bottle with water in it just to keep fluids in them. The heat can adversely affect a little one very fast. Even the older children might be too caught up in the fun and excitement to think about drinking until it’s too late.
Remember sunscreen. Going hand-in-hand with hydration is sunscreen. The summer Florida sun can be quite intense. Try to make it a habit of applying sunscreen in the morning before leaving the hotel. Ideally sunscreen should be applied thirty minutes before exposure to the sun.
Then, don’t leave the sunscreen behind. Keep applying throughout the day to ensure continued protection. Even if you aren’t someone who normally wears sunscreen at home, this is a must. Touring the parks is different from most of our daily lives. It’s common to be standing in an outside line or sitting and watching a show in the sun, and it doesn’t take long to get burned. A sunburn on vacation (or any time) is no fun!
Wear hats and sunglasses. Two more essentials for summer touring are hats and sunglasses. Keeping the sun off of your head and face will not ruin your summer look as much as heatstroke will. So get a hat with a nice brim and some sunglasses to keep the rays at bay. If you wear prescription glasses, plan ahead to either have prescription sunglasses or something that slips behind your glasses to block the glare. Not only will you be more comfortable, it can prevent damage to your eyes. Even the little ones should get into the hat and sunglasses act. My children always enjoyed getting a new pair of sunglasses to wear on their trips. If you make it fun, they are more likely to comply.
Bring gadgets and gizmos aplenty. There are lots of other gadgets and gizmos to try to help you keep your cool in the sun. Disney sells a squirt bottle/fan combination that is quite popular and quite pricey (although, speaking from experience, at some point you could be so hot the price seems far more reasonable). If you plan ahead, stores at home will have the same item, sans Disney characters, for a fraction of the cost. We’ve actually found that the mist of water is far more refreshing than the fan, so just a plain squirt bottle will do. My family also enjoys the time-honored tradition of having Dad dump water on their heads from those water bottles that got too hot to drink.
Before you leave home, scout out your local stores for items that might help you cool off on your trip. If find I can get all three kids squirt bottles at home for less than one at Disney, it saves money and an argument. What more can I ask for?
Learn the naked truth. Contrary to what some two-year-olds and teenagers might try to tell you, less clothes does not always mean you’ll be cooler. A light, breathable cotton will keep the sun off of your skin, which will help in keeping you a bit cooler and happier. For the girls and ladies, a sundress is a nice option (I wonder if that’s where the name came from?). Of course light colors are cooler than dark colors. This is not the trip to break out the new dark denim.
Water, water, everywhere (part 2). In addition to drinking the water, try getting some on your skin. Of course there are the misting fans, but there are also big misters throughout the parks. There are also splash fountains for the little and not-so-little ones to cool off. And if you are staying at a resort, you will likely have access to one or more pools. Take some time to cool off in the water there, too (don’t forget the sunscreen).
Cool it.Any Disney planner who has been at this for a while has heard to take frequent breaks. This is even more important in the summer. Find a nice ride or show that is air-conditioned. Take a nap. Have a leisurely lunch (it can be at a counter-service restaurant, just take your time). Air-conditioning is your friend. Use it.
Remember that sooner or later, the sun goes down. The afternoon is the hottest time of the day. Get up early and hit the parks for a while before it’s sweltering. Plan some late nights at the parks — the park hours are much longer in the summer than they are in the winter. No matter how you do it, try to avoid planning your park time for the hottest part of the day.
Take your time. Make sure that everyone in your group knows that this is not the time to do the parks from open to close. If it works out, great, but more than likely you will need to take breaks. A hot, cranky family isn’t going to make happy vacation memories. We’ve found that we need a couple of extra days in the summer. Even if you can’t stay longer, plan to hit the highlights so that you can build in time for relaxing and cooling off. You don’t want to exhaust everyone. The trip should be fun, and in the heat, will have to be enjoyed at the pace of the slowest member of your group.
Watch for signs. Even if you tried your hardest and listened to my advice, you still need to be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. If you or anyone in your groups feels dizzy, faint, nauseous, excessive sweating, or weakness, take a break and hydrate. There are medical facilities in each park and you can always go there to be checked out. It’s better to miss your next ride on the Tea Cups than it is to spend the day (or longer) at the hospital.
So, can it be done? Can your family go to Disney in the summer and come home happy? The answer is, “yes!” But don’t forget to plan, plan, plan and then be flexible enough to make changes as necessary. With that in mind, your child will be able to write some happy memories for his “What I did on my Summer Vacation” essay.
Now, don’t you feel warmer already?