Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Top Ways to Beat the Heat in the summer at Walt Disney World

I'm in planning mode for our 4th consecutive summer trip to our happy place.  As a public school teacher, it's really our only viable option for vacation.  I am too much of a sentimentalist/believer in family traditions to give up a holiday such as Thanksgiving or Christmas with our extended families.  The question I'm asked most frequently, since I have the reputation as a local WDW fanatic, is how we handle the heat. Since this can be life-saving information, I'm sharing!

Before you go:
1.  Do your research
I cannot stress enough how vital this step is.  The people that have had the most miserable WDW summer experiences went in blind.  You are going to have in mind which attractions are important for your family to visit, and where they are.  Aimlessly wandering through hot parks is miserable, energy-zapping, and not my idea of a vacation! There are plenty of sites out there to help with this.  My all time favorite is Disboards.  Be prepared.  It's as addictive as pinterest!  It is a forum board, but you don't have to post to get the information you need.  Another good one is Allears.   These books have also been invaluable, especially when planning first visits:

Lots of pictures here, so it's great for family planning

And this one is packed with information.  I think I read each section 4 times before our first trip:

2. Prepare your body
It is vital that you start your vacation hydrated.  For a week or two beforehand, really load everyone in the family up on water.  If you start out at a deficit, you will suffer.  Spend some time outside, if you live in a hot climate, so that your body begins to adjust to the heat.  If all your time is in air conditioning, it will feel much, much worse.  Take a few walks, or a lot of walks, as a family, preferably on asphalt.  This will help make sure your shoes are comfy, and begin to build some endurance. 

3. Invest in personal mister fans.
Going to be real here.  We each have those small fans, and they are helpful.  However, we learned the first year that while they were helpful, the big (approximately $15.00-$17.00) they sell in the parks worked much better.  If you have a little one in a stroller, think seriously about buying a stroller fan. They are closer to the pavement and heat, often surrounded by lots of hot bodies. We have 2 of these: 
Don't forget to pack batteries (and a small screwdriver if the battery compartment calls for it) for the fans to replace them.  We've had to on a couple of occasions.

3. Air conditioning and water rides are your friends. In. that. order.   
The sickest I have felt at Walt Disney World did not come from the drop on Tower of Terror, but from riding Kali River Rapids in which you get soaked, and then going to lunch in the air conditioning.  My body just could not handle that temperature change shock.

4. Avoid the sun in the middle of the afternoon.
There are a few schools of thought here, and you will need to decide what is best for your family.
Our first year, our youngest was 2. We planned naps in the room.  Reality check:  when you are using Disney buses for transportation, you will wait for your bus.  The average we had to wait at the bus stops were 20 minutes each way, and another 15-20 minute bus ride to the resort, depending on which park you are at and where your resort is.  That was an hour and 20-30 minutes for transportation, at best. WDW recommends allowing an hour each way for transportation .  Once we got to the resort, the little one wanted to swim and would. not. nap.  She was a BEAR for the rest of the day.

 The next day, she fell asleep at naptime in the stroller.  We stayed in the park, found shady spots so that she could sleep and rides that I could hold her sleeping, took it easy,  took turns riding with oldest daughter.  She woke up much happier.

Our favorite midday rides with sleeping little one to hold:
Magic Kingdom: Tomorrowland Transit Authority
Animal Kingdom: Kilimanjaro Safari (downside: wait could be long midday, animals aren't as active, and you have to park the stroller and hold a heavy sleeping little one while you wait). We prefer just ambling through the mostly shaded trails!
Epcot: The Seas aquarium, or slowly wandering through World Showcase shops.  Double edged sword - big strollers, like the ones you rent in the parks, are hard to maneuver in some shops. We have a Maclaren, and it's very lightweight and compact, yet comfy and sturdy.  The positive, little one isn't reaching for everything!
Hollywood Studios:  American Idol show if noise won't wake your child. Honestly, this is the only one we haven't done with little princess asleep.  I think you could probably hold child on Great Movie Ride and Backlot Tour, also.

Some kids do fine napping in the room.  Many people swim mid afternoon and rest.

Now that she's not napping, this is our plan:

Be at the parks at rope drop (when they open).  It's cooler then (if 87 and 80% humidity can be considered cooler).  Stay until lunch, and take advantage of the air conditioning and rest before traveling back to resort.  Go back to room, rest, swim, for the vast majority of the evening.  Head out for dinner, and then hit the park again. The advantage to going in the summer is that the parks are open later, especially Magic Kingdom.   Our kids are night owls, so this works for us.  Little one almost always fell asleep coming "home."  This is why we always get park hopper tickets. 

A few days of this, and then a day midweek to sleep in.  Nothing planned until early evening.

Avoid caffeine.  This is dehydrate you.  Our rule is water every hour.  Ice water is FREE at counter service locations.  We usually get 2 and split them.  We carry water bottles and sometimes get 4 and drink 2 immediately and fill the water bottle.  If you do the Disney Dining Plan, Smartwater is a snack option.  If someone is feeling really bad, the extra electrolytes in this can help.  You CAN bring water with you , so feel free to freeze some and bring it in.  Some people don't like the taste of the water, and bring single mix pouches to add in.  We've never had an issue.

6.  Dress in lightweight, light colors and breathable fabrics.
Black may make you look thinner, but man does it heat you up.  Synthetic fabrics like rayon will cling in all the wrong places.  Moisture wicking materials designed for athletes are great - especially if you wear tennis shoes and socks.  We usually do flip-flops - Tevas are fabulous - or crocs.

7.  Cool off the back of your neck
This little trick works wonders.  We've wet and frozen washcloths and placed in ziploc bags to carry in with us.  We've also just gone in the bathrooms and wet paper towels. We've put cold water bottles on the backs of our necks.  We have one of those weird fabric things with cooling beads in it and wet it (I think this looks goofy, but it's better than a heatstroke!).  Most of the time, we just mist and fan.  This will really cool you down.

8.  There is no better place and to indulge in frozen treats than the summer at WDW.
Our favorites:  Dole Whips at Aloha Isle in Magic Kingdom's Adventureland, Mickey ice cream pops, itzakadoozies (really, really long popsicles), and frozen lemonade.  There are frozen treat carts all over all the parks.  Hint:  cup lids (to-go cups, child's cups) are WONDERFUL for holding treats on a stick.  Put the stick through, the drips will fall on the lid!

9.  Listen to your bodies, and your kids.
Everyone will have a much better time if you slow down when you need to.  You will not see it all in a week.  We've been for 3 weeks and have no where near seen it all.  Do what's most important.  (I recommend allowing each family member to pick their top two must dos for each park, and make those a priority, everything else is gravy.)  If you push your kids because of the financial investment, you will be miserable at best and very sick at worst. Don't assume they are grumpy because they are only tired.  This can be serious stuff folks.

10.  Think twice about full blown princess costumes.
The most miserable kids we've seen are in princess costumes.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news.  Some girls do fine.  But those princess costumes are synthetic, some with tulle or something underneath.  Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique is somewhere that my princess has begged for.  But I know she would want the all out costume. That's one expensive trip.  IF we ever do it, it will be the latest appointment they will give us, once things have cooled down.  Possibly super early, but it's still hot.  And then you have the issue, with either of these, of spending the money and having a miserable daughter who wants to take it off, or swim, or go to bed.  Just my two, very unpopular, cents worth.

Go in with the mindset that it is going to be hot.  Very hot.  Tell your children that it's going to be hot.  Go in with a "plan of attack" and go in prepared for the time of your life!  If anyone has a tip I've forgotten, let me know. 

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