Summer humidity and heat can ruin a trip to Walt Disney World if you’re not prepared. In this post, we cover tips for packing, ways to deal with hot weather, and having a comfortable experience even when the “feels like” temperature is over 100 degrees. (Updated July 19, 2022.)
A record-breaking heat wave sweeps the United Kingdom, European Union, and United States–including Central Florida. These extremely high temperatures and heat index levels are not as uncommon in Orlando as elsewhere, but they’re still dangerous. Throughout this week, temperatures at Walt Disney World are forecast to be in the 90s, with “feels like” temperatures that are well above average at between 105 and 107 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
We’ve been in the parks several consecutive days for the start of the 2022 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival and it has been brutal, making rain clouds a welcome sight and reprieve from the sweltering heat. Add to that humidity above 75% plus UV indexes of 10/10, and it’s a perfect storm of uncomfortable weather. Speaking of which, did we mention that it’s storm season at Walt Disney World?!
Summer weather in Florida can make you long for a lovely getaway to the Yukon. On past summer vacations to Walt Disney World, we’ve jumped from air-conditioned environment to air-conditioned environment, avoiding sunlight as if it’s food and we are Gremlins after midnight.
Realizing that “avoiding” the Florida heat and humidity was a fool’s errand, we’ve more recently tried to embrace the summer heat, taking measures to make ourselves more comfortable. This has worked out considerably better than needing to constantly retreat to air-conditioned environments. Accordingly, here are our tips for what you should do and pack to beat the summer heat and humidity at Walt Disney World…
Heat exhaustion and dehydration often go hand in hand, so our top tip is to drink water–lots of it. Not soda or alcohol, but water. While buying bottled water is one option, that’ll get expensive fast given how much you need to drink to stay hydrated.
Instead, we recommend going into counter service restaurants or other walk-up windows and asking for free cups of water. They’re small, so you might want to request as many as you can carry. Another obvious option is drinking fountains, but we’ve gotta warn you: tap water at Walt Disney World is sourced directly from the swamp, and is actually 3% alligator urine. (Not really, but it sure tastes like it!)
To that end, we highly recommend the Life Straw Go Filter Water Bottle (pictured above), which is what we use in the parks now. This bottle is the best option, hands down, for filtering out the awful taste of Florida water. It’s durable, BPA-free, dishwasher safe, and uses a 2-stage activated carbon filter reduces odor, chlorine and leaves zero aftertaste! (If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, Brita Filter Water Bottles are great, too.)
We usually just fill these up at drinking fountains, but there are a few dedicated bottle filling stations popping up around the parks. Our go-to location is inside Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe at Magic Kingdom (they’ll give you cups of ice if you want cold water), and there are other spots at the entrance to World Showcase in EPCOT and scattered around the parks. Still not nearly as many as a theme park in Florida should have, but it’s a start.
Our other absolutely necessary accessory this time of year is the Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad. We’ve been praising these things for years, so it should come as no surprise that they are mentioned here. They really do work for cooling you down, and countless readers who have used them at our suggestion have reported great results. Suffice to say, we are big fans and advocates of the chilly pad. They’re shockingly effective.
Alternatively, another accessory we recommend is this Bladeless Personal Neck Fan. It’s small, lightweight, and will keep you refreshed. This is one of the main recommendations in our Unique Packing List for Walt Disney World, which is where you can find our top picks for things to take to Walt Disney World any time of year, not just summer.
Our main tip is to embrace the midday break, returning to your hotel for pool time or a nap. The middle of the day is when wait times are at their worst. On most days, you can get more done in the first and last few hours than the early afternoon when crowds and weather are at their worst.
Trying to stay all day is a recipe for becoming exhausted and leaving early. Avoid that pitfall by you arriving early for rope drop, getting as much done in the first few hours as possible, then leaving and doing lunch plus pool or nap time at your resort. Return to the parks for the afternoon and evening hours. However, we typically only recommend this if you’re staying within walking, Skyliner, boat, or monorail distance of a park.
If you’re relying upon Disney buses or staying off-site, we do not recommend it. Instead, consider using one of the aforementioned methods of transportation to visit a resort for a midday escape. When visiting Magic Kingdom, a park notorious for a weak dining lineup, we’d highly recommend doing lunch outside the park—take a bucolic boat ride and enjoy a fantastic feast, which is also a great value for families.
Another option for those who don’t want to leave the park is to enjoy indoor shows. All of these “feature” air-conditioning, and many of them are (undeservedly) unpopular. That means their wait times are virtually non-existent, making them good options for the middle of the day. Consult our Walt Disney World 1-Day Itinerariesfor specifics on which shows we recommend during the midday hours.
In terms of more niche packing recommendations, we also recommend accessorizing with a large hat, because all of the attire enabling you to stay cool and dry doesn’t mean anything if you can’t bear the sun. Sarah has bought this SPF Sun Hat many times in a variety of colors. It’s stylish and practical.
Most of the time now, Sarah actually goes a step further and carries an umbrella. Not a flimsy sun umbrella, but one that’s strong enough for both sun and rain. Her go-to is the Repel Travel Umbrella, which is light, durable and windproof. (Florida summer storms can have strong gusts of wind–we’ve lost several umbrellas to this!)
For shorts, you could get quick dry athletic shorts that are made by countless brands, but you could also go for something classier that resembles a normal pair of shorts. For hiking, I have these Quick-Dry Columbia Shorts. Not only are they quick-dry, but they have sun protection.
Likewise, quick-dry shirts are the best way to go. Even if you don’t actively plan on getting wet by going on water rides, these quick-dry materials are nice because they also don’t get soaked with sweat. They’re more breathable, light, and airy, keeping you cool.
Fair warning: none of this stuff is going to look fashionable, but when it’s 95-degrees with high humidity, it’s better to be comfortable than to “look fancy.” If you’re already at Walt Disney World and are realizing you want to get cooler clothes and embrace function over form, a lot of very similar products are sold at the Disney Springs UNIQLO or Columbia stores.
Next, footwear. This absolutely cannot be overlooked, because no matter how comfortable your shirt and shorts when wet, I can think of no circumstances in which wet socks and shoes are a good time. Enjoying your socks being wet is like enjoying the taste of quinoa. No sane person likes either, but unlike quinoa, I can think of no health benefits of wet socks.
As far as footwear goes, the obvious recommendation is Crocs. I used to be vehemently opposed until actually trying a pair, and now I absolutely love them. Yes, they’re hideous, but a theme park is about the best setting for Crocs, so don’t feel bad if you go that route.
If you want a more traditional shoe, we’ve been researching hybrid water/athletic shoes for wearing at the beach and on when we go hiking on wet trails, and the best options we’ve found are these shoes for men and the RYKA Hydro (for women). These are slightly more expensive than normal water shoes like the cheap ones you’d find at Wal-Mart, but they are so much more versatile.
Other accessories you might want for summer are dry bags to put backpacks inside and a waterproof case bag for phones. I consider the phone bag a must (particularly with how much it rains during the summer at Walt Disney World). The larger bag might not be quite so necessary unless you plan on going on water rides like Splash Mountain, regularly. The larger dry bag actually includes a free phone case, so you can kill two birds with one stone that way.
Now that you’re outfitted to sweat and/or get wet, it’s time to do exactly that. Like I stated above, riding attractions like Splash Mountain, Grizzly River Run, and Kali River Rapids repeatedly are the obvious things to do. Obviously, spending time in your resort pool is another option, but that’s not really in the spirit of this article.
I would also encourage splashing yourself with water from fountains and other sources as you tour the park. I’m not saying you should jump in a fountain otherwise intended for ornamental purposes, but those fountains that allow easy and non-awkward access to water are certainly fine for dipping your hand into and splashing yourself.
Same goes with those misting fans and finding other ways to get wet. There’s plenty of water in each of the Disney Parks. Getting yourself wet when your outfitted to dry quickly makes the experience much more enjoyable than when wearing cotton or other slow-drying materials. Normally, if you get wet not only will you be hot all day, but you’ll also be soggy. When properly attired, getting wet is a respite from the heat, but not an all-day, uncomfortable experience.
In general, Animal Kingdom is not a great option for avoiding crowds and heat during a summer visit. That is, unless you want to spend ~3 hours in the air-conditioned queue for Avatar Flight of Passage. We don’t think that’s exactly the best way to spend your day, but it’s certainly one way to avoid the heat!
Do you try to embrace the heat and humidity when at Walt Disney World, or do you “hide” from it? Think a more water-friendly strategy like this might help improve your summer experience in the parks? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!