Summer Survival & Packing Tips for Disney World
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 May 15, 2023.)
Although it’s still technically spring, Florida weather doesn’t not recognize the formal boundaries of “seasons” and the ~9 month summer season is now unofficially underway! Throughout this week, temperatures at Walt Disney World are forecast to be in the 90s, with “feels like” temperatures hitting the triple-digits at times, according to the National Weather Service.
This is not particularly remarkable or newsworthy. Even if above-average, it’s entirely normal for temperatures in the 90s and above from May through September. 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 storm season at Walt Disney World is right around the corner?!
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 Itineraries for 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.
For men, the options are a bit more dorky. This SPF bucket hat is perfect for keeping the heat off your face, and also offering sun protection. Not exactly the epitome of style, but it’s better than being hot and sunburnt. If you need more convincing, here’s 22 celebrities wearing bucket hats. Want to dress just like Leonardo DiCaprio?! Wear this! 😉
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 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 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!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guid
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!
It’s about time Disney put in free water refills as Universal studios have . These are distributed around the parks . The quality of the water fountains in Disney is appalling and water is a basic need !!
Great article and info. We’re from Canada and heading to Disneyworld in August. We always go in the winter months, so not to sure what to expect in August other then extremely hot. So thank you the tips and tricks.
Hey Jenn, Another Canadian here…. check out Tom & Sarah’s packing list as well, which you can find somewhere on this site. We found it indispensible on our trip last September where it was over 90 degrees each day with high humidity.
Water bottle with filter was refilled repeatedly and every food service counter and Starbucks were helpful with their cups of water. Cooling towel worked well, hat a must, cheap rain ponchos were a lifesaver one day.
Also recommend chafing cream, really. Then SPF 50 or 100… and a cooling type cream/ gel for when you get back to your accommodations.
We used HOKA shoes – I was in the sports store about to buy my usual runners and an elderly gentleman recommended them. He said he had multiple pairs and was visibly in fantastic shape ! We were in the parks for 10 days and were more than pleased with how well they worked out.
And lastly we did use a ride share midday to take a rest at the hotel and hopped back later for the evening. The first day we over did it at AK the whole day, and we paid for it the next day.
On day two we asked a cast member if she had recommendations for us to keep cool. She was the most lovely person giving us great directions and information as we explained we were too eager on our first day. So if in doubt about anything, ask a cast member they were great people with helpful advice.
Have a great holiday !!
Love the hat, Tom! You look mahveous. 😉
And my husband is vindicated – he just bought one in Costco and we’ve been kidding him about it. Esp when he puts it on backwards! You’ve made him feel like a star!
Haha! That hat looks ridiculous, I’m well aware of that. However, my skin burns incredibly easily, even when I’m diligent about reapplying sunscreen. I’ll take looking silly over that any day! 🙂
Ah, I love the hat!
I am all for protection from the sun so I don’t think folks look silly. We have hats like that, wear them at the beach, etc.
I wonder if we keep seeing increasing temperatures in the summers if that’ll drive crowds down some and redistribute in the “cooler” months. Could be an interesting shift in crowd dynamics.
I first read this article planning our trip several years ago. Our party purchased the frog chilly pads, water bottles, light weight backpack, dry shorts (duluth trading ,dry on the fly, both men and women) and the ryka shoes. Best purchases we made. Since our first trip we have been 2 more times and brought the same. We would not leave without them. They were a must in the heat. The one thing we also bought was from Mission hats sun visor which are uv proof. The visor is very comfortable, light weight and cool. It has that same cooling agent that the frog chilly pads do. Best and most helpful article if your are visiting and hot and humid place. Thank you
this article is over a year old , but since we were at the animal kingdom a couple days ago and YES some people still wear masks , ( their choice) but as far as I know no one HAS to wear one. Lots of people do, I dont, too hot to breathe in them…….Shoes, I wear sandals that dont slide if they get wet and I can throw them in the washer and hang them to dry after…… (clarks) We carry our own water bottle and get free water at places in the parks, we also carry an umbrella and inexpensive ponchos for the rain. I carry a medium size back pack that will hold light sweatshirts when its cool out in the fall/winter Never wore clogs. Take plenty of breaks in the shade , dont rush. I also take hand wipes because very few hand sanitizer stations have it in them, plus I wipe tables and chairs off besides my hands.
We visited Magic Kingdom yesterday and masks are now required in all lines (including those that are outdoors) and anywhere indoors, including restrooms, etc. Masks are no longer just required on transportation, unfortunately.
Tuna water shoes. What better to walk in the water.
Sorry the auto correct happened. Are the ryka water shoes good for walking or are they just good for when it rains. Looking for new shoes for our upcoming vacation!
Just wondering are the tuna water shoes good walking shoes or just good to throw on in the rain? We are heading down in August and I am getting the family new shoes.
Tom and Sarah: Nice article! BTW, the Yukon is a very interesting place to visit but, in the summer, there are a bazillion mosquitoes.
Best advice is to leave the parks around noon and go for a swim, lunch and nap. Venture out again after 4pm. You will enjoy your vacation so much more. Jumping from shaded area to shaded area to get from one attraction to another is not fun and heat stroke is real. Stay hydrated and avoid midday in Florida’s sun. WDW is a wonderful vacation despite Florida’s brutally hot, muggy summers.
We are at the Beach Club. Last night at midnight the did a test run of fireworks at midnight at Epcot. We received a hotel phone call saying that they would be testing but didn’t give a time and if we heard the noise it was fireworks. Thanks for all of your tips!
Just a word of caution: I just bought a Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad after reading about your positive review (and all the positive reviews online), but I think I’m one of the rare people that ended up with a terrible rash around my neck from it! I am not allergic to anything that I know of, but it seems that’s that case with rashes from the Chilly Pad. I’m hoping that washing it will fix the problem, and then not using it directly on my skin. Lesson learned!
Hello Tom, Is it the Surgical Wrap Mask (the linked mask) you are recommending? Or to Buy from this company? Thank you, Butch Wheeler
I’ve only bought their surgical wrap mask, so that’s the only one I can recommend from them. If you’re crafty, they have a pattern and you can make your own!
Have you been able to wash and rewear your Suay LA facemasks? They seem pretty pricey for single use! Thanks in advance!
I’ve worn the same one for over a month–they hold up fine to hand-washing.
Sorry if someone already said this, but I think the Suay LA masks should NOT be considered protective of the wearer. Right on their website it says this: “Note: Our mask is not meant as a substitute for medical grade personal protective equipment. It does not help prevent you from being exposed to COVID-19 or any other disease. Rather, it is intended to protect other people from exposure in case you are infected. Use of our masks does not lessen the need for social distancing and other measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Also, in the article you linked saying they are protective, it says the following: “Spiess noted that the masks are not certified as an N95 mask and are not intended to replace the N95, but could help fill a need for certain health care workers if a critical shortage of masks were to develop.”
In other words, yes they might be a bit better than the average mask (and certainly better than nothing for workers who have no other choice), but no one should act as though this mask protects them – if you choose this mask, you should still behave as though you are getting no protection or you may take risks that could lead to infection. I recommend that you update the post to clarify.