Our “Best Practices” for Disney in the Summer.

Walt Disney World in the summer is HOT. And I mean REALLY Hot. If you can go ANY other time of the year, do it. You will not miss the melting, the heat rash or the dehydration. And I am not exaggerating.

Expect the lines to be long. And I mean REALLY long. 120 minutes for Space Mountain is normal. It is possible to spend 12 hours at a Disney theme park and ride only 5 or 6 attractions. If you see a 45 minute line, be thankful. You will NEVER see this:


That’s Pirates of the Caribbean in February of 2008. Three days ago we waited 12 minutes. (February is a GREAT time to go to WDW.)

The heat and the lines aside, we’ve vacationed there in the summer for years. Even though we live 45 minutes from Walt Disney World, we’ve stayed in the resorts. Due to school schedules, we had to go in the summer just like everyone else. But we learned a few things about going to Disney in the summer:

We try to go when surrounding counties are still in school or back in school. Since we’re in private school, our calendars are sometimes off from public school by a week or two. For instance, the last day of school for Osceola County, where WDW is located, is June 4, 2009. Surrounding counties get out on June 3rd. Our last day of school is May 21st. The public schools begin again on August 24th. We begin on August 13th. So THIS year, if we were to go to Disney for a week, we would try to go at the beginning of the summer so we wouldn’t have to contend with locals so much.

Extra Magic Hours
. Each day, one of the four theme parks at WDW has Extra Magic Hours. Resort guests – DISNEY resort guests – are allowed admittance into one of the parks one hour early and can stay inside that same park an extra three hours after closing. (You can leave and come back. You don’t have to stay the entire time.)

We NEVER take advantage of MORNING Extra Magic Hours. For example. Today, Sunday, February 15th, Magic Kingdom has extra magic hours. If we were staying on property we would NOT go to Magic Kingdom MORNING Extra Magic Hours because Magic Kingdom would be MOBBED with resort guests. We would instead, go to one of the OTHER parks because MOST of the resort guests are at Magic Kingdom.

Exception to the Morning Extra Magic Hours? Animal Kingdom. By far, the hottest of the parks. Not a lot of air conditioning at Animal Kingdom. If you want to see the animals, go EARLY. Leave when it gets hot. Come back in late afternoon or early evening. When you are on the safari and you see the animals lounging in what seems to be the perfect Kodak spot, it’s no accident. There’s an air conditioning vent out there to make that spot more attractive to them. The animals get air conditioning. You don’t. For years, we flat out skipped Animal Kingdom in the summer. It’s better in February.

We ALWAYS take advantage of the EVENING Extra Magic Hours. Even when PinkGirl was little. She adjusted to the change in schedule very quickly. Sometimes FirstHusband or I would take her off into a nook somewhere so she could nap in the stroller, but for the most part, she was right there with us, having fun.

My FAVORITE Extra Magic Hours are at Typhoon Lagoon on Saturday nights. A water park in the dark is FUN. Blizzard Beach doesn’t do Extra Magic Hours.

Water to Drink, Water to Spray.
Drinking. A bottle of water is $2.50. And it’s Dasani. We either bring our own bottles of spring water or buy ONE bottle of Dasani and fill it up at water fountains. We invested in the Disney bottle straps and either wore them around our neck or hung them on the stroller when PinkGirl was younger.

Spraying. Disney sells bottles of water with battery operated fans attached. For $17.00 each. Because they have Disney characters on them. Walmart sells similar bottles for about $3.99 each. No Disney characters. (A few years ago – the price is probably higher now.) We have both, but I got my Disney “misters” at garage sales. (okay, except for one. I bought ONE for $17.00 one year.) FirstHusband rigged up a fan and mister for PinkGirl that attached to her stroller canopy.

Sunscreens and Hats. Waterproof sunscreen. Nowhere near a baby or toddler’s hands. They WILL rub it in their eyes. That only happened to us once. Once was enough. Hats or visors means sunscreen isn’t needed on the forehead – which means it won’t run into eyes. Sunscreen in the eyes: BAD.

Extra Change of Kids Clothes. There are various places in the parks that kids can get squirted with water. And it is a GREAT way to cool off. But later? Wet socks can lead to blisters. Wet clothing can lead to chaffing. We kept a change of clothes for each kid in a a Ziplock bag. Wet clothes went in there after the kids got soaked. I’ll write another post on our “best practices” with regard to clothing, but let me say here – denim is NOT moisture wicking and when it gets wet, it can take a while to dry, no matter how hot it is.

Take a Break During the Heat of the Day. When PinkGirl was little, we would take a break during the heat of the day. If you’ve read ANYthing on Disney vacations, you’ve seen this before. DON’T IGNORE THIS ADVICE if you have little ones. We stayed at the Yacht and Beach Club resorts, for 3 summers. They are within walking distance to the back gate of EPCOT. From EPCOT, you can take a boat to Hollywood Studios or a monorail to Magic Kingdom. So it was VERY easy for FirstHusband and I to split up during the day. One of us would take PinkGirl back to the room for a nap while the other would take FavoriteSon on some “big kid” rides. It was wonderful. One grown-up got to rest with PinkGirl and the other got one-on-one time with FavoriteSon. (We were able to stay at these resorts because we had friends and family who got us what is called a “Friends and Family” rate, but there are less expensive resorts in that same area, still within walking distance from the back gate of EPCOT.)

But our BEST strategy for going to Disney World in the summer?

We Went Nocturnal. When PinkGirl got older and didn’t need naps, we adapted again. We went nocturnal. Here’s the typical schedule:

Sleep in.
Spend the heat of the day at (1) Typhoon Lagoon, (2) Blizzard Beach or (3) the resort pool.
Take showers and get washed up for an early dinner (between 5 and 6pm)
Go to a REALLY nice dinner on property. (Character dinners are GREAT!)
Right after dinner, go to whichever park has Extra Magic Hours.
Stay for extra Magic Hours after the park closed for regular guests.
Leave that park around 2:00 a.m., getting back to the room and in bed around 3:00 a.m.

This is a GREAT summer schedule. By the evening, most of the resort guests who were at the theme park gate bright and early for Extra Magic Hours have long since left that park because they’re exhausted.

I’ll be writing more on our Walt Disney World “Best Practices” and I’ll list them under the “peace.love.mickey” page above, so check back!

Want to learn cool tips and tricks from lots of different people? Click on over to Works for Me Wednesday hosted by Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer!

11 thoughts on “Our “Best Practices” for Disney in the Summer.

  1. What a wonderful gift you have given. It’s like having the keys to the castle! I’ve only gone to Disney twice – once when I was 8 and once in the last 10 years. It makes it more tempting to go with an insiders guide 🙂


  2. I LOVE your tips – making me relive my WDW trips. We have been in June without kids (honeymoon) and January with 3 kids (2006).

    Now you need to come to Paris and do more tips for there – including thermal underwear for all and welly boots (without leaks!) for the kids.

  3. Hi Julie! Living in AZ we drive over to Disneyland quite a bit. These tips apply there too! Thanks for your thoughts on this, you have some really great ones. Do you use fast passes? We have an entire system down for best use of Fast Passes. If your gonna come with us, you have to be trained on the system and willing to execute the system. Otherwise, you’re on your own. : )

  4. J-Man and I were at WDW the very first weekend it was open–on our honeymoon in 1971–when all you could do was take a 2-hr or 4-hr jeep tour! I haven’t seen Epcot, or Universal Studios, or any of the other, as the last time we went was probably 1974 or 75. If we ever go again, I will research this post!

  5. These are great! We went in January ’08, and you’re helping me see why we went then. My big dilemma was pulling the kids out of school – but overall, definitely worth it. I just don’t think I could do Disney in the summer!

  6. We had put off going to Disney for years b/c we didn’t want to go in the summer and taking a child out of school didn’t seem like a good option for us. This past year, we went the Saturday after her school let out for Thanksgiving since they had the entire week off.(many public schools do not) And we flew home on Thanksgiving day. Air travel was a breeze both ways. There were plenty of ppl at the parks and we did use fast pass a good bit, but we never felt overwhelmed by the crowds until our last day.. Wednesday before Thanksgiving. So that afternoon we did things like monorail and visited some other resorts just to look around. And the weather was absolutely fabulous. Another thing I recommend is the Unofficial DisneyWorld Travel guide. It is extremely detailed with tons of info and it enabled us to easily fit what we wanted to do at each park into a day..sometimes a morning. Would not travel there again without it! Your tips are great..so glad you had such a fabulous trip! : )

  7. Amen and amen! We went in January 2 years ago and we will only go in the winter forever and from now on! Only one day was jacket-worthy and the longest we waited for a ride was 20 minutes. In fact, we rode Tower of Terror five times in a row, back to back, no breaks, no line. My mother has also gone in April and says it’s a little busier then but the weather is still tolerable. Thanks for posting your tips!

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