Tips for Visiting Walt Disney World During the Summer

Disney's Typhoon Lagoon

One of the true joys of membership in the Disney Vacation Club is that you can visit at all times of the year. Also, since you know you’ll return countless times, you don’t have the same sense of urgency during each visit. You can approach each visit differently, depending on your goals for the trip.

A summertime excursion should always be an option for DVC members. Sure, the crowds are a bit larger, and the summer weather is *ahem* slightly higher. You’re Disney pros, though! You can find some ways to turn the negatives into positives, right? Well, just in case, here are a few tips for a summer visit to Walt Disney World.

What To Wear

While long-time Disney visitors know about the weather, this section is for people who just bought points or are traveling during the scorching summer months for the first time.

The main thing you should consider when packing for a summer trip to Florida is how you’ll dress. You should be tactical and practical. Pack loose-fitting clothing that won’t cling to your body when you sweat. Because you will sweat. The average daytime temperature for these three months is 92 degrees, which is difficult for southerners to accept. For folks from colder climates, it’s an exercise in endurance. If you’re not used to the weather, strongly consider packing (or buying) a water-misting fan. There’s a reason why Disney has sprinklers and other water spraying devices throughout the parks. Every little bit helps.

The heat will affect what you wear. Choose lightweight cotton t-shirts and shorts when possible. Try to avoid darker clothing since it absorbs heat, the last thing you want. Also, always use sunscreen before you leave the DVC resort. Put it *everywhere*! I even use it on my bald spot, a lesson learned after that awkward June when I had sunburn where the hair no longer grows. It was humbling AND painful. You should also carry sunscreen in your travel pouch. Some of the wet rides will soak away your sunscreen.

Disney's Magic Kingdom

While packing, the other tip is to bring an extra cellphone battery. The My Disney Experience app has become a necessity during park visits. Unfortunately, this program is also a battery drainer. When your cellphone loses its charge, you cannot get FastPasses unless you travel to a kiosk, and those are few and far between at parks these days. Traveling with an extra battery makes life easier. Note that Disney does offer FuelRod service, which allows guests to swap in new batteries all day. The service costs $30 per day, though. That’s the same price as a portable power bank with two days’ worth of charges.

Finally, do some preparation for storms. Despite Florida’s recent drought, shock-and-awe rainstorms are still a fact of life in Orlando. Pack a poncho and/or umbrella for each member of your party. I was recently the only moron in my party that lacked one, and I got wetter in a couple of minutes than I ever have on Splash Mountain. I would also suggest bringing an extra pair of shoes in case the ways you’re wearing get drenched.

At the Parks

The most important thing to know about visiting Walt Disney World this summer is that it’s going to be more crowded than usual. Touring Plans, a site that collates Disney crowd data, noted a trend in 2014. After the debut of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, traffic in all parts of Magic Kingdom increased. More people visited to see the new attraction. They stayed because they were having too much fun to leave after they’d ridden the new attraction.

That was a behavioral change involving a single ride. Imagine what Pandora – The World of Avatar will do to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, historically one of the least trafficked gates. They project an increase of 15 percent to all Animal Kingdom attractions this summer, and I’m of the opinion that they’re low. This sort of Walt Disney World expansion is unprecedented in the 21st century. Two new attractions including an E Ticket one should cause an attendance spike. Be prepared for longer lines than normal while visiting.

Disney's Pandora

Photo Courtesy of Tom Bricker

With regards to hot summer days, I’ve become an accidental expert. Until last week, we were on a 12-day streak. That’s how many consecutive days we’d spent at Walt Disney World where the temperature was at least 100 degrees. What we’ve learned in the extreme heat is that hydration is an absolute necessity. Everyone hates the idea of buying $3 bottled water in theory. When it’s the difference between hydration and heat stroke, however, three bucks seems like a bargain.

Resting Inside the Parks

The other suggestion is to plan lengthy breaks. I’m a huge proponent of attractions such as Mickey’s PhilharMagic, The Great Movie Ride, and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover. These are indoors or indoor/outdoor attractions that take at least ten minutes to ride. We call them respites from the sun. Picking one is a great way to reenergize during a trying afternoon.

Each park has at least a couple, and they also have concerts/shows that work the same way. Festival of the Lion King is a great one, but It’s Tough to be a Bug! works in a pinch, too.  I also consider Voyage of the Little Mermaid one of the hidden gems of Walt Disney World. As a frequent Disney visitor, you either already know or will gradually learn over time which attractions work the best as respites. They’ll make a park day much more enjoyable and allow you to stay longer.

Along those lines, the other suggestion I have is a bit divisive. Not everyone loves the idea of table service meals. My family loves them as a way to take a break and recoup. Disney table service meals are usually delicious, and most of them take 60-90 minutes to complete. That’s a lot of time to put proteins in your body while recuperating from all the walking that takes place at Disney parks. At Animal Kingdom, my favorite is Yak & Yeti, while I love Rose & Crown the best at Epcot…although you really can’t go wrong anywhere at the World Showcase. The table service options at Magic Kingdom are sadly lacking, which makes Be Our Guest the winner by default. But the absolute best meal at any Disney theme park is Sci-Fi Dine-In in my opinion.

If you prefer Quick Service meals, you’re in luck this summer. Fans of grab-and-go dining at the parks can eat faster than ever before. You don’t have to wait in line to order now. You simply head to the food pick-up spot. The most recent update to the My Disney Experience app offers park guests the option to order meals online. You simply pull out your phone while you’re in the park, select your restaurant, and pick your food. You can even pay within the app.

While I didn’t have a chance to try this during my most recent visit, I know from using the same technology at places like Panera just how much more efficient the process is. Anyone who has braved the lines at popular Quick Service locations like at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café, Electric Umbrella, and Restaurantosaurus knows how much time people waste standing in line. Plus, it’s a hectic, aggravating process on occasion. On-the-go ordering should revolutionize eating in the parks while simultaneously reducing customer stress, and you should definitely try it at least once during your summer vacation.

Using FastPass

You will definitely want to book your FastPass selections ahead of time this summer. Guests staying onsite can book 60 days in advance starting. Keep track of your arrival countdown. When you’re at 61 days, sketch out your plans. Then, get up at 7 a.m. on the 60th day to schedule your FastPasses. The most important ones are the highest tier rides with the longest lines such as Frozen, Soarin’ around the World, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train plus the obvious ones, Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey. You can book up to three in advance.

Disney's The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

A pro tip I can offer from my most recent visit is to have your My Disney Experience app in hand while in line queues. The instant you’ve used your third FastPass at a park, you have the ability to book more. The timing on this is faster than you may realize. When using your FastPass, you press your Magic Band against the activation circle. The instant that turns green, you can start looking at new FastPass options. The only exception I know is Frozen Ever After, which still has two verification stations. So, the best way to maximize your park time is by booking your next FastPass while standing in line for your current one.

The great news for DVC members is that you’ll have more options to enjoy Pandora. Guests staying onsite at Walt Disney World this summer can enjoy Extra Magic Hours at the new themed land. From May 27 through July 4, Disney’s Animal Kingdom will stay open an additional two hours from 11 p.m. until 1 a.m. Even if you’re not a night owl by nature, you should plan to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours a couple of times on your trip. By all accounts, Pandora is much more magical at night, as the bioluminescent design illuminates the dark.

For more on Pandora, please read this blog entry.

Water Parks and Pools

As a DVC member, you get to pool-hop at several places. In all likelihood, the pools at the hotel where you’re staying are plenty good enough that you won’t feel the need, though. Still, a day at a water park is always a great option, especially if it’s free with your ticket/annual pass.

This summer, Typhoon Lagoon has bragging rights as the water park with the latest attraction. Miss Adventure Falls debuted in March to glowing reviews, and it lives up to the hype. Realistically, either Disney water park is going to blow your mind, though. The theming at Blizzard Beach is actually superior to Typhoon Lagoon, I think, but the rides are better at the latter park, especially with the addition of Miss Adventure Falls.

The only tips I have for a day at the water park are basic ones. First, plan to arrive early. These places get extremely crowded, and the early birds are the only ones who get the worms seats. Seriously, on a lot of summer mornings, you’ll be completely out of luck by 11 a.m., forced to wait until later in the day when people start to leave.

Also note that the ground gets scorching hot by mid-morning. You should ALWAYS wear some sort of shoes, flip-flops or aqua socks (do people still wear those?)  to a water park. Otherwise, you’ll feel like you’re walking on hot lava. Both water parks sell shoes for precisely this reason, and it’s one of the best profit margin deals/scams Disney has on their entire campus. People with hot feet will pay ANY price to make the pain go away.

My last suggestion is to take it easy. Remember that you joined DVC so that you can go to Disney on a near-annual basis, possibly even more often. While visiting this summer, don’t feel pressured to do everything all at once. That would actually lessen your enjoyment on future visits. Instead, take the time to explore and savor all the things that you’re doing this time. If you’re most excited about Pandora, spend several hours in the newest themed land. If you’re trying to maximize park time, take advantage of the new Disney Express Transportation bus service that will take you from inside one park to another. And most importantly, recognize when you’re hot and get out of the sun! This might be the perfect time for you to experience Carousel of Progress for the first time…or the first time in many years. Plus, as a DVC member, you already know that There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow. It’s called “next trip to Walt Disney World”!

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