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With summer officially upon us, the next few months are the hottest time of the year to visit Walt Disney World.  With schools out for the summer, it’s also one of the busiest times – but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have an incredible trip with some simple planning.

Here are a few tips so you don’t “sweat” the high temperatures.

Stay hydrated.  This may be a given, but did you know:

  • Counter Service restaurants offer FREE ICE WATER.  Yep!  All you have to do is go up to the counter and ask, and they will give you a small free cup of ice water.  It’s tap water, but my family thinks their tap water tastes better than the bottled Dasani water (which costs $3 a bottle).
    • Tip: If you are ordering a meal at a counter service restaurant, order ice waters for everyone in your party, even if you are getting other drinks.  Everyone gets to hydrate, and it’s much easier carrying them on a tray with everything else.
  • You can bring your own water into the parks.  Whether it’s your own bottled water or a filled water bottle, you are allowed to bring it into all Disney parks.  Actually, you can bring in any drinks (except alcohol) and food, but you can’t have glass containers, coolers larger than 24″ x 15″ x 18″, or, only in Animal Kingdom, plastic straws (so don’t bring juice boxes on your Animal Kingdom day!).
    • Tip:  If you are bringing a stroller into the park, put your water bottles into any stroller pockets or at the bottom of your stroller to lighten your load.
  • Epcot has FREE soda.  Club Cool, located in Future World to the right of the main fountain, features eight Coca-Cola beverages from around the world.  There are several beverage dispensers (all the same) and small sample-size paper cups to try as many – and as much – as you want.
    • Tip: While my toddler isn’t allowed to drink soda at home, we do let him have a tiny bit of VegitaBeta, which is described as a “non-carbonated beverage with apricot and passion fruit flavors and is rich in beta-carotene.”  It’s probably the “healthiest” and least sugar coma-inducing option there, with the exception of the Beverly (if an adult in your group has been getting on your nerves, encourage them to try the Beverly…).

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Take a midday break.  When the sun and mercury are at their peak, take a break either at your hotel, an air-conditioned restaurant, or enjoying the longer, air-conditioned rides that have minimum waits.

  • Hotel – When the heat gets to be too much, sometimes your best option is to go back to your hotel for a nap or a pool break.  Return to the park (or another park if you have a park hopper pass) later in the afternoon or early evening.

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  • Lunch – Air-conditioning will be your best friend at Disney in the summer, so skip outside counter service spots.  Here are some other tips for taking a long lunch break.
    • Make an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) at a table service restaurant.  Table service meals tend to take longer, and you won’t be stuck searching for a spot to sit down with a tray full of food.
    • Book a late lunch (don’t forget to make your ADR).  There’s a higher chance you won’t feel rushed through your meal if it’s not peak dining time, so you can spend more time enjoying that cold A/C.
    • Eat at a nearby resort restaurant (again, don’t forget that ADR!).  Whether by bus, boat or monorail, getting there is half the fun, plus you will have an air-conditioned themed hotel to explore.  Here are just a few of the many resort options near each park:
      • Magic KingdomRestaurants in the Contemporary, Polynesian and Grand Floridian are all accessible by monorail.  By boat, visit lunch spots in the Wilderness Lodge or Fort Wilderness.
      • Animal Kingdom – Take a bus over to nearby Animal Kingdom Lodge for a table service lunch with views of animals at Sanaa or grab a quick bite at The Mara.  There’s also public spaces to view animals.
      • Epcot/Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Restaurants at the Beach Club and Yacht Club (grab an ADR for Beaches & Cream – as in ice cream – if you can) or the BoardWalk are both accessible by boat from both parks.  At Epcot, the boat launch is by the International Gateway between the United Kingdom and France pavilions in the World Showcase.

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Sci-Fi Dine-In at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • Rides – If we decide to stay in the parks all day, our midday rides must meet the following criteria: 1) Be indoors (hello A/C!) 2) Have a short wait 3) Last more than a couple minutes.  Here are some of our favorite rides to escape the heat:
  • Magic Kingdom: Carousel of Progress, The Hall of Presidents, Mickey’s PhilharMagic.  There is also an indoor playground at Dumbo, which is right next to the Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station if your kids need to cool off.  Even though they aren’t inside, a ride on the Walt Disney World Railroad or the PeopleMover is a good way to rest your feet and get some shade and breeze.

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Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station in Fantasyland

  • Animal Kingdom – Both the Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo – The Musical shows are longer and inside.  Keep in mind that you have to wait outside though.  Bigger kids and adults can also get soaked on Kali River Rapids (38″ to ride), while there is a water wall inside the Boneyard playground for smaller tots.

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The Boneyard in DinoLand U.S.A.

  • Epcot – Although Epcot is spread out, it has the most longer, A/C attractions out of all the parks.  In Future World, there’s The Seas with Nemo and Friends (a ride followed by an impressive aquarium area where you can spend as much time as you’d like), the 45-minute Ellen’s Energy Adventure (make everyone take a bathroom break right before that one), and Living with the Land and Soarin’ (40″ to ride), which are in the same building.  After riding Journey into Imagination with Figment, there is an indoor interactive play area.  Mission Space also has a small indoor playground/interactive games, and Test Track has display cars/interactive games – just enter through the exits if you/your kids aren’t riding.  In the World Showcase, there is the American Adventure, as well as films in China, France and Canada.

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The Seas with Nemo and Friends (post-ride aquarium)

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ImageWorks interactive play area at the end of Journey into Imagination with Figment

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Playground at the Mission: Space Advanced Training Lab

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Test Track showroom

  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Here some of the shows (Beauty and the Beast and Indiana Jones) are outside, but indoors you can find Disney Junior – Live on Stage!, Muppet Vision 3D, and For the First Time in Forever: A “Frozen” Sing-Along Celebration.  There’s also the Great Movie Ride (some parts may be too scary for small kids) and Star Wars Launch Bay, where you can watch a short film, see film props, meet Chewbacca and Kylo Ren, and maybe even trade with some Jawas.

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Chewbacca meet and greet at the Star Wars Launch Bay

  • Note: Strollers are not allowed in any of these attractions (minus the Epcot play areas and the Railroad, where you have to fold up your stroller), so they won’t work as a midday break if you have an infant or toddler napping.  If your kid(s) can nap in the stroller and you don’t want to go back to your hotel, find a shaded spot for mom and dad to enjoy an ice cream or a drink in peace.  It’s also a good time to do rider swap on height restriction rides that your child isn’t tall enough to ride yet.

Be prepared for rain.  During the afternoon hours in Florida during the summer, rain and thunderstorms are very common.  However, with some simple planning, you can make sure the rain doesn’t ruin your Disney day.

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  • Pack ponchos – Stores like Target and Walmart usually have disposable ponchos for around $1 in their camping sections.  These are great because they are cheap, you can ditch them when you are done, and they don’t take up a ton of room.  Ponchos are also readily available to buy at the parks for around $10 (and slightly less for youth sizes).  The great thing about buying the Disney park ponchos is that if one rips, any park store will happily replace it with a new one.
  • Take a midday break – You can do anything mentioned in the above section, minus swimming in the resort pools if there is lightning.
  • Keep on trucking’ – If there is lightning, outdoor rides will shut down, but indoor rides should still be running.  Also, rain tends to clear out some of the park guests, which can mean shorter wait times.
  • Note: If it is raining, the Magic Kingdom’s 3 p.m. Festival of Fantasy parade may not run.  In its place, there will be the much shorter – but still cute – Rainy Day Cavalcade.  Fireworks will also still usually go off in the rain (but may be delayed if there’s lightning in the area).

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Take a Mickey bar break.  Heat, crowds and long lines can often lead to meltdowns (both kids and parents). So if/when one or multiple people in your group get close to the point of losing it, proceed to the nearest ice  cream cart and purchase a Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar.  You will be amazed at the difference it will make.

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