Monday, May 30, 2011

Top 7 Tips - How to Beat the Heat

90, 92, 92, 90.

No, these numbers not my yearly high school GPA.  Although they are an approximation of how old I feel after Taekwondo classes, its not what I am getting at.  They are not the scores my Celtics failed to get to beat the Miami Heat.  They are temperatures, the average high temperatures for June, July August and September at Disney World to be exact, the warmest months of the year.

Combining the warmest months of the year with crowded summer parks can spell a disaster for your Disney World vacation.  This does not need to be the case.  I have visited Disney World several times during August and find that with some planning and a healthy dose of common sense, you can beat the heat at Disney World. 

So, in classic Stacey style (if you have visited Disney World in the last 7 years or so, you know who I speak of) today we will look at my top 7 ways to keep your cool in the Florida heat.

Early June through mid-September feature average highs 90 or above and it is H-U-M-I-D.  Even if you don’t plan on visiting during the summer you should know that 90+ temps are not isolated to those months.  It is not uncommon to see 90 or above in April, May and even October.  We experienced temperatures in the high 90s during our visit to the Food and Wine Festival in mid-October, 2009.

TIP 1: Dress for Success.

Sure I love to wear my black “I’m Surrounded by Idiots” t-shirt at the parks and my new cowboy boots  are kind of cool, but unless I want to feel what it’s like inside an oven at Via Napoli, I know I need to make better choices.  Light colored, lose fighting clothing is the best choice.  Wear comfortable shoes that breathe – you will be walking a bunch, in the heat and a good chance in the rain, remember that when choosing your shoes.

Bad hat Choice
Good Hat Choice
Wear a hat.  Much to Patrick’s (from Soarin’) dismay, those beauties, the classic black Mickey ears, don’t count here.  Neither does the oven for your head that is the Mickey Groom’s hat.  Use some common sense, keep the sun off your dome and try to avoid the darker colors here as well.

Don’t forget the sunscreen.  While it won’t cool you off, it will help prevent that nasty sunburn which is never pleasant in the summer heat.  I never fail in seeing at least a few people each day doing their best Lobster impressions walking through the parks. 

TIP 2: Drinking is encouraged.

Water, that is.  Between the heat and the amount of walking you are doing, you will be losing body fluids quicker than you think.  Make sure you stay hydrated consistently during the day.  Bottled water is sold everywhere in the parks but isn’t cheap ($2.50-$3.00).  Don’t let that stop you from keeping hydrated.  You can bring in your own bottled water or a refillable bottle and there are plenty of drinking fountains available as well. 

There is also free (yes, free) ice water available in the parks - Just stop by a counter service restaurant and ask for a cup of ice water.  If they have it, they will give it to you.  This little known fact is a life saver If you are like me and don’t like to carry around bottles or are not a fan of drinking fountain.

TIP 3: Timing is (almost) everything.

It’s really not very magical to be crowded together with a few hundred of your sweaty new friends and neighbors in an attraction cue when the temperature out is starting to melt plastics.  So, arrive early, at park opening.  You will hear this bit of advice many times when trying to avoid wait times, but it also applies to the heat.  Arriving at park opening allows you to tour the parks efficiently, with lower wait times and crowds before the heat (and population) peaks in the afternoon.  When the crowds start building and the sun starts scorching around lunch time, escape back to your resort.  Relax, take a nap or a swim (or both) and head back to the parks in the evening as the temperatures and crowd levels subside.  You will see just as much (if not more) doing this than by pushing through the afternoon and will also avoid the hottest part of the day. 

TIP 4: AC is your friend.

No, not the guy driving the white Bronco, but Air Conditioning.  When the heat kicks up, head for indoor attractions that are air conditioned.  This is a great time to enjoy inside attractions, shows and movies such as Mickey’s Philharmagic or The Carousel of Progress at the Magic Kingdom, Ellen’s Energy Adventure or the American Adventure at Epcot, Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom or Adventures of the Little Mermaid of Muppet 3D at Disney Studios. 

Grab lunch indoors or take a break to walk through a gift shop or three (I don’t think you will have problems finding them.)  Downtown Disney is great for this with its wide variety of shops and places to eat.  Working these “air cooled” gems into your touring plan makes a long, hot day much easier to survive.

TIP 5: Go Get Wet.

Take a swim at the resort, head to a water park or enjoy a park attraction offering a splash of fun.  Many times, because most people are in the parks during the day, the resort pools are relatively empty mid-day, so take that mid-afternoon break from the parks and take a dip.

The water parks are fun and a great place to cool off, but they are expensive (unless you have them added to your park ticket already) and can get crowded in the summer.  Get there early to grab a “home base” in the shade and make sure you slather on the sun screen.  Grab a ride Splash Mountain for a chance to get a soaking, or hop on Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom for a near guarantee of getting wet during your ride. 

Also in the parks you will find mister stations that can give you a brief (but welcome) source of relief.  At Magic Kingdom, head to Tomorrowland and find the Cool Scanner misters by Star Traders gift shop or find the misting (and more) Tikis in Adventureland.  In Epcot, look for the Cool Wash mister stations in Future World near Test Track or the misters near Ellen’s Energy Adventure.  While at Disney Hollywood Studios, look for the misting Coke bottles near the Backlot Express.  Animal Kingdom has misters located here and there with the largest ones residing near Tamu Tamu refreshments.

Additionally, look for the fountains in Asia at Animal Kingdom, the spitting Camels at Alladin’s Magic Carpets in the Magic Kingdom, the Singing in The Rain Gene Kelly statue in the Studios and the sidewalk fountains at Epcot for a quick splash of refreshment.

TIP 6: Cool Treats.

You know I have to work food into this somewhere, and Disney World has plenty of great cool treats to help you beat the heat.  From the classic Mickey Bar to a Grand Marnier Slush (aka “adult slushy”) in Epcot, an ice cream on Main Street to classic lemonade, you can cool off just about anywhere in the parks.

Ice cream novelty carts (where you will find the Mickey Bar and if you are lucky, the completely under-rated frozen banana) are usually only a few steps away and you can find a frozen coke fairly easily too.  If you want my personal favorite cool treat, head to Aloha Isle in Adventureland at the Magic Kingdom for a Dole Whip.  This wonderful concoction is a soft serve pineapple sorbet that can be served as is or as a float with pineapple juice (they also have orange and vanilla available If you wish, but the pineapple is the best, trust me).  Its cold, tasty, refreshing and cost less than $5, no matter what your choice.

Another top pick for a sweet treat to cool down is Club Cool at Epcot.  Club Cool and, its predecessor Ice Station Cool, offer free samples of sodas from around the world in an air conditioned Coca-Cola gift shop.  The sodas are self-service and spending 10 minutes trying the different flavors in the cool air really can recharge your batteries on a hot August day.  Don’t forget to try the Beverly from Italy!

TIP 7: Mother Nature

Lastly, don’t forget about Mother Nature for to remedy the heat as well.  Along with being the warmest months of the year, June July, August and September are also the rainiest months of year with each month averaging over 6 inches of rainfall, August at 7.3 inches.  Almost like clockwork, there is a mid-afternoon thundershower nearly each afternoon in the summer.  Take advantage of this to throw some rain gear on (or not if you don’t mind wet shorts) and keep touring.  It will be cooler and the crowds nearly instantly thin out.

There are many shady spots under trees than can give you a break from the sun and don’t forget, when that sun does set, Disney Parks stay open, especially with longer summer park hours.  Head out under the moonlight and enjoy the cooler temperatures.

As you can see there is no reason to avoid traveling to Disney in the summer months.  While most of the summer is quite busy, starting in Mid-August, crowd levels drop off significantly making a late august-September visit quite enjoyable.  Just remember to be smart about the heat and sun, pace yourself and enjoy.

What are some of your favorite tips for visiting in the summer heat?

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