To many, it appears that Florida has just three seasons: Hot, Hotter, and Boiling. While there are some days that this humorous theory certainly feels accurate, Florida does in fact experience some rather chilly weather during winter. Planning a Disney World vacation can feel daunting, especially when you aren’t from the area and one look at the inside of your suitcase confirms that it can only hold so many articles of clothing. You already know flip-flops and ponchos are a must for summer and, at the very least, a zip-up hoodie for winter, but what else is considered essential wear for the Disney Parks? As a Florida native and a Disney World Passholder, I know a thing or two about how to dress comfortably and sensibly for a day at Disney, regardless of the time of year. So let’s peel off the layers and take a look at how YOU can know what to wear into parks! Here are 6 things to consider!
6. Consider the Heat….and Humidity!
I think those that are from dry weather states are often taken back by just how humid the weather gets in Florida….especially in the summer….especially after it rains. While the temperature might read a bearable 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the heat index almost always reflects a significant climb in temperature simply due to that sticky thick humidity, making it feel much hotter. It should come without saying that much of spring and all of summer warrants shorts and t-shirts/tank tops, but there are also MANY fall days and some winter that can justify such clothing in Florida. Taking a look at monthly average temperatures in Lake Buena Vista, Florida reveals that the average high in the month of November, for example, shows a warm 79 degrees. While some northern states have people slipping into their heavy coats this time of year, Florida finds families jumping into pools for a cool-off. Do take note, however, that while the days in Florida can be hot, once the sun slips beneath the earth the temperatures can drop quite significantly (namely in winter). For the cool fall nights a nice zip-up hoodie should suffice. And trust me, as far as heat is concerned, there is something quite remarkable about that Florida sun. It has the power to reduce even the most active individual to a sweaty pile of blah. It is draining and sometimes unbearably hot in the summer months. While those favorite jeans of yours might look great in the character photo ops, consider your poor, suffocating legs underneath. I’ve always recommended breathable clothing to friends who are vacationing at Disney over the summer…as in wicking clothing or the like. Moisture wicking clothing—available at most sporting goods stores—keeps your body temperature regulated, cool and dry, which is why most athletes who train out in the sun depend on these articles of clothing. And that leads us to our next point…
5. Consider the Power of UV Rays
Since we are talking about the effects of the Florida sun, let’s zero on a crucial item that many people forget to toss into their backpack as they head to the parks. Sunscreen. Seriously, wear it. Even in the Florida winter, that sun is often out in all its glory. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people walking around Disney who I swear are competing to be cast as the next Sebastian. Sunburns are the pits, and no vacationer wants to find themselves driving offsite for much-needed aloe relief. Slap on or spray on some 30 SPF or higher and your skin will thank you. Another important item to wear into the parks—sunglasses. Have you ever tried watching the Festival of Fantasy parade—with their tall floats— in the middle of the day at Magic Kingdom without shades? Not a good idea, as you will probably burn your retinas staring up into the impossibly bright rays of the sun. No matter the season, a good pair of sunglasses are a great idea while visiting the Disney Parks.
4. Consider your Comfort Level
I know women who can wear 4-inch pumps all day long, and never hear a peep of complaint from their feet. I am definitely not one of them and I would never, ever even consider wearing heels into the theme parks for the day. Okay, so I’m kind of lying, because I DID in my naïve early-twenties attempt this once, in the evening, for a stroll around Epcot’s World Showcase. I had dressed up for a nice dinner at Narcoossee’s and wore modestly-heeled sandals. I didn’t want my night to end after such a great dinner and suggested that my party head into Epcot for the evening. Big mistake. I was fifteen minutes into my click-clacking stroll when I finally had enough. What was I thinking?! I even, in my pain-induced stupor, slipped my sandals off the minute I walked out of the gates, risking contamination of God-knows-what lies on the surface of those traffic-heavy grounds. Pardon my digression, but I will bring this back to my point. If you are heading into the parks for the day, wear comfortable shoes. If flip-flops are your key to comfort, wear them. If nothing feels better than sneakers, wear them. But I wouldn’t suggest buying a brand new pair of shoes and breaking them in on park day. I have seen people wear shoes into the parks that have me gawking in disbelief because HOW ON EARTH ARE THOSE COMFORTABLE, but when it comes to my own feet I’d rather be safe than sorry.
3. Consider Florida Rain
Ahh, there is nothing like a spring shower in Florida….or a summer monsoon. The rain on a Florida summer day is practically as dependable as a crowded park day during the summer. Afternoon thunderstorms are pretty much a give-in during summer and they often come in the form of serious downpours. The good news is that there are less wash-out days than you would think considering our average rainfall totals. What I mean by that is that you can typically expect it to pour, and then five minutes later be sunny again (cue the suffocating humidity, blech!). There are also days of non-stop storming. Don’t forget—Florida mornings can start out deceptively sunny, making you believe the day itself will provide good weather fortune. Checking local weather forecasts is always a must, but even they are not 100% accurate all the time. Ponchos are the way to go during days where the chance of rain is over 50%. If you forgot to bring them or simply don’t have them, no worries, Disney does sell ponchos! June through September sees the highest rainfall averages but don’t mistakenly believe you won’t find yourself in the midst of a stormy January day either. Florida sees rain, and we see a lot of it. Check out “14 Things You’ll Love Doing at Walt Disney World on Rainy Days.”
2. Consider the Surprisingly Cold Winter Days
This is a tough one, because what is cold to me (a Florida native) might be laughable to some northerners who endure much harsher winter conditions. But I have even heard those from up north declaring some of our winter cold-fronts to be shockingly chilly. I’ve been to Disney when I’ve had to wear mittens, a heavy jacket, a scarf and a beanie and I have the pictures to prove it. Going to Disney during January and February has to be the HARDEST time to year to pack for, because you will see our weather bouncing all over the spectrum. One day will be warm and sweater-worthy, and the next will be see-your-breath, winter coat-worthy. Oh, and throw in a couple of rainy days to top it all off too. For these months I recommend dressing in layers. Long-sleeves that can be rolled-up. Perhaps a jacket that can easily be tied around your waist if the weather starts to warm up as the day goes on. Heavy jackets can also be stored in a rented locker should you not want to lug it around with you when you no longer need it. This simply goes back to dressing for your own personal comfort—you alone know just how easily cold you do or don’t get. There have been days at Disney when I simply can’t get warm, and I’ll see families swimming in the outdoor resort pools. To each their own!
1. Consider the Dress Code
What? Disney World has a dress-code?! You betcha! And thank goodness, because although I expect bikini-clad women and shirtless men at Blizzard Beach, I certainly don’t expect to see it inside Magic Kingdom. What else are no-no’s? T-shirts with offensive language, adult costumes and/or masks (except at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party), excessively torn or see-through clothing and wedding attire (so ladies, although tempting I’m sure, resist wearing that 100-lb wedding gown of yours). Disney believes in retaining that family-friendly environment and experience, so obviously just use common sense so you don’t find yourself turned away at the gates. Check out “Disney Dress Code 101: 6 Tips for Perfect Park Attire.”