by: guide4wdw – Collin

Our Step by Step Guide to WDW in the Summer! 

As summer approaches, there’s no doubt in my mind that the parks will be at some of the highest crowd levels we’ve seen in years. Combine that aspect with the more that “aggressive” temperatures the summer can bring to central Florida and you’ve got a ton of potential for headache both literally and figuratively. However, when you know what to do and how to avoid the worst of the crowds and the worst of the heat, a summer Disney World vacation doesn’t have to be a daunting endeavor.

I know some of you are reading this saying, “well the obvious solution is to just not go in the summer.” Of course that would be the ideal situation but not everyone has the blessing of time and availability of a clear schedule other times of the year. Particularly families with kids in school face major issues when it comes to booking in non-peak times. 

In the big picture, the crowds will certainly be in full force this year, and despite continuous ticket price increases, the crowds will at the very least remain constant in comparison to previous years. When Galaxies Edge officially debuts, all bets are off because nobody knows how that’s going to play out in Walt Disney World. Other that that big event this fall, there’s not a ton going on in the parks in the early summer months. There are some special annual pass holder events and early or late night ticketed events for anyone to attend, but overall I don’t see anything really blowing crowds up this summer. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still one of the more popular times to travel and the heat is a huge factor once you arrive so be sure to check out our 7 simple steps to managing and booking a successful summer trip to WDW. 

Step 1: Go Early

We’re starting it off with perhaps the simplest tip on this list and possibly one of the more obvious tips. If you can get to the park at least 15 minutes before they open (ideally 30+ minutes) you will be shocked how low the crowds stay for the first hour to two hours of being open. Lines move quickly because they haven’t had time to back up, and the sun hasn’t quite made it all the way up to bring a greater level of heat to the day. It sounds like a simple strategy, but if you’re looking to ride everything possible, as many do, this is likely the very best way to do so. Make the most of that first hour and hope that the crowds don’t start to build until at least an hour into the day. 

A typical early morning in the summer can be quite pleasant even in the warmest months. It will heat up quickly, but I cant stress enough how important those mornings of calm temperatures can be when you’re rested and ready for the day.

Step 2: Avoid Lugging Water Around 

This concept always blows my mind. Some people feel the need to carry around massive quantities of water with them wherever they go in every single park. Some even go as far as to freeze water bottles before heading to the parks. This simply blows my mind. 
Anywhere you go in the parks that has a fountain drink machine will give you a free cup of ice water if you ask for a cup of water rather that a water bottle. I’ve never been turned away asking for one and I can not stress how much weight you can shave off of a backpack when you take out 3-4 water bottles. I get it if you want to carry around one water bottle in a side pocket of a backpack, but please don’t carry around tons and tons of water when you can get it for free just a few steps away from about anyplace in the parks. 
In recent years, many of the locations seem to be filtering the water too so you don’t get that  weird “Florida water” after taste that you often do from sinks and other tap water in the Orlando area. As a side note that doesn’t entirely apply to this situation, you can actually change the flavor of the water in a unique way. I was a skeptic at first too, but a WDW chef shared with us on a recent trip something that he’d been doing for years. Essentially you mix warm water and cold water equally into a cup and miraculously there’s some type of change to the flavor and the “swampy” tap water taste disappears. My mind was blow! —-There’s your random tip for the day!     

Step 3: Book Table Service Meals Mid Afternoon 

We’ve been using this strategy for years and perhaps my greatest recommendation to anyone touring the parks is to book an afternoon table service meal. If I had to get very technical about the timing, I would recommend a 1:00pm lunch. 
I know that sounds a little strange, but on average 12:00-3:00 tend to be the timeframe of peak crowds in any Walt Disney World park. In a similar yet different way, that timeframe is almost always the peak temperature of the day and can get as hot as the upper 90’s with heat indexes far exceeding the 90+ degree mark.
If you’re inside and dining at a table service meal, you can easily avoid up to two hours of the heat and crowds while enjoying an incredible meal. Table service can be expensive so I do understand that it may not be in everyones budget. At the same time, that’s why we created our 10 Excellent Entrees Under $15 at Walt Disney World article. If you’re careful what you order, the cost of the meal could be more that worth the hours away from the heat and the majority of the crowds.

Step 4: If You Can… Avoid Carrying Anything Extra

I disregard my own recommendation more often that not in this case as I carry around hopelessly mounts of camera gear more often that not when I’m in the parks. For the most part take as little as you possibly can into the park with you. If you can get by with a draw string bag or no bag at all, do it and thatk me later. Not only is bag check way faster if you have a small bag with few pockets, but if you have no bag you can skip that line entirely. 

Once you’re in the park, the benefits keep on popping up. When you get on and off of attractions, there’s nothing you can accidentally forget and far fewer chances of leaving something behind as you tour the parks. For many of you with kids I can definitely see how this strategy could be difficult. My greatest recommendation in that case would be to take the absolute essentials and the stuff you know you will use multiple times or must have and leave the rest behind. For example, if I’m not going to be using something in my photography bag at least twice in a given day, it’s staying in the hotel room.       

Step 5: Realize That You Will Get Wet 

Summer in Florida is unique in a strange but predictable way. From late May to August, you can expect it to rain like clockwork in the afternoons as the heat and humidity builds and eventually falls back down as rain (ok… maybe that’s not exactly how it works but that’s what it feels like lol). Without fail, you can expect at least some amount of rain between 1:00 and 4:00pm. It’s not going to happen every day but it is going to happen more often that not unless it’s an unusually dry year. 

If you’re determined to stay dry, ponchos tend to be the cheapest option and if you are looking to go to WDW in the summer I recommend picking up some cheap-o ponchos off of Amazon or at your local dollar store for that worst case scenario downpour that you didn’t expect. 

Watch the weather forecasts the days leading up to your trip. If it looks like you could be facing a lot of rain, consider taking a light jacket with you in your luggage. If it looks like a lot of rain is headed your way on a particular day of your trip, take the jacket instead of the ponchos and you wont regret it. Often times on summer trips it’s more of a question of when it is going to rain rather that if it is going to rain. More often that not the rain passes in an hour or two and you can hide out in a gift shop our head to an indoor attraction and it’ll blow over quicker that you expected it to. Be patient and realize that even if you do get a little wet, it wont hurt you and will inevitably create some comical memories to relive years later.          

Step 6: Take a Break or Schedule Afternoon Fastpass+ Selections  

Much like the aforementioned “afternoon lunch,” scheduling fastpasses between 12:30 and 4:00pm can be vastly beneficial in avoiding the majority of the long wait times of the peak hours of the day. The only thing you have to be careful about is making sure you don’t overlap your fastness+ selections with your lunch in a way where you can’t get back to your scheduled fastpass in time after your meal. The last thing you want to have to do is rush through your table service lunch just to get to a fastpass+ selection on time. Our general rule is to try not to have any fastpass+ window starting any earlier that one hour after our scheduled lunch. 
Mid day breaks are also always a high priority recommendation I give time and time again to first time and repeat Disney guests. If you get a little burnt out (no pun intended) and sick of dealing with the heat, take a break, head back to the resort, and take a quick break on a comfortable couch or even hit the pool for a few hours to break up the day. Everyone I tell this to automatically defaults to the thought process of “what am I going to miss if I give up that park time” when in reality the few hours you give up to rest for even a short while will pay off ten fold later that night when the crowds start to fade and you’re refreshed and ready to take on the night.          

Step 7: Realize Not Everything is Going to Be Perfect 

If you don’t listen to anything else I share in this post, please listen to this. Your trip, no matter how much you plan or how little you plan, will not be perfect. I know that sounds brutally honest, but you could be staying at your favorite resort, going to your favorite park, and have fastpasses for all of your favorite attractions…. somehow, someway something will go wrong. 
I don’t say that to be negative because I try to be an eternal optimist, but I share that to convey the thought process that it does not matter what happens. None of this is about formulating the perfect vacation. Instead, all of this is my way of trying to share what works for us and what I believe could help you have the vacation experience of a lifetime that you will tell stories about for years on end. Something will go wrong during your trip but the key to overcoming that inherent reality is allowing yourself to “roll with the punches” and take every challenge head on as an opportunity to create a unique memory that you otherwise never would have created.
To wrap this up and to convey a bit of a personal story around this concept, I cant help but think back on a day we spent in Epcot on one of those typical Florida summer days. We were traveling with friends at the time and had spent the morning in Magic Kingdom. Everything was going perfect! Crowds were low, the day had perfect weather, and everything was awesome. Fast forward to lunch time and we made our way over to Epcot to dine at Le Cellier in the Canada pavilion. Upon arriving at Epcot, the skies grew dark and as soon as we stepped through the gates, a torrential downpour exploded. At the time we had about 5 minutes before our reservation would be given away and we were honestly running late and underestimated our transportation time from park to park. 
Of the group, I was elected the one to go ahead and try to get there before our reservation was given away. As many of you know, it’s not a short distance from the front entrance over to the Canada pavilion. I ended up running the entire way and made it just in time. Obviously that was not the best idea looking back on it and I don’t recommend you ever do that, but the memory is one that has stuck with me for years. 
After lunch we tried to prep for the weather as it continued to rain, and while we did get rained on for hours that particular day, all I remember is how much fun we had and how many laughs we shared as we trudged through the park in oversized ridiculous ponchos. It’s a memory I’ll never forget and just goes to show that the things you remember from your Disney vacation aren’t usually tied to the “perfect scenarios” but rather the random moments  you share with the people you care the most about. To me, that’s the secret to it all and no list can ever fully convey that concept. 

Your Thoughts

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you’re there, and we’ll keep the conversation going in the future. We’re not the largest Disney community, but we’re one that’s here and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!

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Ready to Plan?

Last but certainly not least, if you’re starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You’ll probably even save money along the way!