Hello Disney lovers,
Raise your oversized Mickey hand if you’ve ever said, or heard, the following statements in a Disney park:
“My feet hurt!”
“I’m about to slip into a heat-induced coma that even a prince couldn’t wake me up from!”
Ok, so maybe that last one is a bit of a hyperbole, but these are all too true for someone who’s visited Disney World for more than a couple of hours. Face it, a day walking around in the Florida heat (and it’s hot about 90% of the year) is enough to make even the most excited Disney dreamers wilt. So that’s why I’m tackling an all-important topic today: Staying comfortable in the parks (as much as possible without the help of a fairy godmother). Essentially it all comes down to planning, and with the right preparation, you can keep that “just skipped down Main Street” feeling all day.
First thing’s first…Comfort starts from the ground up. Allow me to speak from experience: If your feet ain’t happy, the rest of you won’t be either. Choosing your shoes for a day in the parks could be the most important decision you make all day (even more important than which Mickey-shaped treat to scarf down first). Native Floridians are known for rocking their flip flops year-round, but I have to say, I wouldn’t recommend these in the parks. Flip flops can slide around, causing blisters, and having all your toes exposed for someone to accidentally step on (which can easily happen in a crowd), is not something you want. You may think it goes without saying, but I also don’t recommend wearing heels of any kind. I’ve done it a couple of times for photoshoots, but only when I knew I would be in the parks for just a couple of hours, and I always brought back-up flats just in case.
Here’s what I would recommend: There are plenty of athletic shoes and casual sneakers that can help you stay on your feet from rope-drop ’till the goodnight fireworks. I personally love Vans and Converses, because they’re comfy yet sleek (not heavy), and I can always find a pair to coordinate with my outfit. In fact, Vans even makes Disney-themed shoes for women, men and kids! Sneakers also work well because you can wear socks, which your feet will ultimately thank you for after a day in the heat, trust me. Ladies, if you really want to wear ballet flats, I recommend anything with a slightly thicker sole, or flats that come with cushioned insoles. Anything that’s too thin will make you feel like you’ve walked barefoot all day. Lastly, I never leave for Disney without my famous “pre-emptive Band-aids” — I put one on the back of each heel before I put my shoes on to prevent blisters, and I always carry a few spares in my bag.
Now that we’ve got your feet covered (literally), now let’s talk about your wardrobe choices. In some of my own trips, I do forsake a little comfort to achieve a picture-perfect Disney look, but again, that’s because many of my trips are short, and my outfits aren’t intended for a full day of wear. Even so, style and comfort don’t have to be mutually exclusive, and you can still put together an Instagram-worthy ensemble that’s also comfy. Choose light, breathable fabrics (hello, cotton!) that will move with you throughout the day. I find that fit and flare dresses and A-line skirts are surprisingly comfy in the heat, and you can still pose like a princess all day. If athletic wear is more your thing, there are plenty of tops and bottoms out there with moisture-wicking fabric to keep you from looking like you rode Splash Mountain over and over.
Moms and dads, this next bit of advice is for you. Yes, your little ones look absolutely adorable in their princess dresses and pirate get-ups, but the fabric on these costumes is simply not appropriate for hot days in the parks, and an uncomfortable child makes for a rough day for the whole family. If your child absolutely insists on wearing a costume, or you want them to wear it for pictures, carry a change of comfy clothes in a backpack or plan to make a stop back at your hotel by lunchtime to keep them comfy (and happy).
You may not realize it, but accessories can also be a point of discomfort during a Disney trip. Everyone loves those iconic mouse ear headbands, but after a few hours, they can start to pinch. I’ve found that many times, a hair bow or hat that attaches with alligator clips is far more comfortable…they minimize the pressure on your scalp while still staying put for long periods. You can make your own hair accessories with these clips (you can find them at craft stores), or check out Etsy for some cute Disney-inspired finds.
Notice that big glowing ball on the horizon? No, it’s not Spaceship Earth, it’s the sun. The unforgiving, ever-present Florida sun. And if you’re not prepared, it can quickly derail your vacation. My biggest piece of advice for anyone going to Disney is to bring sunscreen. As a skin cancer survivor, sunscreen it a crucial part of my routine. Even if you’re not facing the same health concerns, getting a sunburn early in your vacation is a quick way to sour the rest of your time there, and it’s also not a great souvenir to bring home. I recommend using a high-SPF sunscreen on your face (there are plenty of skincare lines out there with sunscreen in them), and then using either rub-in or spray-on sunscreen on your arms, legs, neck and any other part of you that’s exposed to the sun (even your ears and the tops of your feet). Personally, I find spray-on formulas are just as effective as the kind you have to rub in, and it’s easier to convince eager and squirmy kids to sit still for a quick spray. And don’t forget to pack that sun protection in your bag…you’ll want to reapply every couple of hours. Hats, sunglasses and even umbrellas can also be part of your personal sun protection arsenal.
Speaking of things to pack, one great thing about Disney is that you can take your own food and drinks into the park. Toss some pre-packaged snacks and bottles of water or sports drinks into your backpack, and you’ll avoid having to track down something in the park (or paying theme park prices for it).
Finally, a strategic itinerary can help you avoid feeling run-down by the end of the day. Even if you’re not a morning person, I suggest getting to the park early to knock out your must-do activities for the day. The park is less crowded and generally cooler in the mornings, so you won’t spend as much time sweating or waiting in long lines. A trip back to your hotel around lunchtime is a great way to recharge your batteries, and you can take time to rearrange the rest of the day’s plans before you venture out again if need be. If you’re not staying at a hotel and are spending the whole day in the parks, map out the attractions you want to see ahead of time to minimize walking, and know where you can find relief from the heat. Disney gift shops are famous for their downright frosty air conditioning, and you can always grab a seat (and a free cup of ice water) at any quick-service restaurant.
Spending the day in the parks doesn’t have to feel like running a marathon, and with a little planning, you can keep the magic going for yourself and whoever else is along for the journey. Feel free to drop any questions or even your own suggestions in the comments, and stay tuned for more of my Disney adventures!