Following on from my last post on how to beat the heat at Walt Disney World in the summer, I thought I’d tackle the other weather-related issue that guests might find themselves facing in the summer – and that’s rain at Walt Disney World. Florida is known for it’s somewhat unpredictable weather, with forecasts being notoriously inaccurate and rain cropping up even when the radar looks completely clear. But one thing is for certain when it comes to Central Florida summers: it will be hot, and it will rain! From the beginning of June to the end of November is hurricane season, and this means almost daily afternoon thunderstorms, with some heavier rain patterns settling in when there is tropical activity in the Atlantic or the Gulf. Chances are that you’ll only have to deal with the occasional afternoon thunderstorm during your Walt Disney World vacation, but there might be trips where you have to put up with multiple days of all day rain, which can really be a pain if you’ve been planning on enjoying the sunshine. Luckily, I have some tips on how to deal with rain at Walt Disney World, and how the rain can actually be a blessing, making your vacation even more magical.
How to make the best of rain at Walt Disney World
Be prepared for rain at Walt Disney World
When you check the weather forecast (I always find the most accurate to be the National Weather Service) and it shows an 80% chance of rain for your whole trip, it’s easy to panic, but this usually just means that you’re likely to be dealing with those pesky afternoon storms, and the majority of your trip will be rain-free. Even so, it’s best to be prepared for some rain so that you’re not caught unaware (and out of pocket for some very expensive Disney ponchos!) There are a few things you can bring with you that don’t take up much space in your bag that will come in super handy if rain hits while you’re at the parks.
When it comes to wet weather gear, you’re generally looking at either using a poncho or a rain jacket. Umbrellas don’t work too well in the parks; the crowds mean that you’re likely to be hitting people in the head a lot, and you’re going to be constantly putting it up and down to go in and out of stores and attractions. You also then have to find space to store a wet umbrella in your hotel room while the thing dries. A poncho or a rain jacket will hardly take up any space in your park bag, so be sure to throw one of the two in there before you head out in the morning. A poncho can be picked up incredibly cheaply at the dollar store, and they’re so reasonable that you can always just throw them away when you’re done instead of trying to find somewhere to dry them. The perks of a poncho are that they are lightweight, fold up really small, and cover a large portion of your body, protecting most of your clothing from the knees up. The downside is that they can get really hot and sticky, and if the wind is blowing as it often does in the crazy thunderstorms, they can kind of whip around and provide less protection. A rain jacket is something you probably already have at home, and while it might be heavier and therefore hotter in the Florida weather, it will probably do a better job of protecting against the elements as it will be of a higher quality. I would also suggest skipping denim if it looks like it might rain, as I don’t think anything feels worse than wet denim!
Also think about what you’re going to have on your feet. I live in flip flops when I visit the parks, and they’re great in the rain because they dry so quickly once the weather clears up. The downside is of course that you’ll have wet feet and sometimes splashing through the puddles with little foot protection is kind of gross. If you plan on wearing sneakers or tennis shoes, I would suggest bringing a second or even a third pair, so if one pair gets wet and needs to spend some time drying out, you have another pair to wear. I’ve found that the best way to dry sneakers is to scrunch up newspaper and stuff it inside the shoes; the paper absorbs the water quickly, and they can often be dry in a few hours. For more on the best travel rain gear read through this post.
If you’re going to have a stroller with you, be sure to bring a stroller cover or an extra poncho so you’re not worried about your little one getting wet, and if you carry a backpack to the parks, it might be worth looking into one that is waterproof so you’re not worried about everything you’re carrying getting wet too.
Have a Plan B
Taking a trip to Walt Disney World involves a lot of pre-planning and scheduling things in advance, so it can be frustrating when your plans don’t work out and you’re left scrambling for what to do next – but having a plan in place for what to do if it does rain is a good idea. If the rain is heavy enough and looks like it might continue for more than a few minutes, there’s a chance that outdoor shows and parades might be cancelled, and outdoor rides may have to temporarily close. If you’re planning to ride an outdoor ride or see a show that is subject to the elements, plan to do so in the morning; not only will you likely avoid those afternoon thunderstorms, but it will be much cooler. Walt Disney World only currently has one day time parade (the Festival of Fantasy parade at Magic Kingdom) and it generally runs earlier than those afternoon storms hit, so it’s not often cancelled. If you know this parade is a must-do for your traveling party, however, I would suggest fitting it into your plans on more than one day so that you can try to see it again if it’s cancelled for any reason the first time. The same goes for any of the nighttime shows; although they are less likely to be affected by rain, shows can be delayed or cancelled with lightning in the area. The best advice here is just to be as flexible as possible, and plan to come back to things if they don’t go as planned the first time.
If it starts to pour with rain and there is no immediate end in sight, you want to be undercover. Lightning in Florida is a really scary thing, and can be incredibly dangerous, so it’s probably not the best idea to make a run for it in wide open spaces. It can be tempting to go into the closest store but chances are, everyone else will have had the exact same idea and now everyone will be cramped into a small space (where your kids will have lots of opportunities to see things they simply must have!) Take an extra second and find an indoor attraction or somewhere you can sit down and get a snack or a drink. If the skies get dark and the wind picks up, it would be a good time to look at a map and find somewhere to ride out the rain – before everyone else does! Some of my favorite places to ride out the rain are the Carousel of Progress or Mickey’s Philharmagic at Magic Kingdom, The Land or The Living Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot (plenty of room for the kids to walk around and activities to keep them busy), The Great Movie Ride or Muppet Vision 3D at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Festival of the Lion King or It’s Tough to be a Bug at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Take advantage of the lower crowds
One of the best things about the rain, in my opinion, is that as soon as it begins, people head for the exit! The longer the rain goes on, the more people leave, and once the weather clears up, you can left with a park that has half of the guests it had before the rain started! It’s a great time to get on some rides that might ordinarily have long lines, especially if they’ve been closed and are just reopening. If you’re at the parks during one of those rare days when it just rains all day, you can expect much lower crowds all day, which is a real treat! By the end of a rainy day at the parks, they can be virtually empty, and if you’re willing to brave the rain, you can really take advantage of the parks being quieter than they would normally be.
Make the most of it!
Almost everyone who has spent a rainy day at a Walt Disney World park will tell you that it was actually one of the best days of their trip! Once you get over the fact that it’s raining at Walt Disney World and this was NOT in your plans, you remember that it’s still a day at Walt Disney World, and that’s better than most days anywhere else! If you’re willing to throw on some wet weather gear and get out there are make the most of it, you can have an amazing day! One of my favorite memories at Walt Disney World is watching my then 2-year old son in his much too large poncho, jumping in puddles in his dinosaur boots, with this huge smile on his face! I’ll also never forget riding on Kilimanjaro Safari in the pouring rain to see the elephants swimming in a pool, splashing each other and having a marvelous time, or following a family of ducks as they splashed happily down a deserted Main Street after a thoroughly wet day at Magic Kingdom. I always think that the things that happen on vacation that we often remember the most fondly are the things we never planned, when we had to just go with the flow and make the best of things. This is a great example of that, and a rainy day at Walt Disney World can actually be one of the best days of your trip!