Every year around this time (end of October, beginning of November) we have our first cold spell of the season; Central Florida goes from hot and humid to bitterly cold in the space of a day or two, and everyone loses their minds. The locals are ecstatic because it’s finally comfortable to spend more than 30 secondS outside, plus we get to break out our jeans and boots for a few days. Tourists are often horrified to find that their pool days might not be what they hoped, and even more horrified when they find out how much Disney wants for a sweater and a pair of gloves. Typically a cold spell here lasts a few days, then temperatures climb back up to something more comfortable in the mid-70’s, but they happen frequently enough that, if you have a trip planned during the winter months, you might want to know what to expect. Read ahead to find out what you need to know about visiting Walt Disney World during cold weather.
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Don’t trust the weather forecast!
The weather forecast in Central Florida is notoriously unreliable. If it says that tomorrow will be hot and sunny with no chance of rain, you could very easily find yourself in a torrential thunderstorm with cloudy skies all day. The same goes for temperatures; projected temperatures are based mostly on the previous years, and you can imagine how reliable it is to guess next weeks weather based on that of a year ago. If you have a trip coming up during the winter months (November through February) and you look ahead a few weeks to see predicted cold temperatures, that generally means very little. The most accurate temperature estimates will only be a few days out, so there is really very little point trying to figure out the weather for your vacation in two weeks. Believe me, I know how frustrating this can be! I like to arrange my outfits and start packing way in advance, so the thought of leaving it to the last minute gives me crazy anxiety, but it’s honestly better than having to repack at the last minute because estimates change and now what you’ve packed is totally unsuitable.
Cold is cold
I am from England, and my husband is from New York, so we know what cold winters look and feel like. The first winter we were here, we assumed that when people said it got cold in the winter, they meant the temperatures dropped below 90 degrees, and we’d still be in shorts and t-shorts. We got a real shock when we found out that temperatures can easily drop into the 40’s, the 30’s, and sometimes even the 20’s. Even if you’re from somewhere that has bitterly cold winters (or bitterly cold summers too!), know that cold is cold, and you’re probably going to feel it. I always hear from people that they’re coming from somewhere where temperatures in January are below zero, and that temperatures in the 40’s will feel warm to them, almost like summer! Yeah, I promise they won’t. The humidity in Florida makes the cold feel even colder, and remember that you’ll be outside a lot of the time; if you’re coming from below zero temperatures, you’re probably not spending the whole day outdoors. Even if you’re someone who gets warm easily, and you really think you won’t feel cold at all, I would definitely suggest bringing at least one warm sweater, just in case that cold weather feels colder than you think it will!
Bring layers and pack accordingly
My best advice for packing during the winter months is layers, layers, layers. This is for two reasons: firstly, as I said the weather can be unpredictable and if you’re coming for more than a few days, you really won’t know what the weather is going to look like towards the end of your trip. Secondly, temperatures can go from freezing cold to perfectly comfortable in the space of a few hours, and what you’re wearing at the beginning of the day might not be right at all by midday – and no one wants to go back to the hotel just to change clothes.
There are a few things I’ve worn to the parks during the colder months that I would definitely recommend. One of them is a long-sleeved thermal t-shirt; I wear it with a short-sleeved t-shirt over the top, and that way it keeps me warm in the morning, but I can take it off and just wear the short-sleeved shirt if it gets warmer. I also usually bring a lightweight fleece, something that, again, keeps me warmer but doesn’t take up a lot of space if I need to take if off later on in the day. I usually always pack a warm hat and gloves for the winter trips; once the sun goes down, temperatures drop and it can get very cold sometimes. Standing around for an hour to hold a spot for a nighttime show can be pretty miserable if you’re freezing; having warm hands and a warm head can really help! Lastly, pants that zip off at the knee to become shorts are highly recommended by fellow travelers; you’e not going to be winning any fashion awards (but neither are all the people wearing Mickey ears, so you’ll be in good company!) but this is the easiest way to change an outfit depending on the temperature with very little effort.
Be prepared to adjust your plans
We all know how much planning a Walt Disney World trip takes, and how difficult it can be to switch plans at the last minute. In my article on what to do at Walt Disney World during rainy days I talk about the importance of flexibility during bad weather, and the same can be applied to cold weather. While cold weather isn’t going to cancel a parade or close a ride down, it can make things anywhere from a bit uncomfortable to downright miserable. If you are planning to watch the Happily Ever After fireworks for example, and that night the temperatures are going to be in the 30’s, you might want to adjust your plans a little, especially if traveling with young children.
Water park and pool days can also be tricky to plan during the winter months. If the temperatures are estimated to be colder than about 50 degrees, the water parks will close altogether; if you’re visiting for only a few days during the winter, I would advise against buying water park tickets in advance because you simply may not be able to use them. Similarly, planning a pool day might be difficult since you don’t know which days are going to be warm enough to swim. If your kids are anything like mine, then they will want to swim no matter how cold it is, but if the temperature is only 30 degrees, no one is going to want to spend the day by the pool! Try to have a little flexibility in your plans so that those really cold days can be spent in the most comfortable way possible.
Make the most of visiting Walt Disney World during cold weather!
My favorite time of year to visit Walt Disney World is during the winter! Aside from how amazing it is to visit during the Christmas period (read more on visiting Walt Disney World during Christmas) a trip when the weather is cooler is so, SO much nicer than during the summer! Have you ever been to the parks and just wanted to walk around, enjoying the little details, but it’s been too unbearably hot? How about wanting to try a really great food item but all you really can handle is a gallon of water and an ice cream? Well, winter is the time to stroll around at ease, eating that awesome treat, to your hearts content because the weather is comfortable. January and February are usually slower times at Walt Disney World too, so you can take advantage of lower crowds, shorter waits for rides, and a better chance of getting into the most popular restaurants! Honestly, I tell everyone I know that winter is the absolute best time to visit Walt Disney World, so pack all of your layers, and get out there and have a great time!
Have you ever visited Walt Disney World during a cold spell? Let me know in the comments!