July 22, 2024

Biggest Lesson We Learned from Baby Bricker’s Summer Trip to Disney World

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Baby Bricker's second trip to Walt Disney World did not go as well as the first. This covers the #1 problem our family had during this summer time Florida vacation, along with other thoughts about




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Baby Bricker’s second trip to Walt Disney World did not go as well as the first. This covers the #1 problem our family had during this summer time Florida vacation, along with other thoughts about the good and bad of this visit to WDW with an infant and actionable advice for other new parents.

Our intention was/is to do photo reports following every family trip we make to Walt Disney World, similar to our ‘parent fails’ from Baby Bricker’s first WDW trip – part 1 and part 2. We also shared ‘what went right’ during our family trip – part 1 and part 2. Those posts were well-received by readers, both as recaps of our trip and teachable moments for other new parents.

This post is a pretty dramatic departure from those, and definitely does not rise to being a fully-fledged trip report. Although we did a variety of things on this trip, much of that was overshadowed by this (perfectly predictable) problem. Basically, this post is singularly focused on being a cautionary tale instead of a recap of the highs and lows of our trip…

The #1 lesson we learned from this trip was that we cannot visit Walt Disney World in the summer. The high heat and stifling humidity are just not conducive to trips between June and August for our family. After our recent trip, I cannot fathom all three of us returning to WDW during those months (until we forget how unpleasant they are…again).

This is quite the about-face, especially since I recently shared an update to Is It Still Worth Visiting During ‘Fall’ Off-Season at Walt Disney World? In that, I wrote that we were already planning a return visit as a family so Baby Bricker (Megatron) could experience Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and more. Since her first trip to Walt Disney World went so well (for the most part), we got excited and emboldened to do another.

In my defense, I also added a rather large asterisk that Sarah didn’t experience last year’s brutal weather that prompted that post in the first place, and speculated that maybe she was underestimating just how bad it was. A “time heals all wounds” kinda scenario.

You might say that this quick summer getaway to Walt Disney World was essentially reopening old wounds.

During our trip, the daily high temperature exceeded 95° every single day. With plenty of humidity on top of temperatures in the mid-to-high 90s, the “feels like” reading exceeded 100° every single day, too. Weather so hot it could make even a seasoned WDW visitor cry. (Sweat mixing with sunscreen and running into your eyes has a way of doing that!)

This would be bad enough if it were just the two of us. We are, admittedly, wimps when it comes to high heat and humidity. I know some Floridians claim you get used to it, but we never did during our years spent living in Florida, and weather was the driving factor that led to us leaving. (Even the lizards and alligators–basically prehistoric beasts–don’t get used to the weather; I don’t believe people actually do.)

Regardless, we’ve also done many summer days and full trips to Walt Disney World. Heck, I did several solo ones just last year, and I can’t recall a single day when I logged under 20,000 steps. My shirt was sweat-soaked by like 9 am each day, but I trudged on and still had enjoyable enough experiences, accomplishing plenty. It certainly wasn’t my ideal time to visit, but as the old adage goes, even a hot day at Walt Disney World beats a normal day at home!

It’s a totally different ball game with a baby. As covered elsewhere, we’re avid babywearers. But when the temperature eclipses 90 degrees, babywearing becomes impractical (mild understatement). A lot of advocates claim that, actually, babywearing is good in high heat because being close to your body helps the baby regulate their own body’s temperature, helping them prevent overheating.

This might be true; I’m not a scientist or pediatrician, so I don’t know. It’s also crazy. Things can be both crazy and true. (Perhaps babywearing during summer at Walt Disney World belongs in “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!”) The operative question is not whether it’s safe for the baby, which presumably it is since babies exist in all climates. That’s a really low bar. (“Is it safe?” is not the standard I want to use for things I do on vacation.)

The real question is whether it’s reasonably comfortable. Which is kind of stupid, since it’s probably patently obvious even to non-parents that it very much is not comfortable. Just being outside at Walt Disney World during triple digit “feels like” temperatures is already fairly unpleasant. Now attach what’s basically a 20-pound heater to your chest. It makes that feeling worse, certainly not better.

Thankfully, we also brought our stroller with to Walt Disney World. We hadn’t been using it a whole lot prior to this summer, but that has changed in a big way. The stroller seemed more comfortable for all parties involved, but even that has shortcomings. (Always keeping Megatron in the shade as the sun shifted around being the big one.)

The end result was that Sarah and Megatron spent most of their time in the hotel or otherwise indoors. The whole point of the trip was to check out Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, CommuniCore Hall, and the other new-for-Summer 2024 stuff, so I was out and about most of the day doing that.

Thankfully, we had a rough idea of what we were getting ourselves into, and this was intended as less of a family vacation and more Sarah and Megatron joining me on a ‘research’ trip. Expectations were set accordingly, at least for the most part.

What we didn’t anticipate was that taking Megatron out during the bulk of the daytime hours would be a nonstarter. Irrespective of whether it was safe, it just wasn’t worth it from a comfort and quality of visit perspective. Due to the oppressive weather, we had only a few “good” hours per day in us, and it was better to allocate those to the evenings.

We are in a very fortunate position where we can do this–opting to spend more time at the hotel and less in the parks–since we’ve been to Walt Disney World many times before and will be back again. The stakes for us are way lower than the average guest. There’s nothing we must do, and we learned long ago that it’s far better to go with the flow than force it.

Obviously, that wouldn’t be our outlook if we were first-timers or infrequent visitors. If this were our only visit to Walt Disney World for the foreseeable future, we would’ve felt pressure to do as much as possible. And anything more than a few hours in the parks during the heart of the day would’ve been too much. One way or another, we would’ve ended up being really disappointed–either because we did too much or too little.

We’ve remarked on this before, but it’s so easy to see why adult meltdowns are so common during summer. There’s a tension between the pressure to accomplish a lot, and the heat and humidity beating you down and preventing that from happening. The weather is exhausting, making it exceedingly difficult to do a full day in the parks without a midday break or taking time to decompress. This alone can undermine any efficiency gains from the lower crowds of the slower summers.

Exacerbating this is park hours. The latest any park was open during our trip was Magic Kingdom which closed at 11 pm on one night. On all other dates, it closed at 10 pm. No other park closed later than 9 pm.

The problem with this is that sunset in Orlando during the summer is around 8:30 pm. As a practical matter, this meant as little as an hour in the park (we never left right at 9 pm) up to as much as 2.5 hours post-sunset each day. Those were about the only hours that were pleasant during our time in the parks, and even the word “pleasant” might be a stretch. Temperatures didn’t decrease that much.

Don’t get me wrong, the sun dipping below the horizon is a welcome relief, but it’s still pretty hot–just minus the scorching sun–up until park closing. There wasn’t a single day when the ‘feels like’ temperature dropped below 90 degrees before we left the park in the evening.

I can understand why Walt Disney World has set relatively limited park hours given the lack of summer crowds, but it’s still wild to me that–without paying extra–there are so few dates when any park is open after 10 pm. In fact, there are no dates after the Independence Day holiday when Magic Kingdom is open until 11 pm. It’s all 10 pm closings for the rest of the summer.

This doesn’t strike me as sustainable. I’ve remarked in the past that I’d prefer visiting the parks from 9 pm until 2 am during the summer over the entire day up until that point (usually in justifying a splurge on After Hours events). And I know I’m not the only one, based on the increased popularity of Extended Evening Hours during the summer months and how well After Hours parties continue to sell.

It’s somewhat baffling to me that Walt Disney World hasn’t recognized this and adjusted hours accordingly. To be sure, I’m not suggesting that Magic Kingdom stays open until 2 am nightly, as attendance doesn’t justify it. But having one of the parks offer regular operating hours after midnight might make sense.

Otherwise, the decreases in summer attendance and park hours are going to become a vicious cycle. Fewer people will plan trips this time of year since there are few (non-upcharge) reprieves from the heat. Due to fewer people attending, park hours will be slashed further. Yet another reason we’re hoping 2025 marks a return of Summer Nightastic! (or something similar) and later park closings.

Back in my day*, Magic Kingdom was open until midnight for everyone on Fridays in the summer, and offered evening Extra Magic Hours to all on-site guests until 3 am. (*My day was Summer 2010. Those are actual hours from then!)

The purpose of this post isn’t to throw a pity party for ourselves. Again, we’ve been around the block with summer in Central Florida. We knew there was the potential for this. Neither of us expected it to be this hot and humid, nor did we anticipate the challenges of navigating such weather with a baby. But the silver lining is that this was tacked-on to a research trip. Better this than planning an elaborate family vacation for the start of the Halloween season.

Rather, we always like to offer actionable advice; so with that in mind, what can you do to avoid a similar outcome? The obvious answer is to not visit Walt Disney World between the months of May and September, and particularly June through August.

On average, October through April have much better weather. Within that range, November through February tend to be the best bets from a weather perspective. For one thing, these months have cooler temperatures. But that’s not all–or even the biggest thing. These months get an assist from the triumphant return of standard time–and that plus shorter days means more park hours after dark.

I’ve always been a Daylight Saving Time hater, and this Walt Disney World trip further reinforced why. There’s too much daylight. No need to “save” it. Bit of a tangent, but I cannot believe politicians from Florida are leading the charge to make Daylight Saving Time permanent. There’s no need to “protect” sunshine in Florida. There’s an overabundance of it. But I digress.

For many families, this may not be practical. There’s a reason why summer is traditionally tourist season–many families have school aged children, parents who work as teachers, or any number of other reasons why it’s school breaks or bust when it comes to vacations. And even though summer is anything but inexpensive, it’s actually among the least pricey school breaks for visiting Walt Disney World. As such, a simple “don’t visit in the summer” might be viewed as glib and unhelpful.

In that event, my alternative advice might be equally unhelpful, but here it is: visit Disneyland. 

Seriously. Although average Anaheim temperatures in the summer may not appear that much lower, the “feels like” numbers are. You’ll likely have daytime “feels like” temperatures that are about 10 degrees lower, which is not insignificant this time of year!

Equally as important, if not more so, is hours. Disneyland is typically open from 8 am to midnight with Disney California Adventure being open from 8 am to 10 pm. Disneyland Resort’s second gate has longer hours than Magic Kingdom for the rest of the summer!

Not only that, but sunset occurs earlier in Anaheim and the temperatures usually fall sharply in late afternoon and drop off a cliff after sunset. Even when highs are in the upper 80s, evenings can be in the low 70s with “feels like” temperatures in the upper 60s. (You read that correctly–lower “feels like” numbers than the actual temperature.)

Even during the summer, it can be chilly at Disneyland in the evenings–that’s a stark contrast to Walt Disney World! We’ve already been back to Disneyland a few times since returning from Walt Disney World, and our experiences were dramatically different. To be sure, there have been hot days in Southern California–but nothing like Central Florida.

I know doing Disneyland instead of Walt Disney World also isn’t practical advice for everyone. I’m just offering this as another alternative, especially since I think a lot of planners don’t realize there’s a huge difference in weather between the two.

To be sure, there are other ways to beat the heat at Walt Disney World. You can use things like the Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad or Bladeless Personal Neck Fan, and other cooling devices of the sort. It’s also probably the case that, in addition to this trip being lower stakes for us, it was also our first exposure to extreme heat as parents. Taking our baby outside in such high heat made us anxious, and it’s probably fair to say we erred on the side of caution a bit more as a result. So that’s also unique to us.

But accomplishing less, feeling fatigued, and having little reprieve from the sun due to shorter park hours is hardly unique to us. Over the last few years, we’ve been hearing from more and more readers who have started to rule out summer time trips to Walt Disney World–even fans who had been before. At least anecdotally, it seems like there’s a growing contingent of fans hitting the wall with summer at WDW, which at least in part explains the lower crowds.

It’s also worth pointing out that there were plenty of positives, too! Although this post revolves around the weather and is framed as a cautionary tale, this trip still had its moments. Among other things, we had some great meals, got to meet more characters (but still no Figment), were wowed by “Disney Dreams That Soar,” got to enjoy a wall-free Diet EPCOT for the first time in 5 years, and logged several rides on Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. All of that was fun!

The highlight of the trip, though, was watching the Electrical Water Pageant as a family. I don’t know how we missed this on Baby Bricker’s first trip–it totally slipped our minds–but what a massive oversight on our part. Megatron is enamored with bright lights, so this was a huge hit.

It makes me really, really hope that a night parade actually is in the cards for how Walt Disney World will “compete” with Epic Universe in 2025. We didn’t think anything could live up to the nostalgia and sentimentality we have for SpectroMagic, but whatever night parade our daughter grows up on probably will. (She absolutely adored Dreamlights and Nightfall Glow, the night parades at Tokyo Disneyland.)

Speaking of which, and to conclude on an unequivocally positive note, our family trip to Japan went almost flawlessly. (The above image is from opening day of Fantasy Springs and is one of my favorite photos and memories from the entire trip. Baby Bricker thought the Lost Kids hats were hilarious for some reason.)

We expressed a tremendous amount of trepidation prior to that trip to Tokyo Disney Resort, but literally none of our fears came to fruition. I’m very glad we did Walt Disney World first, as it was a great learning experience for flights, hotel stays, and traveling in general–we made several major adjustments as a result of that Florida trip.

Nevertheless, we had our worries. Traveling to Japan is different from a week at Walt Disney World for obvious reasons. About the only mistakes we made were overpacking (once again–but not by as much) and one rough night. I doubt I’ll do a full post about that as I think it offers limited value–not many of you are probably planning on taking infants to Tokyo Disney Resort–but I’d nevertheless highly recommend it. We’re so glad we did!

For that matter, we’re glad we did this summer trip to Walt Disney World. Sure, it didn’t go nearly as smoothly or well as expected, but it was also a learning experience. That’s a big part of life, and some of our favorite memories aren’t the best moments–but the ones where things didn’t go according to plan. I’m sure we’ll look back at a couple of events from this trip that were not fun in the moment–but they’ll put smiles on our faces and make us laugh for years to come.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

What do you think about visiting Walt Disney World in the summer? Is it worth doing for families if you have no other option but school breaks? Does the high heat and humidity negatively impact your visits? Or, would you take the higher crowd levels but subjectively superior overall experience during Fall Break, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Mid-Winter Break, etc? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!




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