Keeping Your Cool in the Sizzling Heat

by Adrienne Krock, staff writer

Today is the Fourth of July, which marks the height of summer travel season. And while travelers head to the Disney theme parks this weekend—one of the busiest weekends of the year—California is also experiencing some record heat. Most of us know how to beat the heat, but we sometimes forget that information when the time comes to use it. Pour yourself an ice cold lemonade, find a cool spot, and prepare a strategy for your next Disney heatwave.


It sounds obvious, right? Do not forget to hydrate. Disney theme parks even offer the best hydration for free: Water. Caffeine-free and sugar-free, simple water provides the most hydrating bang for the buck. As MousePad member Drince88 (Cathy) regularly reminds MousePad members, if you are not regularly visiting the restroom, you are not drinking enough water.

Parents should make sure children regularly use to the bathroom and try to keep track of the color of their urine. Obviously, the younger the children are, the easier this task will be. Urine should be straw-colored. Darker yellow means they need more to drink. When in doubt, make them take a drink. Parents have a double responsibility in the heat: Make sure they stay hydrated themselves but also watch the children. When I drink, I remind my children to drink—and vice versa. Parents need to take care of themselves to protect their children, too.

For years, I carried disposable water bottles to the parks in my backpack or on my stroller. As my boys grew old enough to carry their own backpacks, they hauled their own water bottles. We also used hydration packs such as Camelbaks. Reservoir systems allow users to carry water in a backpack and drink through a long hose as a straw. On several occasions, we carried a large Camelbak in an insulated pack. We filled the pack with water and ice at home, refilled with water at the parks as we needed, and belive it or not, often ended the day with a little ice still in the pack.

Most recently, we streamlined our water even more. Each of member of my family brings a reusable water bottle of our choice from home. We own a variety of styles: Camelbak bottles, screw-top Nalgene bottles, and flip-top bottles. Park guests might also opt to bring or purchase disposable water bottles, but keep them to reuse. Throughout our day, we occasionally ask for a cup of ice at a restaurant or fill our bottles at water fountains. We stay well-hydrated without having to weigh down our backpacks with multiple bottles. Recently, MousePad member snoppyfink suggested travelers choose water bottles with built-in water filters, which are great to use at water fountains and restrooms faucets.

MousePad member zombie pirate asked about bringing in bottles of sports drinks, such as Gatorade. On very hot days, sports drinks can help keep park visitors stay hydrated. They offer electrolytes, which plain water (in excess amounts) can flush out of your body—this can cause "hyponatremia," or water intoxication, a serious condition. Drink them in moderation, though, since many brands (including Powerade, the brand sold in the Disney parks) contain too much sugar to be drinking all day.

Many companies now offer tablets or serving-size mix-ins to supplement water. Sports drinks often contain high levels of sugar, which is their biggest drawback, but people can control the proportion of water to powder when using the tablets and mix-ins. Best of all, lightweight and compact tablets and mix-ins are much easier to carry around the theme parks than bottles of beverages. I prefer to carry Nuun Hydration tablets in my backpack and easily add one tablet at a time to my water bottle or a cup of water. Nuun provides electrolytes and flavor without sugar. They taste pretty good and, thanks to the effervescence of the tablets, they even add a slight fizz when they dissolve in cold water.

Accessorize to Stay Cool

Start at the top:

  • Bring hats and sunglasses to protect the head and eyes from the direct sunlight, for babies and children, too.
  • Carry and use sunscreen to protect from sunburn. Do not forget to reapply sunscreen during the day.
  • Naturally, remember to dress in lightweight, light colored clothing. Perspiration weighs down cotton clothing. Sporting goods departments and stores sell clothing made from wicking and other lightweight fabrics that dry quickly and pull perspiration away from the skin. These clothing options help keep travelers cool.

MousePad member Leota’s Necklace posted one of my favorite tricks: Keep necks and even forearms cool with cold compresses. Because blood vessels sit close to the skin in these areas, compresses help keep the body cool. Bandanas or handkerchiefs provide a quick and easy solution: Run a bandana under a faucet, squeeze out a bit of the dripping water, and wear it around the neck. As the bandana warms up or dries out, rewet it. Alternatively, consider investing in or even making a cooling neck wrap with polymer crystals inside. The crystals fill with water, retain the water, and provide cooling relief for hours. Several online craft sites offer tutorials for making neck coolers; others offer neck coolers for sale. Disney restrooms provide a solution should guests forget bandanas or neck coolers at home: Paper Towels. Although not as elegant, a wet paper towel on the neck and rubbed on forearms, provides quick relief in a pinch.

Families might want to bring a spray bottle in a backpack or in a stroller basket. Spray bottles make it convenient to spritz heads and necks to stay cool. Please take care to avoid spraying each other in confined spaces so other guests won't get hit. Not every guest appreciates the "splash zone." Many theme parks offer fan spray bottles for sale, but general stores and Dollar Stores sell inexpensive water bottles for guests who plan in advance.

Plan a Cool Itinerary

Plan in advance to avoid the heat. Arrive at the parks early in the day before the high temperatures hit. Visit outdoor attractions early in the day or later in the evening. Plan meals at off-prime times. Choose a snack near noon, postpone a larger lunch until later in the afternoon, and enjoy a break in an air-conditioned restaurant.

Guests staying in local hotels can return in the afternoon to cool off in pools or air conditioned rooms, but what about locals visiting for day trips? Even day guests can find break spots in the parks—or the resort hotels. The Disneyland and Walt Disney World resort hotels feature lovely air-conditioned lobbies for cool park breaks, as do several attractions in the parks.

Spend time during the hottest part of the day in the coolest attractions available. At the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, locations such as the MuppetVision 3-D theater Disney California Adventure park and the Opera House in Disneyland park provide relaxing lobbies and air-conditioned experiences, as do the many Epcot pavillions in Walt Disney World. At both Walt Disney World and the Disneyland resort, Innoventions and Animation buildings supply interactive, air-conditioned opportunities. My family especially enjoyed the indoor character meet-and-greet opportunities at Walt Disney World, complete with indoor queues and photo opportunities. Of course, expect to find the longest lines in the parks at the water rides such as Splash Mountain. Some parks offer water play areas, such as the fountains in A Bug's Land in Disney California Adventure. In addition to their theme parks, the Walt Disney World Resort includes two water parks.

Finally, slow down. No one needs to barnstorm any Disney park during a heatwave. Enjoy the details. Take time and avoid a meltdown. Above all, remember that all Disney theme parks provide air-conditioned Central First Aid locations. Watch for signs of heat-related illness, but stop and address the signs at the earliest opportunity. Do not be fooled if someone is not sweating—not sweating is a sign of distress. The Centers for Disease Control website shares information about heat-related illnesses. Take a moment to review the signs of heat stress to be prepared. The on-staff registered nurses at Disney First Aid stations gladly offer a cool cup of water, a cool place to rest, professional assessment, and care for theme park guests. Find the locations on theme park maps or ask cast members for help.

Stay cool and hydrated, and have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July!



  1. By davidgra

    There's another thing you can do to help your trip be less miserable during the summer months -- acclimate ahead of time. Many family spend as much time as possible indoors during the summer, especially in warmer climates, and it's a huge shock to the body when you arrive in Florida and try to spend an entire week walking around outside.

    For a week or two before you go to WDW, spend time outside at home. Do some outdoor activities, get some exercise during the warmer parts of the day, and spend time in the sun. Start small and work your way up. Be sure to hydrate and apply sunscreen, of course. This will help prepare your body for the sun and heat you'll be experiencing in Florida.

  2. By StevePCGuy

    RE: Water strategy-- We usually get the case of large Costco water bottles, and stick a few in the freezer 24 hours before going. I'm the "mule", so I place a towel in the bottom of my backpack to soak up the "sweat" from the bottles, and we have cold water all day.

    We also sometimes go on a water ride, getting a fastpass in the morning, and putting all electronics in ziplock bags.

  3. By mkelm44

    I'm glad that you added the cooling wraps... you feel rediculous wearing one (we refer to them as "water sausages" in my family) but they work really well. Just make sure that you keep a plastic bag with you to put it in when you want to take it off- indoor restaurants, heavily air conditioned buildings, etc. so it doesn't get the rest of your stuff wet.

    Another thing we do is we actually fill a water bottle with mostly ice and just a little bit of water before we leave. That way we have cold water for longer while we're in the park, with the ice melting as we're out. We also add flavor powders or "squirts" to the bottles so it isn't quite so boring. All too often we stop drinking water bc it's warm and just boring- the flavor and the keeping cool helps us stay drinking it.

    Last is to be aware of how long you are standing around outside... your body will actually be less effective when youre standing around in an outside queue because a) you aren't moving, which means that unless there is a good breeze your body heat won't dissipate away from your body and b) you get everyone else's body heat too. It doesn't seem like it's too much of a problem, but maybe the 60 minute wait for the Haunted Mansion outside in the sun might be delayed.

  4. By UsBurchs

    We found a REALLY neat mister at a local sports store. It's the size of a small water bottle with a clip for your belt. It has a pump at the top and a small hose, somewhat like a telephone coiled cord, with a nozzle on the end. The pressure you pump into the bottle then gets released as a fine mist when you push a button. You can mist yourself (or others around you) without getting too wet. We also have the neck coolers and bring water with some sort of sports drink mix. Wide brimmed hats and lots of sunscreen. My husband had a condition for a while where he got overheated very easily, so we incorporated ALL cooling gadgets we could - almost bought him a cooling vest, but then we found a solution to his issue and he no longer "melts" in the heat. YAY! Our last trip to Disneyland was SO much better with him healthy!

  5. By rizzotherat

    RE: "Best of all, lightweight and compact tablets and mix-ins are much easier to carry around the theme parks than bottles of beverages. I prefer to carry Nuun Hydration tablets in my backpack and easily add one tablet at a time to my water bottle or a cup of water. Nuun provides electrolytes and flavor without sugar."

    The water tablets you're using contain no "sugar" but they do have artificial sweetners; the website states "Different Nuun branded products use different sweeteners, such as acesulfame potassium, stevia or dextrose;" and recent studies have found that artificial sweetners like those found in zero calorie drinks, diet teas & sodas, and some sports drinks are worse for you than natural sugar.

    Usually what I use around the parks is either just straight bottled water or for a little pick me up sparkling water made by either perrier, La Croix or ice mountain because they are flavored with natural fruit flavorings as opposed to sweetners.

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