It's Raining! It's Pouring!

by Adrienne Krock, staff writer

Even with the best laid vacation plans, Disney has not yet mastered control of the weather. This week, we asked our Parenting Panel: What do you do when your vacation turns wet? How do you deal with the rain? Do you have your ponchos packed? (Don’t forget one to cover the stroller!) Let’s begin!

Chris, also known as GusMan, is always planning his next family trip to the Walt Disney World Resort and loves to help others plan their trips, as well sharing his experiences. Chris writes:

For any trip planner, you take many things into consideration. You think about your resort of choice. You consider transportation options. Dining decisions are made. Park preferences are put in place. In essence, a certain level of control is maintained throughout the trip planning process. If there is one thing that I have learned over the years when it comes to vacations at the Walt Disney World Resort is that you cannot control the weather. I know that a rainy day at Disney is better than a sunny day anywhere else, but when it comes down to it, its still rain – and it still changes the best plans.

When it comes to preparing for the rainy trip, there are a few major items that my family and I take into consideration:

Mental preparedness.

Over time, you learn that its not if it rains during your vacation – it is when and how much it will rain during your vacation. For many trips we joked about how you can set your watch to the brief afternoon downpours in the summer. At the same time, we learned from the weather changes that the rain does not change the fact that we are on vacation. In fact, as long as no lightening strikes, many outside attractions continue to operate and become unexpected water rides. Ever take a trip on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad during a downpour? It’s pretty intense.

Physical preparedness.

I learned to pack lighter and lighter every year. However, I never forget to pack either a poncho or my foldable water resistant jacket and stick it in the outside pocket of my larger camera bag. I also carry several zipper bags to protect my camera and video camera in the event that the weather becomes severe. (The camera bag is water repellant as it is.) Such raingear for my wife and kids go in her backpack, as well. They come with us rain or shine, even if the local weather says that will be all clear. In fact, I just got a report from a family member who is at WDW now, and they did not pack their raingear because there was a “zero chance for precipitation.” Guess what happened? You guessed it – it rained. We also learned that duo-dry type of fabrics tend to dry out a lot faster in the summertime once it stops raining, lessening the “soggy” feel that might be associated with getting soaked.

Alternative touring plans

As mentioned, most of the parks and resorts attractions remain functional even with the rain. But there are times when things get bad enough where you might want to different things. Make these contingency plans a part of your overall planning strategy. Seek out indoor attractions – even if they have longer lines. Try a new place to grab a snack. Take the time to shop. Hit your resort hotel, as they tend to have indoor activities for the kids available when the weather gets bad. (Talk with Guest Services when you check in about possible options.) But most of all, talk with your family beforehand and maybe get some good ideas from them as to what they would like to do in the event of rain. Chances are, if they have a say in the planning, they will embrace the change in plans.

In the past decade of Disney trips, I only had one trip where the whole week was pretty much a washout. It was a very rare occasion. However, we had the best time thanks to our pre-planning. We had some of the most awesome pictures taken with us in the rain to commemorate our wet trip. It was a testament to how taking a few steps to prepare can help you appreciate the liquid sunshine available in Central Florida.

Mary Kraemer is an avid Disney fan and travel consultant with CruisingCo/MouseEarVacations who loves to travel with her husband and children to Disney destinations as often as possible. Mary writes:

Rain. Nobody wants rain on their vacation. Nobody. Vacations are supposed to be picture-perfect, with warm temperatures and blue skies, so that park days are ideal, and the view of the fireworks at night is stellar.

But rain happens. What do you do? Get out there and make the most of it.

I pack for rain on every trip I ever make to a Disney park, whether rain is in the forecast or not. Now, usually, I like to use every single thing I’ve packed for a trip, feeling that it was a worthwhile choice for my suitcase, but rain gear is the exception: I’m delighted when I don’t need to use my rain gear. But there have been times when my rain gear has been my constant companion and I’ve been oh-so-grateful for it.

We pack ponchos and water shoes for light rain, but when it’s going to be more serious, we pack raincoats, rain pants, and rain boots. Dressed properly for the elements, you stay drier and a lot happier. If you only have sneakers, take at least two pair, so one has time to dry out while you’re wearing the other pair. (I spray ScotchGuard on my sneakers before going to Disney parks to help resist water.) I also take a bag of large suction cup hooks on every trip. They’re great to hang multiple swim suits in the tub/shower when it’s nice weather, but come in even handier for hanging up ponchos and other wet outerwear overnight. Hotel rooms are confined spaces where you have a minimum of space to spread things out to dry, so these hooks come in really handy on most any flat vertical surface in the room. I also pack large ziplock bags (they come in enormous sizes) for any wet or damp clothes and shoes for the flight home.

You know those lyrics, “It never rains in Southern California”? Well, it’s generally pretty true. But there are times, particularly in the winter months, when it does rain in Los Angeles. On the other coast, however, rain is much more likely at the Walt Disney World Resort at any time of the year. On hot summer days, it’s not uncommon to have a rainstorm that lasts a little while, but there are other times when it rains heavily…for days.

I’ve seen some subtle differences in crowd levels at the different Disney destinations when it rains. Because it has a large draw from the local L.A. area, Disneyland tends to be fairly empty when it rains (with the exception of more popular times such as Thanksgiving or Christmas when it’s a destination trip for a lot of people). And you know, an empty Disneyland is really, really fun. Although some attractions might close because of the rain (and you have to make sure that whenever you sit down on a ride, your backside is covered so it doesn’t get wet), you’ll be able to enjoy the park without crowds in a way you’ll really appreciate.

WDW is much more of a destination for travel than Disneyland, and, as such, if it rains, the weather doesn’t diminish the number of people in the parks nearly as much. Packing and dressing for the weather is essential to keep your vacation going. I once spent five days at WDW where it rained like a monsoon for the entire time, and I was so thankful I had my raingear. Although seeing Illuminations is much nicer when it’s clear, it was interesting to see it in the pouring rain. You gain a greater appreciation for inside spaces, and 15 minutes on Pirates of the Caribbean or "it's a small world" is a welcome respite!

It's your turn—keep the discussion flowing!

Visit the Parenting in the Parks forum on our MousePad discussion board, and share your opinions about this topic or many others, or send your suggestions via e-mail. Reader-submitted tips might be used in a future article, and you might be selected to participate in an upcoming panel discussion!



  1. By GusMan

    Mary - love the Scotchgard and suction cup ideas! I must do for my next trip.

  2. By DisneyGator

    I have NEVER spent a day at a WDW park without ponchos in my backpack. After experiencing one rain storm in FL, I learned my lesson. In fact I still bring the poncho I bought on the first trip. Bright yellow and it says "100 Years of Magic" on it.

  3. By GusMan

    You know... if you rip that Disney-purchased poncho, you can exchange it for another one. Did that a few times myself at WDW.

  4. By Interplas

    It may be complete overkill but this company has colored ziplocks, at bulk pricing, that makes it really beneficial to help keep things color coded especially if I have to quickly grab my daughters snack bag, that is stuffed in the diaper bag, to keep her satisfied until we can get onto the Dumbo flying ride.

  5. By lifeisgood

    Bringing cheap ponchos is a given (we buy thin "emergency ponchos" for less than a dollar), but we also bring along extra socks to change into if (when) our feet get wet.

  6. By davidgra

    The idea of packing raincoats, rain pants and rain shoes sounds horrifying. All you should ever need is a poncho and a compact umbrella. Those will keep you completely dry in almost all circumstances (short of a hurricane). Wear water-resistant shoes (Timberland makes some great walking/hiking shoes that are watertight) or sandals at all times, and you don't have to bring anything extra.

    If it's really pouring rain, or if it's going to rain all day, don't carry cameras, backpacks, snacks, etc. We'll fold up a large plastic Disney bag (the kind you get when you buy things) and carry it in a pocket to stash the ponchos and umbrellas in when we're on a ride or indoors somewhere.

  7. By josephfive

    We've experienced rain at DLR. What I found was: the kids get quite warm underneath the ponchos, so best to take light layers. Take multiple pairs of shoes & socks and store them in a locker to get to when needed. You may even want to wear something like Keen sandals. Take cheap gloves, lots of them. We didn't like the feeling of our hands being cold and wet from the bars on some rides.

    And occasionally the rain in California is more like a downpour. Like others have said, seek out indoor activities (of which there are plenty) until the rain dump is over. Of course, if forecast is for rain, you can be like the one gentleman we saw who was in waders and tall boots.

  8. By lauras5boys

    Best thing about kids...they wash and dry really well.

    Wet shoes never bother my kids. A light poncho is all we've ever needed. And we were at Disney World in April of 2009 when there was a huge tropical storm where main street was flooded. My kids still tell me the best part of that trip was the hot chocolate LOL

  9. By mkraemer

    Quote Originally Posted by GusMan View Post
    Mary - love the Scotchgard and suction cup ideas! I must do for my next trip.

    You are most welcome!! I never travel without the suction cups and always prep with Scotchgard beforehand.

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