I survived Disney World in August – twice. Here’s why August can be the best time of year to visit Orlando, and how you can survive the hot, humid weather during hurricane season.
End of August means low crowd levels at Disney World
Although summer is an extremely busy season at Disney World, by the end of August school has started in much of the country and the crowd levels in Orlando are among the lowest of the year. If you are lucky enough to be able to travel during the last week or two of summer, you will find empty parks and very short queues.
End of August also means stormy weather at Disney World
Florida is known for its extreme weather, the peak season for storms is the end of the summer and early fall. Its proximity to the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico means exposure to tropical storms and hurricanes. Luckily Orlando is located in the center of the state, which means even if a big storm hits the coast it will usually dissipate a lot before it gets to Disney World.
But even though you are unlikely to encounter a full-blown hurricane in Orlando, you will almost certainly run into heavy rain and thundershowers when you visit in the summer. Although this is inconvenient, it doesn’t need to ruin your trip. The main way to cope with Disney World’s weather is to be prepared and have a plan.The best way to cope with Orlando's weather is to be prepared and have a plan. Click To Tweet
Eight Disney World Weather Tips
Yes, this is always my first tip for theme park touring. In summer it’s extra-important to start early. Temperatures can top 100 degrees by mid-afternoon, but mornings tend to be much more comfortable.
Arriving early at Disney World means getting to the park before the gates open. If you’re staying at an onsite hotel, I recommend getting to the bus stop or monorail about an hour before park opening. Ideally you should arrive at the park gates about 30 minutes before scheduled opening, since guests are often permitted to enter about 15 minutes prior to the announced time.
Park opening is often referred to as “rope drop” since at some parks guests are held behind ropes just inside the park when the turnstiles open early.
This means if a park has a scheduled opening time at 9:00am, most likely the turnstiles will begin operating at about 8:45am. Considering the heat you will encounter later in the day, and likely rain too, don’t miss these extra minutes of cool, dry touring time. Additionally lines just after park opening are almost always the shortest of the day.
Episode 19 of the Go Informed podcast, Master Your Theme Park Morning, gives you the tools to get your family up and ready for rope drop.
Make Lunch Reservations
Lunchtime will probably be the time you start feeling hot and tired. Do yourself a huge favor and make a lunch reservation at one of the park restaurants. A dining reservation means a guaranteed seat in air-conditioned comfort. You can make your dining reservations on the Disney World website or on the My Disney Experience app, even the same day!
Schedule Your Fast Passes for the Afternoon
At Disney World, guests can reserve Fast Passes ahead of time (click here if you don’t know what a Fast Pass is), so you will need to strategize about which rides you’d like to reserve and what time to reserve them.
There are a lot of factors involved with what time to reserve your Fast Passes, but if your goal is to optimize your touring time and avoid waiting in a long line at the hottest part of the day, I recommend scheduling your Fast Passes for mid to late afternoon. No matter the season, this is the busiest time of day at Disney World. And it’s also the hottest. So if you’d like to minimize your hassle during the most brutal hours, schedule your Fast Passes starting at around 2:00-3:00pm.
What happens to my Fast Pass if weather closes the attraction?
Be aware that when lightning is in the area, Disney will temporarily close some attractions until the storm passes. Thunderstorms frequently pass through in the late afternoon. If a ride closes during your Fast Pass time you will be allowed to come back any time before park closing that same day and ride using the Fast Pass line.
Stay Flexible in the Afternoon and Evening
OK, so I know I just told you to book your Fast Passes for the afternoon and now I’m telling you to stay flexible. But this really is a key theme park touring tip: have a plan but be flexible.
Touring Disney World in hot weather can be exhausting. Be prepared to skip a ride and enjoy some ice cream instead. If a storm closes your next attraction, duck into an indoor ride or a shop for a while. Then be ready to go back and ride that roller coaster when it stops raining. Trust me, you will enjoy the ride a whole lot more.
This ability to stay flexible is one reason I do not recommend that you make dinner reservations during the stormy months. Often dinnertime is the point where the rain stops, meaning it is the ideal time to hop on the rides that were closed early in the day. If you have a dinner reservation (which Disney will charge a fee to cancel, incidentally), you will have far less flexibility in the evening hours. My suggestion is to stick to the full-service restaurants for lunch and have quick-service for dinner.
That said, many of the restaurants at Disney World are attractions in themselves and if dinner is your top priority then by all means get that reservation.
Have a Plan B
The key here is to know that the weather may (at some point most likely will) affect your ability to get on an attraction. Have an idea about which rides are indoors – so you can easily escape the weather without a big debate about where to go. A little research before your trip can really help you when a sudden downpour hits.
Get a guidebook like The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and spend some time getting to know the parks before you get there. Make a short list, on paper or on your phone, of some of the indoor attractions you’d like to check out when it just gets too hot or rainy.
Take Refuge in a Disney Hotel
If it starts pouring and you just need to get out of the park for awhile, head to a nearby hotel for refuge. We find this especially easy to do at Magic Kingdom. During one rainstorm, we escaped to the Contemporary Resort. You can take a break right in the lobby or find a restaurant or lounge to settle in and dry off.
At the Contemporary a good place to hole up is The Wave Lounge. In the afternoon this is a nice quiet space, and it has lots of room to spread out, and even discretely dry off your ponchos.
And at these nice resorts you’ll find all kinds of amenities to help you get back on track. During the downpour, the Contemporary put hand towels out near the doorways so guests could be more comfortable and dry off a bit.
No, you don’t need to be staying in that hotel to enjoy the lobby and restaurants. And yes, kids are welcome in the lounges at Disney World.
Monitor the Weather Forecast
A big key to being prepared for the weather at Disney World is to know before you go. Pick your favorite weather app (I like the Weather Channel app) and monitor it frequently. No matter what time of year you’re traveling, watch the forecast so you can bring the right clothing and supplies for the weather.
One of my favorite pre-trip moments is when my vacation is finally in the 10-day forecast!
Once you’re at the parks, keep an eye on the hourly forecast and the radar. Showers come up fast in Orlando but I find that the forecast can be pretty accurate. If it looks like you’re in for a storm around 2:00pm, think about going to an indoor show around that time. Or use that part of the day to hop to another park.
The radar on the app can show you if the showers overhead are part of a small band of clouds or a big storm. (Zoom out to get a bigger picture view). Although summer rain at Disney World can be intense, it often doesn’t last very long. Your weather app can help you decide when to wait out the storm and when to throw in the towel (or reach for one!)