From childhood vacations to lifelong friends made in my time as a cast member, Disneyland has always been part of my life. When my husband was offered a job in Atlanta, the first thing I had to know was how long the drive to Walt Disney World would be. I couldn’t live without Disney. Now, after 3 years in Atlanta, we have made about 25 trips to Disney World. It was a bit overwhelming at first because the two coasts are so different, but now that I know my way around, I thought it would be fun to help other Disneyland Pros learn a bit about what to expect at The World. Toward that goal, I would like to present my…
Top 5 Environmental Differences Between Disneyland and Disney World
5) The Sun
Having lived 6 blocks from the beach in Southern California, I humored people when they talked about the intense Florida sun, but I didn’t take them very seriously. It took about 6 trips to Disney World, and 6 corresponding sunburns, to make me a believer. At Disneyland I could get away with throwing on some sunscreen in the morning if I planned to spend the whole day in the parks. Unfortunately, I’ve learned my lesson the hard way at Disney World. Even if you’re used to spending lots of time in the sun, please put on sunscreen and reapply it during the day. A painful sunburn will quickly ruin your vacation and it’s too late for prevention after you’ve noticed a burn.
Your best bet is to apply sunscreen (especially to noses, cheeks, bare shoulders, or any other areas that are likely to take a beating from the sun) before leaving your hotel room. If you wait until you get to the parks you might forget in the excitement and rush to start having fun. Also, make sure you reapply your sunscreen at least once during the day. After lunch is a great time because you can reapply quickly before heading out into the sun for more magical fun.
Being a native Californian didn’t prepare me for the humidity at Disney World. We’re used to hot days at Disneyland, but humidity kicks the heat up a notch. A 92⁰ day at Disneyland is a very hot day. A 92⁰ day with humidity at Disney World can feel like 110⁰. Increased humidity means increased moisture…everywhere. You’ll sweat more which means you’ll be more susceptible to blisters and dehydration. Prevention is the key to avoid these vacation bummers.
The four parks at Disney World are more spread out than Disneyland or California Adventure so you’ll walk further between attractions. With the added humidity, comfortable shoes are a must to prevent blisters. If you do get a blister you can stop by First Aid in any park and ask for a band-aid to get you through the day, but bringing your own blister bandages is even better.
Staying hydrated is critical in the humidity. Bringing your own water bottle to refill is a budget and eco-friendly option. The taste of tap water at Disneyland never bothered me and I’ve found the same to be true at Disney World. Bottled water is of course available for sale everywhere, but you can also request a large cup of ice water at any quick service or snack location that has a soda machine. It’s cold, filtered, and free! On especially hot days you’ll even see Cast Members handing out cups of water in crowded, sunny areas.
3) Heat Exhaustion
O.k., this isn’t an environmental factor on its own, but it’s never fun to go to get sick on a vacation. It’s even less fun ending up in the emergency room. Unfortunately, if my warnings about the sun and humidity haven’t convinced you, it’s likely you’ll end up with a heat related illness. The young and elderly are especially susceptible so it’s important to know the signs just in case you or a family member suddenly starts feeling unwell. Here are the basics you need to know.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include clammy skin, heavy sweating, faintness, dizziness, fatigue, rapid pulse, light headedness, muscle cramps, nausea, and headache. You should take even one of these symptoms seriously so that you don’t escalate to heat stroke. If you or a family member are experiencing these symptoms you should move to an air conditioned area immediately, drink cool water or Gatorade (available at most snack locations), and remove any clothing layers or loosen anything tight. If things don’t improve quickly, alert a cast member. They can call a medical team who can evaluate you or your family member for heat stroke which is life threatening. Some people don’t want to ruin the fun or cause a fuss, but a trip to the ER is more of an interruption than taking a break to get cooled down and re-hydrated.
I used to laugh at movies where a character is in the rain for 3 seconds and suddenly they’re completely soaked. Turns out, it actually does rain like that in Florida, and the weather there can have a mind of its own. The sun will be shining one minute, then the sky will darken and before you know it, you’re caught in a torrential downpour of “movie rain.” These storms usually pass quickly so don’t despair, your vacation isn’t ruined.
If you’re near an attraction with an indoor or covered queue, hop in line! The majority of rides will continue operating, however a few attractions will shut down for rain and/or lightning. If you’re unsure whether an attraction will remain open, ask a Cast Member or consult the “My Disney Experience” app. When an attraction closes for a storm you usually have the option to stay in line and wait for it to reopen. If you weren’t in line yet, you can wait right by the queue entrance and have a very short wait once it reopens. Storms are also a great time to see a show, enjoy a relaxed sit down meal, or casually browse through a shop or two. Chances are good that the rain will have dissipated by the time you’re done.
Just like at Disneyland, rain thins the crowds. If you’re willing to brave the elements you can get a lot done in a short amount of time. To help you out, almost every merchandise location on property sells ponchos. If you don’t see them, ask a Cast Member because they might be behind the register.
Disney World tracks storms closely and if you’re at one of Disney World’s two water parks, or enjoying your resort’s pool when a storm rolls in, be prepared for a lifeguard to ask you to get out of the water and possibly close the area. If lightning has been reported nearby, even if it’s not raining, the pools and water parks will close. These can be temporary closures that lifeguards will allow you to wait out nearby, but if a storm is severe and won’t clear in a reasonable amount of time, the closure could be permanent and you’ll need a backup plan for your day. Just remember that this is for your safety and Cast Members are doing their jobs, not intentionally ruining your vacation.
1) The Area Surrounding the Resort
If you step outside the Disneyland Resort you’ll find yourself in a very urban area. There are strip malls, hotels and restaurants in every direction you look. The Walt Disney World Resort couldn’t be more different. The resort itself is truly a world of its own, and most of that world remains undeveloped and wild. In fact, one third of the aprox. 40 square miles has been set aside as wilderness preserve and will never be developed. This means that instead of traffic and smog, you need to be aware of all the wildlife that you would find anywhere else in Florida. I once heard a guest say that there can’t be anything dangerous because Disney wouldn’t allow it. As recent tragedy has shown, you always need to be aware of your surroundings and can never assume that you’re protected because you’re at Disney. You should assume that every body of water outside of the hotel pools has alligators. You should assume that every landscaped area beyond the paved pathways has snakes. Panthers have even been spotted in guest areas after the parks close for the night. A quick look at Google Earth will easily illustrate how very different the areas immediately surrounding Disneyland and Disney World are.
Please, always be aware of your environment, make your health and safety your number one priority, and if you see something, say something. Now hop a plane and get to know your East Coast pals!