Visiting Disney World in the Cold

Visiting Disney World in the Cold

We started planning our family reunion to Disney World 15 months in advance. //Our Disney resort rooms were booked 9 months in advance. We woke up at 6 am EST to make dining reservations at 2 popular Disney World restaurants 6 months in advance. We bought our park passes and made our first FastPass reservations 60 days in advance.

This was all with constant texting, e-mailing, and researching between my mom and siblings.

We were excited.

Did I mention this vacation was planned for the beginning of January?

My brother is a triathlete with a goal of doing a major race in every state. This year he was training for the Dopey Challenge, a collection of races over 3 days in Disney World. My sister, a runner, decided to join him for the half marathon. The rest of us are sane enough not to put our bodies through rigorous exercise, but we were excited to use their race as an excuse to get together and cheer them on.

The Disney Marathon is held in early January, which seemed like the perfect time of year to be in central Florida. We all grew up in the Southeast and know personally how grueling the hot, humid summer months can be! Winter is usually the sweet spot for visiting Florida: the temperatures get between 70-80 degrees, there’s a breeze, and no flash floods.

That’s what the years, and years, and years of living in the south had prepared us for.

Not 30-degree weather.

We arrived on a Wednesday, as did a record-shattering cold front. Cities along the east coast were reporting record low temps and snowfall. Florida, one of the consistently hottest states in the country, was not immune. We were greeted by 36-degree weather off of the plane, and absolutely no need for the shorts and bathing suits we’d packed.

Temperatures barely changed for the entire 4 days of our trip. The outdoor pools and splash pads at our resort, The Art of Animation, were closed. Most other outdoor activities at other Disney World resorts (which we were supposed to have full access to) were closed, as well. We wore the only sweatshirts and jackets we’d packed Every. Single. Day. We felt closer to Elsa and Anna than ever before while standing in waiting lines (Maybe Elsa wasn’t mad. Maybe she was just cold.) We had to break-up who would wait in lines for the group while others kept the kids in warm spots. My brother and sister, who’d been outside running every morning since 4 or 5 am, were icicles by the time we met back up at 8 am.

To be honest, I feel kind of robbed.

We’d spent over a year planning and paying for this magical vacation, which was supposed to include time outside.  We’ve recently moved to Utah, legendary for great snow, but generally don’t like cold weather. This trip was an eagerly anticipated break from bad weather we’d bring up on any cold Utah day. And let’s get real: Disney World vacations are not cheap. Those resort room fees are supposed to include extras, like a pool, to help offset the crazy cost of sleeping on-site. When it was so cold that my sister, staying down the street in the Mermaid rooms, had to drive to come visit us at the Cars rooms, we have a problem! And, for an added twist of irony, it was actually warmer in Utah on certain days!

Yes, we still visited the parks and were able to enjoy Disney. But it came at a huge price. We hesitated (and mostly chose not to) to ride any water or open-air rides because we knew it would freeze our faces. Every time I pulled out my phone or camera for pictures my fingers ached. Waiting for the monorail to get between parks was awful. Waiting 30 minutes in the dark for the shuttle bus to take us back to the resort was the worst. We left parks much earlier than anticipated because we couldn’t feel our toes anymore. My nieces had to wear sweatsuits under their adorable princess dresses to stay warm. And the park was just as busy as ever!

Animal Kingdom Pandora Disney World In the Cold

I know I sound like a spoiled brat. Believe me, I know. But we’d just been So. Darn. Excited. for this vacation!

Our small family has visited Disney World 5 times in the last 4 years, but always off-site. We’ve always tried to be cheap in Orlando, since the parks are so expensive. Getting a room cluster with our extended family was the best excuse we could have to splurge for the full Disney World treatment- even though it also meant the added expense of flying in since we’ve just moved across the country. Whit is 5 and-a-half years old, the perfect age to appreciate the magic of wandering through Radiator Springs, but every time we tried to get him outside the Cars resort he freaked out.

The weather turned the day we left. The day we left.

I sat on our plane, already missing my family, sitting beside a husband who’d developed a bad cold, and just cursed our bad luck of arriving on January 3 instead of January 7.

Are you planning a Walt Disney World resort vacation? Check out our list of the top 5 things Disney World cast members did for us during our stay!

Visiting Disney World In The Cold



Disney World in the Cold

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  1. This makes me so sad. I’m in the Southeast and know what you mean that you NEVER saw this winter front coming. We had snow for three days in the deep South and that has never happened in my lifetime. I’m so sorry it happened during your trip. I’m a coldie and this weather was miserably cold – can’t imagine being at the parks.

    Blessings and prayers to y’all!
    The How-to Guru

  2. What luck! The one time it is cold in Florida! I would be upset, too. Not for long though, because after all, it is Disney! Glad you were able to make the best of it!

    We always seem to get sick right after returning home from Disney. Lots of people and lots of germs!

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. I know how you feel! Sometimes, you just have this exact vision/expectation and then boom: totally not what you were longing for. Despite the conditions, I feel like you made the best of your trip to Disney.

  4. I don’t mind the cold but can understand. My sister visited Tokyo Disney in the winter and had a similar experience where it was actually one of the coldest days and snowed in Tokyo!

  5. I would have been sooooo bummed. I’m glad you all made the best of the vacation and supported your brother. Looking at the pictures though, you’d never know you all were freezing ❤️

  6. One thing is for sure, your family will always remember the year you went to Disney and froze! I find that our family grows closer through these types of circumstances because when you make the best of it, like you did, eventually you will look back on it with fond memories.
    PS- Don’t let that keep you from coming to Florida in the winter, I live near Orlando and it it not usually like that!

  7. I’m so glad I read this post. My daughter is turning five next year in January and we are planning to take her there to celebrate. Now I know to prepare for the “unexpected”. On a positive note, your pictures look great and you had the chance to be with your family.

    1. You’re welcome! I agree that cooler weather is better, especially for spending all day outside, but we were pretty bummed not to be able to enjoy so many resort amenities. Glad you guys had fun!

  8. I’m sorry you felt like you got the short-end of the stick during your vacation. As a Floridian, I can tell you we haven’t adjusted to the cold either. We’re never prepared when a cold front moves in – you can usually tell because we’re still wearing flip flops & the heaviest cold weather wear we have is our football sweatshirts (Go Noles!).

    Having said that, my family loves Disney. We’ve been all over the world and it’s still one of our favorite places. Next time, try early December. The chances of it being uber cold are slim-to-none and it’s usually pretty dead. So be prepared to ride everything (at least) twice.

    Here’s to your next trip – I hope it’s warmer and all your Disney dreams come true! ?

  9. I really understand your frustration….
    The only thing I can recommend is, go back next time when the weather is great…
    It will make up for the loss.

  10. Oh, that’s too bad! I think they should lower their prices this time of the year, when it’s so cold and you might not be able to fully experience the trip! But still, you were with loved ones and in Disney world!

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