If you’re visiting the Walt Disney World resort in December, you may think you’re in the clear for warm weather and sunshine. It is Florida, after all! However, the weather can change on a dime and varies drastically.
As a former Disney employee, I’ve seen my fair share of mishaps from not preparing well for the parks. Your Walt Disney World packing list isn’t complete without the following necessities, so keep reading to learn more about what you should wear, items you should bring, and general advice when visiting during the Christmas season.
Visitors from the north often overestimate how warm Florida weather can be, while visitors from the south sometimes overestimate how cold Florida can be.
Disney World is located near the dead center of the state just outside of Orlando, so the best way to plan for the weather is to look up the weather forecast for the week you’re visiting. That way, you can get a good idea of the temperatures expected, how much and when rain might be, and therefore what clothes are best to bring.
Checking the weather is the best plan for packing since the temperature can vary greatly. During the first week of December, it’s not uncommon for average temperatures to be in the 70’s throughout the day. Then a cold front can come out of nowhere and bring temperatures into the 50’s, making things a lot different than what you thought. The summer months are far more consistent than the winter months.
Also, just because the days are warm doesn’t mean the nights are. Sunny December days in Florida can feel like summertime in the rest of the country during the day, and suddenly drop down drastically once the sun sets. There is also a nice breeze most evenings around Disney World, meaning it feels a bit chillier than it is.
With the sun setting early, if you aren’t prepared, that could leave you feeling cold from 5:30 until making it back to your hotel room later at night. The same cold can be felt in the early morning, though temperatures usually warm up quickly, especially when the sun is out.
The final weather element to consider is, well, the elements. If rain is in the forecast, which is likely at least one day while you’re visiting, it’s a good idea to bring a light waterproof jacket. You want that jacket to keep you dry when it rains, block the wind at night if it’s chilly, but not be too heavy.
You don’t want to have to carry around a huge coat all day while visiting the parks! You also don’t want that jacket to be suffocatingly hot if it’s rainy and humid but still in the 70’s, which is why I recommend a light jacket.
So, What Should I Pack?
Your packing should focus on all the scenarios you’re likely to encounter while in central Florida: Somewhat hot, mild, and a bit chilly (but never freezing). This means you should have a short sleeve outfit you’d wear during the summer, a light long sleeve outfit for slightly cooler temperatures, and a jacket to cover for when the days turn from hotter to cooler in the evening.
A great example of this plan could be a comfortable skirt and short sleeve shirt, a light spirit jersey and leggings, and a jacket. Repeat for each day you’re at Disney World and you’re ready to vacation!
A big thing to keep in mind is that you are visiting Disney World. I can’t believe how many people forget this fact when I’m visiting the parks on the weekends. All too often, you’ll see guests wearing high heels, boots, luxury bags, dress shirts, and more. Those items are not comfortable for you to be walking around all day in.
Understand that you will be walking miles and miles each day around the Disney parks (EPCOT’s World Showcase, for example, is about a mile and a half around just by itself). Your clothes should fit the activity you’re doing – walking.
This doesn’t mean you have to completely sacrifice on your fashion choices if that’s something you care about, but don’t let it be the focus of your packing. Be sure to bring comfortable walking shoes!
Some visitors want that perfect family picture in front of Cinderella Castle. Just throw on some Mickey ears and whatever you’re wearing will work just fine. It’s also a great idea to do photos in the mornings – that way, the tiredness of the day won’t show in the pictures.
Magic Kingdom even opens the Main Street and Castle Hub areas before the official park opening time, which means if you show up a bit early, you have plenty of time to get stress-free pictures.
Packing Beyond Clothes
What you wear isn’t the only important thing to consider when visiting Disney World in December. You also need to think about what extra items will be useful for your trip. If you’re staying at a resort and don’t have a car, especially if you’re staying at a Disney Resort, anything you forget will come at a steep cost if you have to buy it from a gift shop.
Packing these items before, or picking them up on your way in from outside the park beforehand can help save you some cash.
Here is a list of things to consider when packing:
Sunscreen: It can still be sunny in December, and when you’re outside walking around the parks all day, you will get sunburned. This is especially important if you’re the parent of younger kids. Keep in mind that if you’re flying, you may have to buy this after you land. Apply it at least a couple of times per day to make sure you’re protecting your skin.
It can ruin your Disney vacation if you get burned the first day and have to deal with it for the rest of your trip.
Rain Jacket/Poncho: We’ve touched on this already, but having a lightweight way to stay dry is an absolute must while visiting. You can always leave it in the hotel room if you don’t need it for the day.
Ponchos are about $12-$15 each in the parks, so getting one outside the park (and being able to keep moving during the rain) is the best way to go. They’re also useful to enjoy water rides without the fear of getting too wet and cold on a chillier day.
- WATERPROOF – 100% waterproof, constructed super-lightweight and durable non woven Polypropylene material
- BREATHABLE – the Ultra Lite 2 Poncho stays comfortable. Constructed with an outer layer that provides waterproof/breathable protection and an inner layer that remains soft next to skin
The only water ride to be truly afraid of (with a potential to become very wet) is Kali River Rapids in Animal Kingdom, which is often under refurbishment during the wintertime. Unfortunately, Splash Mountain will be closed during the 2023-2024 winter season.
Bathing Suits: Bring your bathing suit, especially if you plan on visiting one of the water parks. Disney’s pools are heated (plus all non-value Disney resorts have hot tubs), and swimming or chilling by the pool, even in cold weather, is a great option for slower vacation days.
Backpack: Something that’s often overlooked by visitors is the need for a comfortable backpack or other park bag to carry around while you’re in the park. The backpack is a safe place to store phones, wallets, spare clothes, water bottles, snacks, and anything else you might need in the parks.
At Disney World, you can always take your backpack with you on rides (nix Tron: Lightcycle Run, where you’ll store it in a free locker prior to boarding the ride), so it’s a no-brainer to take with you.
Even if it’s a bit heavy, you can pass it between members of your family throughout the day, so it won’t be too tiring.
Phone Batteries: With Disney’s new Genie+ Lightning Lane system, you’ll need to be on your cell phone a lot of the time while you’re inside the parks. While I recommend you limit phone use as much as possible (you’re here for Disney World, not for checking in on social media), it’s necessary to use the phone often to view and select Lightning Lanes, check wait times, and plan your next steps.
With all that use, your batteries can run out very fast. Having a backup battery pack to charge your phone while in the park is a great idea. If you forget to pack it, Disney also has kiosks throughout the park where you can purchase a “Fuel Rod” for $30 and replace it at any location for a new one once the charge runs out.
Water Bottles: It’s not convenient to stop and get water while in the parks, but with all that walking, you need to be drinking water. Just because its wintertime doesn’t mean you can’t get dehydrated.
Be sure to pack a water bottle to occasionally fill up. Disney has plenty of water fountains (though Florida water isn’t too tasty) and water is free at any food location with fountain drinks (just ask for a cup of water) as a backup plan if you need it. Filling your water bottle with those free water cups is the best strategy to save time and money.
Snacks: Food is extremely expensive in Disney World. Of course, you can splurge on the Pineapple Dole Whip, Mickey-shaped ice cream, or cheeseburger egg rolls, but having a few snacks to hold you over between meals is important.
If you have young children, this can be an absolute lifesaver. Kids are bound to be thrown off from their normal schedule and a bit overstimulated in the parks, so having snacks in your backpack can ensure they have something to keep them happy and distracted with while waiting in long lines.
Realistic Expectations: It cannot be understated how important it is to keep your kids happy. Parents are often extremely misguided in how much their kids can handle, and just assume kids will be grateful for their Disney trip.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I have seen hundreds of days ruined by tired kids having a minor complaint turned full meltdown after being shut down by their parents. Your young kids probably can’t handle 9AM rope drop to fireworks all in one day – you may need to plan a break at the hotel in the middle of the day.
Plan to experience some sit-down shows in the afternoon to rest up a little bit. Have the snacks in the backpack to keep them distracted. Be “on” by playing I-Spy or other games while in lines for rides. Keeping the kids entertained – and having realistic expectations about how much they (and adults) can handle, is something that should be considered while planning your trip.
Photo: Tristen Rider
December means Christmas time at Walt Disney World, meaning the sun sets early, Christmas trees and decorations are everywhere, and special events including Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (which occurs every couple of nights at the Magic Kingdom) and Jollywood nights (periodically at Hollywood Studios) are available to add on to your vacation.
Christmas Day Breakfast or Dinner at Chef Mickey’s in Walt Disney World® Resort
Make your holiday season even more magical with a festive Christmas breakfast or dinner at Walt Disney World Resort® in Orlando!
Your favorite characters might also be decked out in holiday attire, offering unique options for pictures. Visiting in December means that you are visiting during a peak vacation time. Parks will be extremely crowded, wait times will be high, and though the parks are absolutely beautiful during the holiday season, it may not feel like the most magical place to visit.
Especially closer to Christmas, about a couple of weeks before and after, the parks are going be packed full of people. Be sure to pack your patience with you! But this can be a magical time to visit too, with the season in the air, and you can make lifelong holiday memories with your loved ones.
The Bottom Line
Take your time planning what to bring, what rides are absolute “must-dos,” and make sure you have enough time in your vacation to relax a little bit. If you pack well, have a good plan of what you want to do and how you want to do it, and are flexible enough to not let a few minor snags bother you, you’re in for a wonderful winter vacation.
Remember you’re at Disney World to have fun, and you can still do that regardless of how many times you can ride your favorite ride. If it’s your first time visiting Disney World, be sure to heed all of the advice in this article to ensure a productive trip for everyone in your family.