By Kevin Yee
It may be true that the summer is theoretically the rainy season for sub-tropical Florida (when it seemingly rains as if on cue between 3 and 5 p.m.), but it’s not uncommon for rain showers to surprise visitors in the winter months too. As a consequence, visitors are well-advised to prepare for just about any type of weather, no matter what the season. And no matter what the 10-day forecast says.
But preparing for rain should ideally be a lot more than remembering to bring along your umbrella. Yet even that simple step is something that numerous out of towners routinely forget, often enough to prompt hotels, supermarkets, Targets and Wal-Marts to stock plenty of extras.
Actually, quite a few visitors opt to eschew the umbrella entirely, with the theory that if it should happen to rain, they will simply wait it out somewhere dry. That’s not at all a bad strategy. Most Central Florida rainstorms, especially in summer, arrive all at once, peak in ferocity several minutes later and abate within a half an hour. If you can stomach the idea of huddling in a shelter for 30 minutes, this would likely be all you’d need to plan for, barring larger weather systems.
Others start out with that mindset, but turn impatient within a few minutes of the forced inactivity. All the major theme parks know this of course, and conveniently stock rain ponchos in all their stores for just such a downpour. Usually approaching $10, these heavy ponchos certainly stave off the worst of the drenching rain, but they don’t protect your lower legs or your shoes (more on footwear in a moment). Because they are so heavy-duty, they are built to last multiple visits, and indeed some visitors bring their ponchos from prior visits. But the thicker plastic comes at a price — these devices don’t let skin breathe, and remember that Florida is frequently humid (especially in summer), and being hot and wet simultaneously is hardly a recipe for a memorable vacation.
It may be more cost-effective to buy disposable ponchos. You can find much thinner ponchos for about $1 each in all the local supermarkets, drug stores and big-box stores. These are essentially single-use rain covers, though it is eminently possible to spread out a wet one and dry it overnight for the next day. Because they are thinner, they don’t trap as much heat as the Disney, SeaWorld or Universal branded ones. Best of all, they fold down to fit literally inside a pocket. That’s quite handy for light travel. If your hometown stocks such supplies, it would be worthwhile to buy them before you travel, rather than afterward.
Rain and Strollers
Parents with stroller-age children will similarly want to seek out a plastic cover before they leave for Orlando. Your locals Babys R Us will have stroller covers that will give you a peace of mind you can’t fully appreciate until you’re in Orlando, on vacation, and setting off for a ride. Without such cover, many tourists find themselves frantically seeking out sheltered areas for the stroller before each ride, only to discover afterward that studious employees have moved the stroller to the proper, usually open-air stroller parking zone. Remember: rain storms come without warning in Florida; it’s best to assume it will rain in your absence. Without a stroller cover, your only other option is to spread out a poncho over the stroller before you leave. If you do it judiciously enough, this may work. But why take the chance? Buy a stroller cover before you leave your home city.
What to Wear
Lastly, let’s talk about clothing. If it’s winter, you’re clearly going to want pants and long sleeves since it can hit below-freezing temperatures on rare occasions. But just about every other time of year, shorts are appropriate.
But what should your footwear look like? Many travelers know not to wear brand-new sneakers on a trip with a lot of walking (a recipe for blisters), but if you must know my inner perspective, I’d advise you to wear sandals (without socks) just about every day of the year, barring a forecast for a freeze. Why? Because rains are a prospect just about every other day, and nothing ruins your ability to walk around the parks like soggy shoes and even soggier socks (talk about blisters!). Buy sandals, flip-flops, or Crocs that you expect to get wet and won’t be any worse for the wear.
We do this ourselves. We wear “rain shoes” (as we call them), shorts, and carry umbrellas with us in the parks. Then, it’s always fun to venture out in the downpour, completely protected (including the stroller – fully covered), while watching the huddled masses waiting it out in the stores. If you pack properly for rain, there is no reason to let the weather slow you down.
Leave your rainy day tips in the comments below.
• Kevin Yee is a theme park enthusiast and author. He’s written seven books about Disney theme parks, including his most recent work, an interactive children’s book called “Your Day at the Magic Kingdom“. He visits at least two Central Florida theme parks per week and is now working on an upcoming book compiling all the best tips for a trip to Orlando. You can find out more about Kevin at his Web site ultimateorlando.com.