The cold weather months are a great time to travel to the Disney Parks in Florida and California because of the temperate weather, low crowds and affordable prices. Although it tends to be cold and flu season, there’s more pros than cons when hitting the parks this time of year. I’ve heard of concerns from prospective travelers, but did you know there are many ways to help you NOT get sick on your Disney Vacation? These tips are good ALL YEAR ROUND. Read below to arm yourself with my science-based tips to strengthen your immune system for Disney travel during cold and flu season. My advice will help you not get sick in Disney AND fuel you through all the park hopping your heart desires!
- Get enough sleep.
I know you are all excited to get to the parks for opening (and earlier for the coveted Rise of the Resistance boarding groups), but sleep is ESSENTIAL to immune support. Lack of sleep decreases the production of antibodies that fight infection in the body. Without enough sleep, your immune system will suffer. Most adults and older children need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Arrange your touring plan so that you have an earlier bedtime before rope dropping the next morning, or a later start to your fast passes the day after you close a park down at an After Hours event. Play white noise from your phone in the room to drain out noise from other guests near your hotel room in order to successfully snooze. Utilize the black out curtains in your room to shut out pesky light. Shut off the TV (and other blue screens like your phone, tablet, and computer) one hour before you intend on going to sleep. Ditch the afternoon caffeine and opt for decaf Joffrey’s after lunch to prevent interference with falling asleep. Consider taking 2.5-5 mg melatonin, especially if you’re traveling from a different time zone. It can be difficult to get a good night’s rest while traveling and gearing up for all the excitement of Disney Parks, but it’s worth it to protect yourself!
2.Get plenty of vitamins and minerals from healthy foods.
I discover more opportunities to eat healthy with every trip down to Walt Disney World. I love the entire culinary experience of a Disney vacation, but I am even more impressed by the efforts put forth to encourage healthy food choices around the resort. Whether you’re eating table service or grabbing quick service, options for more plants, like fruit and veggies, are readily available to enhance your meal. The plant-based menu icon will help you find dishes that include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, so look for the green leaf! Aside from these dishes, you’ll also find whole fruit next to the register at many quick service dining spots and snack carts to add to your meal, as well as fruit bowls, smoothies and 100% fruit juice options. If you can’t find fruit and veggies on the menu, check the kids’ menu – these healthy items are always included there!
As a Dietitian, I promote “food first” as a means to get the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. Eating a balanced diet with the recommended amounts of nutrients will help maintain normal immune function during your Disney travel. Vitamins A, C, and E, and minerals like zinc, all play a role in immune system function. There is no need to take supplements if you eat a balanced diet, so include these foods in your Disney diet for essential nutrients that support your immune system.
- Sweet potatoes, carrots, red bell pepper, dark leafy greens (like kale and spinach), apricots and winter squashes for a dose of beta-carotene (Vitamin A).
- Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, mandarins, pineapple, lemons and limes, as well as peppers, strawberries, kiwi and papaya are all high in vitamin C.
- Nuts and seeds can pack in vitamin E in small convenient portion sizes.
- Lean Chicken and turkey, fish, beans, seeds and nuts for Zinc.
- Protect with probiotics
Did you know your digestive system plays a role in immunity? It’s true! Therefore, probiotics can help keep us from getting sick. Naturally fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles and yogurt are rich in probiotics and are tasty ways to support your gut. Add these items to your meals throughout your Disney stay.
- Wash your hands, and then wash them some more
Think of everything you touch in just an hour of Disney touring- the finger scanner a park entry, buttons and screens in the cue, handle bars, railings, doors, chairs, your phone dropped on the floor, your shoelace that dragged on the ground, the dining tables at restaurants, menus, and the list goes on and on. Take every chance you can to wash your hands with soap and water. Luckily, Disney restrooms are well-stocked and maintained (for the most part) and have convenient locations in each park. It is hard to find yourself not close to a restroom, so take advantage of this. Plan some extra time before dining reservations, or before grabbing quick service, to effectively wash your hands. Bring a bottle of hand sanitizer with you, but do not use this as a substitute for water and soup throughout the entire day, and especially if your hands are visibly dirty. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends washing hands with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds, or two rounds of “Happy Birthday” song) whenever possible because hand washing reduces the amounts of all types of germs and chemicals on hands. But if soap and water are not available, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.
- Use disinfectant wipes
Disney Parks and Resorts are known for their impeccable cleanliness and high standards for maintaining the hygiene and safety of their guest and food areas. However, carrying your own supplies adds an additional level of protection. Pack some travel disinfecting wipes to quickly wipe down the remote control, coffee maker, light switch and faucet in your hotel room. Mouse keeping has likely already done this, but a little extra cleaning can go a long way! These wipes come in handy to wipe down tables at quick service locations, high chairs, booster seats, and toys and phones that gather germs when dropped or placed down somewhere.
- Drink lots of water
In the cooler Disney travel months, it can be easy to deprioritize frequent water refills and hydration since we don’t have the intense heat and sweat as a constant reminder. Adequate water intake will prevent dehydration and support several bodily functions important for feeling good while traveling, like digestion and energy levels.
- Get your flu shot
If you’re planning Disney travel during the fall, winter or early spring, it is important to protect yourself with the flu vaccine. You’re more susceptible to acquiring the flu virus during travel because of increased exposure to people in general, but more specifically, being in close quarters with large crowds.
These top 7 tips for staying healthy while traveling to Disney will set you up for protection during your vacation and can help ward off illness while enjoying the happiest place on earth! Even when we take ALL precautions, we can still get sick. Therefore, I recommend trip insurance to make sure you have the option to move your trip if need be due to unpredictable circumstances. In the case that you do get sick, First Aid is available for minor illnesses in the parks. Use a trusted Authorized Disney Vacation Planner to assist you with booking your trip and securing your travel insurance. Nurses are available during normal park operating hours to offer over-the-counter medications, bandages and other quick remedies so that you can begin enjoying your vacation again. In-room medical services are also available at all Walt Disney World Resort hotels. Simply touch “Front Desk” from your in-room phone for assistance, 24 hours a day. AdventHealth Walk-In Urgent Care Centers are open 24-hours a day, 7 days per week. Complimentary transportation is available, and many insurance plans are accepted. Call (407) 934-2273 for more info.
Disclaimer: If you are immunocompromised or have concerns of illness during travel, you should always discuss your risks with your doctor. It is always important to take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of illness and disease.