Disney Park Touring Attire

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You get two hours into an Ultimate Touring Plan–nay, you get three hours into the “Dumbo or Die” Touring Plan–and your feet start bleeding. Your shirt is fully sweated-through. Your face is already beginning to feel as if it’s baking.

Here at TouringPlans we make much ado about situating yourself for the best touring experience possible. However, as the great poet Robert Burns once said, “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, Gang aft agley.” Roughly translated to modern English, that means, “The best laid Touring Plans of Men in the House of the Mouse, often go awry.” Even with the best Touring Plan in hand, all it takes is one flaw in your overall park-going strategy for the day to take a turn for the worse. One of the most common ways I’ve had this occur to me is by wearing improper attire when touring. To avoid common touring attire pitfalls, here are my suggestions for men and women, based on the practices of my wife, Sarah, and me.

Men – As someone with about 26 years experience dressing as a male (besides a regrettable period towards the beginning where I crawled around half-naked in an incognizant stupor), I would consider myself an expert on wearing men’s clothing.

I typically wear a polo and flat front khaki shorts when touring, but I’m admittedly a bit of a unique example, as I have a camera strap with heavy lenses (I’m not talking about your standard kit lens!) rubbing against my neck all day, and without a collar acting as a layer between my skin and the camera strap, my neck would become pretty raw. Not to say I don’t like polos anyway, as I do, but if you’re more of a casual person, you can’t go wrong with a good breathable shirt.

As for footwear, I have become a big fan of Saucony shoes in the last year. They’re a smaller brand, and they spend money on actual making awesome products rather than advertising the heck out of subpar products (cough*Nike*cough). The principal benefit for Disney is that most Saucony shoes have “Hydrator” technology that wicks water away from your feet. These shoes are especially great for wet rides aboard Splash Mountain, Grizzly River Run, and Kali River Rapids. To complement my ‘kicks’, I always wear a good pair of moisture-wicking socks. Moisture-wicking shoes don’t do nearly as much good if your socks are retaining all of the water.

Women – Admittedly, I don’t have the same type of first-hand experience dressing as a female, but as someone who has been dragged to shopping malls all of his life by his mother and wife, I feel I have a pretty good handle on this, as well. If you’ve ever read one of our Disney trip reports, it’s no secret that my wife likes to wear large floppy hats and sundresses. (The volume of inquiries I’ve received about her attire is actually why I’m writing this.)

My Wife (!) Playing with Her Imagination!

Although I can’t offer direct confirmation, she assures me that the hats are excellent because they block your face from harmful and aging sunlight, and the dresses keep you cool in the especially warm summer months. She also has indicated that it’s important to be careful getting in and out of low-sitting ride vehicles like Space Mountain in these dresses. This is a family blog, so I’ll let you connect the dots.

With regard to footwear, Sarah is a big fan of Merrell sandals and Mickey Crocs because they’re both comfortable. Ahh, Crocs. Right up there with Refillable Mugs in terms of the Great Disney Debates. Personally, I think Crocs look hideous. How these things (I won’t even call them footwear) have defied conventional wisdom to become a footwear mainstay is beyond me. I will concede this, however, they are extremely comfortable. If you don’t care how you look, Crocs are a great option. Your feet will dry quickly after water rides, you likely won’t have a problem with blisters, and your feet will stay cool.

Now that I’ve shared some of our favored attire for optimum touring, I’ll share some mistakes we’ve made.

Touring Attire Mistakes

First, and easily the biggest mistake is wearing traditional thong style sandals. This may work for you Southern or West Coast types who can wear sandals year-round and develop calluses, but for us Midwesterners, thong sandals combined with aggressive park touring is a recipe for disaster. This is one mistake we repeated over the course of several trips, becoming good friends with the nurses in the First Aid buildings by the second days of a couple of trips. If you’re not used to constantly wearing sandals, don’t wear them on a Disney trip!

Grand Floridian Portraiture

The second mistake is always assuming it will be warm in Walt Disney World. This one has gotten me twice, but I think I’ve finally learned my lesson. When we went down for WDW Today Reunion last year, despite reading weather forecasts that it would be as low as 50 degrees, I brought mostly polos and shorts, two pairs of jeans, and no coat. By the second day of the trip, I had purchased a zip-up sweatshirt, and ended up wearing it each subsequent day of the trip. The next time we travel to Walt Disney World for Christmas, I’m packing as if we’re heading to the arctic. Lesson learned: it does get cold in Florida.

Third, wearing non-touring attire in a touring setting. I’m a strong believer in appropriate situational dressing (aka “SUITING UP!”), and as such, I’m one of the few people who typically wears a jacket and/or slacks to Walt Disney World’s Signature Restaurants. When we first went to California Grill, I thought it would be okay to wear my suit around to the other monorail resorts after dinner. Even though we weren’t heading to the parks, this was a terrible idea. Lesson learned for our subsequent trips to Victoria & Albert’s and Club 33: get a locker for your clothes or change in your hotel room. Don’t wear the clothes around any longer than necessary.

Finally, I’d like to thank my sponsors for this blog post: Robert Burns, Saucony, Merrell sandals, and Crocs. Make sure to get those checks in the mail, guys!

What are your best tips for proper touring attire? Have you made any ‘mistakes’ in the past that you want to share to help the rest of us out? Share your thoughts on touring attire in the comments!

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Posted on July 22, 2011

36 Responses to “Disney Park Touring Attire”

  • I’d agree with you on the flip flops/thongs… if you’re talking Old Navy or Wal-mart $1 versions. Now Teva Mush or Reef flip flops… those are some amazing shoes. I live in the Midwest and I live in my Mush until there’s snow on the ground. Like anything else, it’s not about the shoe you wear, but about the quality of the shoe you wear.

    • I’ve tried Teva, Reef, and Rainbows, and have had the same results with them all–terrible blisters/raw spots in certain spots where the sandal meets my foot. Either my feet are genetically weak or I just move around too aggressively. I won’t go back to sandals now.

  • Oh, the thong type Crocs that I wore back in June 2007. I wanted to PAY the nurse at the first aid station for helping me with my blisters. It wasn’t even the thong part between the toes. It was the balls of my feet from the sweating and rubbing. Obviously feet even sweat in Florida in the summer. Go figure. LOL. Yes, the Crocs were comfortable, but the blisters were hell!! And I’ll probably wear them again this summer, but just not every day. I will wear sneakers most of the time and switch off. Stay tuned…

  • For me its a broken in pair of New Balance. The biggest mistake is bringing brand new shoes to the park. We also traveled one year in Dec. and we smart enough to pack a few jackets. I have a great picture of day 1 at MK of my kids in front of the castle. They are wearing shorts and polo type shirts. Day 2 pic of same kids in hoodies, winter caps and gloves.

    • New Balance is another good choice! I like any of the true runner brands (Brooks, NB, Saucony) and generally avoid the over-marketed junk that Reebok, Adidas, and Nike put out.

      Hilarious about the photo of your kids. Sadly, I was not that smart last year! This year I’ve learned my lesson!

  • Another reason not to wear Crocs of any type at WDW? It rains. And some of the surfaces get slick. And then you slip and drop your 7 month old in the process. And then she lands on her head and you end up in the hospital instead of enjoying the Magic Kingdom. The paramedics told me they see the most slips from people wearing Crocs. (Touring Plans, would you like a guest blog post about my experience with Celebration Hospital and WDW staff in an emergency situation? Sadly I have no pics of the Reedy Creek ambulance, though. LOL :-)

    • Sarah typically wears a brand new pair every trip for this exact reason. The traction on those things is garbage, and gets really bad after wearing them for even a few weeks. Terrible to hear what happened, I hope everything is okay now!

      • Yes, thanks, I should have added that she was fine except for the large bump on her little head! Can never be too careful, though.

  • We (DH, myself and DD7) generally all wear shorts/jeans, although the princess likes to wear dress-up clothes too. I like shorts (or capris) because of the getting-in-and-out-of-rides modesty issue. I will wear long dresses when we go to DTD or back the parks for an evening walkabout. The floppy hat looks great on your wife; but must be a hassle for rides like Big thunder & Soarin’. Does she stow the hat or just hold on tight?

  • Because I am prone to sun blisters on ears, nose, and neck, I wear a wide brimmed fedora style hat instead of a baseball cap, which provides shade to the whole face and neck. The best part of this hat is that it is made of wool or cotton, which means it can condense into the storage packs on fast moving rides.

    Okay, who am I kidding? The actual best part is having cast members call you Indiana Jones for the whole time you’re in WDW!

  • I’m all about my Asics. I’ve worn the same pair to Disney World and Disneyland for the past few years. I’ve seen Saucony before but have never tried them on. I may have to next time I’m shoe-shopping.

    I’m also all about layers and lockers. We typically go on vacation in the Winter months and it always seems to be warm/hot in the afternoons but cool in the evenings. Wearing a t-shirt and bringing a sweatshirt or jacket is always a good idea. We also make good use of a locker rental in the parks.

    I like big floppy hats, in general, but I find a baseball cap with a ponytail through the back is the most practical for me in the parks.

    My husband recently found some good looking cargo-type pants that convert into shorts. He wears New Balance shoes for the most part. But he has also worn Columbia brand sandals. He says they are very comfortable, especially on hot days.

  • Love these tips! I’m a tennis-shoe girl myself, but have contemplated the convenience of Crocs. After reading the blog and the comments, I think I’ll stick with the tennis-shoes. Better safe than sorry with blisters!

  • I totally agree about it not always being hot. I was there (I think) Dec 2-5 last year and it was FREEZING! Will never make that mistake again!

    I would also second the cargo shorts idea. As a man, I obviously don’t carry a purse (murse?), so all the cargo pockets are really helpful for small camera, park map, ADR schedule, etc. I also purchased a lanyard for my AP, TiW, and FPs — very useful.

    • OBVIOUSLY don’t carry a purse?! You must not watch Seinfeld! If it’s okay for Jerry, it’s okay for me! Well, I guess not, as I don’t carry a purse either. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    • I was there at the same time and it was in the 40′s.
      Between the Disney jacket and the Wizarding World scarf I was finally warm enough. My other mistake was taking a pair of tennis shoes that was at “end of life”. Within the first two days I had killed the arches and had to go to the outlet mall and pick up New Balance shoes. A Great investment.

  • I stick with tennis shoes for most of my trips also. With so much walking, they just tend to feel better. I did wear flip-flops (as we call them, to differentiate from other types of “thongs”) :) for a half day and though I didn’t have any trouble with blisters or sore feet, I did have trouble with my shins from the lack of support. Just another reason to make sure whatever shoes you wear can take a lot of walking!

  • I second (or third?) the vote for Sauconys. I use them as my running shoes and they’re super lightweight as well as wicking. Double bonus! I usually wear my Keen’s to WDW, which are more of a hiking type shoe, but I can walk for days without blisters.

    I also usually wear cargo pants/capris due to the vast array of pockets. I don’t like having to bring a purse/backpack into the park, so cargo pants are perfect for storage!

  • Such a great post, Tom! Your wife reminds me so much of myself! I absolutely love wearing sundresses in the parks. I feel the coolest and most comfortable in them. She looks way more adorable than I do though. :p
    I am also a fan of Crocs but not the “beach” style. I love my casual flat Crocs that are ballerina slipper style and my Mary Jane Crocs. My husband and I also wear our Croc flip-flops religiously. We haven’t had any issues of rubbing with these styles. They’re less of an eye-sore than the regular style.

  • I think the comments here only demonstrate the best answer: you need to wear what works for you! Know your touring style, know what makes you most comfortable, and don’t try anything you’re really not used to.

    As for myself, I generally wear my “Disney touring shorts”, which really just have ridiculous amount of pockets (because I *hate* having to carry anything around… I can fit camera, water bottle, phone, park maps, small pet, whatever in those!) Temperature-wise, I generally do fine wearing shorts in 60 degrees or better, so the WDW climate works well for me even in February. :)

    And I’m a firm believer in my Teva sandals. Though, I think I fall into Tom’s reference to “West Coast types who can wear sandals year round”. :) I’m from Seattle where I can get away with wearing those anywhere from March through November, and the benefits of being able to tromp through puddles doesn’t deter me from the occasional WDW afternoon shower. But I always have some “backup shoes” I can switch to if the occasional blister starts to build up.

    • I think some answers are definitely worse than others. For example, high heels and a goose down parka in the middle of summer…not as good of an answer as the ones I posted above! ;)

      I know what you mean, though. But give me a break, I have to think up a new column idea once every week–this stuff isn’t easy! ;)

  • by Aaron Newton on July 22, 2011, at 2:55 pm EDT

    I stick to tennis shoes as well… but I can’t stick to one pair. Alternating between a couple different pairs made a huge difference for me. Every day I switched, and sometimes even in the middle of the day if we headed back to the room for anything. I’m a big believer in this strategy now.

  • We’re tennis shoes and socks people, due to the foot-rub issue. One other reason to not go with sandals- your feet get stepped on A LOT at Disney (and not necessarily by your own adorable child). So when that 250-lb guy stomps on your piggies (or worse, your child’s piggies), think about whether you’d rather be wearing closed shoes or sandals…. Highly recommend the wicking socks, as mentioned AND ones with no seam- it really can make a difference if you’re walking all day. And you can’t say enough times DONT ASSUME IT WILL BE WARM. 2 years ago, the beginning of Dec was in the 80s. This year it was in the 30s. We were there both years. We brought appropriate clothing. Many many many people last year were wearing 4 and 5 mickey sweatshirts and freezing in their flip-flops. We were warm in our winter coats, hats, gloves/mittens (that wind at EPCOT can be brutal)…

    • Yeah…sometimes you have to learn from your mistakes. I mean who would have thought that Florida could get so COLD?! Trust me, after walking from the Polynesian to Shades of Green at 2 am, it is NOT a mistake I’ll make again!

      • Yeah, Shades of Green! Boy, is that one COLD walk when it’s 32 degrees and dark!! Love the monorail access. Hate the walk on really cold or hot days…

  • Birkenstocks in the Nebraska style. The originals made in Germany. I’m on my second complete set of soles. I like them because they have removable footbeds that fit inside the rubber soles. So, I have two sets of footbeds and wear them on alternate days, giving them a chance to rest. I don’t wear them in the rain, though. For days when some tropical storm has settled over WDW, I have a pair of Merrill hikers with so much Goretex in them, the only way your feet get wet if when your socks wick in moisture.

    My Tilley Hat. I bought my first Tilley when the sold them at the Canada pavilion in 1993. Great for sun or rain, and you can lash the thing to your head so it doesn’t blow off, too!

    And Tom, I am so jealous of that lens. If it’s a Nikkor, you don’t want to run into my husband. He’ll actually drool on it. ;-)

  • My biggest mistake was wearing a new pair of walking shoes to the parks. By the end of the vacation, one of my knees was in sorry shape. Once home, I went to my running shoe store and told the guy there about it. He pretty much scolded me — “If you’re gonna walk that many hours in a day, stick with your running shoes! You did, like, a couple of marathons there! You need to be in a good shoe!” So now I always wear my Sauconys in the parks. Always. No going home with knee trouble.

  • Regarding “Suiting Up”, my wife and I had a fantastic meal at Victoria & Albert’s one evening and then headed over to the Magic Kingdom and had great fun having photos with all the characters while we were still fully dressed up! It was great fun and we received a lot of attention. We were even pulled aside by a cast member and photopass photographer who set up a camera in a special spot just for us and took some special photos for us. So although not typically appropriate, being suited up can be fun for a few hours one evening for a different experience, I would even recommend it!

  • Do the Disney Crocs still exist? The link in the post points to a whole bunch of out of stock items and I cannot seem to find them anywhere. I have a pair that I bought for our last trip that is starting to wear down. Was hoping to get another pair before our next trip at the end of August. Do they still have them onsite in WDW?

  • I myself can’t stand to have my feet trapped in socks and shoes all day, or at all for that matter. I only wear them that way in the winter because I have to to stay warm here in IN. Bought a comfortable as all get out pair of Skecher’s sandals that I’ve been wearing all summer with no problems, great shock absorbers! And to switch things up a bit, I also bought a pair of Skecher’s slip on tennis shoe’s (backless because I have to be able to feel air on my feet when needed). They are light as air and also comfortable as all get out! And as pre-caution, I plan on using the Lanacane Anti-chafing gel every morning before we set off for the parks. Hubby will be in his socks and ugly crocs, no offense to anyone. : )

    As far as clothes, whatever is comfortable. Shorts and tank tops. And I ALWAYS pack a cold weather outfit. Jeans and a sweatshirt and a light sweater that’s easily packable in my backpack that I carry in the parks for the air conditioned restaurants or theaters. You never know. Since we are coming from IN at the end of October, I’ll probably be wearing jeans and a sweatshirt on the plane anyways.

  • This might sound crazy but I have had a pair of North Face “Teva style” sandals for 10 years! I wear them in WDW every summer and they are every bit as comfortable as they were 10 yrs ago and surprisingly not falling apart at all! Apparently North Face sports excellent craftsmanship! I would wear my jacket made by them if we visited in colder months! For my two boys ages 4 and 2 we always put them in traditional style Crocs. That being said, they are in a stroller most of the time!

  • I tried Crocs on one trip and regretted it. They caused blisters and almost caused me to fall when I got off Kali River Rapids. They caused my feet to sweat more than any tennis shoes have also.

    I wear good tennis shoes, like New Balance, Asics and Brooks. I have orthotics from my chiropractor that help my back as well. I bring Reef flip-flops for water rides and when it rains because running shoes make your feet REALLY wet in the rain!

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