Disney World Winter Vacation: Planning for Pool Time?

Kidani Pool. Photo: Disney
Water play areas like this one at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Kidani Village, make for wet fun even when adults don’t want to swim. Photo Copyright: Disney

The other day, I was walking through the grounds of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and heard a family of three planning their afternoon. It went a little like this:

Mom: “And so we’re going back to the room…”

Child (Age 3 or 4): “I want to go swimming.”

Mom: “And we’ll take a little break and then we’ll eat something…”

Child: “I want to go swimming.”

Dad: “Then we’ll go to the park and see the Christmas parade!”

Child: “I want to go swimming.”

If you spend enough time at Disney resorts, you’ll notice this is a pretty common theme of conversation. Parents are there for the action of the theme parks, kids are swooning for the pools — whether it’s a relatively boring quiet pool or a grand themed feature pool. Adults really underestimate how much the average child longs to be immersed in chlorinated water… or the temperatures at which they’re willing to do it. For some people, the cut-off temperature is 90 degrees; others might be a little more forgiving and go with 70. Every now and then I see someone in a pool when it’s 50 degrees and I have to go have a hot chocolate on their behalf. But I’ve found that there practically has to be snow on the ground for a kid to think it’s too cold to swim.

Should you plan for pool time on your Disney World winter vacation? Your kids probably think so! 

But It’s Too Cold to Swim!

Winter vacations in Florida can really take guests by surprise. In the course of a week in January, it might be 30 degrees one morning and shoot up to 80 degrees a few days later. We can talk about averages in the 60s and 70s all day long, but the reality is, weather extremes are what make these averages so mild. The weather on your trip might surprise you.

Cloud at Pop Century - Natalie Reinert
The cloud that ended my swim prematurely. Notice the pool is still full of kids.

Just a few hours after I listened to the above conversation, I surprised myself by taking a dip into the bowling pin pool at Pop Century Resort. It was only about 78 degrees, according to my weather app, but the sun was warm and Disney’s pools are heated to about that temperature anyway. I’m a Floridian and my swimming season ends in mid-October, so normally I wouldn’t go anywhere near a pool if the temperature is below 85 degrees, but with the sunshine it was really nice — and a heck of a change from the 30 degrees I’d left behind in New York City. That contrast was definitely enough to get me in the pool, and I was really glad I’d thrown my suit in my bag at the last minute. The water and the air temperature seemed to be the same, which was a fun sensation… while it lasted.

Once a cloud showed up, it was all over. I climbed out and toweled off, shivering, while the kids in the pool went on playing as if nothing had happened and the temperature hadn’t just dropped 20 degrees. Which brings me to my next point…

Children Always Think It’s Warm Enough to Swim.

You might be positive you won’t go near a pool in February, but children usually feel differently! I’ve seen happy children splashing in the Grand Floridian’s sparkling blue pool while parents and lifeguards huddle beneath sweatshirts and grip mugs of hot coffee and swap snowstorm survival stories. (The temperature was probably 65 degrees, by the way, but it was pretty windy.)

There weren’t many people immersed in the pool, sure, but the water play area was definitely getting heavy use. Maybe children just don’t feel cold. Or maybe it’s the siren song of a swimming pool muffling out all good sense. Either way, be prepared for the “can we swim?” question to pop up again and again if your visit coincides with a warm streak of weather.

What if it’s too cold for nice sensible grown-ups, but your children aren’t old enough or experienced enough to swim on their own? Don’t worry — you still have a chance to stay dry! If you’re staying at a Disney World resort, you can book a room at one of the many resorts with a splash zone or kid’s play area in the pool deck. They can play in these areas under your watchful eye (and a lifeguard’s observation) but you don’t have to get (very) wet. If they’re old enough to play without you, you can stick to a nearby lounge chair and soak up as much warm sun as possible while the kids get soaked.

These water play decks can range from simple sprinklers and fountains, like the jellyfish gardens at Art of Animation’s Finding Nemo-themed Big Blue pool, to elaborate play structures designed to get kids happily drenched, like those at Grand Floridian or Caribbean Beach. Some even have small slides. You’ll find dedicated lifeguards on hand as well.

Resorts with kid’s water play areas include:

Notice that most of the DVC and Deluxe Resorts include water play areas, Moderates are hit or miss, and the only Value to offer one is Art of Animation.

Before You Go

Pools and children’s water areas often go down for brief refurbishments in the winter months. Disney will notify guests of any closure that affect their vacations, and your travel agent is also a great resource for information. If an entire feature pool is closed, Disney will often offer an alternative experience, such as a neighboring resort’s pool or even complimentary admission to a water park.

Then just throw the bathing suits in the suitcase and see what happens! You might be pleasantly surprised by how warm the Florida sunshine is after battling the cold back home. Either way, it’s better to be prepared — you don’t want to lose out on pool time during an unexpectedly warm day. It’s wintertime in Florida — go on, go swimming!

Natalie Reinert

I am a writer, travel planner, and former Disney Cast Member with a passion for all things Disney. I also blog at ThatDisFamily.com: family living with pixie dust! A Floridian in New York City, I am usually cold and visit WDW to warm up whenever possible.

8 thoughts on “Disney World Winter Vacation: Planning for Pool Time?

  • December 26, 2014 at 6:33 am
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    Thanks for this great angle! We are planning a mid January trip and I’ve begun obsessively checking the weather forecast. I know my kids will want to hit the pool so I’m praying for some over 75 degree days. Two years ago we did typhoon lagoon on a 78 degree day. It was perfect while the sun was out but when it hid behind a cloud boy was I freezing! Of course the kids were fine…..

    • December 26, 2014 at 6:48 pm
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      Yup I really can’t do anything less than 85 degrees without the sun BLAZING down on me. One cloud and I’m shivering!

  • December 26, 2014 at 11:38 am
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    We were at Pop Century just a few weeks ago. There is a kids wading/splash pool there, too.

    • December 26, 2014 at 6:47 pm
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      You’re right – the All Stars also have a toddler wading pool. I’m just not sure how well it will occupy older kids if you don’t want to get in the water but they need help!

  • December 26, 2014 at 3:31 pm
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    we just came back from Disney 2 weeks ago (insert sad face) and it was cold pretty much the entire time. I wasn’t complaining because it was half the degrees back home but it was definitely too cold to swim. My kids asked me everyday and I felt horrible saying no but it was just too cold and they all just got over colds. It was a great week regardless!!!

    • December 26, 2014 at 6:45 pm
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      There was definitely a cold snap about the time of your trip.. Bummer! And now the forecast for next week is 70s and 80s. Florida is very tricky that way.

  • December 26, 2014 at 10:11 pm
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    We were at WDW from Nov 29th to Dec 14th. Our daily routine was parks from 10AM until around 2PM, back to the resort for a pool break until dinner, then back to the parks after dinner, or get a free DVD from the rec centre.

    Also, don’t forget the water parks!! We went twice to Blizzard Beach on our trip. Parents get all caught up in maximizing park time, but our only must is to have fun. As long as we have some great family time, who cares if it’s in a park or a pool.

    • December 28, 2014 at 7:06 pm
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      Could not agree more! We love our resort time and just wandering around WDW as well. It’s the vacation kingdom after all.. not just theme parks!

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