What to Do When You Get the Theme Park Blues

Tips for when you're tired after a day at Disney World
Photo: Sarah Fazendin

I know what happens, when mid-afternoon hits any theme park. The meltdowns begin. Children start to get cranky and tired, and parents are exhausted. You’ll find families with flustered looks on their faces, some slumped down on a bench or in the shade, eyes closed, trying to catch a few minutes of peace and quiet.

So what contributes to this midday slump? The climate, dehydration, hunger, and in some cases, dwindling caffeine levels. By knowing a few tried and true remedies for surviving the “Theme Park Blues,” you can save your family and yourself from the afternoon slump and continue enjoying rides and attractions all day long. Here’s a quick list of what to do at Disney World, the world’s biggest theme park, when that inevitable slump kicks in.

1)  Make Sure to Eat a Big Breakfast

Breakfast before a day at Disney World
Photo: 310 Lakeside

This tip is essential to surviving any theme park: eat a good-sized breakfast! Even if you’re not a big eater in the mornings (I’m guilty of that), try to eat something healthy and filling. Lay off an all-carb breakfast (no pastries or you’ll crash and burn quickly) and down some protein before you hit the park (eggs, veggies, and fruit). A good breakfast will keep you going to lunch time.

2) Eat Light, Snack Often

Eat salads at Disney World to avoid crashing
Photo: Kim Ahlstrom via Flickr

Try to order the lighter, yet satisfying options on the menu. A burger and fries might seem like the best food on Earth, when you’re really hungry, but a healthy sandwich or hearty salad will keep you going much longer. You won’t get that post-lunch food coma. It may also be very hard to get really young kids to eat a hot meal on a hot day. So try for a cold sandwich, or if all else fails, even ice cream will do. After all, ice cream for one lunch out of the year isn’t the end of the world.

If you don’t feel like spending your theme park budget on snacks, add some to your travel bag to have on hand throughout the day. One, it will help you keep your budget in check by not paying for expensive treats, and two, it will keep your diet in check if you pack healthy ones. I always love to add trail mix and granola bars to my bag because I know when 3 pm hits, I’ll be hankering for calories.

3) Take a Break When You Need It

Benches at Liberty Square for a break at Disney World
Photo: Cory Disbrow

Have you ever been so tired that you’ve felt like crying? Hey, even at my age it hits after days and days in the parks. So, what to do at Disney World when you’re beyond tired? I’d much rather find an air-conditioned restaurant and grab a seat with a nice, cold drink than to do “the theme park trudge” – the aimless wander of those beyond exhaustion, walking through the park just for walking’s sake (don’t become a theme park zombie!). So, grab a seat or spot on the curb and watch a parade or even head back to the resort if you’re staying overnight and take a nap or have a swim. The break will re-energize you and your family and you’ll be ready to hit the parks again with a smile on your face. Remember, you’re not just trying to survive the theme park, you want to thrive!

4) Drink More Water than You Should

Bring water bottles for a day at Disney World
Photo: Roger H. Goun via Flickr

Remember health class in high school? If there’s one useful take away, it’s this: if you feel thirsty, you’re already on the way to dehydration. Nip it in the bud by drinking more water than you usually do, especially on hot days. This is essential to theme park survival. Water also helps to keep your system in check and moving, so add a few bottles to your bag or ask for cups of water at snack vendors and restaurants throughout the day.

5) Don’t Try to Do Too Much

Two words: pace yourself. This is especially true if you’re hitting a theme park for more than a day or two. If you wear out on the first day by racing to rides and running to restaurants, you won’t enjoy yourself due to sheer exhaustion. Slow and steady wins the race every time. I remember one thing from the first time my family visited Walt Disney World. We were so exhausted that by the end of the trip we were all cranky and miserable. And, I barely remember parts of the trip because we were all so tired.

6) Treat Yourself

Treat Yourself to Ice Cream at Beaches & Cream Soda Shop
Photo: Josh Reichlin via Flickr

Who doesn’t love a fun treat? It’s okay to head to the in-house ice cream shop or coffee shop and grab a scoop of sorbet or a cappuccino. If you’re used to all day caffeinated drinks, there’s no reason to not have one midday. Just remember, caffeine is a diuretic so keep hydrated by drinking lots of water to replace the water you’re losing. And if your idea of a treat is moseying through the stores in air-conditioned bliss, by all means do it!

Photo: Westgate Palace Resort

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About Karyn Locke

Karyn Locke is a traveler at heart. A former military brat who caught the travel bug at a very early age, Karyn loves road tripping with her family and writing about her travels from small town Ohio at Sand and Snow...and Everywhere in Between! Her passion for all things Disney can be seen in her blog as well as on TravelingMom where she shares tips and tricks to successful vacation planning.