Soon-to-be Orlando visitors spend hours analyzing tour packages, hotel locations, room costs, car rental discounts, and theme park ticket prices. But they spend no time thinking about one detail that can make or break a vacation: The physical demands of theme-parking.
Soon-to-be-tourists think: “It’s a theme park – not whitewater rafting or a 50-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail. How bad can it be?” Tourists on their second day in Orlando think: “Oh, gad, just let me sit down for a second. You guys ride Space Mountain. I’m going to put my feet up.”
Train for an Orlando vacation the way you’d train for a marathon. The first day isn’t usually bad; but if you’re out of shape, wearing the wrong shoes, or suffering from sunburn and blisters, expect to be unhappy – and trying to convince yourself that you’re not happy – for the rest of the vacation.
Consider the following before leaving home:
1. Good shoes
This isn’t “the most comfortable pair of shoes in your closet” – it’s “go out and buy expensive sneakers.” While a favorite pair of sandals might feel good for the moment, you need arch support for long-term energy and something that protects your toes from the uncoordinated strangers standing elbow-to-elbow on Pirates of the Caribbean. Find a sneaker brand that truly fits and break them in before departure.
2. Start an exercise program now
You’ll be walking up to five miles per day. Your feet will hurt, your thighs will throb, and your back will ache. Start to overexert four weeks before departure and get that part out of the way before leaving home.
3. Learn how to stretch
Leg muscles bunch up when you push your body, followed by your back, neck, and everything else. Stretching during the day can provide at least minor relief, and it’s especially welcome on morning No. 2 when you crawl out of bed with an “Ahhhrr.” The Mayo Clinic offers tips.
4. Avoid a backpack mentality
Don’t take everything in your hotel room “in case we need it” because it adds 30 pounds to your walking weight. If you do take lunch or some major necessity, consider renting a locker at the park.
5. Carry painkillers
Some drugs, such as ibuprofen, work better on muscle aches than others, but any pain reliever is worth its weight in gold. If inside a theme park, ask if they sell aspirin or Advil or Tylenol. Many times, the park stores keep it stocked behind the counter.
6. Consider a wheelchair or stroller
If your kid has been out of a stroller for less than a year, rent one anyway. And if your parents won’t be in a wheelchair for another couple years, rent one anyway. And you may want to rent something just to carry all your stuff, like the backpack you took after I said you shouldn’t.
7. Take a break
Visit a nearby resort and sit by the pool in the middle of the afternoon. Or plan one long sit-down dinner during each day. Or drink at a theme park bar. (Except inside the Magic Kingdom, which is dry.)
8. Find a place to ditch the kids
Each park has at least one playground that’s enclosed. If they’re old enough, let them run wild while you sit down and decompress.