Lifeguarding 101

DCP Lifeguard 101: the costume

*Each location has different standards of what is (and what is not) within Disney look guidelines. I will be describing what the standards at my specific resort are, but your leaders and coordinators may enforce different rules.

There is essentially two ways you can look at your costume as a lifeguard. You can either be bummed that you’re forced to dress like a gym teacher everyday or you can be happy that you’re not forced to dress like you’re from Little House on the Prairie.

Honestly, when I first excepted my role I was bummed that I wasn’t going to wear one of the ridiculous (yet iconic) Disney costumes that can be found in pretty much any other role. However, the simple lifeguard costume definitely has it’s perks.

To keep it simple let’s start from the bottom and work our way to the top.


For lifeguards, there is not a lot of variability allowed in the costume. That is very intentional. We want guests to be able to clearly identify who is a lifeguard just by looking at them. That way in case of an emergency they can find a lifeguard and ask for help.

Shoes are the one part of your costume where you are allowed some variability (notice I didn’t say A LOT of variability).

As I already mentioned, the lifeguard costume comes with some perks. One perk is that you can get your shoes for free. You have the option to wear company issued shoes (for free) or buy your own.

There are two company issued shoe options. White sneakers (must be worn with white socks that cover your ankles) or black crocs (without the holes).

If you do not want to wear these everyday you can also buy your own shoes. When shopping for shoes these are the key points you need to remember:

  • Sneakers must be all white (even the logo)
  • Sneakers must be worn with all white socks (even the logo) that cover your ankle
  • Crocs must be all black
  • Crocs can NOT have the Mickey Mouse shaped holes
  • Crocs can NOT have charms worn in the holes
  • Sandals must be all black (not patterned at all)
  • Sandals can NOT have a strap around the big toe (it was causing too many lifeguard injuries)
  • Tevas and Sketchers are the most common brand for sandals that are permitted
  • Chacos are permitted by some leaders and NOT permitted by others
If you choose to buy your own pair of shoes, you will still need to go to Magic Kingdom costuming to get your company issued shoes. You do not have to wear them on stand, but you should at least have them in a backpack or car when you shoe up for every shift in case you need them. The company issued shoes are approved nonslip shoes, and for some tasks as a lifeguard you are required to wear nonslip shoes.


Everyone working at resorts is required to wear company issued shorts at all times. At costuming you are allowed to check out up to 5 pairs of shorts. For men, your shorts also function as your swim trunks. For women, you are required to wear a swimsuit underneath them.

The shorts are interesting. I have never worn the male shorts so everything I am about to tell you is based on my experience wearing the female options.

The legs are very baggy, while the waste is incredibly tight. Because the elastic waste is so tight, the waistband  slips up to my waist rather than sitting on my hips. Normally, I do not mind high-waisted shorts. However these take high-waist to an entire other level. To make the situation even more uncomfortable, the crotch is too short. Therefore, I suffered through my first few shifts with a permanent wedgie. I quickly learned that it is better to have extra baggy shorts than to have a wedgie, so I sized up in the shorts.

On the bright side, the shorts are incredibly light weight and breathable. Anytime they get wet, they dry quickly.

In conclusion, as long as you get a size that fits you properly, the shorts will not be cute but they are pretty comfortable.


Your hip-pack is essentially a lifeguard’s fanny pack. This is provided to you by Disney, and is absolutely required anytime you are working. Your hip-pack is full of your lifeguard essentials.

Inside your hip-pack is your resuscitation mask, your one way valve, and gloves. Your mask is for when you need to perform rescue breathing on someone. Your one way valve is so that anything from inside a guests mouth (vomit) doesn’t get into your mouth during rescue breathing. Gloves need to be worn whenever you are touching a guest outside of the chlorinated pool water to protect both the guest and yourself from infection/blood born pathogens. You also need to wear your gloves anytime you touch a used towel. 

Attached to your hip pack is a towel and your water bottle. The towel is there for miscellaneous purposes. For example, if a guest gets a nose bleed you have give them the towel. Lastly, I am sure you can figure out what the water bottle is for.


As previously mentioned, for the men your shorts function as your swimsuit. For women lifeguards, you are required to get a one piece swimsuit from costuming. In my experience, Disney sizing is seriously messed up. I had to size up at least four sizes to get a swimsuit that was somewhat comfortable. Ladies, please do not take it personally when Disney tries to come at you with their bogus sizing system.

Your swimsuit must always be worn under your shorts and shirt. It must be worn with the red color on the outside and black color on the inside (it’s reversible, but as a guard you need to wear it this specific way).


Women and men wear the same shirts. There are two shirt options. A short sleeve option and a long sleeve option. It is completely up to your preference as to which option you want to wear (unless you have tattoos that need to be covered up by your sleeves).

Prior to my program, I thought the concept of ever wearing a long sleeve shirt was absurd. It’s Florida in August. Who in their right mind would want to wear long sleeves?!

Well, I almost exclusively wear the long sleeve shirts. They will prevent you from getting a hideous “farmer’s tan.” I don’t know about you, but if I already have to have the ugly shorts tan line and the tan line from my crocs, I want to avoid a tan line on my arms if possible. In addition, if you get the sleeves wet they will cool you down rather than make you hot.


Watches are not a required part of your costume, but I highly recommend wearing one. I check my watch probably 50 times a day while on stand. You need to know what time to start the bump, the guests will ask you what time it is, and you can time how long you’ve been in one position (Ellis rules say you need to change your position every five minutes).

As a lifeguard, you can not wear any sort of watch that has the capability to receive phone notifications. Even if you turn the feature off, you still can’t wear it. So sorry, but Apple watches and Fitbits are not allowed.

Personally, I still wanted to be able to count my steps so I bought a Garmen vivofit 3 from Amazon for $60. It was the only thing I could find that counted steps without receiving notifications from my phone.

Regardless of what time of watch you choose to get, it needs to be a neutral color. That means either black, white, gray, silver, gold, rose gold, etc.


Whenever you are on stand, you are required to wear a hat. As a lifeguard you get two hat options. You can choose between a red baseball cap or a white floppy hat.

Winter/Rain Gear

Although Florida winters have nothing on Wisconsin winters, it will still get chilly on stand. Therefore, you are provided with winter gear and rain gear.

You are allowed to check out one pair of pants. The pants are a mix between snow pants and wind-pants. They are not as heavy as snow pants, but that is what the material reminds me of.

You are also allowed to check out one jacket. The jacket is not as thick as a winter parka, but is thicker than a rain jacket. It is also the texture of a winter coat rather than a rain coat, so it is not super water repellent. 

In addition to the jacket, you are allowed to check out one fleece. They are very similar to really old and not very soft The North Face fleeces.

Lastly, if you specifically request rain gear at costuming they will give you some. This is a clear rain jacket that is longer than the red lifeguard jacket. It is also much more waterproof than the lifeguard jacket.

If you are doing a Fall program, you won’t need your winter gear right away. However, I recommend picking it up before it gets cold. This way you will be able to get the sizes you want before everyone tries to pick up their winter gear, and they start to run out of common sizes.


Whistle: Disney will provide you with a whistle. This needs to be worn at all times while at work.

Name tag: Disney will provide you with a name tag. This needs to be worn at all times while at work. Your name tag can never be covered by your hair, clothing, or anything else (I find that my rescue tube strap often accidentally covers it).

Tattoos: While on stage, tattoos can not be visible. As a lifeguard, your costume will cover your back, ribs, chest, and thighs. You can wear long sleeves to cover your forearms and wrists. You can wear white sneakers with ankle high socks to cover your feet and ankles. You can wear your hair down (if it is long) to cover the back of your neck and behind your ears. If you have tattoos on your fingers, calves, hands, etc it will be very difficult for you to cover them. Makeup will likely wash off from sweat (you’re outside all day everyday) or from having to jump in the water.

Hair accessories: You can not wear scrunchies that are greater than 2 inches thick (my leadership may be more strict than yours, but at Old Key West we are not allowed to wear them). 

Nail polish: As a lifeguard you can paint your nails or wear acrylics. They just need to follow the general Disney look standards (neutral colors and 1/4 of an inch past your finger tip in length).

Body language: Being in Disney look is more than just how you are dressed. It is an overall representation of how you present yourself. You can not cross your arms because it makes you look closed off to guests. You can not slouch or lean on anything. You can only ever sit if you are on stand (and you can only sit for five minutes at a time). You can not cross your legs when you are sitting (you need to be ready to jump in at all times). You need to be professional while on stand (no singing or dancing).

Key Takeaways:

  • You do not have to pay for shoes if you do not want to
  • If you buy shoes they should be Tevas, Crocs, or something similar
  • No chacos
  • I highly recommend you get a watch, but…
  • No Apple watches or Fitbits
  • I recommend you pick up your winter gear from costuming before it actually starts to get cold
  • Each location has different standards, just talk to your leaders or coordinators to find out what standards your location abides by

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