Y’all know Disney is my absolute favorite place in the world! We travel there decently often and I feel like I’ve got packing for the parks down to a pretty good science. I will give an advance warning to this post though: I am a big believer in “better safe than sorry” and I’m sure most people would say I over pack items. I will try to break things down in a way that explains the MUST HAVES as well as the things the over-packers like me may want to have along 😉
- Stroller: We currently have an 8 year old, 5 year old and 2 1/2 year old. We still bring a double stroller and will continue to probably bring it for many, many years to come. There are moments where the 8 year old wishes he wasn’t above the weight limit for it. I’m team stroller when it comes to Disney. Not only because it’s a lot of walking and kids need a break…but also because I like to bring a lot of stuff into the parks with us and it minimizes having to carry junk around. We personally have a citi mini double and LOVE IT. When we only had one kid we would bring our travel system stroller (chicco). I know some people love a good jogging stroller but I like the space and features of the travel system one! We also always tie a scarf to the stroller so we can easily recognize it when it’s parked.
- Stroller Hooks: Speaking of strollers, a big thing I’m hardcore about bringing along are stroller hooks. And LOTS of them. The more hooks the better! Not only does it allow to carry more bags but it helps to evenly distribute bag weight to help avoid stroller tip over 😉
The 5 year old and 2 1/2 year old stick to the stroller most of the time…and you can see my massive amount of hooks too 😉
- Book Bags: Book bags are where it is AT for days at Disney. Disney pretty much always has a special running on their book bags. Typically it’s a spend a certain amount on merchandise then get the book bag for $20. We have found that these book bags hold up great and are the perfect size for our needs for a day at the parks. Plus when we have had any issues with them, we’ve always had great luck with Disney offering to replace them for free. The designs are usually cute (and themed!) and we feel they are a great bargain (especially if you get a discount!).
- While on the topic of book bags I want to also mention how we organize them. We have ONE book bag with all of our valuables in it (wallets, phones, camera, etc). We have another with quick access items like entertainment for lines, snacks etc. And then another with rain gear and extra clothes etc. We take the valuables book bag with us on every ride, we usually leave the snack book bag attached to the stroller and pick through it as needed and then the rain gear we leave in the bottom storage area of the stroller and only access it in the event it’s needed.
- It is best to carry ALL your book bags up to the bag check line rather than organizing them all in your stroller when you get out of the car only to have to undo it all for bag check at the gate and then reorganize 😉
The make great gifts too…we bought one for my MIL as the book bag she had just wasn’t holding up!
- Rain Gear: It’s Florida. It rains OFTEN. I always, always pack rain gear. Even if it’s ZERO percent chance of rain. Because I have had times where it’s a high percent chance of rain and then it doesn’t rain at ALL and then other times where it’s literally a zero percent chance and it downpours. This is one of those areas that I tend to probably overdo. But my motto is bring it all and then it won’t rain…leave it at home and it will 😉
- As mentioned earlier, I devote an entire book bag to rain gear. I bring a small travel size umbrella and keep that in my valuables book bag so I have it on me at all times just in case for a sudden, quick shower. But in the rain gear bag I bring a poncho from home for each family member as well as an extra poncho to cover the stroller. We have tried MANY ponchos and have a few favorites: My husband like this one because it’s more of a rain jacket (I tried this for myself but thought it was too hot and stuffy), I like this one for myself as it’s a high quality poncho but also folds up very small and is very lightweight (I also typically bring along a light rain jacket for myself with a hood that I found at Target. It’s lined just enough that it’s perfect for either a light rain or just when it’s chilly at night). I have found my little kids don’t like ponchos and do better with little rain slickers. These are super affordable and are very thin (so they don’t get hot) and fold up very small (I can fit TWO in a gallon size zip loc bag!).
- With my rain gear I try to fit one small beach towel in the book bag if possible. It’s SO handy to have if it DOES rain. We’ve had to use it to dry off after a downpour, to wipe down the stroller when it’s gotten soaked, and to sit on when places are wet. Now that we do have three kids and so much stuff to bring…this is an item I’ll take out and leave at home if there simply isn’t enough room (and if the weather looks pretty favorable for mostly sunny skies) but it’s a good item to bring if able!
- I also stick a couple of grocery bags in the book bag. If we do have rain this allows me to put the wet items in a grocery bag to keep all the dry stuff from getting wet!
- Extra Clothes: Along with my rain gear, I also bring along extra clothing items in the rain gear book bag (on days where we are pretty positive we are going to see a good bit of rain then I often have TWO book bags with rain gear). These clothing items are not only in the event of rain though. Sometimes spills happen. Sometimes potty accidents occur. This is one of those areas where I like to be more prepared. Extra socks for us all are a must-bring (wet socks are the worst!) as well as extra underwear for any little ones who may need them. I also like to bring extra shoes for little ones too. Older kids can wear sneakers and be comfortable all day, but some of those toddler size shoes (especially for the girls) can be weird and rub them in an odd spot and it’s handy to have an extra pair in case they get uncomfortable. I typically pack each child a complete change of outfit and put it in a gallon size zip lock bag! If we are having a shorter day (or breaking for naps) then I often leave these items out of the bag.
- Along with extra clothes I also check the weather. If we’re going to the parks early in the morning or staying later in the evening it’s often helpful to bring a few light jackets (or heavy ones if it’s Feb! We’ve had some COLD days!). When I know it’s going to be pretty cold, I’ll even bring a couple small, lightweight blankets (mine are ones I got from an airplane flight). Sitting and waiting to enter the parks or to watch the fireworks etc can really be chilly and the less complaining from my crew, the happier we all are 😉
- Cooler: SOFT coolers are allowed in the parks. We try to do Disney as frugal as possible and one of the big ways we save money is brining in a lot of our own food. Lunchables come in super handy for the kids 😉 If we are in the park ALL day then we will usually eat breakfast in the car on the way, pack the kids food for both lunch and dinner and Zach and I will buy food for both of those meals (it just takes up too much space trying to pack for the adults too). If we are leaving mid-day or early enough in the evening then we will leave a cooler in the car with the kids food. We will have them eat lunch on the way back to the room then while they nap Zach and I will eat. Same with dinner. If it’s an early enough leave time we will have them eat dinner in the car and we will eat once back at the room. This is one of the ones we often bring and it’s easy to hook on a stroller hook!
- We also bring lots of bottles of water. Disney gives out free cups of water but sometimes it’s not convenient to find and it’s easier to have bottled. A great trick is to freeze them the night prior then just throw them down in the bottom of the stroller that morning. The ice melts throughout the day and keeps the water cold, no cooler needed!
- Snacks: I fill a gallon size ziplock bag with LOTS of snacks. My kids think snacks are like the best treat ever so I bring a lot of stuff that they aren’t used to eating at home. This makes it a special treat and also saves money from buying items in the park. PLUS we can carry the bag with us through lines to give them something to do while waiting for a ride. I mostly stick to individually wrapped items: raisins, Little Debby snacks, suckers, smarties, fruit snacks, etc. I will also buy boxes of items and distribute them in snack size zip lock baggies and stick them in there too. The key here is to bring one of each item for EACH child. And then I’m mindful to give each child the same snack at the same time. Everyone eats fruit snacks, everyone eats a rice krispie treat, etc. Again…it’s all about keeping complaining to a minimum 😉
- Hydration is so important at the parks. Rather than take up room in the cooler with cups for the kids or have them drink from bottled water and make a huge mess…I have a special Disney cup for each child. I have gone through TONS of different ones and this is my favorite. It has a pop up lid, straw, screw on lid, and even can go around their necks. It fits great in the cup holders of the stroller and can be turned sideways without spilling. I also recently got these and the older kids really like them, we tried them on our recent trips and I do have to say they loved the mist feature but I think the other cups hold up better overall. We refill the cups anytime we get water and the kids drink them all throughout the day!
- Entertainment Items: I know. You are paying a ton of money for your kids to be entertained at Disney, why brings entertainment items? Lines. Wait times. Down times. Some trips I never use any of the entertainment stuff I bring, other times I’m SO thankful for it. I always check out the Dollar Spot at Target, Dollar Stores, and Hollar (Disney Store even has a lot of decent clearance prices at times). I stock up on little notepads, small toys, etc. We have a large collection of small Disney figurines and before each trip I let each child pick a few to bring. Again I divide any entertainment items up and place them in gallon size bags. I keep those bags in the “snack bookbag” and that way I can easily grab one when we head to a line or are sitting waiting for a show or parade. Out of all the items we’ve brought along the most favored by my children are small notepads and a pen or pencil. Sometimes I find little themed sets that come with stickers or crayons or something and those are great too. Drawing while waiting seems to work out SO well and it works for ALL ages, even the 8 year old still enjoys it.
- A way we save money is not purchasing souvenirs at the parks and instead bringing items with us. I like to give the kids a little prize each morning at the start of a park day and it’s typically something they can bring with them to the park. I LOVE the itty bittys from Hallmark. They are super, super cute and the perfect size to carry with them all day. Usually this “friend” is the favorite item and keeps them happily entertained during any line or wait time.
- I also bring along our own glow items. Swords, wands, headbands, bracelets, etc. You can find ’em pretty much anywhere and it makes the night event wait much easier. It’s also fun to bring extras and hand them out to surrounding kids!
Tess loved her drawing pad so much she insisted on carrying it to meet Moana!
- Items to Keep Cool: It is HOT majority of the year at Disney. Staying cool is so important (especially for my family now that my husband has been diagnosed with MS). Hydration helps but we bring along a few items to help as well. For the kids we have stroller fans that clip on their stroller. We have these exact ones and I highly recommend them, much better than the foam blade type! I bring a mini handheld fan for myself (and keep it in my valuables book bag). I recently bought little fans that plug into our phones, we haven’t used ’em at the parks yet but I tried them in the store and they seem awesome. Our biggest “stay cool” item though are frogg toggs towels. You just add water to them and they stay cool for a long time! They are the perfect park accessory and I bring one for each member of our family. Also make sure to always pack sunglasses! It’s something Zach often forgets and regrets forgetting 😉
- Electronic Items: I know a LOT of people who rely strictly on their phones and Photopass Photographers for pictures at Disney. I, however, am a big believer in a legit camera. The photos I’ve taken on our trips are so special to me and I like having higher quality images that only a dslr can provide (plus such better zoom than a phone!). Photopass Photographers will also use your camera for you to take any photos which is great too!
- We always, of course, have our phones with us too and like to make sure to download the My Disney Experience app from Disney as well as Touring Plans app and Kenny the Pirate character locator. All are super handy to have (as well as a reliable weather app!).
- To make sure our phone batteries don’t die on us, we recently invested in an external battery to help keep ’em charged. I researched a good bit about them (and by that I mean, I asked around to a lot of Disney people haha) and ended up getting this one. I’ve used it a few times and it seems to work pretty well!
- Personal Care Items: Comfort is key when walking around theme parks all day. A big thing for me has been SHOES. I have a lot of foot issues so shoes are a tough thing for me to find. I have sneakers with an orthopedic insert that I wore for awhile every time we visited the parks but recently I tried out some flip flops that have seriously been AMAZING. They are pricey, but it’s worth it. Even with my foot issues I can wear these all day and not have any pain. And they are cute! They are called Olukai Ohana.
- I always also bring deodorant and a little pouch with some of my must-have makeup items. I know it may seem pointless to try to keep looking decent at a theme park in 100 degree weather, but I try! The biggest tip in the world of makeup at Disney I can offer is a solid setting spray. I really have liked Urban Decay All Nighter setting spray. I use it in the morning and then I only bring powder to freshen up if I get shine! In my little makeup bag I also have a travel sized Wet Brush to try to keep the girls’ hair looking decent too.
- My husband and I both get chaffed pretty easy (can’t deny these thunder thighs!). We started using Gold Bond Spray and it’s a GAME CHANGER! We spray it before we leave in the mornings but I will also usually toss it in my bag just in case we need it again throughout the day.
- Character/Park Items: Often when you picture Disney you think of little girls wearing princess dresses. Dude, they are SO itchy! My girls haven’t ever worn such a dress to the parks (I try to stick with cute themed outfits that are also comfortable) but I have packed dress up clothes from time to time. They may want to be dressed in a princess dress to meet a certain princess. And I’ve even packed pirate gear before! I always leave these as optional things for my kids and usually they opt not to bother changing into them in the moment (I have heard of parents who change in line while waiting to meet a character so that’s a great idea too). Any clothing items I do bring I pack in a gallon size storage bag.
- For character meet and greets my kids love signatures. I don’t do autograph books but instead purchase spiral bound notecard books. This way we can easily tear out the signatures once we’re home and can put them in our Disney Scrapbooks we make. It’s best to always bring a Sharpie along too and the click type is the best for easy signatures. You can find a TON of ideas on Pinterest regarding different items to have characters sign (we recently had them sign wooden letters to spell out a word in our daughter’s room). You can get creative but keep in mind collecting signatures does take away from the interacting with the characters.
- I also bring along my kids pin lanyards and pins. We have a spot with their meaningful pins on display at home but keep ones they don’t like on lanyards so they can trade them at the parks. Most any cast member will have pins that they will trade with children! It’s a fun thing to do and a great way to collect special souvenirs!
- Touring Plan: I know people joke with me all the time about how hardcore I plan our days at the Disney parks. But a solid plan REALLY pays off in a HUGE way. Touring Plans is my absolute favorite planing site (nope, I don’t get anything from them for mentioning them…they just really are my favorite!). They have an option to create your own itinerary which is what I do before each trip (it’s my favorite part of the planning process). I print off these itineraries at home and make sure I have a couple copies so I can keep one in the valuables book bag as well as the snack one just in case. They do have an app but the printed version is just better and easier to access too.
- Tickets: Most people have Magic Bands which sync your tickets and fastpasses etc. However, I still like to make copies of the physical tickets at home and keep a copy of that print out with me at the parks. Maybe I’m old school and just don’t totally trust technology…but, well, I just don’t totally trust it! And if a worst case happens, it’s always smart to have proof of your ticket purchase with you!
Got any must-pack items I missed?
Want to read more about our Disney adventures? I have blogged about every single trip we’ve taken and you can find all those posts here!
Want to know some more of my top tips? Check out this post!
Want to know some money saving tips? This post covers how we afford Disney!