Planning for a day at Walt Disney World in Orlando can be both exiting and exhausting. Believe me, you don’t want to leave something in your car or forget it altogether. Everything you can do ahead of time to plan will reward you later on. We had an annual pass to Disney World and we went to the parks over 20 times, so I had packing for our family of 4 down to a science. Here’s what I recommend taking into the park:
We don’t have a fancy back pack, in fact I think ours is an old Jansport from 15 years ago. All you need is something that fits some essentials and if it has a water bottle holder on the side, bonus. Just make sure you can be hands free. Here’s a pack that would do just fine.
Can your kids walk for a minimum of 3 miles without whining? If not, bring a stroller. Even if your child refuses to ride in it sometimes, it’s a great way to carry your stuff and give your back a rest. If you are flying to Orlando you can rent them at the parks – well worth the money, in my opinion – if you don’t need one at the airport. I promise, at the end of the day your little one will use it, even if they are too stubborn to thank you in person.
Wear the most comfortable shoes that you own. You will be standing and walking for 8 plus hours and even though you have Converse that look so cute with your Mickey T-shirt, save your feet and wear your shoes with support. I’m an Adidas girl myself.
If you don’t have something that counts your steps like a FitBit or UP, please don’t feel the need to go buy something. This is strictly for entertainment and/or bets with your husband. You will be amazed at how many steps you’ll take in a day when at Disney World. The walk from the parking lot at Magic Kingdom alone is several hundred steps. And, it makes you feel less guilty about getting a Mickey Ice Cream bar in the afternoon. I like the UP band because you can track your friend’s or family member’s steps which is a fun way to encourage (compete with) each other.
Reusable Water bottle
All that walking is going to make you and your little ones thirsty. Instead of buying water bottles in the park at airport prices, bring your own so you can keep your drinks cold and create a little less trash. We love the Swell bottles because they keep drinks cold for at least 24 hours – a Godsend when it’s hotter than heck out there.
Yes, your kids are going to get hungry and you may not want to drop $20 on chips and french fries. Bring a small snack to tide the hunger pangs so you can save your money for big meals. I like to pack granola bars, bags of nuts or the old standby, Goldfish. Don’t pack any chocolate because it tends to melt in your bag. Not a mess you want to deal with after being on your feet for 8 hours.
I am not a clean freak but even I appreciate the benefit of having hand sanitizer at the ready. Disney does a great job of having a restroom nearby most food areas so we always pop in before meals to wash our hands. But people who wake up not feeling well always seem to make it into the park anyway. It doesn’t hurt to squirt a little hand sanitizer while you are waiting in line listening to a chorus of coughing and sniffling.
I know, duh. But, before you get to Disney make sure you download the My Disney Experience app. There’s a link to more info about the app here. It will have all of your dining reservations and Fast Passes loaded so you don’t miss anything. I especially like the ride wait time postings so you don’t have to hike over to Big Thunder Mountain if the wait is over 60 min. The map comes in handy too. Disney has free Wi-Fi so you won’t have to use cellular data constantly. Warning, it is slow many times. Your phone is also great to use for taking a picture of the row you park your car in, so you aren’t looking for it at the end of the day.
Portable Phone Charger
Your phone isn’t going to make it a whole day without a charge. And, you aren’t going to want to sit down near an outlet and wait for it to charge either. All of those adorable videos and photos take up a lot of battery life and I promise you’ll have the My Disney Experience app open plenty. I like this Mophie external battery pack. You just pre-charge it at home and then pop it on your phone when it gets low to give you an extra boost to make it through the day.
They don’t call it the Sunshine State for nothing! Unless you plan on jumping from shadow to shadow, you’ll want to put on sunscreen. Being outside for 10+ hours can do a number on your skin and your children’s. Nothing ruins a vacation faster than an uncomfortable sun burn. I like throwing a sunscreen stick in my bag for our faces and then using lotion for arms, backs of necks and any other skin peaking through clothes.
This Sun Bum sunscreen is my favorite sunscreen for kids because it is in stick form. Older kids can even apply it themselves. And it is small and easy to throw in your bag.
Rain Poncho/Light Jacket
Depending on the time of year, you may want to throw a light jacket or rain poncho in your bag. In Florida rain showers come and go really quickly. I wouldn’t recommend a rain coat because it just takes up too much room, and you aren’t allowed to bring in umbrellas. The winter can get a little chilly in Orlando so dress in layers. You’ll warm up walking for a few miles.
I know you’ve seen photos of families standing in front of Cinderella’s castle in cute shirts that have Mickey ears and “Daddy” written on them. Mom has a similar one with Minnie ears and you get the picture. I’ll tell you, I was a skeptic the first time I saw them and then I realized the genius of the matching family T-shirts. It’s a great way to quickly spot your family in a crowd of Disney fanatics. While the neon yellow shirts are slightly obnoxious it’s even easier to spot Grandpa when he sneaks off to take a picture with Tinkerbell. There are tons of people on Etsy who will customize shirts for your family vacation. Bite the bullet and order some. I promise you will want them once you walk around and see some of the cute shirts people have made. Here are some I found on Amazon.
If your little Princess has an appointment at the Bibbiti Bobbiti Boutique she will definitely want to complete the ensemble. You can purchase a dress, shoes and a tiara at the Boutique or at any of the stores in the park, but you’ll spend over $100 and wonder why it isn’t made to last for at least 5 years. Or, you can bring your own gown and save a bundle. You can even buy it from the Disney Store online for less money or even go to any of the big box stores for a knock-off version. Just hope your 5 yr old isn’t brand loyal. The fairy godmother at the boutique will be wonderful and gracious no matter if you spent $120 at the boutique on a costume or not. She never resists the urge to sprinkle you with pixie dust!
Photo Matte for Signatures
If you have younger kids who just can’t wait to get Mickey’s autograph or want to meet Elsa in person, you’ll want to have something for them to sign. While I like and autograph book, it’s not something that my kids revisit or look at very often. A few years ago I saw someone on Pinterest who suggested bringing a photo matte for a picture frame and having characters sign that. I love the idea because it’s fairly easy to fit into your backpack and then you can insert a photo of your child standing with his or her photo when you get home.
Don’t forget to bring something so the characters can sign your photo matte. I recommend a Sharpie.
They keep the mid-day sun out of your eyes and keep your head dry in a rain storm or a ride down Splash Mountain. What’s not to love?
I recommend bringing a cheap pair of sunglasses that you could lose without losing, you know what. Have you ever looked on the ground below some of those roller coasters? To ensure that your sunglasses don’t fly off while you scream your head off on the Seven Dwarf Mine Train, bring a sunglass strap. There’s a lot of walking from dark places to blazing bright sunlight so minimizing the time that you are fumbling for sunglasses is key.
Finally, pack your patience. It’s almost always hot, crowded and filled with people who also want to have a magical vacation with their families. Having a “we’re all in this together” attitude is more pleasant way to spend the day. As we say in the south, “you catch more flies with honey”. Don’t turn the trip into a visit to Ordeal Kingdom. I heart you, The Onion.
Okay, you’re all set for a day filled with the beauty of Disney magic! Now, who wants to carry the backpack?…Not it!
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