When my kids were under 6, the answer was everything. I brought everything into the parks with me. The thing about Disney Parks is that there is no running back to the car really quick. No hopping over to the hotel for a minute. They are FAR away and full of obstacles. You may be taking a monorail, boat, or bus or more than one of those. If you need something that can’t be easily (and cheaply) procured, you better bring it. But…who wants to carry around a 50lb overloaded bag all day in the Florida sun? Not me. That’s where the hard part of deciding what is an absolute necessity comes.
Every time I go to Disney, I take less with me into the parks…not more. Of course, this is in part due to my children’s ages. As they get older, phrases like “You’ll be fine” tend to be said more.
I bring one snack for each us every time we enter the parks. Not really for an emergency, but more like a hangry emergency, you know? Even though Disney snacks are super fun, sometimes you just need a quick bite while standing in line for a ride. I don’t want these to take up too much space so I limit it to 1 per person. Depending on how much room I have, I may put these in a reusable to-go container to keep them from getting smashed on a ride.
Bottles of Water
We bring in A LOT of water with us. Like 6+ bottles. And I only cap it at 6 because that's all I can feasibly carry at the beginning of the day without my backpack weighing 1 million pounds. We get a case (or more) of water delivered to our hotel room and take them into the parks with us. Of course, they sell bottled water inside. The issue is that it is overpriced and you may have to wait in a long line just to buy one. On a hot day filled with lines, I don’t want to have to wait in another line just for water.
If for any reason, these are not already on our face when we leave, they get packed.
I leave a mini-size sunscreen in the bag at all times in case anyone needs a reapplication.
Even though my kids are too old for these to travel elsewhere with us, I do bring them with me into the parks because I have a personal problem with stickiness. If a melted popsicle touches me, I will have to stop everything to go wash my hands, my arm, maybe my whole face, maybe swap out the sticky child for a new one. These wipes keep me from having a meltdown after a popsicle had a meltdown.
I know, I know the environment is crying as you read this. While I try to be eco-conscious, I do bring a disposable bag of some kind into the parks with me which are super handy. They can become a trash bag if someone needs the above-mentioned wet wipe while in line. They can hold a leaky sunscreen. They can hold an expensive candy that someone just had to buy, but now maybe wants to “save it for later.”
Those are the items that are in my bag every single time no matter what. The rest of the list is dependent upon the time of year, which park we visit, and what’s on the schedule that day. Honestly, also probably how much time I have that morning too.
TOP TIP: I pack the next day’s bag the night before because our mornings at Disney can get quite chaotic.
I Sometimes Bring These Items & Maybe You Should Too
Ponchos, Rain Jackets & Umbrellas
I used to throw these in my park bag every time, but after the third time it rained (really rained) and we still didn’t get out any of these items, I started skipping it. We prefer to either move quickly in a light rain without being encumbered by these or seek shelter in a building where we don’t need them. That’s, of course, a personal preference. Maybe you love ponchos on 90-degree days.
Misting Fan or Cooling Towels
While I don’t love toting these around all of the time because the fan is bulkier than I would like, they can be a lifesaver on an incredibly hot day.
Portable Phone Charger
If you have a phone that loses battery quickly or you plan on videoing every magical moment, bring one of these guys. I have a big one that is bulky, but I absolutely love it and if I know we’ll be gone for a very long day this heavy sucker comes too.
Water Ride Items
If you or someone in your group has an issue with being drenched on a water ride, consider the items below. (Hint, it’s me. I am the weakest link when it comes to water rides.)
There’s 2 ways to do extra shoes. #1 – You pack a pair of flip flops that you put on right before you get on the ride. Then, you replace the wet sandals with your regular shoes when you disembark. #2 – You bring a backup pair of real shoes that you only get out if the first ones get unmanageably wet.
Wearing lightweight moisture-wicking clothes really helps with not having to change. If you must bring an entire change of outfit for someone (or, goodness, everyone), then consider finding the lightest and smallest clothes possible and rolling them tightly together then putting them in a quart-size bag with the person’s name on the outside. This way the removed wet clothes can go right back into that bag if they’re needed. You can also just bring a couple of items. No one likes wet socks. If I bring just one thing to swap out, it would be a pair of dry socks. Remember that if you don’t pack any extra clothes, Disney sells tons of clothing items. If you have to buy a t-shirt on site because someone needs to change—that is a very special vacation memory that will pay dividends later on when reflecting on the trip. Don’t sweat it!
You may want to bring a poncho just to wear for a water ride. See if you can find a way to safely sit on it too, sometimes the seat is the wettest part of the ride.
Many of our favorite travel essentials are listed here, if you’d like to see which exact ones I bring into the parks with me.
NOTE FOR UNIVERSAL STUDIOS: If visiting Universal, you do not want to overload your bag! Ignore all of the this! Even though the hotel is much closer if you stay on site than the Disney counterparts, you will need to fit the bag into a small locker for a lot of rides. Drawstring/cinch-top flexible bags that have very little in them are much better.
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