When you hear the words, “be prepared”, what pops into your head first?
a) The Boy Scouts motto
b) Scar’s ominous tune from The Lion King
If you have Disney on the brain, it’s likely that you gravitate toward choice b. However, taking advice from the scouts before heading into a Walt Disney World park isn’t a bad idea. As my dad would say, a little “prior, proper planning” can go a long way in helping you have a magical day at Walt Disney World. So, what should you pack for your day in the parks?
1. A bag or pack of some sort.
Some people will disagree with me on this very first suggestion. Many people like to go bagless in the parks. If you don’t mind buying everything you may need in the park and have a pocket to carry your phone, then this may be an option for you. For everyone else, read on. Disney is fine with you wearing a full-sized backpack. Every member of your party does not need one. One bag may be enough for a few people, and taking turns carrying it is a great option. Personally, I like to carry a small women’s styled backpack or a full-sized backpack. In my experience, it’s better to have a larger bag that is not jammed full or too heavy than to cram a lot in a tiny bag.
2. Park Tickets- Your Magic Band or ticket card.
This is an obvious one, but I actually walked from The Swan to Epcot once and realized I left our park tickets in the room. Do you have a Magic Band? If so, you won’t need to carry park tickets, or even your wallet! Magic Bands can be linked with your credit card so you can pay with your band, making it optional to carry a wallet.
3. Comfortable shoes that have been worn several times already.
Personally, I loathe wearing socks and sneakers when it’s hot, so I opt for waterproof, supportive , athletic-type sandals (not flip flops) that secure to the foot while still letting you stay cool and get wet. I like Keen and Teva sandals for this purpose. If you love sneakers, go for it! Just make sure you take care of your feet. A spare pair of socks wouldn’t be a bad idea, especially if you get caught in a downpour.
4. Medication, Inhalers, etc.
If you ever take medication during the day, don’t forget to bring it with you. Of course, each Disney park has a first aid center and will provide you with medical attention should it be necessary. The first aid center will also store your medication for you if it requires refrigeration!
5. Camera or camera phone
Did you know that you can ask the photographers in the park to snap a picture using your personal camera? There’s no charge to do this. They’ll probably take a picture on their camera as well and link it to your Magic Band or PhotoPass card, but there’s never an obligation to purchase anything.
6. A fully-charged smart phone for using the My Disney Experience app
You can use the My Disney Experience app to make or change FastPass+ reservations. This is a time saver over standing in line to use the FastPass+ kiosks.
7. Ziploc bags
They’re perfect for stowing your electronics, medication, and other water-sensitive items if you get caught in a rainstorm or are being extra cautious on Splash Mountain or Kali River Rapids. I always take a few quart-sized ones, which are also handy for holding any paper souvenirs you might acquire (maps, Sorcerer’s of the Magic Kingdom cards, Disney Dollars, etc.).
Bring it, don’t buy it:
Don’t forget to keep hydrated! You can bring your own to save some money and time waiting in line. I recommend a bottle with a filter on it, which you can fill at a fountain. Or, if you crave something other than water, fill a regular (non-filter type) water bottle at the fountain and try using Crystal Light packets or other flavoring agents. Another option- counter service restaurants will all give you a free cup of ice water- just ask!
I am a huge fan of bringing small snacks into the park! You will be doing a lot of walking, and having small snacks once in a while will keep you energized. My favorite simple snacks to put in my backpack are trail mix packets and granola bars. They also make great breakfasts. Don’t waste early morning time sitting in a restaurant- eat on the go and get to the rides before the lines build up.
You can buy ponchos in the parks, but I recommend buying a few emergency or “single-use” ponchos and bringing them with you. They are held in tiny packets and are very cheap (I got mine for around $1 each). Have you ever tried to fold up a wet poncho? If so, you’ll enjoy the single-use concept.
Bring it with you, because there’s a good chance you will either forget to put it on in the morning, miss a spot, or need to reapply. Sunburn can ruin a vacation.
12. A Sweatshirt
Unless it’s mid-summer, you may get cool in the parks at night. Buying a sweatshirt in the gift shop is going to set you back a pretty penny. You might want one anyway as a souvenir- just make sure you bring it back to wear the next few days or you’ll end up with several!
If you are a gum-chewer, bring your own. They don’t sell it in the parks.
14. Cooling towel
This is a non-necessity for most, but if you are prone to overheating or feeling faint as I am sometimes, this could be considered a “must.” I recently discovered cooling towels, and they are really great for a long, hot day in the park. I have used both Miracool and Frogg Toggs cooling towels. Simply run them under lukewarm water and put them on your neck, arm, head- wherever. As the water evaporates, it cools you. When the towel dries off, just re-wet it in the bathroom sink.
15. Phone charger or backup battery
There are some places in the parks (especially restaurants and hotels) where you can charge your electronics. You may want to carry one with you if you plan to use your phone for web browsing or taking lots of pictures.
Although I suggest bringing a lot of things with you, here are some things that I think you can skip:
When it rains, it pours. Walking through the park trying to wield an umbrella in a monsoon is not fun for the carrier or the people around you. Jump into a gift shop until it passes, or get that poncho on and know which rides still operate during a thunderstorm to take advantage of the low wait times.
I wouldn’t recommend bringing a full meal into the park, but did you know that you can? With the exception of hard-sided coolers and glass containers, you can bring all your food for the day with you. While I do suggest bringing a small snack, I don’t recommend bringing your entire lunch or dinner. For one, there are far too many fun and interesting dining experiences to be had in the parks. More importantly, if you do bring your own meals, you not only have to carry them, but also worry about how to keep your food safe and cool during the day. There are plenty of affordable, enjoyable meal options in the park, making the BYO meal concept more trouble than it’s worth.
Some folks insist that the purpose of vacation is to relax, and that relaxing and planning are incompatible concepts. I, on the other hand, insist that a little bit of planning will help you relax to the fullest on your Disney vacation. I hope this list helps you plan out the best combination of items for you to have a great time in the parks!
Meredith Smisek is a kid at heart and works as an elementary school guidance counselor. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, dog, and parrot. Meredith's hobbies include cooking, playing ukulele, and "talking Disney" with anyone she knows who is planning a trip to Disney or has just returned.