What do you really need to bring with you on a Disney day?
While there’s a certain charm to strolling down Main Street with naught but your MagicBand and a pocket full of dreams, many an unprepared Disney guest has found themselves scrambling through gift shops searching for forgotten supplies. Every day, parkgoers lose vacation time and untold amounts of money paying inflated prices for Mickey Mouse ponchos, themed soda cups, fuel rods to rescue their phones, and expensive sundries.
You don’t need Mary Poppins’ carpet bag to solve this issue. We’ve put together a complete list of essentials (and a few cool hacks) for your ultimate Disney Day survival kit—as well as a few things to leave behind!
1. Picking the right bag
On any given Disney day, we’ve all seen that poor soul huffing and puffing beneath the weight of a bursting backpack worthy of conquering K2. While preparing for Disney can often feel like packing for an excursion into the Everglades, it isn’t necessary for you to blow out your back just to hit the parks like a pro.
The perfect Disney survival kit starts with your bag. What works best will vary between each traveler and the size of their family. The key factors to consider are:
- Comfortability – We’ve talked before about how Disney vacations involve a huge amount of walking. I’ve pulled a shoulder muscle from something as simple as walking with a slightly-heavy purse for too many days in a row on a trip. Make sure your bag of choice has a comfortable strap and a style that makes it easy to carry. Backpacks and well-made messenger bags are ideal. Utilitarian shoulder bags can work if you’re willing to switch sides regularly. For the ultimate light traveler, a fanny pack may even be optimal!
- Size – The goal is to choose a bag that fits everything you need in as compact a space as possible. Leave enough room for small souvenirs, but you don’t need much. Huge bags can make navigating crowds a nightmare and will slow you down at bag checks. If your family needs a lot of supplies, instead of cramming them all into one bag, have everyone in the family carry small backpacks. Don’t rely on your stroller as an excuse to pack heavy non-essentials. Any bag you bring will need to fit with you on rides since strollers must be left outside attraction queues.
- Easy to Use – A well-made bag with several compartments will likely serve you better than a bottomless pit of a knapsack. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to find a quiet bench in a crowded theme park to take every single item out just to locate some moleskin. At the same time, overly-complicated bags could prove just as cumbersome if you can’t remember what goes where. Aim for something in the middle of the road.
Leave Behind: Anything extreme. Gigantic backpacker’s packs and tiny Prada clutches will prove equally useless at Walt Disney World. Find something moderate and comfortable that meets your needs. If it is large enough to fit a kindergartener, it’s probably overkill.
2. The bare essentials
It goes without saying that every Disney survival kit should include the key items you need to get into the parks and enjoy your day. This means:
- Magic Bands
- Passholder Cards –You’ll need these for discounts and free parking. Your Magic Band won’t cut it, even with a Passholder fob attached.
- ID – You will also need this for Passholder discounts and some credit card purchases
- Credit Cards –If you are picking up your tickets at Will Call, always bring the credit card you bought the tickets with. On one of our first Disneyland trips, a family member bought us tickets online. When we arrived, there was nothing we could do to pick them up without the card. We had to spring for a full set of tickets that same day! Avoid this embarrassing fate.
- Cash, if you prefer
- Gift Cards – This doesn’t just mean Disney gift cards. Walt Disney World is a great place to drain low balance “general purpose” gift cards. While this is a practice best reserved for situations with low crowds, most Disney cashiers can divide a purchase between 2-3 cards. Just don’t count on this too much at restaurants as they sometimes decline cards without a minimum balance to ensure servers will get tipped properly.
Leave Behind: If you’re going to be making all your park purchases on your MagicBand, don’t bring too many other non-essential cards. Just like your bag, keep your wallet as light as possible.
3. Beat the heat – Gear for the Florida sun
Florida’s sun will likely prove the most formidable foe you’ll face in preparing for your vacation. Throughout the year, the UV index in Florida frequently rises to cook-your-tender-flesh-into-sizzling-chicharrons levels. Dehydration and heat exhaustion are very real dangers even at the Most Magical Place on Earth.
A steady supply of sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 is essential. While sprays are convenient, creams are more effective. For the most-pasty parkgoers, a sunscreen with zinc or titanium dioxide is a good idea. Lip balm can also prove helpful. After frying my scalp a few times, I would recommend every survival kit include some sort of hat or bandana, particularly for small kids or those with thinning hairlines. Sunglasses are also non-negotiable. You will save quite a bit purchasing a pair at home rather than waiting to locate some in the parks (unless you’re really jonesing for a pair of Ray Bans from Adventureland).
Most importantly, stay hydrated. Resist the temptation to splurge on sodas, even with a refillable cup (which can prove awkward to carry over a long day). Instead, you can either drink free filtered water at any kiosk or restaurant in the parks or purchase a filtered water bottle before your trip, like a Brita or Bobble (if you get the latter, make sure it doesn’t leak). These are especially helpful if you’re concerned about the occasional swampy flavor of Florida’s water. If you get dehydrated easily, bring some electrolyte tablets. You’ll have an easier time staying hydrated, and you’ll save a ton of money!
Leave Behind: Bottled water is cumbersome as you can only carry so much, even if you buy a pack ahead of time. Also leave behind wacky contraptions for dealing with the heat. No one can fault you for bringing a small fan but focus on protecting your skin, wearing lightweight breathable clothing, and staying hydrated.