The key to navigating a family through Disney? Pack light and be prepared. It sounds like competing goals. How can you be prepared and keep your belongings from overtaking you? It’s all in the planning.
The backpack and fanny pack
They are your friends. Use a backpack that is spacious, full of pockets, and streamlined. Pick a fanny pack that is well made. It will be on you and your partner’s back and waist the whole day, so you want it to be durable and comfortable. If you are going to tour Disney with a stroller, you’ll have a bit more room with the carry on basket below the seats, but I will give you the essentials for two parents, three kids, one backpack, and a fanny pack.
Can you bring food into the parks?
This is a common question, and the answer is yes! However, keep in mind that it is hot in Florida. Without proper cooling, sandwiches and other snacks can go bad in the heat. It is best to take easy snacks that don't need refrigeration. You don't want to be lugging a cooler around Disney.
Thin wallet- You’ll want to keep your regular wallet at the hotel in a safe. Instead, grab a thin wallet that can hold your keycards, license, a credit card, and some cash. There is no need for any bulky change purse or extraneous cards in your existing wallet.
Sunblock stick- They look like oversized glue sticks and go on similarly. It is perfect for reapplication on the face, shoulders, and neck; the three places that burn the most easily.
Small sunblock tube- It’s easier to buy five small tubes and pack a new one each day, than to try to find space for a gigantic tube of sunscreen. Go small, and you’ll be glad you did.
Ziploc bags- You’ll want to keep a couple in your backpack, mainly for cellphones that could get wet in the rain or on a water ride.
Small bottle of Tylenol, Advil, and Pepcid AC- Just keep enough for a dose or two for the parents. You can also keep a couple doses of children's chewable Benadryl and Dramamine.
Bandaids- They are small and take up hardly any room, but are so helpful for those last minute cuts and scrapes.
Purell- A small bottle will work fine. I prefer buying five smaller bottles and filling my bag with a fresh one every day, rather than lugging a big container.
Most Disney quick service restaurants will happily give you a cup full of ice. You can refill your water bottle as many times as you need to.
Lanacane- A small tube of anti-chafing gel. It is great for kids and parents who’s thighs or feet are getting raw from all the walking.
Swimmer’s towel- One towel is small enough to fit in a backpack and perfect for drying off after a wet ride or particularly sweaty walk. They dry quickly and are tiny. Some come inside a plastic tube. If it's really hot, wet the towel with cold water before you leave in the morning. Add a bit of ice. The towel will stay damp and cool and can be used to cool down hot kids.
Insulated water bottle- Trying to keep lots of water on hand will be tough. Instead of letting Poland Spring bottles get warm and wet inside the backpack, just splurge for one good quality insulated thermos. Fill it with ice and water at the hotel before you leave.
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Granola bars- Grab a few food items that won’t melt in the sun or need any refrigeration.
Elastic bands- These are handy for pulling back hair.
One plastic picnic disposable tablecloth- Wrap it up small, and keep it for those parade and fireworks shows. If it’s rained or the sidewalk is grimy, you can place it on the ground where you are going to sit.
Socks- A fresh pair of socks for each kid can help if they get sweaty or wet from rides and walking.
Smartphone- Make sure you’ve downloaded your favorite Disney touring app to use. It helps you plan which rides to go for first based on wait times and fast pass return times.
Chapstick with SPF- Lips burn easily in the Florida sun. Don’t forget chapstick!
Pen and autograph book- Your little one will love collecting signatures from all her favorite characters throughout the park. Choose a sharpie pen (because it’s easy for clumsy costume hands to hold) and get the one that has a push button top, not the cover. It’ll just be easier to handle.
Nail clippers- Aside from using them as a handy tool for a hangnail, if you purchase a toy from a gift store, the clippers can easily remove tags and hard to reach wires to unhinge toys from their packaging.
Epi-pen- If your child has any allergies, don’t forget your epi-pen. Add a small bottle of Benadryl to the list as well.
Wet ones- Add a small pack of antibacterial wipes for the toilet seats, restaurant tables, and grimy hands.
Sunglasses or hat- The Florida sun is brutual, so be sure to pack something to shield your eyes from the glaring sunlight all day.
If you have room...
Flip flops- One of the best ways to avoid blisters, is to change shoes halfway through the day. Flip flops (the supportive ones) are great because it keeps the toes and heels from rubbing against a shoe. Start off the day in sneakers and change it out at lunchtime to avoid chaffing. If your sneakers can't fit in the bag, just tie them to a strap on the outside of the pack.
Disposable coffe cup lids- Are you wondering what these are for? Those melting Mickey Ice creams. Stick the wooden stick through the opening and the lid will catch the dripping ice cream and keep a messy treat neat.
I've been to Disney a dozen times and there is really no need to bog yourself down with any more stuff than what's included here. You'll be glad you packed light and stayed prepared.