My family recently returned from our fourth trip to Disney World (thanks to a very generous grandmother), and I’ve finally figured out those BTDT pro-tips for a successful Disney vacation. For me, it starts with packing the right items. And, knowing what to leave at home.
Considering Undercover Tourist’s Disney World crowd calendar indicates that fall includes some of the best, least crowded weeks for a Disney Vacation, this is a great time to plan. Especially with the launch of Galaxy Edge!
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`15 must-pack items for a Disney vacation that you may not have considered
Photo: Amy Humphries via Unsplash
Of course, you know to pack clothes and swimsuits, snacks and sunscreen. A stroller in the park is a must for any kid 6 or under, in my opinion, especially those who aren’t used to walking. (Our editor Liz claims that her then 4- and 6-year-old NYC kids walked the park like champs.). And you’ll need all the standard tech travel gear, like cables and a spare portable battery like a Jackery.
I’m not sure you need the matching outfits for the whole family — especially since, on our last trip there, we felt like the only family in the park not wearing them. Which, ironically, made it all easier to spot our crew in a crowd.
However if you are headed to the “happiest place on earth” soon, here’s 15 things to pack for Disney World that you probably haven’t thought of, in no particular order.
I think these can be the tipping point between surviving Disney World and truly enjoying it.
1. Ziplock bags or reusable waterproof pouches. If you’re planning on riding any of the water rides, like Splash Mountain or Kali River Rapids, you’ll want a seal-tight plastic bag (or 7) in your daypack to keep your phones, medicine, watches, dry. And of course they make great emergency dry bags for wet clothes, garbage bags, snack organizers and more.
2. Gift cards. This has been a tried-and-true trick for us on every trip: we give each of our kids a gift card in the amount of money we’re willing to spend on souvenirs for them, then they get to manage their balance during the trip. Amazingly, they never once asked me to buy them anything beyond that. (Snacks excluded, of course.)
3. Flip-flops or water shoes. One year we made the mistake of riding Kali River Rapids, then having to walk around the park in wet sneakers all day. The blisters we experienced the next morning were awful. You can’t ride barefoot, but you can go in a pair of lightweight flip-flops like Havianas then change back into dry shoes after.
(Speaking of which, bring extra Band-Aids. Always. But you’re parents, you know that.)
4. Insect repellent wipes. Guess what you’ll find a lot of in Florida on hot days? Mosquitos! My daughter is particularly sensitive to bites, so the bug repellent wipes we had on hand were so helpful. I especially liked the wipes, because I could quickly apply in a crowd without bothering anyone with the overspray.
5. Epsom salt. Guess what you do a lot at Disney? Walk. After the first day I really wished I’d had some epsom salts back at the hotel room so I could soak my blistered feet at night.
6. Hand sanitizer bottles that clip to your bag. There are germs everywhere in the parks, and you don’t want to have to find a bathroom to go wash your hands every time your kids want a snack. I strongly recommend these mini-sanitizer bottles with a loop to attach to your bag exterior, specifically so that your kids can grab hold themselves and your’e not constantly reaching into your bag for them.
7. OnGuard essential oil. When I saw my toddler literally licking the railing while we waited in line at the park (oh man, I know) it was clear we’d need more than just hand sanitizer. My family’s personal favorite way to stave off a virus is with DoTerra’s OnGuard essential oil, though you can use any germ-fighting OTC you like.
8. A deck of cards. Spending all day in the park can be exhausting, and you may want to take time to sit in the shade and relax. If you have older kids, a deck of cards or similar sized travel board game can be a fun way to pass a little screen-free time. With toddlers, a favorite (lightweight) book is nice to have on hand too.
9. Something that glows. If you stay late to watch the nighttime parade and fireworks, your kids are going to ask for a glow glow necklace, glow bracelet, glow wand….basically anything that glows. You get the picture. Bring your own! It will save you a ton of money. plus and time spent waiting in line to buy one in the park with everyone else.
10. Motion sickness bands. A few of the rides in the park can really mess with your vestibular system if you’re sensitive to motion, so having a sets of Sea Bands motion sickness acupressure wrist bands with you can help nervous stomach stay calm so you actually enjoy the rides with your kids. In fact, they make them in kid sizes too and yes, they really work.
(I don’t recommend bringing a potato on the rides, however.)
Photo: Leighann Renee via Unsplash
11. Your own Disney souvenirs. Yep, you read that right. Visit the clearance section of your local Disney store, Target, gift shop, or any other store that sells Disney merch before you go. Then, pack the souvenirs with you to give the kids while you’re there. You’ll save big money, and your kids — or at least the little ones — will never know the difference.
Photo: © Kate Etue for Cool Mom Picks
12. A baby carrier…even if you have a toddler. You may think your child is too old for a baby carrier, but if you have a squirmy toddler, a larger-sized baby carrier can make the time waiting on line so much easier. Because those lines can be long. My husband used our old LilleBaby x Tokidoki carrier, but their new LilleBaby Disney carrier collection collection might be perfect for your trip, if your child is under 45 lbs.
13. Rain ponchos. If you don’t feel like getting soaked on the water rides– and you will get soaked — I highly recommend packing your own cheap disposable ponchos or invest in some reusable ponchos if you want to be kinder to the environment. They fold up tiny enough to stash in your bag in your bag and you can always use those baggies afterwards to keep them from getting the rest of your bag wet.
In my experience, you’ll get the most wet on Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom, with Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom a close second. However if it rains, you will definitely want them so that you can keep the fun going around the park, heading to the indoor rides and attractions that stay open in bad weather.
14. Disney planning apps! The My Disney Experience app, or can be a total lifesaver in the park. You’ll get accurate wait times for rides, restaurant menus and reservations, access to all your Disney Photo Pass photos, and even lets you order quick-service meals from your phone while you wait on line for a ride, then pick your food up when you’re done. Best of all: it’s free. We use it every time we go.
Alternatively: Check out the Orlando Undercover Tourist Planning app which some of our writers have had great luck with as well.
15. A SlumberPod for toddlers. We discovered SlumberPod earlier this year, and I tried ours out on our recent Disney trip. It allowed our preschooler to sleep in a portable cot in the bathroom (yes really) so we could book a smaller room without compromising on comfort. If you’re going to be sharing a room with your toddler, this black-out tent is a travel must-have.
In fact, see all of these smart hotel tricks that make travel with toddlers easier, and you’ll find a few more items to pack specifically for toddlers, like electrician’s tape to secure cords in your hotel room or tape down a keyless minibar, or anti-bac wipes for the hotel remote control, should your kids still be in the “put things in our mouths” stage.
Top photo: Joel Sutherland via Unsplash