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Pick the best Disney park bag
Step one will be choosing the ideal backpack for Disney parks. As a kid, I always had a fanny pack, and while they’re becoming a little bit cool (or at least not totally lame) again, as an adult I find that I need a little more carrying space than that. I prefer a lightweight, waterproof backpack for my Disney parks daypack. There are tons of options out there, but I’ve been using one like this of late.
I like the fact that it folds down into its own pouch so you can toss it in your suitcase while you’re traveling and it’s water resistant because it tends to rain a lot at Disney World. This one in particular survived a trip down Disneyland’s Splash Mountain which resulted in what felt like the equivalent of a 5-gallon bucket of water getting dumped directly on top of it while keeping the book inside nice and dry.
Its other nice feature is that the straps are lightweight, which makes carrying it feel less sweaty on those hot days in the parks.
Now that you’ve picked the perfect Disney park bag, let’s move on to what to carry in it.
Most people don’t go anywhere without one of these nowadays, but you’ll definitely want to bring yours to the Disney parks. I use mine constantly for taking pictures, checking wait times on the apps, and booking FastPasses on the fly. I have a whole article about the ways you can use your phone to save yourself time (which equates to money at the parks) at Disney World. Plus, you’re definitely going to want it for when you inevitably get separated from someone in your party during the day.
Portable phone charger
Because I use my phone a lot throughout the day, I tend to go through the battery fairly quickly. I take this portable power bank everywhere with me, but it’s especially important at Disney parks. It can charge my Pixel at least 2 full times, which allows me to snap pictures and check ride lines to my heart’s content without having to worry about rationing battery life. You can get smaller and lighter options (including these Disney and Star Wars ones that I also own), though they will provide you with less power. It’s nice to plug my phone in and toss it in my bag while I’m eating, watching a show, or riding rides so it’s fresh all day.
Refillable water bottle
Bringing your own water bottle can easily save you a bunch of money on your Disney vacation. Rather than shelling out for bottles of Dasani for everyone over and over again (no matter which coast you’re on, it gets hot), bring your own water bottles and fill them up throughout the day. With the amount of water I typically drink in a day at Disney World, I’d easily be spending $20+ every single day on water. That’s more than I spent on my water bottle in the first place. One of the things I look for in a Disney park bag is an outside water bottle pocket so I have easy access to my drink and if it leaks it won’t soak everything else in my bag.
Yes, if you forget this, you can buy some from one of the gift shops, but trust me, it’s cheaper to bring your own. Coming prepared with things like that is one of the best ways to save money at Disney. You’re going to want to reapply this throughout the day, so toss a bottle in your day bag and you’ll have it with you whenever you need it.
There’s a good chance you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the sun at the Disney parks, whichever coast you’re on. Protect your eyes and make yourself more comfortable by bringing sunglasses. You can even rock Mickey Mouse sunglasses for adults and kids while you’re at the parks. I always toss a lightweight case in my bag so I can keep them safe after dark when they’re not needed anymore or while I’m riding the thrill rides. I don’t like the super rigid ones that snap shut with a spring, but I do like having a little bit of structure to keep my shades from getting smashed.
Mini card holder
There’s no need to haul your full wallet around the parks (I mean, I love my Costco card, but it’s not going to get me much at Animal Kingdom, and as much as I’m inseparable from my library card, that won’t get me far either – trust me, I’ve asked Belle). Between that kind of stuff, the gift cards I collect and forget to use, and change pouch full of pennies I’ll probably own until I die, my wallet is by far the heaviest thing in my purse on normal days. You’d better believe I leave that at home when I go to Disney (or any vacation really – so now you know when I’m on vacation, you’ll have easy access to my Speedway rewards card, 7 Timbits worth of money on a Tim Hortons gift card, and 79 pennies) I love these little card carriers for Disney trips (and concerts and sporting events!) because I can toss my ID, a credit card, and a small amount of cash in just in case I need it. Plus, they come in a ton of fun colors. With the convenience of Magic Bands (at least at Disney World) these days, I almost never use anything but my ID – gotta get that rum Dole Whip, right? – but it’s nice to have a card there as a backup if I need it. Disneyland doesn’t have Magic Bands, so this is even more important there. If you don’t have a Magic Band and are using a physical card for your ticket, you’ll want that too.
(mostly for Disney World)
This one is more important for the Florida parks because bugs tend to be a bigger problem there. I used to get eaten alive when I worked at Splash Mountain, though in more recent years, the mosquitos haven’t seemed as bad. I recently tried out these repellent wipes on a nighttime kayaking trip in Central Florida and adored them because 1) they worked and 2) I always end up inhaling bug spray no matter how careful I try to be. Plus, you don’t have to worry about it accidentally spilling in your perfectly packed Disney park bag.
If you’re visiting Disney World for more than a day, you’re almost certainly going to get rained on at some point. It might be a major storm that overwhelms the drainage system and leaves you wading through ankle deep water in Fantasyland (true story) or a short storm that blows through during the 20 minutes you’re riding Frozen leading you to emerge confused into a world that’s sunny but soaked (also a true story). You can totally buy Disney branded ponchos at the parks, but at $10+ apiece, I prefer to buy mine at the Dollar Store at home. You can carry umbrellas or rain jackets as well, but I favor the poncho because even though you don’t look cool in them, they’re light, compact, and you can put them on over your backpack, so you can keep your Disney day bag dry too. Plus, everyone else there will be wearing ponchos, so you won’t feel out of place.
Light jacket or sweatshirt
(mainly for cooler seasons)
If you’re visiting during the blazing hot summer months, you can probably skip this, but temps do tend to drop in the evenings after the sun sets. Particularly at Disney World, winter visitors are often surprised to find night time temps way cooler than they were expecting. And since Disney tends to blast the AC to arctic levels, I’ve definitely thrown my jacket on while eating at a table service restaurant because I was shivering in my seat. I have a gorgeous Disney track jacket that was my go-to on my 3 visits last year, but a zip up hoodie or any other lightweight jacket should do the trick.
Your phone’s camera will do the trick for most of your Disney parks photos, but if you’re like me and want to get some higher-quality shots, bringing your digital camera will give you some extra capabilities. I travel with a mirrorless Sony which I love because I wouldn’t want to haul around a full-sized DSLR all day and this comes pretty close to giving me the same capabilities. A smaller point and shoot will provide you with more zoom and a smaller profile, but probably won’t be all that much better than your phone. I also favor a lightweight sleeve-style case for my camera when it’s in my park bag because it offers some protection without the bulk of its case.
Over the counter pain meds
Motrin and Tylenol and their off-brand counterparts can be life-savers at the parks. I’m not in the greatest shape, so the second day of walking usually means my legs are a little sore, and I’m prone to headaches so I like to keep a travel-sized bottle of ibuprofen with me just in case.
If you require prescription medication, don’t forget to bring it with you. Even if you don’t want to carry it around, you can stash it in a locker and save yourself a long trip back to the hotel. If you require refrigeration for medication or insulin, you can bring it with you to the parks and store it in a fridge at the first aid station at no charge. You can also use a cooling pack in your day bag if you don’t want to have to backtrack to the first aid station, though you should note that as of May 1, 2019 loose ice will no longer be allowed into the parks.
Other items that I don’t personally bring with me but might be useful to you
- Cooling towel
- Mister fan or portable mini fan
- Snacks (I’m all about snacks, but you’d better believe if I need one at Disney it’s going to be Mickey-shaped or frozen – or both)
- Autograph book and pen/marker
- Mouse ears
- Makeup for a refresh
- Small cooler with drinks and food (you may need a bigger bag if you want to bring one of these)
- Anti-chafing cream (not glamorous, but sometimes necessary)
- Moleskin for blisters (but if you check out my guide to the best shoes for Disney, you might prevent yourself from needing this)
Things not to put in your Disney park bag
There are several items that visitors are not allowed to bring into the parks with them. Make sure you leave these at home or, in some cases, your hotel. Check the official websites for Disney World and Disneyland for full descriptions.
- Alcohol – You can bring in your own snacks and drinks, but leave the booze at home
- Loose ice – Disney released new regulations starting May 1, 2019, and loose ice for coolers is no longer allowed. You’re still able to bring in your own food and drink, but use a reusable ice pack to keep them cool
- Glass containers – Small baby food jars are ok, but don’t bring glass-bottled drinks or glass water bottles
- Weapons – Please leave your guns and knives at home. This also includes things like pepper spray and toy weapons.
- Illegal drugs – This one is kind of self-explanatory
- Bikes, skateboards, skates, drones, etc – As much as it would be nice to bike around the parks when your feet are tired, I can’t even imagine the chaos that would ensue.
- Selfie sticks and large tripods
- Flags and banners
- Animal Kingdom only – balloons and plastic straws
Check out my other Disney parks tips and planning advice:
- The Grown-Up’s Guide to Disney World for Adults
- The Grown-up’s Guide to Disneyland for Adults
- How to Save Money at Disney World
- The Best Shoes for Disney World and Disneyland for the Whole Family
- How to Save Time at Disney World Using Your Smartphone
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