Your resort is booked. Your dining reservations are set in stone. Your FastPasses are all scheduled. The only question that remains is what to pack for your Disney vacation.
Packing for Disney parks
Packing for Disney parks can be daunting for first time visitors. There’s a lot to think of ahead of time, and I really don’t like having to waste money buying overpriced essentials at the airport, parks, or hotel just because I forgot to bring something I need. I usually start my packing lists about a month in advance and keep them on my laptop so they don’t get misplaced. I have sort of a “master” list in one file that I alter for each specific trip.
It’s important to note that I don’t have kids and haven’t traveled with children since I was one myself, so I have very little insight into what is required to take them on a vacation. I also don’t have any dietary restrictions or medical needs, so if you or someone in your party does, this will definitely not be a comprehensive list.
I’m going to skip the basics, because I hope you know enough to pack some socks and a toothbrush and focus on some of the things not everyone thinks of. This post contains affiliate links, and I may receive a small commission if you choose to make a purchase.
Portable battery pack for your phone
I have a Mimo Power Pack that I can toss in my bag with me to recharge my phone when the battery starts to run low. I take a lot of pictures and spend a lot of time on the WDW app when I’m in the parks, so the battery can get drained pretty quickly. The Power Pack can fully recharge my phone at least once per day so I can make sure I still have battery life left for pictures of the fireworks at the end of the night (very important).
Mine is the Star Wars (and it’s Disney-related!) lightsaber design like this one, and Mimoco has tons of different designs to pick from. Click through to find out more about it.
I’ll usually indulge in some Mickey waffles once or twice a trip, but I’d really rather not waste the prime morning park time sitting in the food court eating. When I’m packing for Disney, I bring protein bars with me and throw one in my bag each morning so I can snack on it once I’m in the park and I’ve had a chance to wake up a little. This is also a great way to save money on your trip. Breakfast at a hotel quick service can easily run a family of four upwards of $50, and most (all?) of the dining plans only cover two meals per day, so if you can replace those pricy breakfasts with a couple boxes of granola bars, you can buy a lot of extra Mickey ears or afford a nice sit-down meal somewhere. If these aren’t your style for breakfast, they still make a great snack to take to the park to save yourself from having to buy expensive food if you get hungry between meals.
Disregard this if you’re traveling with a small group, but when you get my whole family in a hotel room, outlets for charging phones, cameras, Fitbits, and eReaders become scarce very quickly. Avoid having to crawl under a bed or charge your phone in the bathroom by tossing a cheap power strip that a bunch of people can share in your suitcase. It’s also a great way to be an airport hero if you keep it in your carry-on and are willing to share.
Unless you have willpower of steel, you’re going to buy some souvenirs. In the likely event that said souvenirs don’t fit in your suitcase on the way back, you can load them into the tote you brought and use it as a carry on. It’s much better than hauling plastic shopping bags through airports. I promise.
Ponchos are not cool. That’s pretty much universally accepted. But ponchos are even less cool when they cost you $10 or whatever the price has gone up to now in the parks. If you’re spending any time in Florida, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re going to encounter a rain storm. I picked some up for $1 each at my local grocery store before my last trip and I promise they worked just as well as the ones people were shelling out for in the parks. Bringing our own ponchos saves my family of six the cost of an entire meal in the parks. Or a tank of gas for the ride home. Or that cool souvenir you’ve been eyeing.
Two pairs of good shoes
Bringing a pair of good walking shoes that you can stand in all day is a no-brainer for a trip to Disney. If you have space in your suitcase, bringing two pairs is an even better idea. Why? Because of those pesky Florida rain storms mentioned above. Even if you wear a poncho or use an umbrella, your feet will not be protected. I’ve seen mini floods in the parks that left me wading through ankle deep water before. Obviously, my shoes were soaked. If you’re in the parks all day and getting back late at night, your shoes will not have time to dry. That’s where the second pair comes in. Leave your wet shoes to dry during the day instead of starting your morning with damp socks.
The shoes I’m wearing in the picture above have long since worn out after hundreds and hundreds of miles of walking, but I replaced them with a pair of Sketchers GoStep shoes like these last summer, and they’re perfect for warm-weather walking.
Ibuprofen (or pain reliever of your choice)
According to my Fitbit, on my last trip, I averaged 11 miles per day walking in the parks. The vast majority of people (like me) who visit Disney aren’t going to be accustomed to that level of physical activity. There’s a pretty good chance you’re going to be sore after the first couple of days. I’m incredibly picky about my walking shoes, so it’s usually my legs that get tired before my feet. Regardless, an over-the-counter pain reliever will come in handy, and it’s a lot cheaper to bring your own from home than to try to buy it in the hotel gift shop.
Reusable water bottle
Buying bottled water in the parks is not cheap. Keeping a family of four hydrated during the Florida summer could quickly cost you a fortune if you’re doing it solely with bottled water. I never set foot in the parks without a trusty water bottle in my backpack. I just fill it up at the hotel in the morning and refill from drinking fountains throughout the day. Granted, Florida water doesn’t have the best taste, but it’s water and it’s drinkable and you will definitely need plenty of it no matter what time of year you visit. You’ll be glad to have it when you find yourself stuck in a long, outdoor line with no drinking fountains in sight.
Everything in the parks is expensive. I would much prefer to bring shirts I already own that I’ve cobbled together from much more affordable places instead of dropping a ton of money in the gift shops. Plus, I like to match my shirt to the park I’m visiting for the day. I’ll wear a Star Wars shirt for Hollywood Studios, a Lion King one for Animal Kingdom, etc. My collection of shirts cobbled together from department stores, online shops, and even the official Disney Store cost 1/3 of what it would to keep me outfitted in Disney style if I was shopping at the gift shops. Packing for Disney trips usually involves sorting through a pile of character shirts and making the impossible choices necessary to narrow them down to what will fit into my suitcase.
Extra memory cards
The parks are nothing if not photogenic. I spent months working at Disney World and I still can’t put my camera down when I’m visiting one of the parks. Every corner offers new photo ops, and you’re likely to fill up memory cards quickly I also like to keep extras around so I can spread my pictures out over 2-3 cards during my trip. That way if my camera gets lost or stolen or the card is damaged, I won’t lose every single picture.
No matter where you’re from or what your skin tone is, you’ll want some of this in Orlando. It’s not cheap to buy in the parks and resorts, so you’ll want to bring your own. I prefer the mini bottles of spray-on sunscreen so I can reapply throughout the day.
What not to bring
Selfie sticks are now banned at all Disney parks. If security finds one in your bag during the mandatory search, you’ll be asked to return to your car or hotel to leave it there. On a busy morning at the Magic Kingdom the round trip process could cost you well over an hour if you have to take a bus back to your resort. Just don’t pack them. There are plenty of Cast Members and other guests around who will be more than willing to take a nice shot of your group.
Sure, you’re allowed to wear clothing of your choice, but you have to ask yourself if a family theme park is really the place to wear t-shirts with curse words, drug references, and half-naked people on them. I don’t know the official policy on these types of things, but I have heard of people being asked to turn their shirts inside out or change them if a Cast Member at the entrance deems them appropriate. One of my friends who went to South Carolina even had a hard time getting in wearing a Gamecocks (their school’s team name) shirt once. Just leave that stuff at home and stick to something a little more family friendly.
Unless you’re attending the Halloween Party, adults can’t wear costumes in the parks. Try a costume t-shirt (a shirt that is designed to look like a character’s outfit) or jump on the Disney Bounding trend if you want to pay tribute to your favorite character. Children are, however, still allowed to dress up as their favorite characters.
Am I missing anything that you absolutely have to have when you’re packing for Disney parks? Let me know in the comments.
Planning a solo visit? Read my top tips for that here.