One of the most intimidating things about going to Disney can be figuring out what to pack for Disney World. No small feat, especially if you are packing for the whole family. If you’re like Carla, you spend your entire drive from the house to the airport wondering what you forgot to pack. To help with this, put some thought into what you are going to pack a week before you make your trip. Try to make a checklist of everything you want to bring. We actually offer a free checklist (link to this eventually) to use that is more detailed than what we list here.
Once you have a list of what to pack for Disney World, start packing early and keep track on your checklist as things are packed into the bags. Try to finish packing the night before you leave, with the exception of things like toiletries and the like that you will pack the day you leave.
One thing you will notice we don’t mention in our list of what to pack for Disney World is snacks and food. We find it much easier to buy those in the Orlando area. There are several grocery delivery services in Orlando and the convenience of having your groceries brought to you can’t be beat in our mind. Bringing food through the airport is also difficult. If you want groceries we recommend buying them or having them delivered.
We won’t cover tech items in this post either, as we talk about the top tech items to bring with you on another page.
If you’re looking to maximize the amount of stuff you can fit in your suitcase when you pack for Disney World, travel cubes are a great way to go. We know people that have taken a two-week European vacation only using their cubes. This is our favored cube set and ranks well with Wirecutter, the product review site we love! The three-cube set gives a good assortment of sizes. Use the larger cube for your shirts, shorts and pants. The mid-sized cube can hold shorts, socks and underwear. The small cube can also hold sock and underwear. Some prefer to put their charging cords and small electronics in the small cube, but we usually keep those in our backpacks, so it’s a good place to stash a small bit of clothes. Have a bigger suitcase? Get a bigger set of cubes.
If you’re looking for a set of cubes that are more budget friendly, check out the Amazon Basics Packing Cubes. If you don’t like the color, Amazon has lots of color options you can check out.
For your days in the park, you are going to need a solid backpack if you have gear you want to carry. We’re proponents of not bringing more than necessary, but you’ll have to decide what is right for your situation. The lighter the bag (and its contents) the better. The bag we picked is a good mid sized backpack that is made of water resistant materials. It holds a lot but won’t function like Hermione’s purse in Harry Potter where she pulls pretty much anything out of it. In many cases the backpack you have at home will probably work, but we have to stress the importance of buying one that will repel rain. You don’t want a soaked bag on your back after a hard rain shower.
If you’re looking for something a little more Disney, this is Carla’s newest bag. A blend of her two favorite things, Disney and tropical themes. Notice the fairly open cinch top. We’ll have to be careful to keep this thing dry.
We’re fans of the backpack in general because it helps even out the weight on your back. For us, over the should carry bag can result in odd distribution of weight and ultimately some shoulder soreness that might not feel so good after carrying a bag unevenly for four or five days.
If you’re like us and Disney World is as much of a photography joy land as it is fun theme park, you’re probably going to have lots of camera gear. Make sure you bring a camera bag that allows you to bring a varied set of options with you. You may not choose to bring all of it in the park with you but having your gear all together helps. This bag is great because it is light, but still has enough room to fit all of our gear in it. By gear, we mean one DSLR camera, four different lenses, including a good sized telephoto lens, a tripod, and some other smaller items.
We also like the price. When we were researching bags, there were many that were easily double if not triple this price. We’re just not that hard core. This bag does the trick for us. Just like our advice on backpacks, make sure the bag you bring is waterproof.
Summers at Disney World can be hot. Miserably hot sometimes. Remember this is Florida, there is no notion of a “dry heat”. Finding a way to stay cool is important and for us, the best way to do that is with one of these Frogg Toggs Chilly Pads. While hardly an original idea on our part (shout out to Tom Bricker), it is one of the best ideas. These pads are great and require less water than some comparable versions we have used and don’t leave you feeling wet. Lightly wet it, wring it out and feel it gently cool down. On the plus side, it also functions as a sun blocker to help prevent sunburn.
In addition to the heat, one thing you are highly likely to encounter is rain. For any park goer, a poncho is a must. We travel with the girls and we’ve never found one size fits all works well for that. Thus, we get this set of ponchos, because it comes with 4 adult sized and 4 kid sized ponchos. There’s nothing worse as a parent than watching your kid schlep through the water with the poncho dragging almost to the ground. Make sure they have a poncho that fits when you pack for Disney World.
These are reusable, as most ponchos can be, but the build makes them feel sturdy enough to use them over and over again. Just make sure you bring a zip lock bag with you, because stuffing them back into the pouch is, how shall we say, not going to happen. We like the draw string around the head.
Don’t wait to get a poncho in the park. You’ll have to give them your children to pay off the debt. Okay, well maybe not that, but they will make you pay a lot more money in the park. I’m almost surprised there isn’t variable pricing on ponchos in the parks, so they make you pay more when it is raining.
Looking for a cheaper poncho that is a not great for re-usability, try these out.
While there is plenty of rain in the parks, there is also plenty of sunshine. Don’t forget to pack sunglasses. Depending on your preference, you may choose to bring a cheap pair of sunglasses, in case they get lost somewhere. Not that we’ve ever lost sunglasses on a vacation. ☹ We’ve linked to the pair of glasses Mike wears to the park but recognize that sunglasses are highly dependent on lots of things, so find a pair that fits well and you like how they look.
Don’t forget sunglasses for the kids. This pair was new in 2017 and were a hit. Kids like the fact that they change color. Don’t invest too much in kid’s sunglasses because they do tend to disappear.
It’s not unusual to walk more than 10 miles in a day at Disney World. Given that, make sure you bring along a good pair of walking shoes. We know the default for most people is to just bring their tennis shoes or maybe bring some flip flops. Tennis shoes have good support but weigh a lot and retain water like a sponge. You want to have shoes that will dry easily when the inevitable rain storms come. Remember wet feet equal blisters if you walk too long. Blisters equal a painful remainder of your trip.
The Teva sandals we have linked here are great for being light weight, breathable and they dry quickly. With the open sides, they don’t make for the best winter shoes.
Regular old school Crocs also fit the bill, if you don’t mind being seen in public with them on. I don’t, I won’t judge.
This will both save you money and keep you cool. Disney loves to sell the Disney branded fans in the parks. You can buy these for about half the price. They aren’t going to last you forever, but if you can save $10, all the better.
You can get ice water for free from any quick service restaurant in the parks. Bring something to get more than a small cup. These collapsible water bottles hold a good 750 ml, and they include a filter if you are particular about how your water tastes. We are for sure.
Being able to quickly scrub down your hands is essential, especially if you have small kids like us who touch everything. Unclean hands are one of the quickest ways to spread viruses and other illnesses, and let’s be real, kids touch everything. They can almost be like walking petri dishes. Gross, we know. Keep some travel hand sanitizer handy at all times. We like these because they already come in the jelly case that we can strap to the outside of a backpack to make it nice and convenient at all times.
If you have a baby or small kids, you are probably already carrying around a set of baby wipes. If not, you should be. These things aren’t just for cleaning up your baby’s bottom! There are tons of messes to clean up around Disney World, besides the one in their diaper, and while napkins are nice, wet wipes do the trick for our family. Even though our girls are a little older now, we still include these in what we pack for Disney World.
Being able whip out a wet wipe to quickly deal with ice cream running all down someone hand, or just helping get the stickiness of food of the kid’s arms, is a great convenience. Oh, who are we kidding, you can find stickiness all over their body, some places you don’t even know how it got there! And we have to admit, Mike’s a bit of a messy eater. Chips and any kind of dip are sure to find their way onto his clothes, arms or legs. Bring these for that quick clean up.
Let’s be real, you walk 10 miles a day for 3 or more days and friction is going to happen. The chafing that goes along with that is real. Bring something that can sooth things. Mike remembers one trip where we didn’t have this, and the chafing came on and he hobbled around the parks for a few days. It was not fun. This will make sure your vacation doesn’t get derailed before it starts.
In addition to chafing, one of the real issues of walking that much could be blisters. Hopefully you are taking care of your feet and this isn’t a concern. Even with some of the most careful people, blisters can happen. If they do flare up, it can ruin your trip really quick. Bring some kind of blister bandages, like Moleskin. We like to have the roll handy as it can be cut to fit any size need.
Minor First Aid Items
Don’t go crazy here in what you bring, but we would suggest having a few band aids and the like with you. This will save you from having to make your way to all the way to a first aid station in the parks for a minor cut or other issue. There is only one first aid station in each park and depending on where you are, it can be a 15-minute walk to the station. Save yourself the time, bring a few small things just in case you need them.
Bring some Ziploc bags with you to the parks. They are useful if you need to keep up with the assortment of small things you kids bring with them and want to give you to carry. In addition, if you are in a rain shower and need to store a semi wet poncho, you’re going to want to put it in a baggie of some kind. This will make sure the ponchos don’t soak the rest of what’s in your backpack. We like the gallon size for ponchos. Quart sized bags are good for most everything else. You don’t need many on the trip, we’d suggest three or four.
Remember when we talked about messes at Disney World a few items ago. We’ll those messes don’t generally stay confined to arms and legs, but they wind up on clothes. Especially your kid’s clothes or you if your eating chips and dip, like Mike. A laundromat won’t magically appear when stains happen and I don’t think the fairy godmother will be helping out either, so best to have something with you to prevent the stains from setting in. Bring either the shout wipes or tide pen with you. We generally have the Tide pen but know others that like the Shout wipes. It’s all a matter of preference…and your dislike of staining your clothes.
Travel hampers are a great way to help you not turn your hotel room into a mess of dirty clothes piles. Are we the only ones that travel that way? Let’s hope not. Now we prefer something like the mesh bag we linked to above because you can hang it in the closet and out of the way. But the best part is that you can then take the bag directly out of the closet and stuff it into your suitcase and be done packing for the trip home. Okay, maybe its not quite that simple, but it’s pretty close. We know some folks are fans of the popup hampers, but you’ll end up having to break those down at the end of your trip. These mesh bags, while not the prettiest things, get the job done and save you a step.
Carla has always been a fan of picking a scented shower gel and lotion for all of our vacations, not just Disney World. She’s a big fan of Philosophy. Each vacation is a new scent. It gives her a reason to reminisce about a trip anytime she uses that scent when we are at home. Not gonna lie here, I don’t understand how she can remember so many scents and what trip she brought it on, but she does. She also remembers all of our room numbers? How and why? If you want a fun little way to remember your trip without a souvenir this is a good way.
If you’re like us, between your kids and you, you have a boatload of shoes with you at Disney World. Our Teva’s, dress shoes, tennis shoes, golf shoes, and that’s just Mike! Carla and the girls just add to the list. Rather than just have shoes thrown all over your room, consider a shoe organizer to go over a door. It’s one less thing for you to worry about tripping over at night as your try to sneak to the bathroom in the dark, so you don’t wake up your kids. This one from Amazon is pretty basic, but its cheap and it gets the job done.
Even if your kids have outgrown a stroller at home, you should still consider bringing a stroller with you. It all depends on if you think your little ones can walk a full day in the parks. The last think you want to be doing is carrying around a 40-plus pounds toddler for half the day when they say the just can’t carry on around 2:00 in the afternoon.
Also, think about the configuration of the stroller you bring. Our house stroller when the girls were little was the one linked here. While we love this stroller for everyday life, its note ideal for the parks with two kids. Why? The second seat can’t see much of what is in front of you, which pretty much leads to fights among them about who gets to sit in front.
Enter the Baby Jogger City Mini Double Stroller. We LOVE this stroller. It does indeed have magical powers of some kind. Obviously, when you look at it, you will see that it takes care of the view problem that our house stroller has. What you will like even more is that it is easily maneuverable in the park, has a large amount of storage space underneath the seat so you don’t have to actually carry your backpack(s) while pushing. We also really appreciate the transparent view on the top of the canopies so you can look down and see if the kids are passed out in the seat. It simply folds in half for storage on a Disney bus or in your room. You don’t even have to take the rain shield off to fold it down. We will readily confess that this stroller is not cheap, and you’re not going to get this for cost savings. You can rent this exact stroller from Magic Strollers or one of several other stroller rental companies at Disney World.
Regardless of what you bring, here are a couple of more things you should consider. You would be wise to not bring a black stroller. Everyone has a black stroller. Get something like this green one to make it much easier to pick yours out when it is in the sea of stroller parking. Black strollers will also retain more heat, making it less comfortable for your kids. If you do bring a black stroller, put a ribbon or something else colorful on it to make it stand out. Also, make sure you get a rain shield. This will protect it from being soaked while you are off with the family on a ride.
Help keep your kids cooler with a stroller fan. The high humidity and lack of wind can make things stifling hot. We like these stroller fans for a few reasons. One, they are light. Coming in at less than pound, they easily clip to most stroller canopies.
Second, they are rechargeable via a USB cord. So, if the batteries die in the park, you can just connect it to the battery pack we recommend you bring on our tech gear page. You’re back in business, no problem at all.
Lastly, we like the fan blade guard, but not for the reason your think. Yes, the guard prevents your kids from sticking their fingers in the blade, but the manufacturers know these are stroller fans. That’s how they brand them, so they make them knowing kids will try to touch them. What we actually like is the guard protects you and your hair. We once went to the park with this style of fan. One of our friends lowered her head down into the stroller to get something and the fan grabbed their long hair and proceeded to wrap it around the fan blade repeatedly. Fortunately, we didn’t have to cut her hair off, but I did have to break the blade off the fan to free her hair. Bye-bye fan, don’t get ones like this style.
Don’t forget to bring a booster seat if you are going to be renting a car. Can you rent this gear from the car rental places? Absolutely. As parents, we’ve never found the seats you get from the car rental store to inspire a lot of confidence in protecting my kids. Plus, at $5 or more per day, its highway robbery. You could buy one and throw it away and save money if you are at Disney World for a week.
We like the Graco brand here, but its really up to you. Try not to bring something plain, like a black one. Get some color so it stands out should you need to identify it.
If you have a child small enough, don’t forget their car seat/carrier.
Park Packing Money Savers
If your little girl, or older girl, wants to dress up as her favorite princess while at the parks, don’t wait to get her a dress at Disney World. You’ll pay substantially more for the convenience and nostalgia of getting the dress at Disney World. We’re talking $20-$30 more per dress. That could be a 50% markup, depending on what you buy.
The link we have above is to the Disney Store. If you want to try and lower the price of a dress, you can also try the dresses on Amazon.
If you are into the trading pins, pick up a set before getting to Disney World. Pins at Disney World will run you between $5 and $10 per pin. Use the link above and you can score over 25 pins for less than a buck a pin. Buy in bigger quantities and save more on a cost per pin basis.
Bring your autograph book with you. You can find some cheaper ones, but we are fans of the classic one. Buy before you go will save you some dough.
If you’ve got an autograph book, make sure you bring a big sharpie for the characters to use to sign the book. While the princesses have no problem using pretty much any pen, characters in full costume, like the fab five, will need something bigger to hold. Also, use a pen that can be retracted with a click. This will help make sure you don’t end up marking all over Mickey’s glove.
Picture this. Darkness falls across the park and out of nowhere, these little beams of light and rings of color start to pop up all over the park. First at souvenir stands and then on kids all over the place. Sure enough, you little one asks to have one and bam, just like that you cost yourself $10. Or you could buy some on Amazon and bring them to the park. You’ll save money, have some left over for home use and make your kid just as happy.
Yes, people love the Mickey and Minnie ears. While they are great souvenirs, its another one that will cost you. Save some money and bring them with you. There are lots of options on Amazon and once again, you’ll pay a fraction of the park price.
Like we said in the beginning, this list isn’t meant to be your run of the mill toiletries and clothes post. Rather we hope you found it helpful to think about some things you might not otherwise bring. Remember to check out our top tech items page to see what you might want to consider bringing on the technology front. If we missed anything you think other readers should be thinking about, jump down in the comments section below and leave us a note. We’re always looking for great ideas to try ourselves and share with other readers.
If you happen to purchase any of these items, we’d greatly appreciate it if you do so via the links we shared to Amazon. It provides some support for the site and allows us to continue providing great, free content to all of you. And best of all, it doesn’t cost you a dime.
Lastly, if you are looking for a more comprehensive checklist of things to pack, check out our free PDF here. This list is designed with the idea of bringing the essentials. Living by the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared”, doesn’t mean bring your house with you.