With the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World upon us, many of us are starting to plan our next trip. Going to Disney World is no longer a “we can wing it” kind of vacation. Even the most laid-back travelers will need to do a little pre-planning for their trip. Planning aside, there are also a handful of Disney World essentials that will make your experience so much better. Being prepared for the unforeseen (because the unforeseen WILL happen), can take a little (or a lot) of the stress out of your trip.
This is a no-brainer. In the world of Disney World essentials, this is #1. You’ll be in the bright Florida sun for hours on end. You’ll want to apply before leaving your hotel room, and reapply every few hours during the day. I tend to favor Neutrogena’s sunscreens for their high SPF level options, non-greasy feel, and the bottle size – you can still have plenty to get you through the day without taking up a ton of room in your bag.
Sunscreen is, indeed, readily available in the parks and resort gift shops, but be prepared to pay a significantly higher price for the convenience. Grab it before you go, and don’t forget your scalp and ears!
Also – bring along a little aloe vera gel in case sunburns do happen.
2. Water Bottle
As mentioned above, it’s hot in Florida. The sun is strong and the humidity is high. You will sweat a lot. If you’re not replenishing yourself, you could land yourself in a heap of trouble. Dehydration is no joke. While bottled water is available everywhere in the park, you’ll be looking at 4 dollars plus per bottle, not to mention the extra waste generated. Splurge on a good, insulated water bottle that you’ll use long after the parks are a distant memory. Bring along some electrolyte tablets to help you drink a bit more and hydrate more effectively.
Hydroflask – This is my go to – the insulation keeps beverages cold for over 24 hours, and it’s available in a ton of great colors. Super solid, and will last you forever!
S’well Bottles – For people looking for something with slimmer lines, but equally well built to the Hydroflask. These hold less liquid, so you’ll need to fill them up a bit more frequently, but definitely take up less space in your bag.
Nalgene Bottles – For the spartan traveler who wants the most hydration per ounce carried, and doesn’t much care about insulation. These are almost impossible to break, so if you’ve got a destructive crew, this might be the perfect bottle for you.
In general, it’s not an “if” it will rain situation, it’s a “when” it will rain situation in Disney World. If you’re not prepared for the rain, you could find yourself needing to hurry back to your hotel for a change of clothes, or running into a merchandise shop to pay for overpriced ponchos or rain coats. Pick up a pack of 10 disposable ponchos before you go – it’ll cost you a fraction of what it would cost to buy some in the merchandise stores, and you don’t have to worry about putting a reusable wet poncho back in your bag when it’s done raining.
4. A Power Bank
These days, more and more is being done on your phone in the park. This is only going to intensify as MagicMobile and Genie + services become more prevalent. Your phone will run out of power, it’s just a matter of when. You can purchase a Fuel Rod for about 30 dollars in the park, and swap it out for free or a few dollars any time you need a fresh rod at any one of the many kiosks around the parks. Each rod will give most mobile phones just about a full charge.
You can also pick up a a larger power bank like this 10,000 mAh Power Bank from Anker which has enough power for 3 full charges. This, or it’s larger sister with 20,000 mAh are pretty much a necessity for larger groups, or any group that burns through battery power. Take it from me. If you have more than two people, just get a power bank. The Fuel Rods don’t quite cut it.
5. Basic First Aid
A day at Disney World can be stressful on your body. Someone will have not properly broken in their shoes, someone will get a headache, someone will get sunburn. Pack a small first-aid kit to have with you, so you’re ready for whatever the day throws at you: Band-aids, Mole Skin, Motrin, disinfecting wipes/alcohol swabs, Benadryl, rescue inhalers, Tums or Pepto Bismol, etc.
6. Cooling Towels
If you’re planning on going to Disney World at any point between March and November, chances are, you’re going to experience some blistering heat. Knowing the tricks to cool yourself down will help you keep going on even the hottest days. Plan long indoor attractions at mid-day when the sun is the strongest – Hall of Presidents, Carousel of Progress, the films in Epcot, Living with the Land, It’s Tough to be a Bug, all the shows in Hollywood Studios – all great options to get out of the sun and beat the heat. Better yet, head back to your hotel in the middle of the day, and rest up in air conditioning while the parks are the busiest and hottest.
Having a few cooling towels on hand will do a GREAT job of keeping you cool when you do find yourself suffering in the heat (because make no mistake about it, in the mid-summer, 90 degrees early in the AM is not unheard of).
7. Reusable Straws
We can all agree that plastic straws are awful for many reasons, but man, the paper straw experience, while being MUCH better for the environment, is a real drag, and they’re the only kind of straw you’ll get at dining outlets on Disney property. They get soggy super fast, so if you’re not someone who drinks quickly, you’re going to want to toss a reusable straw kit into your bag. I like to sip and stroll, so this is absolutely part of my Disney World essentials kit.
8. Shout Wipes/Tide Sticks
At some point in your trip, someone WILL get something on their shirt. Having a few Shout Wipes or Tide Sticks in your bag means you can nip any stains in the bud, and prevent someone from having to buy a new shirt on the spot. I always bring a few extra in case I see someone have a spill and not have emergency provisions. It’s an easy way to save someone’s day!
9. Backpack/Park Bag
Function is absolutely key when it comes to your backpack choices. You’ll be hauling around all of your Disney World essentials, you want a wide opening with a smooth zipper, because you’re going to be in and out of this bag a million times in the course of a park day. Sure, that backpack with the vintage buckle closure might look cool, but trust me, you’re going to want to cut those buckles off by the end of the day.
A classic Herschel backpack does the trick nicely. We also find that a diaper bag, like the Freshly Picked diaper bag, is built for easy in and out, with thoughtfully placed pockets, and easily cleanable surfaces making it a PERFECT park bag.
10. Ziplock Baggies
These are the most handy things you’re forgetting to bring to the parks. To keep your phone and other small electronics dry on water rides, to bag up some snack leftovers, to separate wet items from the rest of the stuff in your bag, the list goes on. Just pack a handful in your park bag every day. Thank me later.
11. Chafe Sticks
Welcome to the TMI section of the blog. When you have heat plus humidity plus friction, chafe is very real problem, and it can make for a MISERABLE few days in the park. Throw an anti-chafe stick like Body Glide (my personal go-to) in your bag, or consider slip shorts if you want to wear a skirt for an easy, breezy day.
12. White Noise Machine
Even the most luxurious hotels on and close to Disney property can have an issue with noise. If you’re a light sleeper or have a kid that needs a nap, having something for white noise is an absolute must. If you find yourself in a room that overlooks a pool, the noise at mid-day can be absolutely deafening, so be sure to be prepared. The Marpac Dohm White Noise Machine is my personal go-to, and the gold standard, but if you’re not that picky, a white noise app on your phone will do the trick nicely.
13. Power Strip
Depending on how many people you’re traveling with, you might have a LOT of devices to charge up. While hotels are getting better about having USB charging ports available, you still want to make sure you’ve got the ability to get everything charged. especially if you’re traveling with a lot of power-hungry devices that take too long when charging via USB. I love this super compact “power strip” that’s got three outlets and three USB jacks, and it’s only about the size of a lacrosse ball.
14. Tide Pods
All Disney hotels have laundry rooms, and while you can get laundry detergent on-site, it will be super expensive. Throw a few Tide Pods in a Ziploc in your bag, and you’ll be prepared in case you end up needing a mid-trip laundry day.
15. Pop-Up Hamper
If you’re traveling with a family, you know how quickly dirty clothes can take over a room. Grab one of these pop-up hampers that take virtually no room in your suitcase. They’ll provide an easy way to corral the mess and ensure that no sock is left behind! They’ll quickly become one of your Disney World essentials.
16. Clothes Pins
Wet bathing suits and hand-washed intimates will dry much faster if they’re able to have air surrounding them on all sides. There is a clothesline in most hotel bathrooms (this is what the little metal circles on the wall are near the curtain rods), so toss a few clothespins in your bag so you can hang dry your gear with ease.
17. Snacks and Breakfast Bars
You might not think you’d get hungry at your hotel room with all of the food you’re eating at the parks, but you’re walking A LOT. You’re burning off all that food. You want to be ready with a few snacks at the hotel room, so you don’t end up needing to go and pay double or triple for the same stuff in the hotel gift shop. Breakfast bars are one of my favorite cost-saving tactics at the parks, as they can hold you over until lunch and save you the money you would have otherwise spent on breakfast.
One of the Disney World essentials you might not think about otherwise is postage stamps! You can get postcards all over the park (including some REALLY cool mailable coconut “postcards” at the Polynesian), but stamps are not easy to find. Throw a book in your wallet, so the kids can send out their postcards to their loved ones. They love finding the mailbox and dropping their mail in!
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