Confession time: packing & planning to pack may be one of my favorite things about preparing for my Walt Disney World vacation. I am a complete & total Type A geek in that way. But over the years I’ve figured out a lot of solutions that work for my family, and some things that we just don’t need to waste suitcase space on. Here are 10 things I’ve found are really useful on our vacations—some are pretty general, so you may not think about.
10. Two Good Pairs of Shoes
If I’ve learned one thing over the years it is that I cannot wear flip flops for a full day of park touring. If I do I will regret it about 1/3 of the way through the day with aching feet, knees and back. So I always make sure I have a good, supportive, well-fitting pair of walking or running shoes to take with me. Along with really good socks. But, in Central Florida you will have rain on your vacation, no matter how much good karma you’ve built up. And a lot of those storms dump a lot of rain in a short amount of time that has trouble draining off from the walkways in the parks. I’ve had many trips where my shoes, socks & feet were absolutely soaked. And even if you luck out without rain one trip down Kali River Rapids will take care of any dry spots. So, pack a second pair of good shoes. That way you can go back to the room and change, fill your first pair with newspaper or towels and try to get them dried out, but you have that second pair to keep you going.
9. Night light
Especially if you have children a nightlight is a good idea. You can plug it in wherever you like—I usually choose the vanity area. That way the new surroundings of the hotel room are not so foreign, and for anyone who has to get up in the dark they can find their way to the bathroom without stumbling over everyone.
8. Gift Cards
Have you heard about all of the discounts you can get on Disney Gift Cards? It is the worst kept secret of the internet I think! LOL! You can purchase Disney Gift Cards at Target stores for a 5% discount if you use your Red Card; my local Sam’s Club has discounted packages of Disney Gift Cards, and some grocery chains offer gas discounts and other perks for Gift Card purchases. If you are able to take advantage of these before your vacation and bring them with you it can mean a savings on souvenirs, food, etc. My preferred way to use them is to charge back to our resort room using my Magic Band and after a couple of days I go down to the front desk with my gift card(s) to pay off that balance. Your mileage may vary on the savings you can get on the cards, and also be aware that not every location at Walt Disney World allows you to use them since some of the shops are not owned & operated by Disney (particularly in Disney Springs).
7. Anti-Chafing/Anti-Blister Treatments
There is nothing worse than to get blisters all over your feet the first day of vacation (can you tell I obsess a little over taking care of my feet?). I always recommend packing a product that you apply to your feet and other areas that might be prone to chafing. I like Body Glide and the Gold Bond equivalent—both come in the form of a stick (like a deodorant). They are easy to apply and not messy.
6. Pennies & Quarters
If you have not been indoctrinated into the world of pressed pennies Walt Disney World is like trial by fire. They are everywhere and kids love them (and adults too). They become a collectible souvenir that is relatively low cost, and it is fun to seek out all of the various designs and machines. One trip during a particularly heavy rainstorm we did a trip around the monorail line stopping at each resort to have a snack, look around, and locate a pressed penny machine with a resort specific design. But, in order to do these you have to bring with you a supply of quarters (.50 per press) and pennies (preferably shiny). You may want to look for something to hold the coins before pressing—the tubs for mini M&Ms work nicely.
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5. Hanging Sorter
With a family of 5 (who like to over pack—see #4) storage space is always at a premium for us in a resort room, even at the villas. I like to pack a couple of options for hanging sorters that Velcro over the closet rod. The first is the vertical kind with stacked shelves. In this I can put the Ziploc bag with each day’s clothes for my kids. Top shelf is day 1, then day 2, etc. It works well to keep the room tidy & organized and get the kids ready quickly in the mornings. The other thing I like to bring is a shoe organizer or jewelry organizer. This is particularly helpful if we are staying somewhere with limited vanity space. Into these pockets go the sunscreen, the Body Glide, lotions, deodorant, etc. Again, helps keep us neat and makes it easy to get ready.
4. Matching or Themed Shirts
I know, I’m losing some of you on this one, but hear me out. We don’t necessarily wear matching shirts, but I do like to try to stick with a theme or color scheme for each day for several reasons. First, it makes our photos look nice. I love using PhotoPass and Memory Maker and if we are all somewhat coordinated in what we wear the photos turn out a bit nicer. Second, it helps track people down. In our days of wearing coordinating tie dye shirts it was really easy to spot someone in the crowd to catch up with them. But even know that today was “Blue” day means that if someone gets separated or lost I can easily remember what they are wearing even if I am in a panic—and vice versa if a child is separated maybe they can remember, everyone in my family is wearing the same shirt as me. And third—it is fun! I can’t tell you how many compliments we receive when we are all coordinated or have a family grouping of shirts. It is like putting our own extra pixie dust on our day. And all of the cool kids are doing it these days—just look around in the parks. (PS, I warned you I was totally Type A).
3. Bottles, Cups, Etc
It is important to stay hydrated on your Walt Disney World vacation. My preferred way to do this for my family is to pack insulated stainless steel bottles. We really like HydroFlask, but there are so many brand options now that I recommend going with your favorite and making sure the reviews are positive for keeping drinks cold for an extended time. I like this option over plastic water bottles because it is less expensive in the long run, there isn’t as much waste/trash, they don’t sweat and they stay cold. We use the type with a screw on lid to make them easier to transport. In the morning we fill them up with ice and water, and the ice is still there in the afternoon. Another tip I’ve learned along these lines is that if you have a small child who might be sharing meals with you at a quick service restaurant or having snack type foods is to bring a small plastic plate. You can ask for an extra paper plate, but sometimes having one with you in your park bag makes it easier to put together a snack whenever the child is hungry—and if it has a Disney character that makes it even more fun!
In our digital age it is essential to remember not only your chargers but the cords you need. Disney does offer some options to purchase if your forget yours. I like to pack a USB “block” to charge all of our devices using one plug. You can find many multi-device options on Amazon. As they update resort rooms they are adding more USB plugs and options, but bringing one can help you keep all of your charging contained to one area in the room (which for me means I’m less likely to leave my cord and charger plugged into the wall when I check out). You will also want to invest in a portable charger to take into the parks with you. I like to bring one, but Disney has a great option now with the FuelRods that are available for purchase in the parks and some resorts, and that can be exchanged for a fully charged new one if needed (free of charge). Using your My Disney Experience App in the parks can really drain your battery.
1. Mickey Gifts
For younger children I like to bring special gifts to surprise them. Many people call these “Tinker Bell” gifts, but with 3 boys that isn’t a big hit in my house, so they are gifts from Mickey. We’ve done it a few different ways over the years, but essentially the gifts are small Disney related items that they would receive usually at the end of the day. Sometimes they get them at the beginning of the day as a way to reveal what we are doing that day or a special surprise. The general idea was to give them things I purchased ahead of time at a less expensive price tag than at Walt Disney World (think Target or Dollar Tree). If they behave well at the end of the day Mickey will leave something in the room for them (trading pins purchased from eBay in lots, a TsumTsum, some candy, etc.—you can be as simple or as elaborate as you like). Because Mickey is everywhere so he was watching. This helps to curb the begging for every little thing they see because they know a surprise is waiting, makes them remember to behave well, and saves me some money too. Plus it is just fun to plan & to see their reactions!
What are your inside tips for what to pack for a Walt Disney World vacation?