Our family just returned from a one week trip. It was my first “real” trip and our first family trip.
I shared this I hesitated to go there, due to cost, crowds and uncertainty of what to expect. I now can’t wait to go back (and get another Dole Whip ice cream!).
I was reading all kinds of blogs about what to pack. Most covered the basics like sunscreen, ponchos, glow sticks, and Minnie Mouse ears (at least half the price on Amazon of what you pay at the parks). But there were a few things I saw while we were there that were awesome and not mentioned. I wanted to share these must-have items for Walt Disney World if you’re traveling with young children, especially if you plan on using a stroller. These made life so much easier during our stay.
Don’t forget that my husband and I flew to Orlando with our 7 and 5 year old daughters. We had two checked bags, a carry-on, a briefcase and a schoolbag. We rented a stroller which was delivered to and collected from our resort and took a shuttle from the airport to the resort. This meant we had to pack efficiently, but didn’t have to worry about packing the car seats or stroller.
If you plan to take a stroller or rent a stroller, you will absolutely need a stroller organizer bag. General pouches that velcro around the handle are great for having quick access to drinks, hand sanitizer, and throwing and grabbing your phone quickly. If I had thought about it more (after thinking I had thought of everything!), I would have brought ours from home.
I’ve also seen this genius stroller hack a few times where people used them clear plastic shoe organizers above the door. They tied them to the handles of strollers and hid wipes, masks, sunglasses, sunscreen, snacks and water bottles in the pockets.
You will need to remove or roll it up when you need to fold the stroller (i.e. when boarding a bus or monorail). But once you got into the playard and set it up, it felt like an incredible convenience.
Another stroller idea, tie a brightly colored ribbon around the handle for an easy way to quickly identify yours among the sea of strollers in designated parking areas outside rides and restaurants. Some families even had signs embroidered with their surnames on them. Creative and fun, but I’ll save my money for food at Epcot (like the Fiesta Margarita in the Mexico pavilion).
Finally, on our last day, I saw that Disney had stroller organizer bags for around $25 at select stores. I probably would have bought one if I had seen them the first day.
Carabiners and crocodile clips
I packed several small and medium carabiners but forgot my extra large for the stroller. These have been great for attaching my sunglasses to my school bag or for quickly attaching something like a water bottle to a bag when you need an extra hand. Again, if I had brought one that can fit on a stroller handle, that would have been a big help.
Alligator clips are great for many reasons, such as organizing headphones and charging cords. The coolest way I’ve seen someone use a alligator clip at WDW was for the rain cover! We didn’t want to deal with the expense or daily storage of a special stroller rain cover. My husband bought us two reusable adult sized poncho type raincoats and I had two cheap clear plastic ones that I had never used.
It rained several times during our stay. It was easy enough to find a spot to dodge the rain, but if we wanted to take a ride or see a show, we usually had to leave the stroller outside. Having a poncho or clear plastic bag can easily be draped over the stroller, but you will need alligator clips to hold it in place. If you want to be super thrifty and help the environment, save a few of your dry cleaning bags and throw them in your luggage.
I had at least one clip in my satchel and it kept the rain from soaking our daughters and the stroller while we were on the go or when we parked the stroller and couldn’t find a covered option. You could bring an umbrella, but a poncho was so much easier. They sell them in store. I grabbed an extra kid’s one for just $10 (just when the rain finally stopped, of course).
Clear Ziploc Bags
You will need to pass a security check at the entrance to the park. I carried my professional camera and a lens in a regular backpack. It was the heaviest and bulkiest thing we had with us. Most of you will only have a cell phone to take pictures and it shouldn’t trigger the scanners. If you bring a portable battery charger, it will likely trigger the scanners.
If you have to go through a bag check, it is very useful to have transparent plastic bags. I brought cloth bags and reusable wet/dry bags, but after the first two days of having to open each bag to show security, I realized it was easier to use bags plastic sandwich. I had brought a box with us to pack and carry snacks with us to the park. I like to keep things organized in groups so I don’t have to search through a bunch of random things. This is especially useful when someone forgets to screw the cap back on completely and the sunscreen ends up all over the bag, but not on anything else! This person will remain anonymous.
There were lots of little girls waltzing through the parks in princess costumes. We went in early March and the high for most days was 85 degrees. I knew my daughters would be hot and itchy walking around all day in costume. We bought comfortable cotton dresses and packed clothes they wore regularly. If you have a special dinner planned, I suggest you bring a special robe to the park to change into just before dinner.
I prepared two more outfits for me and the girls. These were helpful. We brought swimsuits as we had planned to spend the day by the pool when we arrived. It was awesome (be prepared for your kids asking to go back to the pool again and again and again.)
We each had two pairs of comfortable shoes to swap out as needed to keep our feet comfortable for the whole walk. We didn’t need water shoes. I packed the girls sun hats but they didn’t wear them as they were mostly shaded when in the stroller. We all wore sunglasses most of the time.
A few extras
Portable battery charger: We brought a portable battery charger with us expecting our phone batteries to not last. We both have newer iPhone models and have never had to plug our phones into the park. It was with my husband who used the Disney app to book lightning lanes and I used it to view our PhotoPass photos. If you have an older phone, you may need the charger.
Bottle of water: Every blog I read told me to get a bottle of filtered water. We bought two and took them with us, but only carried one to the parks each day. I don’t know if we actually needed the water filter part. Ice water in all restaurants and fast food outlets tasted good. But you will want to bring a bottle of water. Fill it with plenty of ice at your hotel. We were able to pour our leftover water from lunch into our bottle to refill it. There are refueling stations, but they are rare, especially in the Magic Kingdom. Most are in restaurants. You can also get free ice water at most quick service outlets.
Glow sticks: All the blogs said to bring glow sticks. I went to the Dollar Store and bought some. I was surprised how helpful they were as we were in the parks after sunset. They mainly provided cheap entertainment for the girls while we waited for the fireworks to start. It was also a great way to have a quick visual reference while we were walking or moving around. Simple and cheap fun. Hard to beat.
Hope this was helpful! I remember trying to read so many blogs and most had good advice. These are some special things that I saw, learned, and will keep in mind when we all go back!
Tara Lynn is a former WRAL reporter and presenter. She lends her 15+ years in journalism to tell visual stories through love-filled photography for families of all kinds. The mother of three little humans and a senior rescue dog believes in celebrating the magic in the little things, the big loves and the imperfect moments that make the most remarkable memories. His vision is to help families celebrate and share their love through photography and album covers that become timeless memories connecting multiple generations…because moments often pass in the blink of an eye, and the photographs we take connect us to our memories and our great loves, forever.
You can find Tara Lynn on Instagram at @TaraLynn_andCo and TaraLynnAndCo.com. Learn more about her photography at TaraLynnAndCoPhoto.com.