When planning for your long days at the theme parks, it’s good to be prepared for any eventuality. This is where the all important park bag comes in. Your trusted sidekick during your adventures at Disney, if you plan its contents wisely you can save yourself money, time, frustration and discomfort. To get you started here’s our list of 10 park bag essentials to bring along during your next foray to Walt Disney World
1. Sunscreen. Though on the surface this may seem like a no-brainer, I’ve seen my share of very uncomfortable visitors at Walt Disney World who weren’t adequately prepared. Make sure you have a tube in your park bag and do regular top-ops. This is just as important in the Winter season as it is in the Summer. As mild and unsuspecting as the Winter days may be there are still enough rays to make us pale northerners go bright red. You also may want to pick up a travel size tube of aloe vera for those family members starting to resemble Sebastian by mid-day. Both of these items cost a pretty penny if purchased at Disney so pick up these items in advance at a cheap local retailer.
2. First Aid Kit. It doesn’t have to be massive but try to (cheaply) patch together a little cache of First Aid essentials particularly items for scrapes, bruises, blisters (I don’t care how comfortable and broken-in you think your shoes are), headaches and motion sickness. I was under-packed on a recent trip to the parks and what nearly made me faint was not the Florida heat but rather the cost of buying a Moleskin at Disney for my poor blistered feet. Buy these items cheap at home and treat yourself to a souvenir with the money you’ve saved.
3. Ponchos. Again this is an area where you can really save money. Whether its riding Splash Mountain or being caught in one of Florida’s infamous afternoon deluges, having a hidden stash of cheap dollar store ponchos is generally a good idea. Again Disney has their own but expect to pay 20% more. I also find that ponchos get trashed, ripped or torn pretty easily so it pays to have more than one on hand for each family member. When the rain hits and people scurry to leave the parks, you’ll be the first in line for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and wearing your dollar store poncho with pride.
4. Items to help you keep cool. In the noon day heat, you’ll be glad you packed items to help you cool off. In recent years the Frogg Toggs cooling towels have become really popular with park goers and with good reason – they’re fantastic. They take up little space in your park bag and can be activated by wetting them at any sink or drinking fountain at the parks. Once they’re wet they stay cool for hours. Cooling towels are perfect for little ones in the strollers complaining of the heat, for parents getting sunburns on the back of their necks or if you just need a moment to cool down. I never head to the parks without at least one in my park bag. An alternative would be to pick up a cheap spray bottle at your dollar store. Fill it again using a sink or drinking fountain at the parks and have one on hand to give yourself a spritz every time the heat becomes too much. Again Disney has an amazing version with a battery operated fan but it’s costly.
5.External Battery Chargers for Cell Phones and Tablets. With the advent of My Disney Experience, your cell phone or iPad serves as Mission Control during your days at the parks. Having the app installed on your phone is pretty much an essential. From the My Disney Experience app you manage your FastPasses, keep tabs on dining reservations and can even monitor wait times. So imagine the horror when your phone runs out of batteries. Each of the parks will have charging stations but waiting for your device to refuel can cut into valuable park time. Have one or two of these devices at the ready and save yourself the unnecessary stress.
6. Food and Drink. Even if you’re on the Dining Plan, it always helps to have some food rations in you bag just in case. I never leave the resort without bringing a few granola bars, mini bags of pretzels, juice boxes, fruit snacks etc. just encase a small snack is needed. This means that you can save those Snack credits for a delicious Disney treat that you really want to savor rather than trying to curb appetites. Disney also allows you to bring your own water into the parks, so keep your resort fridge stocked-up and try to bring a few bottles into the parks with you each day.For those not wanting to carry around the extra water weight, pick up a collapsible water bottle at your local shop. These take up hardly any space at all in your park bag and can be filled up when you’re thirsty.
7. Things to keep little ones busy in lines. Even with the most carefully planned itineraries and Fastpasses, chances are you’ll still be spending a fair chunk of your Disney days waiting in line. Again pick up some cheap items at you local shops before heading to the parks. Little bottles of bubbles can be found at your local dollar store and I find that they tend to keep little ones busy and even give them a chance to interact with other kids. The dollar bins at Target are also a treasure trove of Disney finds and I stock up on Play Packs with stickers and crayons and pull them out during a particularly lengthy line. Apps are also a great way to keep the little ones busy. The Show your Disney Side mobile app is a great starting point and special features are even activated when you use it at Walt Disney World.
8. Disney Gift Cards. I am a huge fan of Disney Gift Cards and I always travel with a handful. When you’re on the Dining Plan they’re really handy for paying for and keeping track of gratuities. I also use them to ration out the amount of money we spend on souvenirs each day. My daughter gets a gift card every time we go to use on souvenirs. She can buy whatever she wants but once it is used up then there’s no more souvenir shopping. Its a great way to cut down on over-spending. Also major retailers like Target and Walmart will often offer the cards at a discount giving bargain hunters even more ways to save.
9. Glow sticks and other nighttime accessories. If you plan on staying for any of the nighttime shows at Disney, you’ll be bombarded with cast members selling all sorts of glowing nighttime merchandise. However when it comes to souvenirs, I find these items (and I speak from experience) to be the biggest waste of money and that they rarely get used once at home. That’s why when I head to the parks these days I come pre-stocked with cheap glowsticks, bracelets, and necklaces. I’ve even managed to find some glow-stick Frozen-themed tiaras at my dollar store. Again, dollar bins at Target are great for this kind of stuff. Bring them along to Disney and pack them in your park bags the days you know you’re staying late.
10. Items to clean up life’s little messes. When your travelling with little Disney-lovers, its amazing how quickly and almost unexpectedly messes can happen. From an ice cream bar gone awry to a spilled soda at lunch. it pays to be prepared. When packing your park bags, try to bring along things for those messy moments including wet wipes, hand sanitzers, Ziploc bags and a change of clothes. Most of the Disney theme parks are packed with water play areas beckoning kids forward, it’s a great way to cool off but come prepare so that you don’t find yourself returning back to the resort for a change of clothes.
So have those bags at the ready. When it comes to heading to the theme parks on your next Disney adventure hopefully you’ll be nice and prepared with a stockpile of affordable little necessities.
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