Packing for Walt Disney World

In anticipation of filling our suitcases once again for yet another upcoming trip to The Mouse, today I'm sharing some packing tips. Although many of these would apply generically across the board, I specifically had a visit to Walt Disney World in Orlando in mind when creating this list.

Confession: I was motivated to write this post not just because I love blogging about travel and am obsessed with all things Disney, but partly because I've seen some really really really awful "packing suggestions" posts come through my newsfeed lately. Sigh. 

Of course, if you Google "packing for Walt Disney World" you get just over one million results, so consider this my pebble in the ocean.

Note: Since it's not really something you "pack" I'm not including stroller in this list. However, as I pointed out in a previous post of travel tips, I would know your terrain and your child's tolerance for walking. Keep in mind you'll have to collapse it and carry it on the buses. My personal recommendation for Walt Disney World would be that Animal Kingdom and Epcot's World Showcase are the most do-able for stroller use. Magic Kingdom, not so much, because there are so many times you will need to stop and park it and take the child out, and so it ends up being more of a hinderance. Plus, it's so crowded compared to the other three main parks. Hollywood Studios is hit or miss; we've done both there and it's okay either way. In general, we do not take the stroller for Agent A on these trips, though . . . he walks or Hubby carries him. The Senior Agents walk all day with minimal complaining. If you have a child who is still a napper, however, it might be a good idea. A sleeping 30-pound two-year-old gets mighty heavy.

What To Put in the Suitcase

My recommendation is two suitcases tops, if you can get away with it, especially if you are flying. Any more than that, unless you plan on sprouting a third arm and/or are traveling with more adults than children, will be overwhelming.

Medicines you use every day. For us, this means Julia's daily asthma meds (an inhaler with a spacer) that she uses every morning and night.

Any medicines you might even remotely, possibly, maybe use. This means Agent J's rescue inhaler as well as our new penguin nebulizer, Peso. For every trip, we also take a small Ziploc bag with children's and infant's Tylenol (including droppers), because you just never know when a bad fever might hit, and calamine lotion, because my children tend to be a bug's favorite food. We rarely use these items. In fact, the one time I did not pack them was the only time I can remember that we actually did need Tylenol for two Agents and had to buy it. Sigh. (That exciting adventure was its own post here.) 

Stuffed animals or blankies. We refer to the toys the Agents must have for sleeping every night as "criticals." This includes a Lambie, a baby Pluto, and a certain Bear. We do not travel without these. Ever. I also include the small blanket that Andrew sleeps with, just because, although I'm not sure he would miss it if it didn't fit. (I should note that sometimes these end up on their laps in the car/on the plane instead, but they always come with us.)

Clothes. We go with one outfit per person, per day, knowing that we have the option to do laundry if necessary. On a longer trip, we may pack less and just plan to do laundry (or re-wear if it's not possible). But, always, always, always pack enough underwear and socks for each day. In the summer, perhaps two pair of socks per day if you think you might take a break/go back to the hotel and want to put on fresh socks before you leave again. The good news is, all the resorts have laundry facilities and you can swipe your room card instead of carrying stacks of quarters. Pack your own detergent, because the stuff they sell there is ridiculously expensive.

(Random tip: Dress the kids alike. I know it's corny, but if they are young enough to not care and/or you happen to have children who actually like to (the Senior Agents love it), just do it. So much easier to keep track of them, especially if you go to one of the many play areas and they like to run in different directions.)

(Another random tip: If you are traveling in the hot summer with little girls, put them in dresses. They are so much easier and quicker to deal with in the bathroom than shorts/pants.)

Pajamas. One pair per person unless it's more than 4-5 days and you may want to wash a set in the evening and still have another to wear. 

Swimwear. A swimsuit for everyone, flip flops or sandals (because wearing sneakers just to get from the hotel to the pool is a pain, but you may not want to go barefoot), and swim diapers for Agent A. You can buy swim diapers there, but they are super pricey, so I always pack a few more than I think we will need, just in case. Don't worry about beach towels; they will have them poolside.

Raincoats. Here's the thing about Florida: It's super duper hot in the summer, but it will likely rain (at least a brief shower) most days. If you are going to the parks on a day that the chance of rain is high, you'll want to have your own raincoats. Yes; you can just hope it passes quickly or buy those crazy poncho things in the park, but . . . in addition to being rather expensive for what is essentially putting a garbage bag on your head, you will likely be asked to remove them inside of most buildings and ride queues. A jacket with a hood is much easier, and you can keep them on.

Toiletry bag. The Agents and I share one. Keep it simple: toothpaste and toothbrushes, deodorant, brush or comb, anything you use every day (e.g., lotion, face wash). All of the resorts will have shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and soap. Unless you really can't live without it, forget extras like make-up; especially on a summer visit, you'll be too busy sweating to care.

Diapers and wipes. You'll have to find the delicate balance of not running out while at the same time not taking way too many. I usually plan for five a day: One for morning, one for night, plus three changes during the day at the parks. Don't forget to account for extras to put in the backpack/diaper bag for the return trip. (On our last escapade, I miscalculated and ended up with one diaper for our flight home.) An extra (unopened) wipes refill for longer trips is a good idea. Remember to bring a Ziploc bag to put the package in once it's open so they don't dry out.

Kindle or laptop. All of the resorts have free wi-fi, so you will probably want to have something with you that you can make plans for the next day, check the weather, upload photos, or simply putter on Facebook after the kids fall asleep. For shorter visits, I usually just bring the Kindle, but for longer stays I like to be able to look at our photos each day and clear off the camera, so I'll cart the laptop with me. I've even posted blogs while at Disney.

Chargers. Bring whatever you need to recharge any electronics you pack (cell phone, tablet, Kindle, laptop, camera). Even if you leave the house fully charged and are only going for a short visit, you might end up using something more than you plan. I put them all together in a Ziploc bag. 

(Yes; I have a serious penchant for gallon-size Ziploc bags when I travel.)

What To Put in the Backpack

As long as your kids are young, there's really no way around carrying a backpack through the parks with you. I vaguely recall bringing just a purse with me way back when Hubby and I made our first trip to Disney, P.A. (pre-Agents). But now, trust me: It's easier to sherpa the extra bag than it is to go back to the hotel if you need something. Following is a list of what is in my backpack when we head to the parks.

A simplified wallet. I move just what I need to a small zippered purse (credit card size), but you could also simply remove what you don't need from your regular wallet. Typically I take my license and ID card, one credit card, and a small amount of cash. You can also keep your park tickets and hotel key card here. I also include a small note with any dining reservation confirmation numbers recorded. (It's highly unlikely you would need them, but just in case.)

Cell phone. Charge it before you go, even if you think you have enough battery left. I sometimes move this to my pocket if I think Hubby and I will be alternating who carries the backpack, so I always have it with me if we are separated (intentionally or not).

Camera. Of course Disney has that whole PhotoPass thing, too, but you will want to take about a thousand pictures (give or take) on your own as well. This may be something else you want to just keep in your pocket, like the cell phone, so it's readily accessible. (This is why I highly recommend pants/shorts with "good" pockets for a Disney trip. You'll want to use them even if you are not usually a keep-things-in-pockets kind of person.)

Sunglasses and sunblock. Toss the sunblock bottle into—you guessed it—a Ziploc bag—just to make sure it doesn't leak. You'll want to have it with you even if you apply before you leave the hotel. Some parks, like Animal Kingdom, are a little more shaded than others, but mostly you're talking being out in the sun all day.

Hand sanitizer. I don't care if you think it's evil. You might want it in a pinch.

Change of clothes for each child (and you). Yes, you. Down to underwear and socks. I also keep a large plastic bag folded up underneath all the clothes so I have a place to put wet clothes if needed. This may come in very handy if your children are like mine and end up hitting a water play area. (Although we try to encourage them to do that at the end of the day, or at least after we've had our character meal.)

Diapers (or pull-ups) and wipes. If you have a child of walking age who is not yet potty trained, consider that pull-ups might be a good short-term solution for the parks. Sometimes it's easier to change a pull-up standing up in a stall than it is to wait for the one changing table the bathroom will have. Don't forget to check your supply of wipes before you go; you'll use them for cleaning up hands and faces as well, so you will go through more than usual.

First Aid kit. One of the Agents is destined to scrape a knee or elbow (or both) on every visit. I carry a small case with some some small gauze pads (that I could wet for a quick cleaning of a cut), Neosporin, and a few band-aids. At first I thought this was overkill, but honestly we use it on almost every trip.

Light receiving blanket. I use this to toss over Agent A if he falls asleep, or to lay down as a makeshift changing pad. I've also taken it out and poured water on it and used it to clean cuts when I didn't have my usual first aid gear with me. Can also be used for drying off after a run through the water play areas. 

Water and snacks. I have found it easiest to pack a beverage container that everyone can share, rather than trying to pack water bottles for Hubby and I and some sort of kids' cup or sippy cup for the Agents. What works for us is a plastic bottle with a squeeze top lid. Even Agent A can drink out of that on his own without spilling (too much), whereas a full water bottle is hit or miss. And there are water fountains at every bathroom, so easy to refill on the go. We also pack a small container of snacks because we never go anywhere without at least a few emergency crackers.

Yet another Ziploc bag. If you are fans of water rides or it's a rainy day, you may want to have a place to put your camera/cell phone/map.


  1. I'm bookmarking this for our big trip - one day. Kids are still a bit young but we have an open invitation to Florida because my aunt lives in Orlando and works at Universal. I think I'd go crazy with the packing - my daughter would want to pack every single princess dress. I would be thinking of all the random things - camera battery, usb cord, sunscreen, etc. It's nice to see this broken down into the more important things.

    1. We have packed the princess dresses in the past. (We currently don't have ones that fit both of them.) We're not doing a princess meal on this trip, though, so they won't miss them. Even though I just wrote out this detailed list, I will still forget something on our next trip, guaranteed. Thanks for stopping by, Tamara!

  2. This is such an in-depth travel packing post! Great stuff...
    But now that I live by Disney, I no longer have to pack like this. Where was this post years ago? lol

    Keep it Touched,

    1. Thanks for visiting, Khloe. Yeah, I just think years from now they'll be doing all their own packing and I'll look back and think how on earth did I pull that off?

  3. This is SUCH a helpful post!! I have no doubt anyone heading to Disney will love reading this!-Ashley