“Heeeeeeeeey, how are you?” Schmancy (shockingly, not her real name) said. “I haven’t seen you in forevs!”
I won’t bore you with the ten minutes of small talk that followed. But as I waited for the other shoe to drop — she never calls me just to say wassup and heeeeeeeey — I already had a guess what she was really calling about.
“I have a question for you. We are taking our darling babies to Disney World this fall, and I am super overwhelmed and have no idea what to pack. Do you have any tips?”
In fact I do. I get asked this question all the time, so my guess is that about 2,300 of you out there also have the same unspoken wonderings.
This one’s for you, Schmancy.
1. Make yourself three lists. List one is going to be what to pack in your travel purse. List two is what to pack in your suitcase. And list three is what goes into the backpack.
These lists are going to help you stay organized and will help make sure you have everything, avoiding the midnight leaps out of bed because your mind is racing a mile a minute. If you do a little work now, you’ll save yourself a lot of headache later.
Keep the lists somewhere handy. Mine is on a spreadsheet. Yours can be custom calligraphed on a piece of handmade Japanese silk watercolor paper, I don’t care. Just as long as you can find it.
2. Here’s what I carry in my travel purse.
My everyday purse is big and heavy — it’s full of Target receipts, a wallet with 938 pennies, and probably 7 pouches of Annie’s Organic Summer Strawberry Fruit Snacks. I carry it from the house to the car, from the car to the shopping cart, and back again, that’s basically it.
Would I want to carry it while walking 10 miles? No chance. We walk ten miles a day on average at Disney, so I am always asking myself if something is worth carrying. Do I want this badly enough to haul it in the heat and the ten miles of walking?
Let’s start with the bag itself. I want something durable, lightweight, and that isn’t going to get ruined with a little water splash. I did a lot of research and finally chose a small crossbody Travelon bag like this one.
Here’s a picture of me and my bag in Paris this winter.
To it, I add the following each morning before we leave the hotel:
— Lip gloss
— Cell phone
— Several pieces of gum (Disney doesn’t sell gum, FYI.)
We always stay on Disney property, so pay for things in the park with our magic bands, which also serve as our room key. If we were staying offsite, I would also bring my room key, a credit card, and my photo ID.
That is it. That is all I am willing to carry on my person all day long. It might surprise you to know that as a professional photographer, I do not haul a nice camera around. I purchase a photo pass, get one of the Disney photographers to take pictures of us in front of all the landmarks, and use my cell phone for the rest.
3. Here’s what I pack in the suitcases:
— Clothes. I recommend T-shirts over tank tops for the extra sun coverage. I bring one outfit per day, plus 1-2 nicer outfits if we are planning a nicer meal out. For kids, bring lightweight pants or shorts and a T-shirt for every day, plus a few extras for backup. Underwear. Pajamas.
— Sweatshirts. It often gets quite chilly after dark. I have tried to be the scoffing Minnesotan. “Um, yeah. 50 is not cold. I don’t need a sweatshirt.” And I regretted it. 50 in the dark with a lot of humidity in the air feels COLD.
— Socks and athletic shoes. Let’s go back to the walking ten miles a day bit. Would you walk ten miles in your flip flops? No way in heck would I try it. I *have* tried wearing my beloved Birkenstocks to Disney World, and also regretted that. My feet were apparently a little swollen the second day and kept rubbing against the buckle, which became a blister, which became a problem. Just suck it up and wear socks and supportive shoes, no matter how warm it is.
— Toiletries. For myself only, as I am picky. Disney provides decent shampoo, conditioner, and body wash for the less picky members of your crowd.
— Swimsuits + water shoes. Even though we rarely make it to the pool.
— Essential oil diffuser + several oils. I REFUSE to get sick at Disney World. REFUSE. I turn into a crazed mother with all of my woo-woo preventative remedies. I bring a portable essential oil diffuser like this one.
— Vitamins. I make my people take Emergen-C every day in addition to a regular multi-vitamin. I told you — I am crazy! But no one has ever gotten sick.
— Sun hats. It really helps keep the sun off your face and reduces how hot you feel. I make everyone wear one.
— Empty space. Which will be occupied inevitably by souvenirs. How are you supposed to get your Christmas ornaments or your Starbucks mugs home?
4. Here’s what I pack in the backpack I make my husband carry:
— Water bottles. I like these because they don’t take up much space. They are durable, too!
— Rain ponchos. Because it rains all.the.time for short periods of time. I like to buy a big pack of disposable ones so I don’t have to haul around wet ponchos forever.
— Portable phone battery + charging cord. TRUST ME ON THIS ONE. Don’t ask questions. Just do it .
— Gallon-size Ziploc bags. Because children spill things on their clothes. Or their parents are tricked into purchasing giant lollipops that they can’t finish, and it needs to go somewhere. Or you bought five pounds of peanut butter fudge and don’t want it to melt everywhere.
— Change of socks. Don’t underestimate what a game changer this is when you’ve been on your feet all day. I swear by Bombas and Smartwools. (Yes, even in the summer — wool won’t overheat your feet and it prevents blisters.)
— Extra sunscreen. Because sunburns.
— If I were traveling with a baby, I would also pack diapers, wipes, a change of clothes, and a couple of teething toys in this backpack.
— Car keys.
5. Here is what you don’t need:
— Lots of cash. Bring a little to buy things like light up balloons that they don’t take cards for. But otherwise, plan to pay for everything with your magic band or a debit card. 98% of vendors accept these methods of payment.
— Toys and activities for kids over the age of three. Disney does a great job of keeping you entertained in line. I have purchased lots of fun scavenger hunt books for my kids and no one is ever interested.
— Fancy cameras.
— Snacks. We always purchase them, it’s part of the fun. Every time I have brought snacks, they have gone uneaten.
I hope this helps soothe some of your midnight packing woes! Do you have any Disney packing tips to share or questions to ask? Drop them in the comments!