Disney Life Hacks: Five Things I Will Never Forget To Pack Again

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t_logo_fbPacking for your Disney vacation doesn’t have to be a stressful part of your planning, and there are plenty of checklists to help you do it. You’ll usually remember to pack sunscreen, bathing suits, and toothbrushes, but what about the things that you might not have thought to put in your suitcase? Money-savers like ponchos and glow sticks from the discount store or gum (which isn’t sold anywhere on Disney property) are among the things most often suggested by Disney Parks veterans, but I’ve got five more things to pack for Disney World.

Trust me on this – it only takes one experience to learn the hard way! Here are a few of the things you shouldn’t leave your home without:

iPhone wrist strap
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got your phone within reach at all times. Even if you’ve unplugged yourself from email and social media, you’re still pulling it out to check the weather forecast, snap a photo, and, of course, use My Disney Experience. After too many close calls nearly leaving my phone on a shelf, dropping it in a sink, or allowing someone else to take a picture, I realized I needed a strap.

Things to Pack for your Disney Vacation: Camera strap
Adding a strap to your phone keeps it convenient while allowing you to go hands-free.

The bad news? I searched high and low and couldn’t find an open case with a strap – they were all wristlets, and I didn’t want to have to take my phone out of anything just to use it.

The good news? I found something that works even better – the wrist strap from an old camera! Simply loop the strap through one of the openings of your case for a secure way to keep your phone handy. I’ve tried it with both rubber cases and snap on ones and even used it with the heavy-duty waterproof style case on a trip to Aruba with no fear of dropping it into the ocean!

Things to Pack for your Disney Vacation: Camera strap
A thin camera strap is a sturdy and inexpensive way to secure your phone.

I’ve had a lot of comments from Disney PhotoPass Cast Members who snap our pictures, as it makes it easier for them to switch between my phone and their cameras. Other guests have been interested after watching me capture great moments on the rides safely, without any fear of it slipping from my grip. It’s great if you’re traveling with kids, too – your chances of the phone hitting the ground are a lot lower if it’s strapped around your daughter’s wrist when she wants to take her own picture of Cinderella Castle!

Thermometer
Here’s a cautionary tale you wouldn’t expect, coming straight from a friend who called me in a panic when her daughter got sick during their vacation – pack a thermometer. Sure, you hope you won’t have to use it, but you’ll be glad you have it if you do. Surprisingly, the resorts do not have thermometers available for use or purchase, so if you’re dependent on Disney transport or taxis because you didn’t rent a car, it’s going to add a lot of stress to an already difficult situation. First Aid stations are helpful, but if your child isn’t well enough to leave the hotel room, the last thing you want to do is drag her down Main Street, U.S.A. just to get her temperature taken.

Power strip
Not only is a power strip a lifesaver for all of your charging needs, but it’ll help keep your room organized when all of your cords are in one place. I also recommend finding an adaptor with USB ports built in, so you can charge more than one device at a time. Though you’ll find several outlets available in your hotel room, jockeying for space near the conveniently accessible ones – next to a table, for example, or near the nightstand – can be a tricky situation when everyone is trying to juice up their phones and tablets at the same time. (Ed. – As someone who travels with a collection of things that need to be charged, I’m a huge fan of this 5-port USB charger. You’re welcome.)

Things to Pack: Sandwich bags are perfect for storing your dry poncho. Freezer bags work well too!
Sandwich bags are perfect for storing your poncho. Freezer bags work well too!

Ziploc Bags
Disney veterans will frequently suggest packing Ziploc bags on every trip, and for good reason – like Gaston, they’re endlessly, wildly resourceful! Beyond standard usage – like packing snacks or spare change for pressed pennies – they’re also very good in unexpected ways. Carrying a poncho into the parks? Fold it into a storage bag and use it as a cushion while staking out your curb for the parade. Want to protect your camera or phone from a wet ride or Florida thunderstorm? Throw it in a baggie. I’ve even taken pictures on Kali River Rapids with my camera in the bag! Plus, once the storm blows over, you can fold up that wet poncho and seal it back into the bag – just make sure you remember to air dry it when you get back to the hotel room. Freezing water or juice boxes to carry with you? Zip them into a bag with a washcloth – as they start melting, the cloth will absorb the “sweat”, protecting your other belongings and giving you something cool to wipe down with.

Itinerary

Things to Pack: Getting creating with plans is a fun activity and a great keepsake of your trip!
Getting creative with plans is a fun activity and a great keepsake of your trip!

Some people, like me, have long created printed itineraries to organize everything from flight information and confirmation numbers to general touring plans in one place – I’m known for laminating the plans for our travel party, which actually works out as a nice memento after the trip. Of course, other families aren’t as interested in having a physical copies and travel perfectly well with just the necessary information to get them from home to vacation. With My Disney Experience and all of the pre-planning necessary to make the most of MyMagic+, itineraries have become a big part of planning your Disney vacation, and you’ll avoid stressful situations if you can access all that information at quick glance.

Recently, on a quick trip, I thought I could get away with simply flagging my airline emails and accessing my Disney reservation information via My Disney Experience. Not having a back up was a big mistake – once my phone battery got low and service made loading anything from the web very slow, I had a hard time retrieving things like FastPass+ times and even my air confirmation to check in for our flight.

You don’t have to get fancy with an itinerary, but I would recommend having both a printed copy and electronic screenshot of your important information, including any confirmation numbers or reservation times (and, of course, your personalized TouringPlans.com itinerary!). Some people use the “Notes” app on their phones to record what they need, others may send themselves an email with it all in one message. If your plans change while you’re on vacation? No problem – make a note on your hard copy or simply update your phone screenshot with the new information. Trust me – when you’re queued up for Pirates of the Caribbean with no service in the dungeons and you’re wondering if you’ll make your next FastPass+ window, you’ll be relieved to pull it up in your camera roll and see you’ve got plenty of time!

Not all of these items show up on every packing list, but they’re some of the first things that end up in my suitcase. You learn the hard way what’s important on your Disney vacation, and when you find a fix, it’s amazing what a difference it makes! What are some of the things you’ll never forget to pack again?

Kylene Hamulak

Though she lives in Connecticut, Kylene considers "home" to be the land of purple signs leading her to the Magic Kingdom. She is currently training for her first runDisney event - The 2015 Glass Slipper Challenge - while watching Frozen on the treadmill every Saturday morning. Kylene loves storytelling and has been known to frequently suffer from eye sweats when walking down Main Street, watching any fireworks finale, and, especially, hearing the first 7 notes of When You Wish Upon A Star.

15 thoughts on “Disney Life Hacks: Five Things I Will Never Forget To Pack Again

  • September 25, 2014 at 1:25 pm
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    Lactaid! We tried the Disney Dining Plan for the first time in all of our visits this past summer. It seems that every meal – and snacks – includes ice cream. My daughter was thrilled about this, but unfortunately, her sensitive tummy was not. And Lactaid is NOT sold in the store at the Wilderness Lodge!

    • September 26, 2014 at 7:30 pm
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      Great tip, Shannon – I had no idea it wasn’t readily available!

  • September 25, 2014 at 3:49 pm
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    Your wrist strap idea is the best! Definitely implementing this on my upcoming trip!

  • September 25, 2014 at 4:02 pm
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    I could not agree more about the thermometer. Our last trip (July 2014), I was very sick (vomited once every 1/2 hour for about 11-12 hours). We were in desperate need of a thermometer to see if this situation warranted a doctor (it didn’t, ended up being food poisoning, so it had to just run its course…thanks Columbia Harbour House), but we were stuck with some stick-on forehead thermometer from the dark ages…it worked, but was DEFINITELY not convenient.

    • September 25, 2014 at 9:32 pm
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      Oh my gosh, Chloe, I had food poisoning from columbia harbor house, too! My first and LAST lobster roll… my husband braved the park with our kids while I hugged a toilet, and they went on snow whites scary adventures. I never got to go on it, and the closed it forever a month later. 🙁 aw well, better me than one of the kids.

      • September 26, 2014 at 7:36 pm
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        Chloe – I’m curious, was it the lobster roll that got you too? Perhaps my next article should be what NOT to order! 😉

        • September 26, 2014 at 9:37 pm
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          Kylene – For me it was their fried shrimp, which is a major bummer because I love shrimp and that experience has made it impossible for me to eat it ever since. 🙁

  • September 25, 2014 at 9:10 pm
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    Wrist strap idea is genius! Thank you!

  • September 25, 2014 at 9:37 pm
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    I’ll second the idea of keeping printouts in case a phone dies.
    I’ll usually put all of the important info – everyone’s phone numbers, ADR numbers and times, fastpass times, even cut & pasted barcodes for tickets and photopass (back before magicbands) into a word doc that was set up with a 4×2 table that I could fold like this: http://pocketmod.com/howto/ and then give everyone a copy.

    Also, I’m not a big fan of those recharging stations, so a cell phone power bank is a good way to not need one. You can also have everyone but one person keep their phones off, so you can switch between phones as they run out of power.

    • September 26, 2014 at 7:50 pm
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      Dean, you’re my kind of planner! Good idea to conserve the power. I love my cell phone (hence the need for the wrist strap! lol) but I can’t travel without my important info on paper.

  • September 25, 2014 at 9:51 pm
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    The idea of putting a wash cloth in a baggie around a frozen drink is great! I am always getting my stuff wet… I will also try the strap idea 🙂

    • September 26, 2014 at 7:43 pm
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      Stephanie/Ginger/Rosalie – once you put a strap on your phone, it’ll be like you grew an extra arm! I’d love to hear how it goes – feel free to share your story or photos with me here or on twitter @keepingupwithky!

  • September 26, 2014 at 4:14 pm
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    I would add a sharpie (labeling things, esp with multiple kids), scissors (removing tags, opening tough packages) and a Phillips screwdriver (for getting into the battery compartment of toys new and old).

    • September 26, 2014 at 7:33 pm
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      Great points, Janice! Scissors (small ones, of course – have to stay TSA compliant!) are good to have to cut off party wristbands too!

  • October 1, 2014 at 9:49 pm
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    That wrist strap idea is GENIUS!

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