There’s a fine line between “be prepared” and “be a pack mule” when it comes to bringing items to the park. Recently, I saw a question from a person asking about whether other child-free people rent strollers to carry their bags of stuff with them. (And yes, apparently that’s a thing.) So I asked around the TouringPlans virtual office:
What do you bring to the parks with you, and how do you carry your stuff?
Here’s some of the responses:
I like to travel as light as possible in the parks and find wearing a backpack or even slinging a messenger bag over my shoulder to get hot and uncomfortable fast, so for me, my “bag” is a trusty pair of cargo shorts. And yes, I am aware that cargo shorts are, ahem, not universally beloved, but this is about function, not fashion. Indeed, they are so functional that there have been occasions, particularly on rainy days where I’ve got the family’s disposable ponchos on me, where the lower half of my body looks like a squirrel storing nuts in its cheeks, but whatever, it’s better than carrying a bag. As an added bonus. I don’t have a bag, so I can sail through the “no bag” line at security. Small price to pay for the fashion faux pas.
(Note from Laurel: There is no “small price” for a fashion faux pas.”)
For me, it depends on how I’m touring the parks–with my kids, with my friends, or as a “vlogger”. If I’m with my kids, I’ll carry a child-sized backpack full of things they may need. If I’m with friends, I’ll bring a smaller backpack that can fit my wallet, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, a water bottle, etc. If I’m there for work, I’ll bring a bigger backpack that can fit all of my personal items as well as any vlogging equipment. When I’m by myself I carry a wallet, MagicBand, AP card, sunglasses, headphones, phone charger/portable charger, poncho, water bottle, hand sanitizer, migraine meds, chapstick, sunscreen, toothpicks, mints, stain remover, and some bandaids.
Personally, I carry a cinch bookbag that has my essentials. I make sure it’s as rainproof as possible, because you know, Florida storms come out of the blue. I also make sure it has some pouches, so I can easily find things that I’ll use often. It carries my umbrella (for said storms), a personal fan, a heavy duty portable charger and cables, an extra portable charger (because you never know), a smaller purse (which serves as my wallet), bottled water, ziploc baggies, ibuprofen, and lip gloss. And my phone, but most of the time that’s in my hand.
I find ponchos useless. They trap heat in, and there’s nearly always a place to go inside. I carry a tiny umbrella for sprinkles, a hat, and a plastic bag to cover my own bag up with or keep stuff dry in it if I get unexpectedly trapped in the rain. Then I just go inside. Otherwise I carry my wallet, keys, portable charger and cord, the new little Secret deodorant balls (SO AMAZING), and Tylenol because when do the parks not give you a headache? Anything else I leave in the car or know that I can always grab at first aid or a resort gift shop in an emergency.
* Small wallet (really small, like a card case) with just my Disney cards (DVC, AP, TiW), driver’s license, and a credit card
* My pouch with my house key, small hand sanitizer, glasses cleaner and wipe, a pen, lip gloss, a few tablets of my medication in case I’m out when it’s time to take it, 2 tampons (one for me and one for anyone who needs one), earbuds in case I need to take a call, and a small perfume. This is the same pouch I carry everywhere–whether I’m in the parks or not.
* My Phone
* I attach a MagicBand to the strap of my bag because I don’t like extra things around my wrist
* An umbrella if the forecast calls for rain
* I wear a hat to keep the sun or rain off
* A fold-up nylon shopping bag
Except for the MagicBand and passes, this is exactly what I carry on the streets of NYC every day
I feel like I’ve run the gamut of park bags over the years. My options have ranged from two unnecessarily large and unsightly backpacks when our kids were super little, down to one backpack and “shove the overflow into the bottom of the double stroller”, and thankfully shrinking from there as the kids have aged. Now that everyone is old enough to be responsible for schlepping their on things, I’ve been able to play Goldilocks, testing some cuter options! Disney Dooney and Bourke–nope, too nice to ruin with a melting Mickey bar. Vera Bradley–washable makes it a plus, but the crossbody style I had just wasn’t comfortable. Kate Spade Minnie Mouse backpack? JUST RIGHT! I adore this bag for the parks. Spills wipe up easy. It’s the perfect size–just big enough to hold the essentials, but not too big to be bulky. it’s lightweight and super comfortable on my back, and let’s face it, I really love the fact that it’s completely adorable!
If at all possible, to avoid the bag check line, I wear my camera on my shoulder, and cram everything else I can into the pitiful pockets they put on women’s clothing. If there’s no shorter line for those without bags (I’m looking at you Disneyland), then I’ll carry a Kate Spade backpack that I can fill to my heart’s content. Cute AND functional.
It’s all about travel light. Whenever possible, I find shorts with deep pockets and carry the smallest wallet I can find with a few essential cards and some cash, my phone, and a fuel rod and cord. I clip my car keys to my belt loops with a carabiner, and off I go. If pockets don’t fit the wallet, I load everything into a lanyard and carry my phone in a Joto waterproof lanyard. That’s still technically not carrying a bag, so I can zip through the bag-free line. If I’m “going big”, I fit everything into an Aapporto bag with keys and hand sanitizer clipped to the outside. Each member of the family carries a similar bag for days when we’re going to be in the parks for more than an hour or two. Anything else that we need we can get on site, although we usually all wear hats that can also be clipped to the bags when not in use. The most stuff I’ve carried to the park was last year for the last day of Food and Wine, where I carried a backpack that had a half dozen food storage containers and did “carry out” from the best Food and Wine booths to bring home for dinner. That is certainly the exception and not the rule for me, however.
You know how Mary Poppins can pull almost anything out of her bag? I have used the same approach to Walt Disney World. Over time, I realized almost anything I might need is available there or is a short ride away, especially since I take a break back at the resort mid-day. So now when I head to the parks, I pack light. If I’m with my husband, I just ask him to throw my ID and annual pass in his wallet (shhh, don’t tell Laurel). He already has our emergency essentials like credit cards, health insurance cards, cash, etc. in his wallet, so I don’t worry about those. Then I just hold or pocket my phone. No bag, no purse, no wristlet, and more importantly, no bag check line for either of us. If I’m flying solo, then I bring a wristlet or small cross-body bag to hold my ID, annual pass, some credit cards, cash, phone, poncho (if rain is in the forecast), travel-size sunscreen, and clip-on hand sanitizer.
Does it surprise you all that most of us are in the “travel light” crowd? Are there any essentials you carry that you can’t believe we don’t take with us? What’s your essential packing list for the parks, and what do you carry your stuff in? Let us know in the comments, and if you have a question for next time, feel free to Ask Us.