Walt Disney World (FL)

Planning With My Non-Disney Family: Packing

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If you are an avid reader of the TouringPlans.com Blog you may remember that I’m planning a a trip to Disney World with my family. While this sounds like the norm for most Disney fans, it is a rare and special occasion since most of them haven’t every been there and the ones who have haven’t been since 1987. We are just under the two week mark for our February 21 departure so they are starting to ask me questions about packing. Since many folks who haven’t been do Disney World probably have the same questions I thought I’d offer up some advice on how to pack in this week’s blog post!

We’ll be flying from Newark to Orlando with JetBlue so each of us will be able to check a bag for free. This perk makes packing so much easier when you know you can check a bag for free! As an added bonus, we even got a seat for my two year old nephew so we can check a bag for him. We’ll also be using Disney’s Magical Express so we can drop our bags off in Newark and not have to deal with them until they are delivered to our rooms at the Polynesian. With all that in mind I have suggested packing a checked bag full of snacks, diapers, and whatever other kid stuff they may need. Bringing snacks will be a great way to save time and money since the kids often want something to nibble on. We won’t have to find a place to get a snack, wait in line, and spend money to keep hungry kids happy. They can also use the suitcase after it is cleaned out of snack and diapers to bring souvenirs home.

My mom keeps asking me what she should wear and how many outfits she should bring on the trip. It’s hard to give her a straight answer since you never know what the weather will be like in February. While it will certainly be warmer than back home in New Jersey, there could be a cold snap during our trip. My solution is to check the weather forecasts as soon as they are available and to plan to dress in layers. I recommended a short sleeve shirt or tanktop and a long sleeve shirt for each day as well as a few sweaters or sweatshirts that could be worn with multiple outfits. I let her know she should bring one outfit per day since we won’t be doing anything fancy like eating at the California Grill. However, I always bring a couple of extras in case it rains or Splash Mountain is just out of control. I especially think some extra outfits should be packed for the kids. I’m sure one of them will spill ice cream down the front of themselves in the morning and need a change during our afternoon break at least once.

If you read my post about keeping your feet happy at Disney World, you’ll remember keeping your feet comfortable can make or break your trip. For this reason, I highly recommended everyone in the family wear a good pair of sneakers while we tour the parks. I also suggested bringing an extra pair in case one gets wet or wind up being uncomfortable. A pair or two of flip flops or sandals are also recommended for going to the pool and hanging around the resort. Likewise, socks are very important and it is always a good idea to pack more pairs than you think you’d need. Trust me on that one.

I have already started to get my toiletries together for the trip. I did it early so I could see if I needed to purchase any more supplies. Since I go to Disney World so often I keep all of my travel sized bottles together in my linen closet and just pull them out as needed which makes my life a lot easier. I’m always sure to pack these bottles in plastic bags in case one of them leaks. On my last trip my perfume bottle opened up, but it was in a plastic bag so I just had to rinse off the other things in the bag rather than dealing with drenched clothes. In addition to the usual shampoo and conditioner, I always make sure to pack a little first aid kit. My bag of goodies includes band-aids, Neosporin, Moleskin (with scissors to cut it), Advil, and Pepto Bismol. I’ll definitely make sure my brother and sister-in-law pack children’s medicines too just in case someone should wind up a little under the weather.

My favorite carry on bag!

Now that we’ve covered our checked bags let’s move onto carry on luggage. I’m assuming everyone in my family will want to carry on a bag with their essentials. For me a shoulder bag and a large purse usually allows me to pack all I need for the airport, plane, and first few hours on the ground in Orlando. I’m always sure to have my phone charger, headphones, my camera, and some sort of in flight entertainment with me in my carry on. I keep all of my travel documents (flight info, room confirmation, etc.) organized in an accordion folder tucked into my purse. My quart sized bag usually contains a small bottle of sunscreen, contact solution and a case, and usually some makeup. I like to keep things as simple as possible, but I’m sure this time around we’ll have a lot more carry on stuff with kids and parents!

It has been a while since my parents flew so they have all kinds of questions about what they can and can’t take in their carry on bag. I’m pretty sure I’ve told them to pack their liquids in three ounce bottles that can all fit into a quart sized bag five times already. I know they will also have medications they will want to carry on with them in case their checked bag should get lost. I’m planning to make them a list of other carry on essentials to help make their trip as comfortable as possible.

While I’m concerned about keeping my parents comfortable on the plane, I’m more concerned about keeping three small kids entertained on the plane. Since this will be my first time flying with kids I’m a little worried about how they’ll do, but their parents and I will try to keep them happy. They each got a little rolling suitcase for Christmas so I’m sure they’ll fill them with toys, games, and snacks to make their journey a pleasant one. As I previously mentioned, we’ll be flying JetBlue so they will be able to watch TV during the flight as well. The airline is smart and makes sure to include kid-friendly channels. They also plan to bring their own portable DVD players in case the kids would like to watch something specific.

Since I am a veteran Disney World visitor all of this packing and preparation seems like old hat to me, but I know it will seem overwhelming to my family. I’m trying to help them as best I can so they will have everything they might want or need for the trip. Do you have any added suggestions? Let me here about your packing practices in the comments!


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Kristen Helmstetter

Kristen Helmstetter is an Unofficial Guide researcher who will share her 20-something perspective of all things Walt Disney World with blog readers. Kristen’s email address is khelmstetter05@yahoo.com. You can also follow her on Twitter: @khelmstetter.

32 thoughts on “Planning With My Non-Disney Family: Packing

  • Kristen I have been following all of your posts about your Disney trip with your non-Disney family and I find myself getting really excited for your trip! I have to remind myself that I will not be in Disney until March. Haha. Have a great time!!

  • To Tom Re: Double stroller — call JetBlue if you have to, I recently read on another site that airlines are now getting picking about strollers and gate checking them. You can rent double jogger strollers for a decent price through Orlando Stroller Rentals and they will deliver them to the property you are staying at. A little less expensive than renting them directly at the parks. (Last I checked, about $90/wk for a double jogger)

    We have twin boys (age 5)and also a 14 year old son. We went to WDW last February, and are leaving next week for a trip to Newport Beach, CA so will be going to Disney Land while out there.

    I also use gallon size Ziploc bags to pack our toiletries in. In addition to our emergency first aid kit, I also pack an emergency sewing kit in our luggage. Since we usually stay in hotels where we have laundry facilities available to us, we pack less clothing and we do laundry once while there, so I pack a couple of dryer sheets in a Ziploc sandwich bag.

    Along with the hand sanitizer, I also pack 2 Ziploc sandwich bags each containing Clorox (or similar) anti-bacterial wipes. They come in handy for wiping the folding trays on the plane, and also come in handy for wiping & disinfecting the toilet seats in the plane restroom or public bathrooms when your little ones really need to use the potty. I use a sharpie marker and write CLOROX WIPES on the outside of the bag.

    We also get the dollar store ponchos to take with us. Much cheaper than purchasing them there if you need them and they do work great for stroller covers.

    Activities for the little ones while waiting in line – I’ve taken small things of bubbles (always fun), or those little fans that blow mists of water (actually better than the small water guns.

    While Sunscreen is definitely a MUST, don’t forget to also pack something for those sunburns (in case you should get one). I usually take some solid Aloe, and I’ve found this terrific product (sold at the BASIN store in Downtown Disney Orlando) called SUN BUTTER. It’s about $15 or $20 for a fairly good size container, but it’s the best sun burn healing ointment I’ve found. I have some in a smaller container and always take it with us.

    This trip, we are trying to limit ourselves to 3 Large suitcases (since we are flying Delta we have to pay for each suitcase) and I’m packing for 5 people. I will definitely say that the best way that I’ve found to pack our clothing is by folding it and rolling it tightly. I can fit far more into a suitcase this way than just folding clothing and laying it into a suitcase.

    Take an extra (or 3) Gallon Ziploc bags with you. I used ours to put our sharpie markers in and our autograph books to keep them from getting wet (in case of rain, or riding Splash Mountain). Ditto with using it to put our cell phones in and digital camera.

    Besides downloading the Touringplans.com Disney App to your smart phone (we found it handy on our last trip to WDW), I also downloading our touring plan and saved it to Google Docs online. I could then access it from my iPhone through the Google Docs App. In addition, it’s a good idea to take any important medical information with you – doctor phone numbers, medications & dosage amounts, phone number to your pharmacy at home, and any other info that may be important. You can save this info in an MS Word Doc and also save it in your Google docs account. Again, accessible from your smartphone in case you need it. God forbid something should ever happen on your trip, but if it did, you have access to all the important info you need right at your finger tips.

    I’ve already made a trip to our Local Disney Store and purchased T-shirts for the kiddos (on clearance) to take with us and am packing our suitcases this weekend. 🙂

    Here’s wishing everyone a Magical Disney Vacation!

  • You should pack some earplanes. They are ear plugs that work great!!! One pair can be used to going to Disney and coming back on plane from Disney. They come in adult and children sizes. I get mine from drugstore.com

  • The best thing we brought was glow stick bracelets from the dollar store. The kids were entertained at night waiting for the parade or fireworks and we didn’t have to buy expensive souveniers. I think we paid $1 for a package of 15.

  • For kids, I strongly suggest a water bottle with a filter. Keeping kids hydrated at Disney is tough enough, and it’s a lot tougher if they dislike the unfamiliar taste of the water. And drinks in the parks get expensive…

    • Thanks for the idea! I might try to wrangle some local friends into bringing us bottled water.

  • Good luck with flying with small children! When my brother and I were little, my mom always made sure we had something to suck on when taking off so that our ears adjusted more easily to the altitude change. I really don’t remember, but I’m told it made for less screaming. 🙂 Hope you all have a great trip!

  • Flying JetBlue from Newark last week of August and staying at the Polynesian too. Traveling with a 6 yr. old and a 2 yr. old. We are thinking of bringing a double jogging stroller rather then renting one in FL. Does this count as a checked item? Do you know if will be an issue since it is a double and not a standard single stroller. Just though i would ask since you are traveling with children this time. the Jetblue website wasn’t really specific. Have a great trip.

    • I don’t know about Jetblue, but other airlines (United, Southwest, Airtran) have let me gate-check my stroller and it doesn’t count as a checked bag.

      • I don’t have my own kids yet so this is my first shot at this, but I always see people gate checking their strollers. That way they can have them for getting the kids around the airport. I don’t think it being a double stroller will cause you any problems either. The terminal that houses jetBlue in Newark is really small and they are generally pretty friendly at the security check since it’s not mobbed with people. I’m sure they’ll be helpful and let you know what to do for that part of it.

        Happy travels!

    • I went this past September with a 2 and 4 year old and we brought the 2 yr old’s umbrella stroller which we checked at the gate and then rented a single stroller in the park for my 4 yr old. I have heard that a dbl stroller is hard to fit on the bus and in the room. And there were times when we separated the kids so they each had their own stroller. I have the dbl Bob jogger but chose this route instead.

    • When we flew home from Disneyland last year, American Airlines made us check our double stroller at LAX. This was the first time they had made us check it with the bags (we usually gate check it) but they did not charge us for it.

  • Headphones… It’s usually the one “little” thing forgotten when packing and thinking about in-seat TV or portable DVD players. Bring a pair for each kid and one back-up as someone will lose theirs. Also- if they all want to watch the same thing at any time, consider a headphone splitter so you can double jack into the same DVD player.

    Plan B- The Unofficial Guide: The Color Companion and Kristen reads a story or two? 🙂

    • I think they should have some for their portable DVD players already so they should be set. If they mess them up we can always buy another pair on board since they aren’t very expensive and not have to haul around unnecessary extras.

      They already have my copy of the Color Companion! I better be getting it back! Auntie Kristen story time could happen though.

  • I’m sure this is probably a given, but I never forget hand sanitizer for the little ones! For the plane ride and the parks. Disney is fabulous, but germy! Stay well. It’s no fun getting sick on vacation! Have a great time!

      • I got the germ x that you can hang on your belt loop so I am not digging through my backpack.

  • Be sure to bring something for the kids to do in line…anywhere they may have to wait. Maybe have a surprise bag for each day! Have a great trip!

    • Ah that’s a great idea! I’ll leave that up to their parents though because I don’t want to haul around extra stuff haha. Thanks for the comment!

    • bubbles, stickers, crayons

    • Pipe cleaners in assorted colors make great entertainment while on a plane or in line and wouldn’t add much to the weight of the bag you throw them in. Best of all they can be straightened out and reused! You can do an I spy type of game where one person tries to bend their pipe cleaners into something they can see from line while other try to guess it. The next line you can make jewlery. Next line you can spell things, etc.

  • Love that Disney bag! I don’t remember seeing that when the 40th anniversary stuff was out.

    Have a great trip! It will be crazy busy, but you can’t beat February weather in FL.

    • I will be on a family trip from the 25th to March 3rd and am flying out of Newark on JetBlue as well. Hope we ALL have good weather!! I always bring a night light when I travel with little ones. And dollar store ponchos to throw over strollers in the event of rain showers. The dollar stores also sell a ‘magic cloth’ that is kind of like a chamois that has proved invaluable on my last trips! Have a magical time. It’s all about the memories!

      • I hope you have an awesome trip, Debra! Thanks for the tips. I’ll try to get to a dollar store over the next few days to try to pick up some of those things.

    • Thanks, Christa! I saw it a few places last year, but I think I bought it at Mouse Gear. It has served me well! We’ll be using Touring Plans to battle the crowds so we should be ok. Thanks for the comment!

    • Did you know that you can call Mouse Gears & buy that bag? 😉

      • I didn’t know that! Can you buy it in Mouse Gears in person? I have a friend that is at WDW right now that would pick it up for me.

      • Oh, I am not sure! I was just saying that I have called the stores before & bought stuff (I just did again yesterday). If you have a friend there, I would call them (407-939-6244), find out if they still have them & have them get you one (I’d love one too. lol). Disney is very accomodating that way 😀

      • When I was in WDW at the beginning of February, there weren’t any 40th anniversary items anywhere. I’ll still have my friend ask and see.

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