What to Pack for Disney World Florida with Kids
Having recently returned from a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida, I feel suitably qualified to write a full guide on what exactly to take to Walt Disney’s theme parks, with a family, in the soaring heat. We had an amazing time, a fortnight jam-packed with memories and magical experiences for the kids. However, there’s no escaping it, packing for a Disney experience, especially with a family in tow, requires a great deal of thought. Get it wrong, i.e. pack the wrong things or worse, forget to pack something completely and you can expect a day of whinging, whinging, blistering or sunstroke.
The amount of walking, exposure to the elements and requirement to carry various items of clothing, food, drink and other miscellaneous equipment puts a trip to Walt Disney World Florida in the same bracket as some of my alpine hiking trips!
I shall segment this Disney lowdown into the following sections:
- Your Feet
- Body Fuel
- Sun Protection
- Cameras and Tech
- Fun Stuff to Pack
- Essentials – Medical/Health
We’ll start with the day bag, or the rucksack. The reason I’m suggesting a two-strapped day bag is because if you pick the right bag, that mixes style with practicality, you’ll have a much ‘easier’ time of it in Disney World. Two straps means both hands are free to attend to the kids or fish around in pockets for loose change or your Disney fastpass for example.
Two straps also disperse the pack weight nicely. Rucksacks have multiple pockets and therefore provide east access in an emergency!
I used a Lowe Alpine, mesh-backed 25 litre backpack for my trip. A 20 to 25 litre capacity day bag should be ample for fitting all the items mentioned in this guide. Anymore, it’ll look like you’re embarking on a full blown expedition.
Remember, a stuff sack in the front or a criss-cross of bungee strings with a pull toggle will come in very useful if someone suddenly gives you a teddy bear to hold or a hat to look after. Look out for a rucksack with handy mesh pockets in the side panels of the bag, ideal for folks who want to sip their water bottles all day.
Choose from one of these 4 daysacks for your Walt Disney World trip and you’ll be well equipped:
Now, Disney do a cracking job of security, there are cameras subtly hidden all over the likes of Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Epcot for instance. Nevertheless, a bum bag (or if you’re across the pond – a fanny pack) might be a good idea for tickets, receipts and cash, though a stout per of shorts with decent pockets ideally with buttons or zips is just as good in my opinion.
The Best Trainers for Walking Around Disney World
I witnessed most folk wearing sensible trainers and I’d advise to follow suit. We worked out via a Fitbit watch that we’d walked at least 20,000 steps in a single day at Magic Kingdom. A decent pair of cotton socks underneath will prevent the blisters too. Choosing a pair of trainers is a review post in itsself (click here for Womens Trainers under £100 and Men’s Trainers under £100) so we’ll just put up 4 pairs here that’ll do the job. Note the comfy soles and breathable mesh on all of our selections here. The price point is under £50.Mens trainers:
Trainers may be the preferred footwear solution for many Disney go-ers but for those who like a dose of fresh air around their toes, then a pair walking sandals would also do the job. Manufacturers such as Teva, Merrell, Keen and the UK’s own Karrimor are all reputable brands.
The walking sandal could be a good option for the children too. They’re far more supportive and harbour less ‘rub risk’ then open toed flip flops and potentially more practical in the heat than your conventional trainer. They look quite cool and cute too…
Love ‘em or hate ‘em – Crocs rock, for adults and children alike, especially for a day out at Disney. They slip on and off easily, they’re comfy, they have breathability holes and come in a range of funky colours to persuade the little nippers to wear them without argument. Our kids wore a mix of trainers and crocs to be honest. For the first few days I took the crocs in the day bag, just in case, they’re light enough to pack for emergencies. Crocs also dry in seconds so if you’re drenched from a water ride, such as splash mountain, these rubber shoes will dry in the Floridian heat in no time.
Step forward Mr. Practical Dad. I also packed spare ankle socks for everyone, including myself and my wife. Although I was mainly wearing brown Birkenstocks for their breathability, excellent foot moulding and hard wearing soles, I was unsure as to whether or not 20,000 steps would begin to grate my feet, hence the socks. I never did succumb to the ‘socks and sandals’ look which youthful types actually advocate in America. I was also fully expecting a ‘Daddy, my feet are rubbing’ type claim after a few hours from the kiddiwinks (never come thankfully). You just don’t know how the day is going to go and 4 little pairs of ankle socks in a bag is hardly a chore to carry. Just take them, better safe than sorry.
Fuel the Body:
The Best Water Bottles for Disney Parks
Can you take water bottles into Disney Parks to refill? You absolutely can. In fact, it’s encouraged due to the daytime temperatures, plus you’ll be saving around $3.50USD on the extortionate drinks prices in the parks – this is the price for Sprite, Coke, Coke Zero (at April 2018). Dehydration in 80f heat and high humidity is a real concern.
We found the water a bit iffy in Magic Kingdom but weirdly, Epcot next door was fine. Here are some light, robust water bottles which are BPA free (meaning the oestrogen imitating chemical Bisphenol A is not given off from the plastic). You could of course buy a family stock of water bottles in the parks, but be warned – the prices will be extortionate! Plan ahead basically.
If your kids aren’t into drinking ‘boring water’ then you could try squirting a drop of cordial in, true these things are not organic but they’ll help get fluids into your kids and keep whingy whiny headachey tantrums at bay.
The snack-factor is going to be another expensive element of your already costly day at the Disney Parks. Saving valuable dollars is down to pre-planning. An ice-cream in any park is $5, so budget $20 per round of ice creams for a family of 4. Craziness. If you want to splash out, save the money for an incredibly tasty Pineapple Dole Whip at Aloha Isle in Adventure Land at Magic Kingdom.
Anyway, non-perishable, easy to carry snacks are the way forward. Here are some options to consider that are fairly healthy, some protein based (meaning they’ll fill you up) and some just downright tasty:
Food, taste and dietary preferences are super subjective at the best of times, so why not consider taking a few clip lip food containers with you? We did, meaning we could take in things like melon, sandwiches, trail mix and fresh pineapple … and saved an absolute fortune it has to be said!
How hot is Disney World Florida? Answer – it varies but it’s hot for us Brits at all times. Temperatures rarely dip below 75f and in the summer months of July and August, the midday sun will produce temperatures into the 100’s.Sunscreen
The amount of gradually reddening arms, necks, shoulders and noses that you see towards the end of the afternoon is frightening and makes you wince and think ‘that’s gonna hurt tomorrow!’. Take no chances, buy a decent sunscreen, with a decent factor. We’ve shortlisted a mix of travel size bottles which are easier to carry, sprays and brands. Just to err on the side of caution, stick these in your hold luggage. The restrictions on liquids stand at 100ml max and some of these exceed that limit.
Mickey Ears are not classified as a practical hat guys! When the sun is out in Florida it really beats down, it’s lovely for 5 minutes and then you realise you’re a sitting duck. Even a baseball cap is better than nothing, it has no neck protection but at least the risk of sunstroke will be reduced and squinting will also reduce. Please don’t go lapse on this with the kids – the sun is brutal and you only get one skin! Based on my experience, these are a selection of hats I’d recommend for Orlando where the UV score around noon hits anything from 8 to 10. That’s pushing extreme.
If I don’t wear sunglasses, I’m in tears. I squint and then headaches usually follow. I took 3 pairs of sunglasses to Florida to ensure I’d never be without if I sat on a pair or lost a pair on a rollercoaster. The kids loved their sunnies too, so here’s a good selection for all the family. Invest in a case too. If you’re staying for the fireworks at Magic Kingdom, Epcot or Animal Kingdom then you won’t be needing the sunglasses, and you can safely stow them away in the day bag without fear of them being squashed.
Slip, Slop, Slap was a very famous Australian Health Campaign for sun safety and it applies here too. Slip on a shirt, slop on sun lotion and slap on a hat, it’s common sense. Now fashion items such as a shirt are subjective so I’ll just show examples here; linen, cotton, polyester mix with breathability – it doesn’t really matter, just cover and slip on a shirt.
I’d recommend a poncho for a trio of reasons. Firstly, there are some quite brilliant thunderstorms in Florida. They’re actually quite relieving and the whole place feels a lot fresher afterward, but boy does it rain hard. Ponchos are quick and easy to put on, will cover up your backpack underneath and take next to no room in your bag. Secondly, the water rides in Disney parks are brilliant. We’ll say no more on this, aside from you
may will get wet. Thirdly, and perhaps not so obvious – if you get a little cold at night watching the firework shows, the poncho could be a warming garment – always thinking!
Chances are you’ll have a decent enough camera on your smartphone. Failing that, the world of digital SLR cameras is vast. It’s another product area that deserves a review article of its own, so, for now, we’ll just go with the best Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras under £300.
These are sticks that allow you to take a selfie in front of an array of Disney backdrops, such as that rather impressive castle at Magic Kingdom and that huge golf ball looking thing at Epcot – oh and a whole host of Disney characters. My kids seemed to get very excited at the prospect of a “Meet the Character” experience with Donald Duck of all people (or ducks as the case may be). Selfie sticks are useful and you will use them, it does beat having a forearm stretching out on a photo even worse, chopping your head off whilst Goofy laughs beside you.
In the café’s and restaurants of the Disney parks there are sockets in the walls to recharge, but it’s not always guaranteed to be available and they could suddenly decide to ban this anyway. Given the amount of ‘juice’ you’ll require on your mobile phone battery for checking the very useful Disney App for Fastpass availability and taking and sharing photos, buying a portable mobile phone charge is a tremendous idea. There’s probably more than one of you in your party with a mobile phone too. Here’s our pick of mobile charger packs that will do the job:
Fun Stuff:Mickey & Minnie Ears
I can’t bring myself to review a pair of Mickey ears, but all I will say is they are about $20 USD in the Disney Parks (that’s around £15)….and the following Mickey Mouse Ears aren’t. Buy them before you go and spend your hard earned cash elsewhere!
Essentials – Very Practical Things You May Wish to Consider
This section isn’t the most glamourous or exciting but they’ll help keep the day running smoothly regardless of the heat, the queues or the blisters! This practical section completes the ultimate checklist of things to take to Disney World.First Aid/Medical/Health Related