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A theme park vacation should be full of thrills, treats, and tons of family fun. But it can be a challenge to keep everyone happy and healthy without breaking the bank. It goes without saying that you should pack everyday items like your ID, credit card, and cash, but a full day at a theme park requires a little extra. Take these theme park essentials with you and you’ll be sure to have a magical day.
Keep Track of your Park Tickets
Park tickets are the most important thing to pack for a day at a theme park. But different parks require different ways to keep track of tickets. Disney World essentials include Magic Bands which store tickets, FastPasses, and PhotoPass photos when linked to a My Disney Experience account. Magic Bands are included with a stay at a Disney World resort, but they can be purchased for about $13 if you’re staying off property. These little devices are worn on your wrist like a watch. Instead of fumbling through your wallet for your ticket, just tap your magic band at the entry turnstiles to access your ticket. Tap it again at ride entrances to utilize FastPasses. Magic Bands also automatically sync ride photos and videos, so you don’t have to a snap a picture of the monitors. As a lifelong Disneyland fanatic, I love Magic Bands. I wish they would bring them to California. (No, MaxPass is not the same nor is it good enough.)
Universal Studios essentials for either Orlando or Hollywood include a lanyard with a plastic badge holder for tickets. You can also use the lanyard at Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventures for tickets and pin trading. (I don’t pin trade, so I just assume that’s how it works.)
Buy Souvenirs Outside the Park and Bring Them With you
Aside from your ticket, you’ll probably want to show your theme park spirit with festive accessories and attire. A great way to save money while still being festive is to buy souvenirs outside the park. This includes things like an autograph book and pen and princess or pirate costumes. I have a weak spot for Mouse ears. I already own five pairs. (Actually, six pairs if you count Christmas ears.) But that wouldn’t stop me from buying new ones if I left mine at home so always pack your ears! Kids love bubble wands, but they run out of bubbles quickly. You can purchase a small refill container inside the parks, but you’ll get more for less if you buy bubbles outside the park. At night, glow sticks are a great way to entertain little kids while you wait for fireworks or parades. And they might help you resist buying a light up sword or necklace.
Bring a Back-up Battery to Keep Your Phone Charged
Also, don’t forget to pack a back-up battery and charging cable for your phone. At Disney World, the My Disney Experience app is everything. You need to keep your phone charged so you can view your upcoming FastPasses, make new FastPasses, view your dining reservations, make changes to your dining reservations, and view your photos. I also follow along with my touring plans and check wait times on my phone. All that activity can kill your battery! A back-up battery should be part of your Disneyland essentials too since the new MaxPass system is also dependent on your phone and the Disneyland app. MaxPass lets you make FastPass reservations without walking back and forth across the park among other things. I’ve only used it once, but I’m hooked! At all theme parks, you’ll probably use your phone to take photos so staying charged is a must. We pack a back-up battery and charging cable for each adult. If you forget these items, you can purchase a $30 Fuel Rod at kiosks throughout Disney World and Disneyland.
Bring a Backpack for All Your Gear
Finally, you need a good bag to store all these essentials. If you’re taking an infant or a toddler to a theme park, you will probably take your normal diaper bag. Just toss most of these theme park essentials in that bag. Alternatively, you can take a separate backpack. We love the High Sierra bag because it can be used as a carry-on for the airplane and it has a detachable backpack for the parks. I prefer backpacks to cross-body bags, but, either way, I recommend you pack a bag that keeps your hands and arms free.
Neosporin + Pain Relief Neo To Go! First Aid Antiseptic/Pain Relieving Spray, .26 Oz
Sawyer Picaridin Premium Insect Repellent Spray 4oz
Purell Jelly Wrap Travel Size Hand Sanitizer
Dramamine Motion Sickness Relief Original Formula
Sea-band the Original Wristband Adults
Advil (300 Count) Pain Reliever / Fever Reducer Coated Tablet, 200mg Ibuprofen
Stay Healthy, Kill Germs
Theme parks are full of people and full of germs. Hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and tissues will go a long way towards preventing your kids from picking up or spreading a nasty bug. They aren’t 100% effective, but it’s a start. Honestly, though:
— Mommy +Miles (@MommyPlusMiles) February 3, 2018
Wear Sunblock (and Bug Spray)
Regardless of when you’re visiting theme parks, wear sunblock! Even in January, I got sunburned in Orlando. You should also consider packing bug spray depending on your destination. The Zika virus still exists plus mosquitoes can spread all sorts of nasty diseases. Although, the Florida Department of Health has not identified Zika infections in the areas around Disney World, you can never be too prepared. As part of their preventive measures, Disney World does provide bug spray near their lakes and other bodies of water. If you’re part of an at-risk population including those who are pregnant or trying to conceive, consider taking your own bug spray. Also, apply sunscreen before bug spray so you don’t accidentally rub the bug spray away.
Be Prepared for Minor Injuries
Theme parks do have first aid stations so if you suffer a severe injury that is where you can seek medical treatment. But if you or your kid suffer a minor cut or scrape, it’s easier to just treat it yourself with Band-Aids and Neosporin. Our toddler regularly falls on flat walkways, so we’ve had our share of cuts and bruises. Usually, Neosporin does the trick because he just peels Band-Aids off.
Prevent Motion Sickness
Also, consider packing motion sickness medication. I talked about my lifelong struggle with motion sickness in SeaWorld Orlando Highlights, so Dramamine is a must have for me. Sea Bands also work if you have less severe motion sickness. There’s a misconception that rides at Disney World or Disneyland are “baby” rides that won’t make the average person sick, but that’s not true. 3D motion effects can be tough on anyone and coasters like Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Expedition Everest, California Screamin’, and Tower of Terror are serious business. I wear a motion sickness patch to ride any of those. At Universal Studios, 4D motion effects are a whole new level of bad. (Never again, Transformers. Never again.)
Consider an Ibuprofen Regimen
Finally, painkillers. On our most recent trip to SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Studios Orlando, and Disney World Orlando, we walked about 13,000 steps and over 5 miles per day. And we only spent 6-8 hours per day at the parks! Your feet will hurt. Heck, your whole body will hurt. Good shoes help, but ibuprofen is magic. Of course, talk to your doctor before you consume any medication.
Food and Drink Essentials
Half the fun of visiting theme parks is eating all the tasty food, but theme park food gets expensive quick. Plus, if you’re traveling with a little kid, they can’t always wait for a snack break. (Same goes for mom. You don’t want to see a hangry mama.) Be prepared and take your kid’s favorite snacks with you. You can even pack an entire lunch if you want. A small thermos is a great way to keep food like mac and cheese or hot dogs warm for a few hours. As an adult, I probably wouldn’t enjoy the consistency, but my two-year-old doesn’t care as long as it’s mac and cheese.
Drink More Water
Finally, staying hydrated at a theme park is incredibly important. Quick service restaurants throughout Disney World and Disneyland provide (tiny) free cups of ice water, but I find myself more likely to drink water if I pack it with me. We use a freezable lunch bag to keep our bottled water cold. There are lots of cute, cheap Disney themed water bottles at department stores around Disney World and Disneyland, so you can be festive and stay hydrated for less. The freezable lunch bag is also a great way to store fruit or cheese. However, this bag won’t keep items cold forever. When taking cold snacks, make sure to consume those first so they don’t spoil as the temperature heats up.
Disposable Rain Poncho With Hood – 5 Color Assortments One Size Fits AllSkyGenius Battery Operated Clip on Mini Desk Fan, BlackONME Adjustable Eyewear Retainer, Universal Fit Rope Eyewear Retainer, Sport Unisex Sunglass Retainer Holder StrapQIDIANTRADE Evaporative Cooling Towel
Be Prepared for Heat
You guys, Orlando is hot. And humid. Even in January we had two 80-degree Fahrenheit days. California in the summer can also be very hot. Again, sunblock is essential, but a fan clipped onto your stroller will help keep you a bit cooler. (Yes, it’s for the adult pushing the stroller, not the kid. Tough luck, kid.) A cooling towel also comes in handy since heat plus lack of shade equals sweat. And sunglasses are a must all year round. If you want to keep them from flying of your head, consider using a sunglass strap.
Be Prepared for Rain
Finally, weather in Orlando is unpredictable. An umbrella and/or a poncho for every member of your party is always a good idea. We were lucky, and it only rained once in the evening and on the day we were leaving during our most recent visit. But we had our ponchos and rain jackets with us every day. Most theme parks sell ponchos, but they are significantly more expensive than the cheap ones you can find on Amazon.
Final Thoughts on What to Pack: Theme Park Essentials
Ok, so that’s a lot of stuff to pack, and you’ll probably shed a tear as you watch people fly through the “no bag” line at security, but it’s important to be prepared. With all these theme park essentials at hand, you’ll be able to focus on the magic rather than worrying about keeping everyone happy and healthy. Have a magical day!