What's in my bag: The ultimate Disney World packing guide from a theme park pro
- Orlando weather can change very quickly, so a trip to Disney World requires packing for many elements.
- It's common to walk at least 10 miles a day at Disney World, so footwear and ways to stay cool matter.
- While at Disney World, you'll want the right backpack and/or even fanny pack to keep your hands free and your stuff organized.
Planning a Walt Disney World vacation has never been more involved. From booking your hotel, dining and theme park reservations to strategizing your virtual queue, rope drop, park hop and Genie+ and Lightning Lane plans, there’s a lot of pressure to get it right given the expense and time involved.
But all the meticulous spreadsheeting and early booking wake-ups in the world can’t undo the discomfort of waterlogged sneakers or the frustration of a dead phone battery unable to make additional Lightning Lane bookings in the middle of your vacation day.
So, before you get out that suitcase and start packing, check out this list of what to pack for a trip to Disney World.
As a theme park pro who travels from Chicago to Walt Disney World as often as twice a month, believe me when I say I’ve made all the mistakes, and my errors are now your tips. Some of these items may not have made your packing shortlist, but they could make or break your vacay — trust me, I’ve learned the hard way.
I never, ever hit the parks without a fanny pack.
I like to have my sunglasses, wallet, phone, portable charger, FuelRod and cord, lip balm, sunscreen and umbrella all right at my fingertips, rather than constantly slinging a backpack around and digging through it. I love the personalizable options from Stoney Clover Lane. I have the regular size but am eyeing the Jumbo for my next purchase.
Be warned, these are kind of pricey, so if you don't need a themed and personalized option, a budget-friendly option is the Herschel Seventeen Waist Pack, which usually starts at under $30 on Amazon.
When I visit the parks solo, I manage to pack everything into just a fanny pack, but when I’m with my kiddos, everyone brings their own backpack on the plane and we consolidate and bring just one backpack to the parks.
My boys bring their Stoney Clover Lane Classic Backpacks and carry their own iPads and plush toys and I bring a Coach Outlet backpack with a compartment to safely transport my laptop (since my park trips frequently double as work trips).
If those aren't the right ones for you, Petunia Pickle Bottom also makes some Disney-themed backpacks that are water-resistant, which can be important because when at Disney ... it will (probably) rain.
Related: These are the best credit cards for trips to Disney World
As I was saying, and I say this all the time — there’s one certainty on every Walt Disney World trip: It will rain.
Repeat after me, “It. Will. Rain.” But a downpour doesn’t have to put a damper on your fun. When packing for your trip to Disney World, you just need to be prepared with the right type of rain gear for your family.
Rain jackets and ponchos are definitely helpful for adding an extra layer of waterproof protection over your clothes, but it’s often sweltering just before, during and after those downpours — particularly in summer — and a jacket can just make you feel sweaty and sticky.
We pack lightweight, compact umbrellas for everyone in the family and on the hottest days, we leave jackets and ponchos at home.
Lightweight rain jacket
Outside of those hot, humid summer months, we pack lightweight rain jackets to keep clothes from getting soaked through. I buy this inexpensive, super lightweight Columbia Glennaker rain jacket for my boys, with room enough to fit a sweatshirt or lightweight down jacket underneath for colder days.
Columbia also puts out an annual limited-edition collection of outerwear themed to a new "Star Wars" release. My Boba Fett-inspired waterproof Columbia jacket from last year’s collection is now my go-to rain jacket. Look out for a new drop this fall/winter.
Waterproof stroller cover
If there is even the remotest chance of a rain shower and you’re headed inside for a ride or a meal, please heed my words and cover your stroller. I’ve come back outside to a positively drenched stroller more times than I'd care to admit.
Your best bet is a stroller cover made for your specific stroller model (we swear by the Baby Jogger City Mini GT2), but an inexpensive universal cover should also do the trick.
Yes, you will log a lot of steps during a Disney World vacation, but your go-to comfy sneakers aren’t so comfy after they’ve been soaked through by a downpour. I swear by fully waterproof footwear.
My favorite part when I’m packing for the whole family — no socks to take up precious suitcase space! Here are three different picks to suit your personal style.
Birkenstock Arizona Essentials
A classic, this lightweight, flexible, waterproof version of the cork-and-leather original is often the only shoe we pack for our Disney trips. I can walk miles in these sandals with no blisters, no soreness and no discomfort at the end of the day. They come in kids' sizes, too!
The look isn’t for everyone, but if Crocs are your jam, they’re another great waterproof option for both kids and adults. Disney regularly teams up with Crocs to create new designs, including park- and attraction-specific styles featuring characters and rides like Orange Bird and The Haunted Mansion.
Native shoes look like sleek sneakers but they’re lightweight and waterproof — no socks needed. Native even has a cute collaboration with Disney if you want to go all-in on your footwear theming.
I have enough friends who swear by these to include them on this list, but a word of warning — unlike Crocs and Birkenstocks, they give my kiddos blisters, so be sure to break them in at home first as they are great for some feet and not great for others.
Central Florida winters are famously unpredictable.
From about December through February, temps can fall anywhere from the 30s to the 80s, which means you’ll need to pack everything from swimsuits to warm coats. I swear by ultra-lightweight, packable down pieces from Uniqlo.
Its vests and jackets are inexpensive, weigh almost nothing, and come with their own little pouches so you can easily tuck them away in a backpack or fanny pack during the warmest part of the day. In the winter, I always bring both a jacket and a vest.
Effective sun protection is critical any time of year in Central Florida. When packing for Disney World, we bring an arsenal of options for our family. Dr. Jordan Carqueville, a leading board-certified dermatologist in Chicago, recommends starting with the right clothes. “Sun-protective clothing is ideal for long days in the sun and is especially great for kids,” she says.
We always bring rashguards for the pools and water parks — especially Typhoon Lagoon, where sunscreen doesn’t stand a chance of staying put after a pummeling by the wave pool.
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Carqueville also recommends covering up with a hat with at least a 3-inch brim, and reapplying sunscreen every 90 minutes, especially when sweating and swimming. “When choosing a sunscreen, look for the term 'broad-spectrum,' so it covers both UVA and UVB rays,” she says. Her favorites are ISDIN, EltaMD and Blue Lizard.
Supergoop Poof 100% Mineral Part Powder
I led with the expert recommendation but the truth is, I don’t wear a brimmed hat all day every day in the parks. But, I still protect my scalp with Supergoop Poof 100% Mineral Part Powder. It goes on like dry shampoo and keeps my part from burning.
A great pair of sunglasses is essential on a Disney World packing list, but it seems like at least one member of my family loses a pair every. Single. Trip.
Goodr sunglasses are my go-to for inexpensive but good-quality polarized sunglasses. Technically dubbed “running sunglasses” (and great for my runDisney training!), Goodr sunnies are lightweight, don’t slip and somehow fit everyone in my family, including my 6-year-old. We pack five pairs for our family of four so that if (ahem, when) someone loses a pair, we still have a backup.
My boys are bigger than I care to admit, but I started taking them to the parks when they were babies and these are a few items I couldn’t have gotten by without.
Tula baby carrier
Even if you rely mostly on a stroller, a baby carrier was a lifesaver for me for long lines when we had to leave the stroller behind. A good carrier is also great for naps if your little one fights stroller snoozes as mine did. I also loved being able to pop a kiddo in the carrier to watch fireworks, saving the strain on my arms and shoulders.
The Baby Care Centers in Disney World theme parks are definitely a parent’s best friend when it comes to clean and easy diaper changes, but you’ll want to be sure you always have a portable changing mat on hand for unexpected stops.
Disney World is breastfeeding-friendly and you’re free to nurse in public throughout the parks and resorts, but once again, the Baby Care Centers are a relaxing place to take a break and nurse a little one. Anytime I wanted extra privacy, I used a Milk Snob nursing cover to comfortably nurse anywhere in a pinch.
I learned about the magic of white noise for sleep when my kids were babies, and still pack our Rohm Travel Sound Machine for every trip because it works wonders for drowning out the incessant noise of tossing, turning, drinks of water and bathroom trips that inevitably come with four people sleeping in a hotel room together. There are apps for your phone that generate white noise but the Rohm is simply the best, most natural sound option I’ve found.
USB charging station
A modern-day Walt Disney World vacation requires a lot of tech, which means charging a lot of devices at night and throughout the day.
With Disney MagicMobile, your iPhone, Apple Watch or Google Pay-enabled Android phone can now act as your park ticket (taking the place of a MagicBand). You’ll also need your phone to access My Disney Experience to manage dining, Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane reservations, as well as the Play Disney Parks Mobile App.
Disney has been adding more USB ports in hotel rooms as they’re updated, but with so many different devices to charge, we have found that there are never enough for our whole family so it’s best to bring a charging station to get a few more ports.
MagicBands aren’t a necessity, but they make it so much easier to tap into the parks, your Disney World hotel room, and individual rides with Lightning Lane reservations. Plus, the newest version, MagicBand+, unlocks experiences exclusive to MagicBand+ wearers. These include the Star Wars: Batuu Bounty Hunters experience in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the Disney Fab 50 Quest, a sort of scavenger hunt across all four parks where you can “collect” the 50 characters represented as golden sculptures that celebrate Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary.
Even when you start the day with a full charge, it likely won’t be enough for a full park day, so we always bring this high-quality portable charger, which has enough juice to fully recharge at least two iPhones. We also throw a few extra portable chargers in the backpack too, along with some extra cords, just in case.
And because you can never have too many backups, we also carry a FuelRod as an extra insurance policy. FuelRods are sold in vending machines throughout the parks, but you can get them cheaper by ordering one in advance online.
Swap your FuelRod for free at machines throughout Disney World’s theme parks and many hotels.
Waterproof phone pouch
If you’re planning a day at the pool or a Disney water park and don’t want to be without your phone, a waterproof phone pouch ensures you never have to leave your device (and camera!) behind. I also stick my credit cards in here and don’t leave any valuables at my chair so I never spend the extra money to rent a locker.
iPads with protective cases
For the most part, we have a no-device rule for our kids once we step off the plane on vacation, but we make an exception in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Here, your “Datapad,” "Star Wars" speak for a smart device (iPad minis for our kids) logged in to the Play Disney Parks app, becomes a tool for some of the land’s experiences, including the Batuu Bounty Hunt, played in conjunction with a MagicBand+.
Once you discover the wonder of packing cubes, you’ll never look back. I keep our family of four organized by packing all of our clothes in packing cubes. This is a great way to separate clothing not just by family member, but by weather since Disney World can be so unpredictable. I use separate cubes for the whole family’s rain gear, for lightweight down, and for the pool, so that anything we don’t end up needing stays packed and organized.
If you want to invest a bit more in your packing cubes, TPG's Summer Hull swears by these Calpak packing cubes.
Related: Why you should start using packing cubes
In peak summer heat in Orlando, literally anything to take the edge off helps. My kids love cooling towels. I don’t love when they use them as weapons to fling at each other, but, hey, at least they’re staying cool.
If you aren't sure a cooling towel will be enough, some families also utilize portable neck fans on the hottest of days in Disney World. While there are a variety of options on the market, some of the most affordable are sometimes on sale for under $10 each on Amazon.
Knowing what to pack for a trip to Disney World is half the battle, so learn from what has worked for me on our numerous trips to Orlando and then you can go back to deciding between all the best restaurants at Disney World (including my favorite outdoor spots) and whether to start your day with Hollywood Studios or Magic Kingdom.
Additional reporting by Summer Hull.