What to Pack for a Disney World or Disneyland Vacation

Here's how to bring everything you need (and nothing you don't) for a magical day out at Disney.
DIsney Castle Fireworks (Photo by Jayme McColgan on Unsplash)
Photo: Jayme McColgan on Unsplash

“Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.” This blink-and-you’ll-miss-it quote adorns the top of the entrance to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, just before you see the first glimpse of Cinderella’s Castle. But sometimes knowing what to pack for Disney World can feel more like a mystery than fantasy.

What to Pack for Disney World (and Other Disney Parks)

Whether your family loves to go all-out with rope-drop-to-fireworks itineraries or just want to see Mickey and friends, here’s everything you need to know about packing for your theme park vacation.

Packing for a day at a theme park as big and magical as WDW takes a bit of strategy and some advance planning. When you’re considering what to pack for Disney World, Disneyland, or another Disney park, you’ll need to think about both what to bring and what to leave back at the hotel or vacation rental. Striking that balance between being prepared and carrying too much is key.

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Cinderella's Castle at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Orlando (Photo: Kent Phillips)
Photo: Kent Phillips

1. You Don’t Need to Go Big

I’ve been going to Disney parks for more than twenty years, and the biggest mistake I see is when families try to do too much in one day (and bring in way too much stuff). At Walt Disney World, you have more than 40 square miles to explore—that’s nearly the size of San Francisco!—so it’s impossible to do and see it all.

If you’re staying on property, a network of buses, monorails, walking paths, and the Disney Skyliner can get you easily back and forth between the parks and the Disney World hotels. Even if you’re staying off property at one of the theme park hotels near Disney World (or the hotels near Disneyland in Anaheim), you’re likely not too far from any one of the parks. Take time in the middle of the day to cool off, nap, splash around at your hotel pool, and decompress from the heat and crowds before heading back into the park for nighttime magic. 

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That way, you only have to pack one daypack, don’t have to worry about coolers and extra food, and can get some much-needed rest after navigating long lines and crowds in 85-degree-heat with kids.

What makes packing light so possible in the parks? Disney’s MagicBand, which replaces your credit card, room key, and tickets so you can go completely bagless if you want to. MagicBands come in hundreds of different colors and combinations and grant you access to everything you need while on Disney property.

If you’d rather not sport the MagicBand, or you’re only headed to the park for a day, you can also use Disney’s MagicMobile feature through the My Disney Experience app.

2. Be Ready for Long, Hot Days

While designated cooling stations, air conditioning, and water rides offer some relief, be prepared for hot, humid days even in the middle of winter. That means bringing good sunglasses, a hat, a mini-fan, sunscreen, and a big water bottle. (You can fill a water bottle for free at any counter service location.)

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One other feature of Orlando afternoons: Thunderstorms. Don’t get caught paying big bucks for the equivalent of a plastic trash bag. Grab a pack of disposable ponchos or a light raincoat before you go so rain won’t slow you down. 

If you’re traveling with an infant, go through our comprehensive baby travel checklist for any trip.

3. The Key is Comfort

It’s easy to log 10 to 15 mile days at the parks (even with a midday break!), so make sure you pack several pairs of comfortable sandals and sneakers. I always bring a few bandaids to deal with any blisters and hot spots, too.

The best shortcut to a comfortable day in the parks is bringing the right day pack. I’m a big fan of having each member of the family bring their own bag, so everyone has what they need. A great kid-friendly pack is the Fjallraven’s Kanken Mini Classic Backpack. Or if you’re like me, you’ll love a cute fanny pack for snacks and camera. Or go all-in on Disney theming with these adorable bags from Loungefly.

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The Right Stroller

Even if your kids are able to walk on their own, a day at the parks can be super tiring for small feet. While Disney offers strollers for rent, you’ll be most comfortable with your own stroller as you go in and out of rides, shows, and parades. Here are a few recommendations for some of our travel favorites.

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Here for the Snacks

Food and dining at Disney (Photo: Walt Disney World Resort)
Food and dining at Disney (Photo: Walt Disney World Resort)

Let’s be real: I’m usually just here for the food, and that’s especially true for a trip to Disney. I’m always scouting out my favorite snacks ahead of time (it’s Dole Whip, obviously) and spend hours obsessing over which reservations to make—if it’s not during EPCOT’s Food and Wine Festival, that is. 

But eating in the parks can really add up if you’re on a budget. While the Disney Dining Plan might be a good investment for your family, if you’re staying off property or have picky eaters, it might be better to bring your own. 

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Disney does allow you to bring in as much food and as many snacks as you want (though sorry, no alcohol.) There are plenty of picnic spots across the parks—my favorite is the Hub Grass surrounding Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom—so if you plan to bring food, be prepared with a cooler and a thermos to handle the Orlando heat. It’s also a good idea to bring your own reusable straws.

Even though I love Disney food, I also always bring a few healthy snacks in my bag to stave off hanger during long queues, items like bars, pretzels, and fruit. Just make sure not to pack anything too chocolate-y as it will definitely melt. 

Lightweight, Easy Clothing

As far as clothes go, bring quick dry lightweight t-shirts, shorts, leggings with pockets, and other athletic clothing, plus a swimsuit for pool time and for exploring the water parks. Tank tops, bike shorts, and whatever else makes you comfortable is always a good bet, too. Bring at least one outfit per day, plus a change of clothes after riding a water ride like Splash Mountain or Kali River Rapids.

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If you’re staying at Deluxe Resort or Disney Vacation Club villa like at Grand Floridian, you may want to bring one or two dressy outfits for dinners—certain Signature Restaurants, like the Boardwalk Inn’s Flying Fish and the all-new Topolina Terrace at the Riviera Resort, require collared shirts and pants for men and skirts or dressy pants for women. 

And don’t forget my favorite park accessory: Mickey ears! I have several pairs, but my favorite is a floral pair from EPCOT’s Flower and Garden Festival several years ago. You’ll be able to find all kinds of ears across the parks, or you can order a few ahead of time here

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Kayla Voigt
Always in search of adventure, Kayla Voigt hails from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, the start of the Boston Marathon. You can usually find her at the summit of a mountain or digging into a big bowl of pasta.