As a travel writer who specializes in theme parks, visiting places like Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Universal Orlando is my job. I visit often (I’m on a flight to Orlando, FL as I write this) and I’ve learned a lot over the years about what to pack and what to leave at home. I save plenty of room in my suitcase for souvenirs, so I pack light and this list of essentials are the items that you’ll always find in my bag.
I tried a lot of handheld fans before I found what can only be described as the holy grail of handheld fans. This one doubles as a portable phone charger and a flashlight and the battery keeps going and going. I’ve had it for close to a year and I’ve only charged it a few times. I prefer the pink one, but it comes in brown, blue, yellow, and white, as well.
The CamelBak MultiBev Water Bottle is a stainless steel water bottle and travel cup in one. The cup screws onto the bottle so you can share your drink with a friend. It’s important to stay hydrated when you are trekking around a theme park all day and you can save a lot of money by bringing a refillable water bottle. I also love having this bottle in my hotel room. It holds a lot more than those tiny glasses on the nightstand. (Tip: Yes, you can bring this CamelBak water bottle into Disney World)
Along with my water bottle, I pack GU Electrolyte Hydration Tablets. I add them to my water one or two times a day to make sure I’m staying hydrated. They taste great and the added electrolytes are a nice bonus.
Whether you are using your phone to take photos or using the park’s app to check wait times and find your way around, there’s a good chance you will drain your phone’s battery before the day is done. I always keep a portable device charger in my bag so I don’t have to worry about my phone dying halfway through the day. When I’m back in my room for the evening, I recharge the portable charger right next to my phone so I don’t forget it the next day.
It should come as no surprise that sunscreen is a must-have when visiting a theme park. Rather than an old-school pasty, white lotion, I opt for a spray-on sunscreen that’s easy to apply on the go. This Banana Boat Light As Air sunscreen goes on smooth and feels dry to the touch. I typically keep a large bottle in my hotel room and bring a travel-size bottle into the parks.
Can you tell I’m a stickler for sun protection? When I wear makeup, I don’t want to ruin it by spraying sunscreen on top of it. This mineral powder sunscreen from Tarte comes in a travel-friendly tube with the brush built right in. It has a totally translucent finish and I’ve been known to brush it on my shoulders, too.
I’ve bought my fair share of Disney t-shirts over the years, but sometimes I want to wear an outfit that doesn’t scream, “I’m obsessed with theme parks.” For a more subtle Disney look, I love clipping this furry Minnie Mouse pom-pom bag charm onto my purse during my Disney visits.
I don’t often get nauseous on rides, but the older I get it seems to be happening more and more. Regular strength Dramamine is overkill for my symptoms (and it makes me want to take a big old nap), but these ginger chews have real ginger extract that offers gentle relief from nausea and motion sickness.
Pennies and Quarters
If you don’t want to bust your budget on souvenirs, bring along a bag of pennies and quarters for the pressed penny machines. Most theme parks have pressed penny machines placed around the park. They often have different designs based on popular rides and characters and my kids love turning the crank and pulling the freshly-pressed penny out of the machine. If you forget your change, more and more pressed penny machines are starting to accept credit cards.
It’s possible to walk 10 miles or more in one day at a theme park and comfortable shoes are a must. I find Toms Classic Alpargata shoes to be comfortable and easy to walk in, while still looking good with shorts and dresses. They come in dozens of colors and patterns to match any outfit.
Though I’ve never worn a swimsuit inside a theme park, I always pack one in my suitcase. Most theme park hotels have large pools with family-friendly features like water slides and splash pads. Some have full-on water parks! I prefer a one-piece so I can ride the water slides without worrying about a water-bound wardrobe malfunction.
No matter how carefully you plan your trip, you can’t predict the weather. Especially at Central Florida parks like Disney World and Universal Orlando, rain showers can pop up on even the sunniest days. Be prepared with a rain jacket like this one from Mountain Hardwear.
I learned to pack at least one piece of cold-weather clothing during a trip to Disney World when the comfortable daytime temperatures dropped into the low 50s once the sun went down. Learn from my mistake and pack at least one sweater or sweatshirt for chilly evenings.
Even if many of the attractions are indoors, you’re going to be spending a lot of time outdoors when you visit a theme park. You never want to be without sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun. I typically pack at least two pairs because I’ve been known to leave them behind when I get off a ride.
Trouble sleeping isn’t unique to sleeping in a theme park hotel and I actually pack these along whenever I travel. The Melatonin, L-Theanine, Chamomile, Lemon Balm in these sleep gummies act as a natural sleep aid that can help you fall asleep, and stay asleep when you are away from the comfort of your own bed.
Ziploc Bags have a variety of uses that can make your next theme park trip even better. You can store your phone inside one during log flume or rapids rides where you may (and probably will) get wet, use them to store snacks or to store wet clothes or bathing suits for the trip home. I like this multi-pack because it has multiple sizes for any needs that arise.