A Disney Vacation may not seem like it’s complicated. It’s just a theme park, right? Throw some things in a bag, and just go! And while we don’t disagree that packing for Disney World is different from other vacations, it is definitely more complicated. Why? Because Florida is both sweltering HOT and rainy. And as Disney vacations go, you’re also walking about 15 miles a day through the parks. Consider this the equivalent of your most difficult hot yoga class. And if you’re toting strollers or heavy backpacks, it can double as your HIIT class too. As such, to be prepared, there are things you Need To Buy before your next Disney vacation.
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Disney World Packing Essentials
Wondering what must-have items for Disney World are needed? With loads of Disney Packing lists on every Disney Blog, including ours, you’re probably wondering how you can possibly afford all the things needed for Disney World. As such, if you’re ready to learn What to Buy for a Disney Vacation, that you actually need, you’re in the right place.
The Thing About Travel
No matter how frugal you are, how grown up, how prepared, or how good at planning we can guarantee you will begin packing your suitcase for your next vacation ( Disney or elsewhere) and realize OH MY GOSH I have absolutely nothing I need! You won’t have the right clothes, the right hair stuff or makeup, and you’ll suddenly need three kinds of shoes you simply don’t own! And that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of getting the bigger SD card for your camera or the sunscreen.
So why does this happen? You obviously go about your regular life just fine with the things you already have, why on earth would you need more stuff or different stuff? Let me clear this up for you. If you’re a traveler you’re probably slowly gathering your arsenal of things because you are used to traveling and are accumulating the things you know you need. If you’re not a traveler ( yet) or worse, just a once-a-year vacationer when you get that 2 weeks off work, then you’re in for a rude awakening. A recent study showed that on average people spend 2x more money on stuff for the vacation than they actually do on the vacation. Not good.
Why? Because you’re going somewhere you don’t usually go. If you’re used to getting in your car and driving to work every day, you’re not likely to need hiking boots, a thermos, a camping lantern, or a beach towel. You’re not likely to need a lot of things, except maybe coffee. If you’re in the average American household of 2.54 people all the stuff you need to buy now suddenly includes others. So what can you do to tackle your “Things I Need To Buy Before Vacation” List without breaking the bank?
What to Buy BEFORE Your Next Disney Vacation
What you’ll need to buy before vacation varies depending on where you’re going, what time of year it is, the method of travel, the weather, and how long you’re staying. But in general, lugging everything out of your closet in preparation for the upcoming task of packing makes clear what you’ll need regardless of where you’re going. Disney Vacations require you to carry your stuff around, fit it into roller coasters, and navigate gift shop aisles…the point? Pack Light. While there are lockers at the front of the park, you aren’t visiting Disney so you can spend it lugging your stuff around. This is the list of stuff we always bring on our Disney vacation in addition to those things above. Once you get comfortable with your new travel-ready self, you can focus on those specific items you’ll need for a Disney Vacation.
Really Good Shoes
Shoes: While you may not need a new shoe collection, you will probably need a variety or two you haven’t had before. Flip-flops for the beach, hiking boots for the mountains, rain shoes for outdoor showers, and dressy shoes for a nice evening out. Obviously, try to multipurpose when you can, and buy something quality that can last through the next few vacations. Disney Pro Tip: BRING A FEW DIFFERENT SHOES…. because walking 15 miles a day in one pair of shoes, for 5 days straight is tough. Check out our list of the Best Shoes for Disney.
Personal Hygiene Stuff: Once you start packing this stuff you’ll realize it’s responsible for about 20 lbs of weight in your suitcase. Chances are you will want to either share the responsibility of bringing toiletries or grab sample sizes. If you wear contacts make sure you have one or two extra pairs available to bring. If you wear glasses, pack an extra pair. We also always end up needing stupid things like cotton balls, q-tips, nail polish remover, bobby pins, and more hair things. Disney Pro Tip: Disney Resorts have Shampoo, Conditioner, and Body Wash built into the shower. So you can skip bringing those if you’re okay with H20 products.
Whether you’re getting a regular MagicBand, or the new MagicBand+, having these purchased and already attached to your My Disney Experience account saves time and money! Especially since, if you’ve booked a vacation through Disney, then you get a discount on MagicBands in the app! Or you can head to shopDisney.com to buy your MagicBand ahead of time and attach it to your account.
Outdoor Things: Bug Spray, Sunscreen, Tick Spray, Aloe- chances are these are all things you don’t have readily available or in enough of a supply to bring along on a vacation. If you’re going anywhere sunny, or with bugs, buy this stuff ahead of time.
Meds and Vitamins
Medicine and Vitamins: You’ll want to dose up on some Emergencee or Vitamin C gummies prior to your vacation. And then probably bring what’s left along. You will be around lots and lots and lots of people. Stay healthy. I can also mention nothing is better than needing medicine, bandaids, or Midol and knowing that you have it in your suitcase or bag, otherwise, you’ll be paying a small fortune for that headache that’s ruining your vacay. Go prepared and bring this stuff with you.
Portable Chargers and Tech
Phone Charger: Ok, so you should have one of these already, but if you don’t have a good one that will hold up. Invest in this one. Yes, Disney has charging stations.. but who wants to spend your magical Disney vacation outside of bathrooms waiting for your phone to charge?
USB Wall Charger: Ah the joys of needing to plug in everything! While some of the Disney resorts are undergoing refurbishments to add USB ports into the headboard outlets, it’s a good idea to grab one of these anyway. Mainly because chances are you will have several phones that need to be plugged in when you return from your day at the parks, and potentially a camera or two. If you are a girl or traveling with girls, it will also be no surprise that we need those actual outlets for things like our industrial-strength hairdryer, curling iron, and flat iron, personal Keurig, girl boss laptop, etc.
A bigger SD Card: We go straight for the 32 or 64GB SD card for our cameras. Why? Well because on any given day we’re usually taking about 500-800 pictures and will probably need space for that impromptu video we didn’t know we’d need to take. Also, a larger SD card allows us to take some of the pressure off keeping all the pictures and video on our phones. We’ve spent many an early trip to Disney sitting at lunch deleting pictures off the phone simply because we had run out of space. Now, we just go prepared.
A Disney Park Day Bag
What you really need is a small backpack! We have Disney Day Bag Essentials we bring into the parks with us daily. We recommend against bringing anything too big that you’ll need a locker for. Frankly, we’re here to save money, not spend it on lockers. That said, a small backpack should fit your wallet, phone, charger, small sunscreen, hand sanitizer, water bottle, and camera. And if you’re bent on something a little bigger, check out our favorite Disney Backpacks.
Vacation Smells: Did you know that the strongest memories are attached to smells? Chances are you realize this to some capacity already and look forward to apple pie as much as we do because it reminds us of moms at Thanksgiving. Well, if you’ve just spent a few thousand dollars on this vacation, you should do everything you can to instill this memory forever. We usually like using the shampoo/conditioner technique where every vacation anywhere we pack a different shampoo/conditioner with a beautiful smell that will remind us of our vacation long after we’ve left and every time we use it afterward. But, you can also do this with room spray. We like Yankee Candle and Bath and Body Works. Both offer room sprays, and Bath and Body also offer wallflower plug-ins, so your room smells fantastic when you return.
Water Bottle: Having a water bottle is essential in the Florida Heat. Mainly because it’s easy to get cranky when you’re dehydrated. Disney Pro Tip: Go with a Swell water bottle. You can grab it at Target or Amazon along with everything thing else on this list. It’s stainless steel, and slim, so it will fit nicely in your day bag and you’ll ward off any of that plastic taste caused by the heat on a regular water bottle.
Sunglasses: Yeah, we know you probably have one pair… well get ready to lose them at Disney, everyone does. My sister has a strict rule to not spend too much money on sunglasses because they always seem to go missing. So we find cheap ones at Shein. Plan to bring a couple of pairs with you just in case. You don’t want to have to pay the 20 bucks for the sunglasses at the gift shop you may never wear again.
A necessity as a result of the pandemic, having hand sanitizer attached to your bag is just smart. From touching rides to banisters and balustrades to multiple items in the gift shops as you browse. There’s a lot to touch, and a lot of germs floating around. Grab a Sanitizer holder and attach it to your bag. Fill it with a Bath and Body Works pocketbac and use it as needed throughout the day.
You don’t need a mandate or sign on the door to tell you a mask can keep you safe in crowds, especially during cold season. And at Disney Parks, there are crowds everywhere. Be sure to bring a face mask so that when you enter lines that are crowded or step into a crowded gift shop you can just put on your mask, and feel a little safer. Check out our whole collection of Disney Face Masks, with filter pockets for an extra layer of protection. Perfect for your next Disney Parks Vacation or Disney Cruise.
Autograph Book: The best autograph books are the ones we’ve seen people make themselves just out of notebooks. But you can also grab any Disney-related notebooks at Target or Box Lunch or the real thing at shopDisney. You can also grab a Disney book with your favorite characters and have them sign that for an extra special keep-it-forever keepsake.
Disney Family Shirts
Disney Outfit: If you don’t plan an outfit or purchase ahead of time, you’ll end up at Disney seriously considering the 60-dollar jersey top and 40 dollars shorts and the 25-dollar ears just so you can live your best Disney life. Instead, plan for one special Disney outfit or shirt. We got loads of Disney gear for the whole family in our shop that are way less than the 100-dollar outfit that you may have to buy if you don’t plan ahead of time. Check out our Polka Dot Pixie Shop Shopping Guide for fun Disney shirts and style ideas.
Ponchos: The chances of it raining in Florida are pretty good most of the time. In California, it’s slightly more predictable. It’s best to pack a poncho because let’s face it, you don’t want to end up paying the 12 dollars for the ones at the resort gift shop. You can also grab this 10-pack of ponchos for the cost of a little over $1 dollar each.
If you’re traveling to Disney during Hurricane Season then skip the ponchos and go for the full-on rain outfit. We see so many people in these things during September that you just know they have to be locals… because they’re not letting the rain stop them for anything!
Sunscreen: Sunshine is everywhere! You will most probably be outside for about 12-15 hours every day you’re on vacation. Chances are you’re not outside this often, which means your skin is going to freak out. Protect it.
Disney Gift Cards
Gift Cards: So, I don’t know about where you live, but where we live, you can get deals or points or rewards or something for buying gift cards. It’s one of our favorite ways to Save Money at Disney. At one of our local grocery stores, we can buy all the gift cards needed to pay for our Disney Vacation and get 20 cents off a gallon of gas for every 50 dollars we spend. At Target you can get 5% off the purchase of everything with a Red Card. There are hacks available… just keep an eye out where you are to get gift cards for souvenir and restaurant purchases ahead of time. It will help keep you on budget.
A Parade Blanket
A parade blanket: If you’re hoping to catch loads of shows and parades at Magic Kingdom or Disneyland Main Street, grab a parade blanket. Not only will it officially “claim your spot”, but it also keeps you from wondering if that parade will ever end and you can actually enjoy it!
Why is it Good to Get This Stuff BEFORE Your Trip?
Because It’s Cheaper! Yep, that’s right. Grabbing the disposable ponchos may not be as exciting as the 12-dollar poncho at the Disney gift shop but… when you multiply that extra cost by everyone in your family/travel group… you’ll be grateful you bought them ahead of time! The same goes for sunscreen ( usually about 15 dollars at the resort gift shops), the autograph book ( about 12 dollars), the medicines ( ibuprofen is 8 dollars)… and frankly I can go on and on. If it made this list, it’s because we’ve seen it and sometimes bought it for a higher cost at the gift shops. Be prepared and just buy it ahead of time.
We hope this list has given you a good idea of the stuff to tackle ahead of time. Is there something else that should be on this? Let us know in the comments!
Rochelle Mariah is a writer, designer and photographer with an MLIS in Information Science and a B.S. in Arch and Design. Determined to make Planning a DIY Disney Vacation easier she makes lots of lists and drinks lots of coffee. When not designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's watching old movies and planning the holidays. She has been traveling to Disney destinations since 2010.