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Whether you're a child or an adult, there's no denying the appeal of Disney theme parks. The magical atmosphere continues to draw in visitors from around the world, and Orlando's Walt Disney World is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary through March 2023 — making it a must-see destination for many travellers.
No matter if it's your first time visiting the parks or you're a seasoned pro heading back for the first time since the 2020 closures, packing for Disney World is no joke. I know because even though I spent hours preparing for my last vacation, I still forgot some important things from my packing list.
Now that I'm a little wiser, I'm sharing my biggest Disney packing mistakes to avoid. Keep reading to find the things I wish I brought, plus the essentials I never head to the parks without.
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1. Resealable plastic bags
A plastic bag might seem like an inconsequential item to bring along with you, but believe me, they will certainly come in handy. Resealable bags like the popular Ziploc brand have so many uses, you'll thank me later for the recommendation.
For one thing, they're ideal for stashing clothes or shoes in the event that they get wet — either from one of the park's water rides, or the unpredictable Florida weather. For another, Disney food portions are huge, so unless you're planning to stuff yourself at every meal, there'a a good chance you'll end up with some leftover food along the way.
Keep a few bags at hand for snacks, clothing, or even preventing spills in your backpack, and your trip will run much smoother for it.
2. Extra shoes and socks
Let me paint a picture for you: it's 8 p.m. in Disney World, and you're frantically trying to locate a store that sells flip-flops because someone in your group has a painful case of blisters from their shoes. I've been in that exact situation, and I can tell you, it's not a fun one.
There's nothing worse than uncomfortable shoes during a day on your feet (especially when you're walking 15,000 to 20,000 steps a day), so here's a bit of friendly advice: pack an extra pair of shoes and socks in your park bag. If they end up getting wet, you'll be grateful to have something to change into. Even if they don't get wet, switching shoes toward the end of a long day can give your feet the second wind they need to power through those last few rides.
3. A poncho
On my last Disney World vacation, I thought I had things covered by bringing a rain jacket with me — boy was I wrong. It worked out okay for periods of light drizzle, but when dealing with bouts of torrential rain, my little jacket didn't hold up. Instead, I'd recommend bringing a packable rain poncho for extra protection.
While you can purchase ponchos in the parks, they're much more expensive than other options that you can buy ahead of time for a fraction of the price.
4. Power banks and charging cables
For better or for worse, using your phone has become an essential part of any trip to Walt Disney World. From mobile ordering food to scoping out the next available Genie+ ride time, expect to use your phone a lot throughout the day.
To make sure that you don't run of battery, be sure to pack a portable power bank and charging cables for any of the devices that may need a top-up — cell phones, watches, and even electric fans.
5. A cooling towel
In a way, I did have this on hand for my last Disney vacation, but only thanks to the help of some friends who planned ahead. When my neck fan died during the middle of the day, a cooling towel was an absolute life-saver for making it through the heat. Now, I know to always bring one with me just in case.
Simply wet them periodically and leave them draped around the back of your neck for instant relief from the heat.
In terms of items I never leave home without, these items have been essential on all of my Disney trips in the past.
6. A reusable water bottle
Don't get caught in the trap of thinking you need to purchase bottled water for your whole trip. All quick-service and sit down restaurants offer free cups of water with your food, and there are several water-refill stations scattered throughout the parks to help you stay hydrated.
7. A personal fan
Speaking from experience, the Florida sun can get intense. Just a few minutes of direct sunlight can lead to a sunburn, so I'm always sure to pack plenty of sunscreen to reapply throughout the day.
9. A backpack
The easiest, most convenient way to keep all your essentials in one place and stay hands-free is with a backpack. Just know that you'll need to spend a few extra minutes at security before entering the parks when you bring one with you.
No Disney World trip would be complete without at least a few Mickey-shaped treats, but sometimes your stomach and your wallet could use a break. Luckily, you can pack your own food to take into the parks, as long as it doesn't need to be reheated and isn't packaged in glass containers.