Years ago, when I was a Walt Disney World Cast Member, I didn’t think about what I threw into my day bag on my way to the parks. Some days, I didn’t even have to pack a bag at all: I would just hop on a bus and go have lunch in Epcot or grab a Mickey Bar. Like it was routine. Like it was NORMAL.
Oh, how I miss those days!
But short of moving onto park property, buying an Annual Pass and camping out forever in the parking lot behind Soarin’ (where I used to work), those days will never happen again. That chapter of my life … is over.
Welp, now that I’m a crying, sobby mess, let’s jump into the fun stuff. Yay, Disney! *throws Pixie Dust*
Packing for Disney is a STRUGGLE. It’s sort of like packing for a marathon combined with packing for a costume party combined with packing for a camping trip. You’ll be on your feet running around. You’ll be in the heat, but then also in the cold because the hotter it is outside, the more freezing it is anywhere that there’s A/C. You’ll be tempted to spend money on shiny things and delicious stuff right and left, but you’re at Disney which means all of your money is probably already gone (only halfway joking).
But with the right packing strategy, you can feel comfortable all day long and save money on unnecessary purchases in the parks. You’ll come out of your trip brimming with stories of magic and excitement rather than stories of the epic sunburn you got on day 1 that made it hurt to wear clothing, or stories of the time you wore the wrong shoes and ended up in a wheelchair for your entire Disney vacation (I didn’t make that up, that actually happened to me).
So without further rambling, let’s sprinkle a little Pixie dust in our suitcases and jump in!
Visiting the Disney Parks in 2023
If you haven't visited in a while, there are some extra steps you'll need to take to visit the parks this year. We’ve summarized everything you need to know below!
How to Visit Walt Disney World
You must first check the availability of the date you wish to visit any of the parks, then purchase a ticket, and also make a theme park reservation for the date you purchased your ticket. You need BOTH a ticket AND a reservation to enter the park. If you purchase a park hopper, you may visit the other park after 2pm.
You can find all about making a theme park reservation here, as well as other important information about visiting the resort here.
How to Visit Disneyland
To visit Disneyland, first check the availability of the date you wish to visit the park, purchase a ticket, and also make a theme park reservation for the date you purchased your ticket. You need BOTH a ticket AND a reservation to enter the park. If you purchase a park hopper, you may visit the other park after 1pm.
You can find all about making a theme park reservation here.
Psst: Looking for more tips to help you plan your Disney trip? Check out some of our other Disney posts:
- How to Do Disney: A Disney Parks Guide by a Former Cast Member
- The Disney World Resort Bar Crawl
- The Disneyland Scavenger Hunt
- The Ultimate Disneyland Photography Guide
- 10 Tips for Soothing Your Post Disney Depression
Wish you could travel to Disney without leaving home? We created an immersive virtual Disney world tour so you can take a trip from the comfort of your sofa!
We also have a Podcast episode all about Disney! A futuristic utopia that’s definitely not a cult. A suicide-themed ride. Lia’s college internship. What do they all have in common? Disney World, of course! In this episode, Lia spills all the Mad Tea on the most magical place on Earth, plus insider tips from her time as a Cast Member. We also explain our tried & tested Disney Strategy (aka STRAT), because waiting in long lines for rides is some Bippity-Boppity-BS.
Listen above or just click here to launch your Podcast app! Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss new episodes.
Psst: Get a printable version of this packing list, plus a FREE sneak preview of our Disney Insiders Bundle, which includes a few fun Disney freebies (did someone say scavenger hunts?!) to make your Disney trip a little more magical. Enter your details and we’ll send it straight to your inbox!
Necessary Gear to Pack for Disney
You don’t want to be schlepping around a heavy pack for a long, exhausting day at the Disney Parks. But you also don’t want to spend your whole day worrying about getting sunburnt or dehydrated or your phone dying.
We’ve pared our Disney packing list down to the bare essentials. Here are all the necessary things you need to bring with you to the Disney parks!
- Phone External Battery Charger: From taking photos to looking at wait times to entertaining yourself in long lines, your cell phone will be working overtime on your trip and chances are you won’t have time/an outlet to fully charge it throughout the day. So bring this lightweight, candy-bar sized Anker external battery which can charge 2 phones at once. It’s the best. I love it. I use it on all of my trips, at conferences, and even sometimes at home when I’m too lazy to plug in my charger. It charges my phone up like 5x before it needs to be recharged and it’s faster than any actual charger I’ve ever used. Obsessed! If you’re looking for something smaller, this Anker lipstick sized external battery is pocket-sized perfection.
- Sunscreen: Even on cloudy days, you’ll need to protect any exposed skin from the sun to avoid getting a sunburn. Personally I hate the feeling of sunscreen on my skin – and don’t love its environmental impact – but my skin is roughly the color of milk. So I cover up my skin as much as possible with clothing, slap my favorite tinted moisturizer on my ghostly pale face, and then apply the smallest amount of actual sunscreen humanly possible. We recommend a lightweight, environmentally friendly mineral sunscreen rather than an aerosol spray because let’s face it, aerosol sunscreens are like 99% spraying sunscreen in the air and then inhaling it and only 1% protecting your skin – not good for the air, your skin, or your wallet.
- Sunglasses + extra sunglasses: Fun Cast Member fact: all of the sunglasses left behind at Disney World end up getting sold to Cast Members for 50 cents a pop (don’t worry, we wait for a few months first to make sure you’re not coming back for them). Know what the most popular pair was? The $40 Minnie Mouse pair. It’s red and white and adorable and it costs an insane amount of money and you only ever buy them after realizing you’ve lost your original pair of sunglasses and then you hate yourself after realizing you just threw away $40 because you cannot be trusted with expensive sunglasses. (Literally 100% me.) So: know yourself, look deep into your soul, and bring a few back-up pairs of cheap sunglasses to prevent yourself from making an expensive mistake. FWIW, I STILL have a stash of leftover Disney sunglasses from my Cast Member days (because I’m a serial sunglasses loser myself and I stocked up for life).
- Re-Usable Water Bottle: Drinking water in the parks is free! You can get it everywhere: drinking fountains, food stands, restaurants, the bathroom … literally anywhere. You just need a vessel to hold it in so you don’t end up throwing away like 18 plastic cups and dooming us all to an environmental apocalypse. I like my reusable water bottles to keep water cold for hours, which is why I love these double-walled steel bottles.
- Hand Sanitizer: The Disney Parks are *ahem* not exactly sparkling clean, but like, who has time to find a bathroom and WASH your hands? No way. You have rides to ride. Throw some hand sanitizer in your pack and call it a day. (Note: there are lots of hand sanitizer stations around the parks, aka free refills!)
- Baby Wipes: There are some things that hand sanitizer just can’t help with. Like when you finally get yourself a Mickey Bar but it’s 90 degrees and the ice cream melts all over your hand and somehow you end up with chocolate on your forehead (is that just me?). This is when you need baby wipes! I recommend a biodegradable, organic travel pack of wipes like these.
- Anti-Chafe Balm: If you’re in the 99% of the world’s population whose thighs touch, chances are you’re gonna need some of this. Personally, my thighs are on excellent terms and are incredibly well acquainted with one another. Even if you don’t rock that Chub Rub kinda life, anti-chafe balm is also handy for any friction between your shoes & your feet. Let’s just be honest: a blister and a rash can RUIN a perfectly good Disney vacation! So toss this tiny stick of skin-saving miracle balm in your bag and thank me later. Another great just-in-case blister prevention tool are these soft Moleskin patches – something every hiker keeps tucked in their pack!
- Lightweight Umbrella: On the off-chance that it starts pouring and your rain jacket isn’t cutting it, this is gonna come hella in handy. My travel umbrella fits in the palm of my hand and weighs practically nothing – you don’t even notice it’s there until you need it!
- Travel Credit Card: We book all of our trips on our favorite travel credit card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Not only do we earn cash back that we can spend on more travel, but the card also offers fantastic travel perks, like travel insurance, trip delay and cancellation coverage, lost baggage reimbursement, and rental car coverage, all of which helps protect us while we’re on vacation. We’ve filed several claims and the card has saved our butt many times! Take a look at our full review of the card. (Psst: shopping for your upcoming Disney trip? You can put your purchases on the card to help you meet the sign-up bonus minimum spend!)
What NOT to Pack for Disney Parks
A lot of Disney Packing Lists we’ve seen include some pretty unnecessary stuff – at least, unnecessary if you’re packing for a grown-up adult and not a child or 5. Like, listen – you do NOT need to bring a blanket or a camping chair to protect your precious bum from the ground if you want to sit and watch the fireworks in the parks (unless sitting and watching the fireworks is your personal favorite thing to do, in which case, you should probably camp out early and find a real chair to sit in).
You also do not need a towel. I promise you that any moisture that lands on your skin will dry on its own, and if it’s warm enough to do Splash Mountain, you will probably welcome the water anyway. (But if you must bring a towel, bring a super lightweight travel-friendly one like this.)
And while we’re on the topic of water, unless you’re literally going to one of the Disney water parks for the day, you don’t need a bathing suit. You’re not going to go change in a bathroom stall just to ride 1 ride on the off-chance that you might get a little moist, and then change out of it again so you can carry around a wet bathing suit around mildewing in your pack all day. Don’t do it!
OK, now I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Here is a nice, neat, bullet-pointed list of stuff you don’t need (in addition to the things I just ranted about).
- Bug Repellant: You don’t need to bring bug repellant to Disney because it’s available for free all over the parks. You can pick it up in the parks or at your resort – just ask the nearest friendly Cast Member. Honestly though, I’ve NEVER been bitten at either Disneyland (California doesn’t really have mosquitos) or Disney World, although the exception might be if you’re visiting Florida in the dead of summer (which I never have, because that sounds like torture).
- First Aid Basics: From bandaids to Tylenol, first aid basics are another thing that Disney Parks provides free of charge as part of their Guest Services. If you need assistance, just stop into any First Aid center in the parks – ask the nearest friendly Cast Member to direct you.
- Camera Gear: Unless you’re literally a professional photographer, blogger, or influencer planning to create content about your vacation, leave your camera gear at home. Just use your phone! If you need a professional photo, there are PhotoPass Photographers stationed all over the park. And yes, they WILL take a photo of you using your camera (or phone) for free. That’s their job! They love helping you preserve memories. If for whatever reason you’re not into using your phone camera, an excellent lightweight high-quality camera is this Canon Powershot – we used it during our year-long honeymoon. But anything more than that? Leave it. I speak from experience here, as someone who has to tote around a camera bag full of gear and a tripod every time I go into the parks. It sucks. That said, we do have a Disneyland photography guide if photos are a priority!
- Anything Heavy: A heavy bag means sore shoulders and an aching back after a long 14-hour day of running through the parks. Avoid bringing anything heavy or unnecessary into the parks – you’ll regret it! As a rule of thumb, the heaviest item you should have with you is a water bottle.
Psst: Planning on visiting a few Disney Parks? Check out these Disney Passes, which offer great savings on parks passes to all Disney Resorts.
What to Wear to the Disney Parks
After your gear, your outfit is the 2nd most important thing you’ll want to think about while you’re packing for your Disney vacation.
Sure, you could probably just throw on your favorite workout gear and hit the parks, but as someone who just spent an hour pouring through old photos trying to find a pre-blog photo of me at the Disney parks wearing something other than 50 shades of ill-fitting, shlubby gym wear, trust me when I say that it’s worth putting in a little bit of effort to be both comfy AND cute.
And yes, it’s totally possible to do both!
Here are my tips for being Disney-ready while lookin’ Disney adorable.
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I’m forever tempted to dress for a day at Disney like I’m dressing for a long hike or a heavy session at the gym. I mean, the Disney parks are a WORKOUT! We typically walk around 20-30k steps (psst: to my competitive FitBit friends: this is a really good time for a challenge!) which includes sweating in the heat, standing for hours, and occasionally running from ride to ride. It’s a LOT.
But somehow, throwing on leggings and a workout tee just doesn’t feel as fun as dressing in an adorable, Disney-appropriate outfit. I can’t explain why, but Disney is just more fun when you’re dressed kinda cute. If you feel otherwise, please throw your favorite workout gear into your luggage and just skip this section, and know that I am jealous.
So what I do is sort of a combination of dressing for travel (cute but high performance) and full-on Disneybounding.
What is Disneybounding, you ask? Basically, it’s when you dress LIKE a Disney character, without actually being in costume – just like, your regular clothes that you style into something inspired by a Disney character. There’s a ton of great examples on the Disneybound Tumblr or Instagram! Disneybounding is REALLY fun and a creative way to put together clothing that you already own into something reminiscent of a Disney character – and it’s the perfect way to dress for Disney!
If you can’t be bothered to Disneybound like a specific character, just do what we do: dress in really bright primary colors. Any combination of bright blue, red, yellow, and white is close enough to being like, 23 different Disney characters.
Here are my favorite tips for dressing for Disney, with a Disneybound inspiration and a high performance, travel-friendly twist:
- Cute Walking Shoes: My go-to walking shoes for the Disney Parks are my Allbirds Tree Skippers (his & hers). They’re lightweight and breathable, and perfect for hot days with lots of walking. Plus, they’re eco-friendly and super cute! They come in several colors (I have them in white and red, for maximum Disneybounding) and go with everything from jeans to shorts to dresses! Read more in my women’s travel shoes guides (and men’s travel shoes guide).
- Dress (or Skirt) + Shorts With Pockets: you don’t have to sacrifice comfort for cuteness! If it’s hot out and you’re going for a Disneybound look, a dress or shirt+skirt combo is perfect – I wore this yellow skirt on my last trip. My favorite travel tip is to wear a pair of comfy bike shorts with pockets underneath your skirt or dress. As a thick girl, these shorts are necessary to fight the dreaded Chub Rub (I also recommend some anti-chafe balm). Since they’re basically just really short leggings with side pockets, they’re also insanely helpful for both storing your phone within reach AND making you feel like you’re actually just wearing cozy gym wear – cleverly disguised in the form of a cute outfit! You can pick up a pair of my favorite shorts in a variety of colors and lengths on Amazon.
- Disney-Appropriate Shirt: Whether you’re wearing jeans or a skirt, you’ll need a shirt that’s up to the challenges of a long day at Disney. Namely, a shirt that won’t make you sweaty – and won’t smell after a few hours of running around! Plus, there are tons of Disney-themed t-shirts that make your outfit Disney-appropriate with the level of effort that it takes to put on a pair of. PJs. We love these Disney-themed cotton t-shirts and definitely have a matching set. I also love this cute Disney shirt!
- Travel Jeans: If it’s cold-ish out (pretty much anytime that isn’t summer in either California or Florida) you’ll want to wear long pants. My favorite high-performance, travel-friendly and super cute jeans are made by Aviator USA. They have 6 HUGE POCKETS – we’re talking full-sized, actual pockets (ladies, this is life-changing). They’re super stretchy and cozy, buttery soft, and they dry quickly when they get wet. They’re also super cute! Jeremy and I each have several pairs of Aviator USA jeans, and they’re the perfect jeans to wear at Disney.
Your shoes are probably the most important thing you will wear or bring to the Disney parks. The ideal shoes for Disney are comfortable enough to run, stand, and walk in for 14+ hours (or, last time I checked my fitbit, around 25k steps)… for several days in a row. Disney is a MARATHON!
They can’t cause pain or blisters or make your feet miserably hot and sweaty. And ideally, they’re also cute enough to rock with your favorite Disney outfit, because let’s face it: looking cute at Disney is part of the fun!
Making the wrong choice when it comes to your shoes can ruin your day, or worse, your entire Disney vacation – something I’ve experienced first hand. I once wore the wrong pair of shoes for a long day at Disney World once and was hobbling so badly by the end of day 1 that I landed myself in a wheelchair for the next 4 days. Yikes.
That said, I’ve learned from my mistakes and I’ve found a few pairs of shoes that can handle Disney Parks level of intensity!
- Allbirds Tree Skippers: These are my FAVORITE walking shoes, and we both put them to the test on our last Disney World trip. Verdict: 5 straight days of 20k+ steps and 0 pain! And they went with every single outfit I wore. Because the Allbirds are made with lightweight knit fabric and flexible foam soles, they’re incredibly lightweight and breathable – perfect for hot days. Plus, the material of both the shoe itself (eucalyptus) and the insoles (merino wool) naturally helps regulate both temperature and moisture. AND the shoes are constructed from totally sustainable materials – plus, Allbirds is a carbon-neutral company! We are majorly in love with our tree skippers and 1000% recommend these for Disney for both men & women!
- Teva Sandals: My love for these Teva Sandals can only be described as “cult-like.” I’m currently on my 4th pair, and when I bring them on a trip to somewhere hot, they’re all I wear. They’re durable, comfortable, and legitimately cute – and up to the task of a long day at Disney!
For more of my favorite tried and tested shoes, I’ve got a whole post about the best women’s travel shoes and right here.
Look, I didn’t start a travel blog filled with travel advice because I’m NOT low-key a total nagging Mom type. So mostly for my peace of mind, here are some just-in-case clothing items that I recommend bringing along with you for … you know, just in case reasons. Better safe than sorry! … She said, quoting her actual mother.
- Ultralight Rain Jacket: For some reason, everyone always seems to recommend bring a poncho to Disney. But like … why a poncho? When did a giant trash bag become a viable option? Rather than covering yourself in a giant sheet of plastic – many of which are meant to be used only one time, which horrifies my inner crunchy granola environmentalist – bring an ACTUAL raincoat. My favorite ultralight rain jacket packs down to a tiny little roll and weighs practically nothing, but it will keep you dry in anything but like, a legit hurricane (in which case, you should probably just leave the parks and GTFO of Florida altogether, tbh). My husband has the men’s version. I also recommend bringing along a lightweight, travel-friendly umbrella!
- Extra Pair of Shoes: Bring a backup. Trust me. Whether it’s a blister, a snapped strap, or any foot pain whatsoever, just being able to swap out your shoes is SUCH a day-saver! Whatever you bring, make sure it’s lightweight and doesn’t take up a whole bunch of room in your pack, like these travel-friendly flats or the sneakers I mentioned above.
- Lightweight Sweater/Cardigan: If it’s 90 degrees outside, the A/C inside will be cranked up to infinity and beyond. And if it’s anytime other than summer, chances are it might actually be a little chillier than you’d expect – both California and Florida do, in fact, get kinda cold! Like … 50 degrees cold, but still. We’re very soft here in California. Just throw an extra layer in your bag just in case you need it. That way you can save $99 on an emergency Mickey sweatshirt or whatever (unless you just want one, in which case you do you).
The Best Snacks for Disney
We bring a LOT of snacks with us to Disney. Not because we don’t like the food at Disney – because we LOVE the food at Disney, and if it was up to us, we’d spend all of our money on it. All of it. And then we wouldn’t have any money left. Whoops.
So instead, we reign in our impulse to spend $10 every time we feel mildly hungry or thirsty and bring our own snacks. Then, we look forward to enjoying one BIG meal each day! We make our reservations in advance and go all out – we’re talking like, the Steakhouse in Canada at Disney World – so that we can fully enjoy our 1 fancy meal per day without worrying about blowing our budget. We also think of a couple of Disney treats in advance that we REALLY want to try, and work those into the budget too.
Honestly, we’re only denying ourselves a little bit, but we’re saving a LOT of money!
We’ve included tips for packing snacks for the parks as well as for the resorts.
Snacks for the Disney Parks
The snacks you bring to Disneyland or Disney World have one job, and one job only: to keep your energy up while preventing you from blowing all of your money on Disney food. OK, that’s two jobs. Whatever. The point is, your snacks are there to keep you from having an exhaustion-fueled hanger meltdown in the heat while standing in line (been there) and also to keep you from turning, in your desperate hanger-fueled state, to an endless supply of churros and Mickey bars.
Like, YES, get a churro and a Mickey bar or 3. But let me lay some wisdom on you, as a 30-year old couple (like, Jeremy is 31 and I’m 29 so if you average us out – you get it): sugary treats will not keep you happy. They will not keep you full. They will spike your energy and then CRASH IT, leaving you with a headache and an $8.50 sized hole in your wallet.
I know, I know – it’s difficult to hear. But every time I turn in desperation to a milkshake topped with candy and something neon, I end up regretting it an hour or so later as I feel my body slipping into a sugar-crash spiral.
So save your cash for a few well-chosen, INTENTIONAL Disney teats and bring enough snacks to keep yourself in a well-fueled state. Disney is a marathon, not a sprint! You can probably tell that we have never run a marathon in our lives, and probably never will.
Here are some filling treats that will keep your energy up and keep you full, while also not crumbling to bits or exploding all over your backpack. (We speak from so much experience here.)
- Peanut Butter Pretzels: My preferred hiking snack and also my preferred Disney snack (there’s a lot of overlap there).
- Nuts & Trail Mix: Let’s face it: trail mix is just nuts with candy. No judgment. We love it.
- Dried Fruit: A lot of dried fruit has a TON of sugar added, so be sure to look for dried fruit that isn’t covered in extra sugar, like apple rings or fruit leather! Because like … if you’re gonna eat that much sugar anyway, just go for the churro.
- Beef Jerky: The staple of high performance, easy to carry food. Also: insanely expensive. A little goes a long way here.
- String Cheese: Surprisingly, these don’t melt. Actually, maybe that’s more alarming than surprising. Either way, string cheese is still pretty good even after 12 hours in your backpack, and it’s a yummy source of protein.
- Hummus & Pretzels: Get a pre-packed version that has the pretzels on top and the hummus on the bottom!
- Tuna Packets: You’re outside, so you won’t get any dirty looks for opening up a packet of tuna fish and spooning it into some crackers while you’re in the Disney parks. The packets are surprisingly lightweight and take up very little space – perfect for a Disney parks lunch!
- Protein Bars: The obvious choice, but be careful – they tend to melt in the heat! If it’s not blazingly hot outside, our faves are Clif Builder Bars in either Chocolate Mint or Peanut Butter. With 20g of protein, it’s a full meal that will keep you satisfied for hours.
Snacks for Disney Resorts & Hotels
Here’s the thing about staying at a Disney Resort: it’s less expensive than you’d think and well worth it for multiple days of Disney fun, but … nothing is included. No breakfast, no snack, nothing. At least, not at our income level – we aren’t exactly concierge types.
So while you COULD buy breakfast at the resort, we don’t recommend it. In our experience, Disney resort breakfasts are not the best quality – especially when you’re dashing off to arrive at the parks before they open (ahem: as you should be). They’re also not cheap, unless you share.
So, if you’re staying at a Disney Resort you’ll want to bring snacks that will fuel you up for a long day of Disney fun without actually requiring, like, cooking. Many of the Disney Resorts in an affordable price range will at least have a coffee machine in the room, which is capable of producing water hot enough to cook just-add-water foods.
If you don’t have a coffee machine, just turn the tap in the bathroom up really hot and use that. Yes, it’s perfectly safe to drink tap water, y’all. Here’s how to cobble together a filling meal in your room at any Disney Resort:
- Instant Coffee Packets: These are our go-to Instant Coffee packets – they’re surprisingly good and meet our coffee snob expectations! WAY better than those crappy coffee cups in your room, the expensive coffee at your resort, or even Joffrey’s or Starbucks (really). Plus, you don’t have to stand in a ridiculously long line to get it! Just add hot water and boom, you’ve got yourself a decent cup of coffee on the cheap. Another great option are Starbucks Via packets – we like the blonde roast.
- Instant Oatmeal Packets: The ultimate “just add water” breakfast. To make this extra filling, try high protein oatmeal, or mix in some peanut butter or dried fruit and nuts from your Disney Parks snack hoard.
- Ramen or Cup-O-Noodles: Hey, some people prefer savory breakfasts. Plus, we’ve also been known to sneak back to our rooms for cheap lunch on days when we’re got fancy, expensive dinner reservations…
- Peanut Butter & Apples: Both of these will last for several days without refrigeration and make an excellent breakfast or snack! Throw in a String Cheese or two and you’ve got yourself a complete meal, kinda.
Looking to spend more time exploring the Disney Resorts? We’ve created a Disney World Resort Bar Crawl that avoids paying park fees and gets you delicious drinks. Win-Win!
What to Pack for Extra Disney Fun
Yes: the Disney Parks are the happiest place on earth. But after 45 minutes of standing in line or 14 hours of running around, you might be thinking “this is getting to be more exhausting than fun.” We have totally been there, y’all – and everything included in this guide is aimed at keeping you in the Fun Zone rather than the hangry/dehydrated zone, if you get my drift.
But what about going above and beyond those cranky-attitude prevention techniques? What about some good old fashioned grown-up Disney parks FUN!?
Being a Cast Member taught me an very important lesson about how to turn a frown upside down – even when it’s a rainy 50 degrees day and you’re working a 16-hour shift and there’s like 86 screaming babies and Guests have been total d**ks all day long and all you want to do is go home and sleep forever but instead you’re at Disney World earning minimum wage. Oof, too real?
But seriously: I learned a few tricks that will turn that “wah poor me” mentality into wide-eyed Disney wonder again. One trick that does NOT work: when your Manager sprinkles imaginary Pixie Dust on your head after telling you that a Guest complained about your frowny face. You can take your Pixie Dust and stuff it, Cheryl, I AM JUST HAVING A BAD DAY. Ahem.
From games that will put you in brutal competition with your travel companions to mood-lifters that are sure to put you in that Disney magical mindset, here are our best tips for maximizing the fun of the Disney parks!
- Mickey Ears: You know what? I resisted for a long, time, but Mickey Ears are FUN. Yes, at any age! Pick up a pair before your trip to save $$, because they are PRICEY once you arrive! You can get a basic pair of Ears on Amazon like this one, or if you want to be a straight baller, get a pair of those rose gold Ears from the Disney Amazon store!
- Hidden Mickey Books: One of our favorite games to play at Disney is to spot Hidden Mickeys! What’s a Hidden Mickey, you ask? The official definition is “a partial or complete impression of Mickey Mouse placed by the Imagineers and artists to blend into the designs of Disney attractions, hotels, restaurants, and other areas.” AKA, the funnest game of I Spy ever! All over the parks are secret, hidden Mickey ear shapes. They’re everywhere! Start spotting Hidden Mickeys and you’ll never be bored in the parks again. If you want to really up your Hidden Mickey game, these are the best Hidden Mickey books for both parks.
- Disney Parks Scavenger Hunt: After many, many trips to the parks on scouting missions, Jeremy and I sat down together and created 2 massive Disney Parks Scavenger Hunts. They’re each chock full of Cast Member insider secrets and challenges that will bring a whole new level of fun to your next Disney parks trip! With 75 challenges designed to help you experience Disney in a whole new way, it’s the perfect excuse to BRUTALLY compete with your loved ones. Let’s just be honest, OK? Sign up below and we’ll send a FREE printable sample of the Disney World Scavenger Hunt straight to your inbox, plus some Cast Member insider tips and hacks for your next Disney trip. Or, head over to our Disneyland Tips post to get a free printable sample of our Disneyland Scavenger Hunt.
- Disney World Resort Bar Crawl: What’s more fun than spending a day in the parks at Disney World? Spending a day at Disney World without having to pay for a parks ticket while getting suuuuuper day drunk. Yup. That’s right: we created a Disney World Resort Bar Crawl that relies entirely on FREE WDW transit – no park ticket required! It’s a really fun way to spend a day outside of the parks while still soaking up Disney magic, and you’ll even end your day watching the fireworks (drunk).
- Hair Bow: I can’t exactly explain why, but even though I am a grown-a** nearly 30-year-old women, wearing a hair bow at Disney just feels right. It just makes me feel like a magical fairy princess all day, dammit, and I DESERVE that. Don’t overthink it, just get a hair bow and clip it in your hair and soak up that pixie dust joy! There are roughly a zillion hair bows for sale on Amazon, but our favorites are these glitter bows, these bows for every season (especially Halloween omg), and these colorful bows. I’d tell you where to get the hair bow I wore in the photos in this post, but unfortunately, I
stoleborrowed it from Jeremy’s teenaged sister …
Shop This Post
Want an easy way to shop for all the items we included in this post? We’ve gotcha covered! We created a shopping list on Amazon that includes just about everything we mentioned above. Check it out here:
Psst: Don’t forget to get your printable version of this packing list, plus our FREE Disney Starter Kit! Enter your details and we’ll send it straight to your inbox!
Hey, looking for more tips to help you plan your Disney trip? How about fun, budget-friendly stuff to do while you’re there? Or perhaps help coping with the giant castle-shaped hole in your heart that you’ll feel the minute you return home again? I’ve got posts about all of those things! Check ’em out:
- How to Do Disney: A Disney Parks Guide by a Former Cast Member
- 10 Tips for Soothing Your Post Disney Depression (by a Former Cast Member)
Disney World Tips
- 18 Magical Disneyland Picture Ideas: The Ultimate Disneyland Photography Guide
- The Disneyland Scavenger Hunt & How to Next-Level Your Disneyland Trip
We want to hear from you! What do you think is the most important thing to pack for Disney? Leave us a comment below!
Our Top Travel Tips & Resources
- Booking Flights: To score flight deals, search on Google Flights or Kayak. Money-saving tips: fly mid-week or on the weekend; fly carry-on only on a budget airline; and take red-eyes or early morning flights.
- Accommodations: We usually stay in budget-friendly vacation rentals, boutique hotels or private rooms in hostels. We use Booking.com to book hotels (we love their flexible cancellation policy) and Hostelworld to book hostels (low deposit, easy change/cancellation, and excellent reviews). For vacation rentals, we prefer to book using VRBO because they've got lower fees and better support than Airbnb, and we're not fans of Airbnb's unethical track record. You can also book vacation rentals on Expedia and Hotels.com. We also use TrustedHousesitters as both hosts (for our home and our fur-child) and travelers!
- Travel Insurance: We always, ALWAYS buy travel insurance for international trips, and we STRONGLY recommend it - visit our Travel Insurance Guide to find out why. We recommend either World Nomads or SafetyWing for international travel insurance. SafetyWing is one of the few policies that covers Covid-19, and they have excellent monthly policies that are perfect for Digital Nomads and long term travelers!
- Travel Credit Card: We book all of our trips on our favorite travel credit card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Not only do we earn cash back that we can spend on more travel, but the card offers fantastic travel perks like no foreign transaction fees, trip delay and cancellation coverage, lost baggage reimbursement, and rental car coverage, which helps protect us on our travels. Read our complete review.
- Vaccines & Meds: We use the travel guides on the CDC website to research recommended medications and vaccines for international trips. We always recommend getting every vaccine recommended by the CDC! You can get them at your primary care doctor's office or a walk-in pharmacy.
- Tours: We love booking guided tours, especially food tours and walking tours, to get a local's perspective and a history lesson while sight-seeing! We book our tours using Viator and GetYourGuide.
- Transportation: We use Rome2Rio to figure out how to get from place to place using public transit, and book local transportation online using Bookaway wherever we can. For rental cars, we use DiscoverCars to compare rental companies and find the best deal. To save money, we also book with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which includes primary rental car insurance coverage.
- Luggage Storage: Whenever we're checking out early or taking advantage of a long layover, we use LuggageHero to safely store our luggage while we're running around. Use the code PRACTICALW for 2 hours of free luggage storage on us.
- What to Pack: Here are the travel essentials that we bring on every trip. We also have packing lists for hot weather, cold weather, and many more. Take a look at all of our packing guides!
This is a great post! Very down to earth and realistic. I agreed with 100% of what you wrote and picked up some great news tips!
The Jetset Boyz says
Sooo many people under-estimate the intensity of the sun when visiting Florida – forgetting that being so close to the Equator those harmful UV rays are particularly strong!
Laura Burgess says
“you do NOT need to bring a blanket or a camping chair to protect your previous bum from the ground”
Why didn’t someone tell me I could just switch to a new bum?? 🙂
Lia Garcia says
thank you for the spellcheck help!
So helpful thank you. Just wondering, what photo editor is this? These photos look great!
Lia Garcia says
Thanks! We use Lightroom to edit all of our photos.
What style Aviators do you like as a curvy woman? I’m a size 12 and all jeans are always shown on these super skinny women that make skinny jeans look amazing! Wondering which cut would be best since it’s an investment to spend a little more on a quality pair of jeans!
Lia Garcia says
My favorite are the black Comfort skinnies! They fit me the best and the fabric is the sofest and stretchiest of all the ones I’ve tried. I also like the bootcuts – they’re just as stretchy and very high-waisted, plus that little flare at the bottom is great for that balanced hourglass/mermaid shape 🙂 Aviator has several size 12+ models on their site, and if it helps, I’m a size 36 in Aviator’s jeans and a 14/16 at like, Target or Old Navy.
I was gonna ask also. Thank you!!
Just wanted to let you know that hot tap water is not recommended to use out of the tap for mixing into oatmeal etc due to it sitting in the heating tanks in its own sludge and bacteria. I made that mistake before. Also hot water dissolves chemicals from the pipes easier into it than cold so unsafe for children.
Lia Garcia says
Oh damn, I did not know that! Thanks for the heads up!
Oleh Mertviachenko says
Ultralight Rain Jacket will be #1 in my list.
Lia, how many time do you spent to write such big and informative posts?
Crazy work, keep it up!
Lia Garcia says
Haha crazy is def the right word for it! It takes me about 16 hours minimum to pull together a whole blog post, so I set aside at least 2 whole workdays per week to do it. This was actually a shorter one for us 😛
This is a great post – so clear and easy to follow.
The first trip I took with boyfriend at the time (husband now) was to Disney, he had never gone and it was one of his dreams to go at least ones. Since I haven’t gone myself since I was a kid, having this list of what to pack would have been really helpful. Since it was a last minute trip to escape the winter cold of New Year, we packed our bags last minute and flew out to Orlando. Let’s just say we were not prepared for the heat , and I got serious sunburn, didn’t wear the right shoes, spent a ton eating only at the park just to name a few. Heading off to tweet it right now so it can help out other to avoid what I went through!
Such a great post for first time visitors, at least they won’t make my mistake and wear thongs on the first day! Paid for that by the night time and didn’t make the same mistake on day 2 and 3. Disneyland definitely is the happiest place on earth and I’m lucky enough to have visited LA, HK and DisneySea in Tokyo!
Tara Tadlock says
Love these photos! Pinned this for the next time I get to go to Disney xx
This was awesome!!! ALSO I appreciate tips from a former employee! I packed WAAYYY too much stuff on my last trip, my shoulders were killing me *cry*