Most Important Things to Pack (Other than the Basics)
Good shoes – I can’t stress this enough. Even if you aren’t crisscrossing the parks, you’re going to spend a lot of time on your feet walking, and standing. On a recent trip on my travel day where I spent 7 hours just sitting in a car on my way there, I still managed to rack up 14 miles and nearly 35,000 steps. This is certainly and extreme case, but 10 miles in a day is pretty normal. It might also be worth considering how well they do in water since you may get splashed on some rides or run into some rain during your time in the parks.
Stroller – This sort of ties in to the shoe concept, but you know, for kids instead of your feet. Aside from keeping those little legs from getting too tired, it also makes things a bit easier to navigate. There will be plenty of time in lines and attractions to stretch legs, so don’t worry about that. We also loved to use our stroller to keep bottled water and snacks (a plus to the stroller is that your kid can also enjoy that snack in the stroller on the way to your next adventure). It’s also a good spot to hang your bags from to give your shoulders a rest as you walk. Strollers can’t go in queues so you’ll find stroller parking near most attractions and areas of the park that’s easy to park it and come back for when you’re ready to move on to a new area. A rain cover for the stroller isn’t a bad idea either with the unpredictability of Disney weather.
Portable Charger – You’re going to use your phone, a lot. The App keeps up with your reservations, your fastpasses, has maps that show wait times, and maybe most importantly, lets you see where the closest restroom is. All that in addition to probably being your main camera (Cast members will be happy to snap photos for you using your phone or camera) and keeping in touch with the rest of your party. So keeping it charged up is going to be tough. A good portable charger makes all this easier. If you don’t have one, or forgot yours, you can find “Fuel Rod” stations throughout the parks that will sell you a small one for $30. But the upside here is that you can swap out a discharged one for a fresh one at the same stations for no fee (or at least a minimal fee). Personally I prefer bringing my own that I know will keep us going throughout the day, but both options work well.
Park Bag – The stroller is a great place to keep heavy stuff and things you don’t need often, but some stuff you just need with you (as well as a place to keep more valuable stuff you don’t trust to leave in the stroller. In our bags we like to keep our wallet/ID, hand sanitizer or wipes (your kid is going to touch SO much stuff), Ziploc bags (for saving food or protecting phones from water), and your portable charger.
Ponchos/Umbrella – Ponchos are way cheaper wherever you are now than they will be inside the parks. Grab a couple and keep them in the bottom of your stroller. Hopefully you won’t need them, but you’ll be very grateful to have them if you need them.
Water Bottle – This is nice to have, but not ultimately necessary. Disney is slowly adding bottle refilling stations, but they aren’t everywhere yet, so it’s not always easy to refill one. We still like to have one in the bottom of our stroller though. Thankfully you can keep get free cups of water from any counter service restaurant.
Swim Suit – Resort pools, need I say more? Our kid LOVES the pools, we have to make time for them most days we visit Disney. If you’re staying at a moderate or deluxe resort, the pool will also have at least a small water slide! The resorts have life jackets and towels near the pool so you don’t need to pack those.
Sunscreen – Even in the winter you’re going to be outside in the sun a lot more than you think. You may be okay without it in winter months, but it’s worth having on hand just in case you realize you or your kids are getting more sun than you thought.
Snacks – Disney food is great, but sometimes you’re stuck in line and you, or your kid, is getting hangry (no judgement either way) and having a good little snack can help get through that, or just hold you over until you get to next meal or prized disney snack (more on these later).
It’s worth taking a look over these prohibited items. They’re all pretty straight forward and mostly focused on guest safety, but worth taking a look just so you don’t get to the gate with something on the list. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/park-rules/
Things to Know Before You Go & General Tips
Disney World is massive, and the amount of things that you can, should, and will want to do is simply astronomical. All the planning in the world wouldn’t be enough to get it all in. So slow down, enjoy what you have time for, and it’ll be okay if you miss some things (There’s always next time). On that same note, no one knows your kid better than you. So while it’s tempting to power through early mornings and late nights because you want them to experience as much as possible, they (and you) are going to have a much more enjoyable time if they stay close to their usual schedule. We usually save our long day for our last day if we’re hoping to stay out for fireworks or just get in a few more rides.
I’d suggest writing your phone number on the inside of your child’s magic band in case you get separated, this should make getting back together a bit easier.
Don’t worry if you’ve forgotten anything. Each resort has a gift shop, which in addition to merch, will also have some groceries and general items if you need anything. Each Park also has a baby care/first aid center with quiet rooms, changing tables, baby supplies, and over the counter medicine. You’ll still have to buy anything you need, but you don’t have to leave the park. In addition, if you’re actually sick, they’ll help you get to the care you need as well.
The App is going to be crucial to your time at Walt Disney World, from the obvious stuff like your hotel reservation, your fast passes, and your meal reservations, it will also let you see current wait times across the resort. Most importantly during crowded times, is going to be the option to mobile order your food. Just select from the menu for your group and head to the pick up window and wait for your number. Confusingly one of the few counter service places you can’t do this is at the in-park Starbucks.
One of my favorite parts of Disney World is how you can just happen upon a show or performance like the Dapper Dans on Main Street USA, Great Moments of History with the Muppets in Libery Square in the magic kingdom or live bands and dance parties in other parks. These streetmosphere performances are always mic’ed up so you can hear them as long as you’re in the area. These feel random, but you can usually find them on the daily schedule for each park if you want to track one down.
If you find yourself or your toddler just needing a break from constant stimulation of the parks, you’re in luck. At Epcot you can go out the International Gateway (Between the UK and France pavilions) and take a walk around the Boardwalk area on Crescent Lake. At the Magic Kingdom you could hop on the resort monorail and tour the Deluxe resorts and see their incredible Gingerbread houses and holiday decorations.
What to Do When You Arrive
If you have a day before or after your park days and you’re looking for something to do, I really love Disney Springs, which is the Shopping and Dining District on property. Right now during the holidays it’s worth going there just to see The Christmas Tree Trail. It’s a walking trail filled with trees each decorated around a the theme of a park attraction, movie, or specific character, and there’s fake snow to add to the magic. There’s an embarrassment of riches when it comes to food options, from quick fast casual style options like The Earl of Sandwich (Get the holiday turkey, it’s basically a Thanksgiving Sandwich), Polite Pig, or Chicken Guy. You could also get a cheese and charcuterie board from Wine Bar George’s walk up window, “The Basket.” There’s also some great nightlife options here if you need a break from the parks one night like the themed bars, The Edison and Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar (Aka the Indiana Jones Bar). There’s also a bublbe waffle cart, a surprisingly good Taco Truck, and a Mac N’ Cheese truck. Among the the absurd amount of dining options you can also go bowling (with good food) at Splitsville, and get some shopping in. The World of Disney here is the largest Disney store in the world, the Lego store is just fun to look at, you can see them making beautiful cakes behind the counter at Amorette’s Patisserie, or you could rent an amphicar and cruise around the lake.
It’s also a great time to get to know your resort. Check out the dining options, find the pool, check out the gift shop, and just soak in the atmosphere. The decorations at Christmas time are absolutely incredible. The Parks are magical but just as much detail has gone in to the resorts.
If worst comes to worse, just text your Disney obsessed Brother In Law!