Your Walt Disney World trip is booked and you’re counting down the days until you leave. Then, you realize you haven’t been there before and you start asking yourself all sorts of questions.
You know Florida is hot, or is it just warm this time of year?
How cold does it really get in the winter?
What are the essentials I need to bring and what can I do to prepare ahead of time so I can get the most out of my trip?
As you start thinking about what to pack for Disney World, you can become overwhelmed quickly. But don’t fret—I’m here to make everything easier for you. I’ve been on over a dozen Disney World vacations over the years, so I’ve done my fair share of packing and unpacking. And in this article, I’m going to start with the things you need to do before you start packing, then give you a list of essential items you must add to your suitcase, as well.
Prep before you start packing
When you’re planning your Disney World vacation, there are a few important items to address before you can start packing and you’ll need to do them in order to pack efficiently. It is easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of daily life and find yourself packing at the very last minute. We are all guilty of this, but this isn’t just a trip to a tropical island where you only need a swimsuit, sunglasses and flip-flops.
This is Disney World we are talking about, people!
So, if you have a smartphone, the first thing you should do is download the My Disney Experience app. This app can link to your reservation and you can add friends, family and whoever else will be traveling with you on your trip (all adults going on the trip with you should also get the app so you can add each other as “friends” for the best experience with planning activities).
The My Disney Experience app is like having a personal assistant with you on your trip. It allows you to do an array of things from getting directions, checking attraction and ride wait times, reserving FastPass+ (skip the long wait on a secured amount of rides per day) for yourself and your group, and making dinner reservations.
If your plans change last minute during the trip, you can alter these reservations in just a few clicks from anywhere in Disney. These exciting features (and many, many more) will make your trip so much easier, so download it and check it out.
In my experience, it has been really beneficial to poke around the app and get acquainted with it prior to your vacation. Plus, the earlier you reserve dinner plans and FastPass+ for your trip, the better.
Essentials to pack
Alright, now let’s determine what essentials are crucial to pack. If you’re traveling with children, you’ll probably want to check out the videos on this blog that are really helpful. They’re both under 2 minutes and inform travelers with children what they should pack for their trip.
More importantly, they cover what is already available at the parks and resorts that you don’t need to bring. This can really help free-up space in your bags for essentials that you’ll need to bring for everyone.
When packing, I always make it a point to create a “must-have” checklist and a “nice-to-have” checklist. The following items are on my must-have checklist:
MagicBands – Always make sure you pack your MagicBand in your carry-on so you have it readily available when you get to the airport if you’re taking Disney’s Magical Express. Even if you’re not getting to the resort that way, you’ll need it to unlock your hotel room and enter the parks, so you should definitely have it with you and not put it in your checked luggage.
Light, comfortable broken-in sneakers – A lot of people make the mistake (guilty) of buying brand new shoes prior to their trip. Unless they are already broken in, this could result in painful blisters and aching feet, which leads to a bad experience for potentially the rest of your trip.
Phone charger – Your phone is going to need all the battery life it can get on this trip. The more accustomed to the app you get, the more you’ll find yourself using it because it’s just THAT good!
Light clothes that can get wet and dry fast (especially between April and October when it can be extremely hot) – You’re going to get wet from sweating, rain or water rides so be sure to pack clothes that will dry fast. You also want light clothes to keep you as cool as possible on the really hot days. The sun is strong in Florida, so you’ll be hotter than normal if you’re not used to it.
Sunscreen – You need to absolutely bring sunscreen to Disney World, as you’re outside for the entire day, every day. Always apply a generous amount a few minutes before leaving for a park and if you have an extra mini version, carry it around in your pocket. Even in the cooler months, you’ll find that the Florida sun is strong, so this is a must-have any time of year.
Poncho – Avoid paying top dollar in the parks and bring a poncho with you on days that could have substantial rain.
Light Bag or Backpack – I personally don’t like to carry anything with me since it can be a pain on some of the attractions but I have friends that prefer bringing a bag with them to the parks. And, if you have kids, it is a must-have.
Some Nice Things I Always Enjoy
Frogg Togg Chilly Pad – Now these things are cool—pun intended. These pads are a towel-like product that keeps cool for a few hours at a time. Just run it under cold water and you have comfort for hours in the heat. The outer portion of the material stays dry too, which is nice.
Dinner attire – While not every place you’ll eat at has a dress code, you don’t want to look like you’ve been at the park all day when you sit down for a reserved dinner. I typically pack a nice outfit for every reservation we plan on booking.
Plastic filtered water bottle – Glass isn’t allowed in the parks, so if you bring your own bottle, make sure it is plastic. Oh, and I’d definitely suggest a filter since the bubbler water isn’t the most delicious.
It is imperative to stay hydrated at Disney since you’re in the heat and using a ton of energy walking around all day. Don’t fret—there are cold bottled water stations all over the parks for about $3 (and you can ask for free ice water at the food courts).
Arm band – I am a runner and have found that carrying my phone in an arm band can be an easy way to stay hands-free! You can also slip cash or and ID in there too!
Mini surge protector that also has a USB port – Your group is going to constantly need to charge up your devices every chance they get. I’ve found that there are never enough spots to plug-in on breaks or at the end of the day.
Important Clothing You NEED
Here’s a mantra you should keep repeating to yourself as you pack:
- 7 days, 14 outfits.
- 7 days, 14 outfits.
- 7 days, 14 outfits.
Yikes, I know that sounds like a lot! Have no fear—I’m not suggesting you go out and buy a brand new wardobe. You can use and reuse (please wash your clothes, though!) the same shorts, jeans and swimsuits multiple times.
It is a common misconception that you should pack one outfit per day. It is just as bad, however, to pack every outfit you own. For the most efficient packing, each person will need an average of 2 outfits per day (plus your swimsuit for pool breaks).
To figure out how many outfits you need, break down what you need by time of day and activity:
- Morning – Park attire based on forecast and activities planned
Mid-day – Bathing suit or pool attire (if you plan to take a pool break)
- Evening – Park attire (if you are returning to the park) based on forecast and activities planned
- Evening – Dinner attire. While not every place you’ll eat at has a dress code, you’ll want to bring some nicer outfits you’ll be comfortable in when you dine out.
You don’t want to look like you’ve been at the park all day when you sit down for a reserved dinner. To avoid this, pack a nice outfit for each reservation you plan on attending.
Even if you don’t go to dinner at a fancy restaurant or return to a park in the evening, you’ll want a fresh outfit to change into after sweating all day.
You Might Need A Jacket
You must know the forecast in order to pack efficiently for your vacation. Comfort is crucial, so always be prepared when it comes to the weather at Disney World.
Check the local Orlando weather forecast up to 10 days before you leave so you know what to expect during your stay.
The attire you bring on your trip will depend on what time of year you plan to visit. A lot of people assume that Orlando is extremely hot year-round, but that isn’t the case. From April to October, you can expect highs from 80-95+ (and factor in humidity and mid-day rain showers).
During these summer months, pack light clothes that will keep you cool and dry fast. You’ll want to pack items such as:
- Tank tops
- A baseball hat
Bring a sweatshirt or sweater – seriously! Although it is scorching hot outside in the summer months, everywhere you go inside is pumping with air-conditioning which makes indoor attractions feel rather cold (especially if you just got caught in a downpour).
From November to March, you can expect averages with highs in the 70s but lows down to the 50s on colder nights. You’ll want to pack all of the above (because it can still feel really hot during the day), but also add in a few things in for the colder days and nights:
- A few pairs of long pants or jeans
- Jacket (you may not need to pack this if you wear it to the airport)
- A few additional sweatshirts, sweaters or long-sleeved shirts
Checking the weather for your trip ensures that you’ll pack what’s needed and you can leave the extras at home and out of your suitcase.
The 3 Pairs Of Shoes You’ll Need
Each person on your trip should bring the following three types of shoes:
Those comfortable, broken in sneakers we discussed for the parks (which we discussed briefly earlier)
Flip-flops or sandals – There is nothing worse than having to put on and take off sneakers every time you get up from the pool for a snack or bathroom break. (I’ve made this mistake in the past and it is the worst).
Also, if you know you’re not going to be walking a lot on a given day, sandals are a nice alternative to sneakers in the Florida heat.
Dress shoes – Pack a pair of nice shoes if you plan to enjoy any reserved dinners, shows or nights on the town.
Customize Your MagicBands
I briefly touched on MagicBand’s earlier, but I wanted to further give them more attention in this section (since they are so integral to your Disney World experience these days).
A MagicBand is a wristband that you wear at all times during your trip, which is essentially the key to your vacation (there is a card version that is available to guests if they don’t wish to wear a wristband). When you book your vacation and are staying on Disney property, Disney will send you your MagicBands in the mail weeks ahead of your upcoming trip.
Therefore, your MagicBand is the most important thing you’ll need to pack (to be fair, you can—especially if you’re staying off Disney property—just acquire your MagicBand at any of the theme parks. But, if you’ve received your MagicBands before your trip begins, you’re definitely going to want to pack these in your suitcase!).
Why? Because where else do you wear the key to your vacation around your wrist?
One of the best things about the MagicBand is that it’s waterproof. You can wear it in the rain, the shower, the pool and on water rides, which is nice because if you had to take it off all the time your chance of misplacing it would be much greater.
If you want the ultimate Disney World experience, I would urge you to use these bands since they provide access to the following:
- Disney’s Magical Express, which is a Disney shuttle bus that takes you from the Orlando airport to your resort hotel – be sure to sign up for this ahead of time.
- Your hotel room – Your MagicBand is the key to your Disney World resort hotel
- Entering the parks
- Entering FastPass+ attractions
- Images taken from Disney Photo Pass with your MagicBand are connected to your My Disney Experience app
- Charge merchandise and food that you purchase to your room reservation (this eliminates having to bring a wallet to the parks)
A few weeks before you embark on your journey, make sure you log into your Disney account, preferably through the My Disney Experience app we talked about earlier, and customize your MagicBands by selecting one of the 8 colors for each person in your party. I’m telling you, when the package with your MagicBands arrives in the mail, you can’t help but smile. They are all placed in their individual slots with the corresponding name next to them. At this point you know your trip is only days away.
Don’t Forget About That Weather
Depending on what time of year you’re visiting, you’ll want to plan accordingly when it comes to attire. A lot of people assume that Orlando is extremely hot year-round, but that isn’t the case.
From April to October, you can assume highs between 80 and 95+ (and humidity) with all other months averaging with highs in the 70s but lows down to the 50s on colder nights. You can always check the forecast up to 10 days prior to your trip on any weather site or app for the most accurate details of what you can expect.
Remember that comfort is crucial, so always be prepared when it comes to the weather at Disney World.
Lastly, think about any events you plan to attend. For example, if you are visiting during September or October, your younger guests might want to dress up in a costume for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.
Be sure to check the Disney World website for costume guidelines for attending any event before you pack. And, always make it a rule of thumb to check out any upcoming events that are happening during your stay at Disney World. There is always something going on and you don’t want to miss it.
Now that you’ve read this post, you’re well on your way to having the best Disney World vacation possible. I hope that these tips helped you decide what to bring and things to consider while getting ready for your ultimate trip to the most magical place on earth.
Now go get packing already!
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