When you’re booking a trip to Disney World, it can be both an exciting and nerve wracking experience—especially if you’re booking a trip in January. Not only do you need to buy tickets and book reservations, you also need to pack various essential items for every wintertime occasion. So in this article, I’m going to help you figure out exactly what to bring to Disney World in January for your upcoming trip, so your family is well prepared for virtually anything.
What to Bring to Disney World in January
Let’s begin by discussing a few important clothing items you’ll need.
Bring Warm Layers (Coats, Hats, and Gloves)
Now when you’re planning out your packing list for Disney World, I know that bringing coats and hats and gloves seems inexplicable at first when you’re visiting the hot state of Florida. But, if you’re not from Florida, you probably don’t realize or appreciate just how chilly it will get in January.
It’s never going to be as cold in Orlando as it is in Chicago or Boston, but trust me, you’re not going to want to leave your warm layers at home.
A core memory of my Disney College Program experience, which began in January of 2013, involves a bus stop, Timberland boots, and a “miner” costume. At the time, I did not know just how cold Orlando, Florida could get in the winter. During my first week on the job as an Attractions Cast Member at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, I assumed that the flimsy coat provided by costuming to accompany my miner costume would provide sufficient protection from evening temperature drops.
To my dismay, on one particularly late night of closing Big Thunder, I found myself shivering and stamping my boots on the sidewalk outside the cast parking lot and entrance to the Magic Kingdom. The employee shuttle could not arrive soon enough.
To ensure your comfort during your visit to Walt Disney World, be smarter than my 18-year-old self: Bring warm layers, including a jacket or puffy coat, hat, and gloves. Daily temperatures in Orlando, Florida are quite variable during the month of January. You must be prepared for highs anywhere between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
At night, temperatures may drop into the 30s, 40s, or 50s. To maximize the time you are able to spend enjoying all that Walt Disney World has to offer, arrive prepared with the warm layers best suited to your personal level of tolerance to colder weather.
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Pack Rain Gear (Jackets, Umbrellas, Ponchos)
In addition to chilly temperatures, you should anticipate rain when visiting Walt Disney World. Orlando receives comparatively less rain in January than it does in spring and summer months; however, it is wise to prepare for showers, especially if traveling with children.
Wet clothes can lead to discomfort that distracts from the charm and joy of a Disney vacation! A rain poncho is a practical option for families visiting Walt Disney World parks, as it will cover you and any bags you carry. Rain jackets have the added benefit of buffering wind and, thereby, keeping you warmer than a poncho.
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Bring Proper Sun Protection (Sunscreen & Sunglasses)
While not as intense as it can become during the summer months, the sun of course does shine bright in Orlando, Florida in January. You will be spending a significant amount of time outdoors during your visit to Walt Disney World. Bring sun protection so that you can focus on fully enjoying your Disney experience, rather than avoiding exposure to protect damaged skin.
Even on chillier days, when you may cover more of your skin in warm layers, your face will be susceptible to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. I suggest that you make a habit of applying sunscreen to your face and any other bare skin on theme park mornings, then reapplying throughout the day to ensure continued protection.
Additionally, a hat and a pair of sunglasses will supplement your consistent use of sunscreen. A baseball cap or other hat with a brim is particularly effective at defending your scalp against sunburns and shielding the sensitive skin on your face. Sunglasses will preserve your eyesight, allowing you to see all of the careful, creative theme park design that has secured Walt Disney World’s reputation as the most magical place on Earth.
When selecting a hat and sunglasses for your trip, always ensure that they fit snugly.
Pack Comfortable Walking Shoes
While options like the Walt Disney World Railroad, the Monorail System, buses, and ferries exist in terms of park transportation, walking or using a mobility device is necessary for navigating Walt Disney World. I have learned the hard way that impractical shoes can become a significant obstacle to enjoying your day in a Disney park.
On my most recent trip to Orlando, I was excited to sport my new, Disney princess Vans in the Magic Kingdom. Unfortunately, I did not walk in the shoes enough before my trip to realize that, when worn for an extended period of time, they begin to squish my toes. On the first of four days of Disney park exploration, I hobbled back to my hotel room in significant foot pain.
To reduce the risk of needing to spend valuable park time in a first aid station or your lodging nursing bruised and blistered feet, I highly recommend that you pack comfortable shoes for your trip. Sneakers are an excellent choice; I have found success wearing hiking sandals, as well.
If you choose to purchase new shoes before your trip to Walt Disney World, be sure to break them in before hitting the parks. Do not repeat my mistake! Wear your new kicks around your home and neighborhood to confirm that they will not squeeze or rub your feet painfully. As I discovered on my most recent visit, new shoes can cause as much damage as old or poorly-chosen footwear.
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Bring a Backpack to Disney World
During your trip, you will want to spend as much time enjoying the parks as possible. Thus, there are some small essentials that I suggest you bring to maximize your comfort and manage complications, especially if traveling with children. You will want to have a central, portable location for storing these necessities. Due to its size, structure, and organizational advantages, a backpack is preferable to purses and smaller bags.
As a single adult visiting the parks without children, I typically bring a hiking daypack with various pockets for arranging items to easily access what I need, when I need it. If you are packing and managing materials for yourself and others, you will probably need a slightly bigger backpack. Of course, if the children in your group are old enough to do so, they may relish in the responsibility of carrying their own provisions.
What to Pack in Your Disney World Backpack
Regardless, I recommend you fill your bag or bags with the following:
Basic first aid materials
Why waste time and tears finding a first aid station, when you can bring your own basic medical supplies? Antibacterial wipes and cream, adhesive bandages in various sizes, and blister bandages or moleskin pads will cure the most common theme park afflictions. If your group is particularly sensitive to the sun, you may want to include aloe vera–for sunburn relief–in your first aid kit, as well.
Walt Disney World parks are dotted with complimentary hand sanitizer stations. A map of these locations can be found on the My Disney Experience app for smartphones. In a messy emergency, however, you will not want to wander in search of sanitizer. Keep yourself and your travel party happy, healthy, and germ-free by packing your own!
Travel-size tissue pack
You never know when you may need a tissue to clean up a runny nose or unexpected mess. Even in Disney park restrooms–which are generally orderly, but used by thousands of people every day–you may find yourself wishing for your own bath tissue. Anticipate situations such as these by packing your own travel-size pack of tissues!
Where napkins and tissues fail, wet wipes come to the rescue. They are ideal for cleaning sticky messes, such as ice cream fingers and cheeks, while on the go. With cleansing wipes tucked away in your bag, you can confidently say “Yes!” to that churro or Mickey bar.
Resealable plastic bags
In the rain, you will need a dry location to store your cell phone and other small technological devices. Resealable plastic bags are perfect for this purpose! They can also be used to contain leftover snacks for future munching, or collect trash to be tossed in a bin at a later time.
Plastic water bottle
Like hand sanitizer stations, water fountains and bottle refill sites can be found throughout Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and EPCOT.Packing a plastic bottle (not a glass container, as glass containers are prohibited at Disney World) will make it possible for you to stay hydrated and save money during long days in these parks. If you happen to forget your refillable bottle, you can politely ask a Cast Member at the closest dining location for a complimentary cup of ice water!
Whether you plan to dine out in the parks or make your own food, I recommend packing supplementary snacks to fuel your adventure in between meals. Adults and kids, alike, require that extra boost from time to time! Nutrition and protein bars, applesauce pouches, dried fruit, bananas, sunflower seeds, popcorn, trail mix, and rice crisps are easily-contained foods to consider tucking inside your bag.
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Unfortunately, guests are prohibited from bringing folding chairs and stools into Disney parks. Since bench seating is limited, I suggest you pack a blanket or tarp for sitting on the ground to view parades and firework shows. Additionally, to combat the inevitable chill of January evenings, you may want to bring an extra blanket for warmth. With this set-up, you will be able to enjoy shows like the Magic Kingdom fireworks in comfort!
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Stroller or backpack for small children
Long days spent in Walt Disney World theme parks will tire even the strongest of legs and feet. Small children may not be able to sustain the pace of the adults in their parties. Depending on their age and activity level, you may want the option to push or haul your little one.
Strollers and mobility devices are available to rent at Guest Services in all four Disney theme parks and Disney Springs. If you choose to bring your own, keep in mind that stroller wagons and strollers larger than 31” by 52” are prohibited.
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Smartphone and portable charger
By now, you are certain to have gained an awareness and appreciation of the meticulous planning that goes into scheduling a Walt Disney World vacation. Fortunately, the My Disney Experience app for Apple and Android devices functions as a one-stop-shop for accessing planning tools such as tickets, park maps, wait times, restaurants, and activity reservations.
Additionally, the Disney Genie Service has been embedded into My Disney Experience. This amenity provides access to activity reservations and crafts a sample itinerary prioritizing your favorite attractions, entertainment, and dining. To utilize the trip planning features and reduced wait time reservations on Disney Genie, someone in your party should pack a smartphone and download My Disney Experience.
Other smartphone features, including the camera and app games, will supplement the use of My Disney Experience and enhance your adventure in the parks. When you return home, you will look back fondly on captured memories from your trip to Walt Disney World.
If you choose to forgo Disney Photopass service, which allows you to purchase downloads or prints of the professional pictures taken during your time in the parks, you can simply ask Cast Members to snap pictures of you and your party on your own device!
Before you enter the parks, be sure to download app games to play while waiting in line. Since you will be using the smartphone regularly, you may want to pack a portable charger to keep the technology alive.
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Hopefully, this article has helped you determine what to bring to Disney World during the month of January. Despite the inconsistency in Orlando’s weather at this time of year, with proper clothing and theme park essentials, you will remain comfortable during the hours that you spend creating Disney memories.
Additionally, you will benefit from a temporary lull in crowds visiting Disney parks. You might even be lucky enough to catch the tail end of the holiday light display on Cinderella’s Castle! Most importantly, slow down and enjoy this special experience with family or friends in the happiest place on Earth.
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