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  • The Adventurous Alfords

That real-real guide to packing for Disney parks

Lunch with our entire family at Minnie's Hollywood and vine restaurant

It's coming. All of the fall break kids and their families are about to head to the castle for a Not So Scary Halloween trip and so many people ask me what we take to the parks. As of recently, Disney has fine tuned their restrictions on what you can and can not bring into the parks. At one time, wagons were welcome but are now restricted. Cooler allowances have changed as well. You must be up to date on that knowledge to avoid a disaster at the security check at the start of your most magical day. Also, if you have not booked your stay or tickets yet follow this link for a free service to have your vacation effortlessly planned by a dear and trusted friend of mine. She is the most knowledgeable disney fan that I know.

First thing's first: The backpack (Cooler bag).

My friend bought me a small bag cooler backpack for my birthday this year and it came in so clutch at our last Disney trip in July. (See my "Disney in July" post for a very specific summer packing list.) This bag cooler backpack was taken into the parks with no issues during security checkpoints. Follow this link for the one we used:

The most important thing to pack in your cooler backpack is a large water bottle that has an internal ice pack. That will keep your water cool AND keep any other contents in the cooler cool as well. We usually throw in a few CapriSuns Roaring Water pouches since they are light and basically flavored water for when the kids are wanting something other than plain water. I also like to pack a few mandarins for snacks. They always give our kids a nice boost of energy. That's what we put INSIDE the cooler.

Now for the outside pockets. This is a good place to put your SUNSCREEN. Even in the fall, SPF is very important. Its Florida, after all.

This is also a good place to put disinfectants/hand sanitizer and wipes. Tip: two birds one stone would be bringing these disinfectant hand wipes, Fall is definitely the start of flu season and theme parks can be a breeding ground for such viruses so be sure to be vigilant with your hand washing and disinfectants.

You can also pack external battery packs for your cell phones. Between taking dozens of photos and using your Disney APP to maneuver around the park, you will definitely need to bring one!

If your backpack has a secure pocket, this is where you can keep your cell phone. Having your cellphone within arms reach will be much appreciated, plus, keeping your cell phone and wallet out in the open is not the best choice.

Next: Park Bag or Second Backpack.

Our rule is each adult gets a back pack. The cooler is usually my husbands and the other is typically mine. This is where the organization and list gets long. I will bullet the list for easier reading:

I label each kid's ziplock bag with their name and for what park/day that bag is for. This eliminates the "having to repack a new ziplock bag everyday." Just grab the bag of the day and go! (Don't forget to bring your meds. Set a reminder on your phone if it helps.)

*Gallon sized ziplock bags: This will come in handy so much, trust me. From carrying wet clothes to sitting on them if the ground is wet or dirty. To give everything a place and a job, I also use these to put things in. I usually write a kids name on the front of each. Within that one ziplock bag, I put each of their snacks and spare clothes.

*A change of clothes. This is important for hot months AND cool months. In the summer it is SO HOT. It's also imperative for the Halloween party. If you and your kids are wearing costumes, you may not be very comfortable for long. Or if you find a splash pad that your kids run through and soak their clothes or your own clothes are just sweaty and gross, you will very much appreciate a dry, clean change of clothes. A simple t-shirt and cotton shorts fold up to very small sizes to keep your packing compact. In the fall and winter days, the weather is usually anywhere from perfect to HOT but, when the sun goes down, you have no idea what you're going to get. One October that my family went, we were hot all day and as soon as the sun went down, it got chilly! Then the last October we went, it was record high heat temps during the day and when the sun went down it was a perfect 78 degrees. Then there was January 2010 when a frigid and unexpected cold front came through florida and my husband and I just about froze the entire time. It came out of no where and even the WDW staff were unprepared. They started pulling out old boxes full of previous season scarves and hats as people were purchasing every bit of warming gear they could find as if it were Black Friday Shopping! For this reason I usually say check your 10 day forecast right before your trip and wear summer-ish clothes during the day and as your "extra pair of clothes" pack a thin sweatshirt and cotton pants and throw in one small blanket if you have room.

*Snacks: All of the walking and shopping and riding is exhausting. It truly does work up an appetite. And though giving into the occasional Mickey pretzel is ok, you can spend a small fortune on snacks at WDW. So pack your own! Small individual bags are perfect. I then divide them between my kids and place them in each of their own ziplock bag with their spare change of clothes.

*Glow sticks and bubble guns: These are for sale at Disney but they do come with a Disney price tag. Go to the Dollar Tree and buy yours there before your trip. Again, divide them up between your kiddos and place them in their ziplock bags. Remember to bag them in their own small baggies if there is any possibility of a leak.

Our sweet man getting a breathing treatment in Tomorrow land.

*Medication: So many people forget that even at WDW, non-magical things can happen. A migraine, a fever, motion sickness, etc. Bring yo meds! Our son has asthma and we always have his inhaler but last December I had this weird "mama instinct" to bring his nebulizer. I had always told myself that it was probably smarter to bring that machine because it works faster and better for our boy during a flare up. Well we brought it and sure enough, Roman had an attack at Tomorrow Land and the cast members were fantastic when it came to finding an outlet and letting us sit down to bounce back. We now add this to our stroller packing list. They even showered Roman with Buzz Lightyear talk and Mickey Mouse stickers. Now, we never leave home without it. So remember your medical kits, fever reducers, motion sickness meds, and whatever you take for headaches and pains. Probably wouldn't hurt to add some gold bond to your medical list as well. There is nothing magical about chaffing.

*Ponchos. Buy ponchos at the dollar store before your trip BUT I highly recommend these for the kids!!! Ponchos are a bit aggravating for kids and do very little good if the kids are messing with them and fidgeting. The ones we bought through the link above were worth every penny! They kept the kids clothes completely dry. And since they are more like raincoats, they did not bother the kids at all. Once we were done using them and they were dry, we folded them up and now keep them in the trunk of my car at all times, that way we have them for rainy days and they are there if the forecast changes unexpectedly on our next trip. I also recommend buying at least one Disney World poncho if you have a stroller. I have owned several stroller rain guards in my day and used many different ones and the best one by far is the large Walt Disney World poncho. It can cover a single stroller perfectly and keep it completely dry while you were riding rides. Just be sure to adjust it appropriately so that no water gets in through the hooded area.

Packed down and ready to go

Now for the stroller:

Even if your kids are not "Stroller age" bring one. Even if its a small $25 umbrella stroller. It may feel silly bringing one for a family with no kids or older kids, but it is the absolute perfect accessory. Who wants to carry backpacks and shopping bags all day at Disney World? Not I! Bring it and give your arms and back a rest!

*For stronger and sturdier strollers, remember your mommy/daddy hook: but be careful! Loading too much onto the Mommy Hook can tilt your stroller and even injure a kid that is sitting in the stroller if it tumps over. Tip, keep the weight evenly distributed and lower to the ground.

*Waterproof bags: This can be more ziplocks or even use the gallon sized ziplock bags that your spare clothes and such are stored in. BUT sometimes the bottom drops and it can actually POUR on your magical day. If this is the case these waterproof bags are great for putting your backpacks in or your recently purchased merch. Extra large waterproof bags are the Xlarge ziplock bags like these :

Another secret tip that was so amazing, for our very rainy merry Christmas party, was throwing the kid's water boots in the bottom of the stroller. My husband was a little annoyed by this at first due to how much room it took up, but the forecast was for torrential downpours for the majority of our night and I was bound and determined to guarantee a great time no matter what. My husband later bowed down to the great super mom that I am saying, and I quote, "Best idea ever!" Between the boots and rain coats, the babies were 100% dry the entire time. I had even decided to wear my own into the park last minute. Guess who had soggy feet for the night... My husband. HA! So keep an eye on your forecast leading up to your trip. If rain is imminent, bring some (comfy) rain boots.

There are new stroller restrictions this year at Walt Disney World. See the following for up to date park rules:

These buffalo plaid flannels were great for December. You can tie them around your waist during the day and wear them at night if it gets chilly. We also packed hats, sweaters and gloves for the kids because we knew the temps would be a little lower this night.

So that is the Adventuring Alford's Disney packing list. Hope this helps. Preparedness is the key to saving money, comfort and enjoyment on your trips away from home. So as Scar would say, "Be prepared!".

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