If you don’t have a basic packing list, you can start with ours here.
Don’t buy anything that you’ll only use on this one vacation. Whether it is a new swimsuit or those cute “Smith Family Reunion” tee shirts that you make yourself, if it’s only getting one use, it’s not a smart buy.
That said, there are certain things that you will want to bring that should be free of defects and comfortable enough to suit your needs: Shoes, backpacks, stroller, luggage that won’t be destroyed by baggage handlers and that has rollers so you won’t be carrying it long distances. If you don’t have these things, you’ll need to either budget for them (shoes), or see if there’s anyone you can borrow from (luggage).
Packing light will be helpful in a few ways. First, you’ll be able to save on baggage fees. Second, an over-stuffed bag will be more likely to get damaged in transit. Third, you won’t give yourself a hernia.
Also see our section on What to Bring to the Parks.
GOOD SHOES ARE ESSENTIAL
Bring at least 2 pairs of very comfortable walking shoes. Bring Blister Block https://www.bandaid.com/couponBlisterBlock.jsp and New Skin http://www.newskinproducts.com/ . Use Blister Block every day before you put your shoes on. New Skin is great to cover cuts and blisters in wear areas (like feet!).
EXTRA SPACE FOR YOUR RETURN FLIGHT
Walmart sells a duffel bag for under $10 that zips into itself and folds flat. Bring it with you and stuff it with dirty clothes on the way home, use the extra space in your regular luggage for the souvenirs. Definitely do not buy one if your airline charges for baggage, or if this will be your once-in-a-lifetime air travel experience.
If you’ll be preparing food in your room, you’ll need the following (at minimum):
Can Opener, sharp knife, one or two microwave safe plastic bowls with venting lid that are large enough for whatever you’ll be heating, serving bowls, plates, spoons, knives, forks (these can be disposable – or plastic camp gear works really well), salt and pepper, other spices, dish soap and dish cloth or scrubber, hot pot. Enough ziplock baggies for sandwiches and other daily munchies, and a few chip clips or clothes pins.
Bring enough of every possible medication you might need to cover you for the duration of your trip, especially prescription meds. Although you can have medication delivered, they will not bill your insurance and your out-of-pocket costs can be a real vacation-killer. We recommend day and night-time cold medications, antidiarrheal, pepto-bismol, something for fever, something for aches and pains. Liquids aren’t a good idea, capsules and pills are better.
Laundry packs or dry detergent double-bagged in two ziplocks are your best option. There are change machines in the laundry rooms so you do not have to bring quarters.
You’ll be cramming the family into a small space in your resort room, anything you can do to stay organized in that space is a good thing. Bring a laundry bag if you have one, or a plastic garbage bag works fine too, you can hang it on a doorknob. If you have a small fabric shoe organizer that has hook at the top, this can be hung on a coat hook in your resort room and used to store shoes and other small items.
Beer and Wine can be purchased along with the rest of your groceries. If you want hard alcohol, your least expensive option is to bring it with you. Nalgene containers will not leak, and are best for packing liquids for flight. Don’t trust the original bottles.
IT’S A THEME PARK, NOT A FASHION SHOW
You don’t want to look like homeless people while touring the parks, but you also don’t want to arrive for your week’s vacation with 21 pieces of luggage. Bringing a different outfit for every family member for every day of vacation isn’t necessary. Jeans can be worn more than one time before washing, so can sweatshirts. Some lightweight clothing can be easily hand washed (use your dish soap) and hung to dry overnight.
Take some time and assess your family’s wardrobe. Select items that don’t show stains easily, are relatively wrinkle-resistant, and that the owner enjoys wearing. Florida’s high humidity means knit cotton is not as comfortable as woven cotton, or better yet, polyester “wicking” fabrics. Try to work with what you have. It’s not cost effective to buy clothes for vacation if they’ll be little used any other time of the year. Especially difficult are bathing suits, which can be expensive off-season – if you do need one, check your local JC Penney or online at Lands End for good prices even in the middle of winter.
Be certain to pack at least one of each of the following, even if the weather report doesn’t seem to warrant some of these items: Jeans, shorts, short sleeve shirt, tank top, layering long sleeve shirt, windbreaker/rain coat.
For winter visits add: a heavier long sleeve sweatshirt or polar fleece shirt, lightweight knit gloves, hat . Disney World has been known to sell out of those $60 sweatshirts when they get an unseasonable cold spell, so be prepared for the unexpected and you’ll save money.
PROPER PRINCESS ATTIRE
If your little girl is crazy about princesses and loves dressing up, you may want to splurge on a princess or fairy dress. Even if she doesn’t think about it before your visit, she’s sure to mention it after seeing dozens of other girls her age dressed up in the parks. Don’t wait until you get to the parks to buy, the prices there will make you think you’re paying for the whole castle and not just a dress. Look locally for deals at Walmart, shop http://www.etsy.com for hand-made creations, from http://www.littledressupshop.com/princessdresses, at JC Penney, or sign up for special deals at http://www.disneystore.com.
The genuine Disney dresses and most of those approved by Disney will be quite scratchy and many girls won’t wear them all day. The hand-made versions may be about the same price, but will be much more comfortable to wear, or if you do have a scratchy dress, bring a lightweight tee shirt and shorts to wear underneath.
One dress will be enough. Your daughter can wear it every day to the parks if she wants, you’re the only ones who will know she’s wearing the same dress (it’s not like the “real” princesses change very often either – they’re always wearing the same thing!)
WATER PARK AND POOL NECESSITIES
If there is any chance you will be visiting a water park or spending time at your resort’s pool, be sure to bring swim suits, water shoes or flip flops (the cement gets extremely hot), rash guard shirts, swim diapers, and maybe a few inflatable water toys that don’t take up much room. Also for water park visits, bring a 2 gallon ziplock bag to store wet suits and towels on your way back to your resort. You can borrow resort towels for use at the Water Park rather than rent them, just make sure they all are returned to the room!
MAKE A LIST AND CHECK IT MORE THAN TWICE
If you don’t already have your own travel checklist, you can use ours as a starting point. This is a base list that will start you thinking about everything you need to bring. Print it off, put it on a clipboard with a pen and place it wherever your “packing area” is in your house. If you have a guest room in your house, that bed is a great place to begin staging everything you’re bringing. Most items can be gathered early on, with underwear and some clothing having to wait until just before you leave. Try to do as much as possible as early as possible so you can budget for anything you need to get, and so you’re not left with mounds of packing to do in the days before you leave.