Traveling Light at Walt Disney World: Mission Impossible?

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I can hardly remember touring the Walt Disney World theme parks without a backpack that contains all the essentials. With small children in tow these days, it is usually chock full of diapers, snacks, water, clothing, sunscreen, medications, and ponchos. Even before kids, it was rare that my husband and I didn’t bring a theme park bag, lighter of course, but still filled with everything we would need while away from our resort room for the day. But, is it necessary?

Traveling Light

Traveling light certainly has its benefits, not the least of which is bypassing the sometimes lengthy bag check lines at the entrance to each Disney theme park. There have been more times than I would care to remember when we were running late for an Advance Dining Reservation (ADR) or the beginnings of IllumiNations and the bag checks were a bottleneck in our quest to make it on time.

The most obvious reason to ditch the bag is avoiding the feeling of being a pack mule. At the end of a long day, that bag can feel as if its weight has doubled. Not to mention that sticky, unpleasant feeling of your shirt plastered to your back on warm days because the air does not circulate between you and the theme park bag.

I cannot think of an attraction at Walt Disney World where you are not permitted to bring your theme park bag. In fact, I appreciate that many rides have a built-in mechanism or place to secure your bag. A theme park bag becomes more inconvenient when dining. One of my complaints about many Walt Disney World restaurants is that the tables are too close together, a necessity I suppose when so many guests pass through their doors every day. These tight areas can mean it’s somewhat nerve-wracking carrying a large bag past diners and servers carrying plates of food in a narrow space.

Can it be done?

Disney is very aware of the guest experience and makes everything you would normally carry in a theme park bag easily available…for a price.

Lockers. There are lockers to store any gear you don’t want to lug around the parks near each theme park entrance. A consideration is the extra time it will take to trek across the park to your locker should you need something mid-day.

Snacks and Beverages. You won’t want for food and drink at Disney – there are an astounding number of dining locations. One complaint I frequently hear about the Disney Dining Plans is that there is so much food that guests have lots of unused snack credits on the last day of their visit. Snack credits can be used for bottled water at the parks (though this probably isn’t the best use of snack credits) which means one less thing you have to carry. You can also ask for a free cup of ice water at any of the quick service locations and Cast Members will be happy to oblige.

Medications. Each theme park has a First Aid station and it has been my experience that many shops carry over-the-counter medications behind the counter; you just have to ask.

Rain Gear. If you’re caught in a rainstorm, you’ll be able to easily find and purchase ponchos to keep you dry – no need to leave the park. However, they are not cheap.

PhotoPass. With PhotoPass photographers conveniently located throughout the park and at Character Meet ‘N Greets, you don’t even need to bring a camera anymore if you don’t want.

Lanyards. Lanyards are a great way to keep some cash, your Key to the World, and FastPasses readily available.

As you can see, the trade-off between bringing or buying is really cost versus convenience.

When Should You Consider a Bag?

Small Kids. There’s really no way around carrying a “diaper bag” when you’re out and about with little children all day.

Medical Conditions. If someone in your travel party has special needs that require prescription medications or other medical supplies be close at hand, a theme park bag is a necessity.

Variable Weather. During some times of the year, temperatures in Florida can fluctuate widely throughout the day. If you’ll be out all day, layers are essential and having a theme park bag to store excess clothing comes in handy.

Do you travel light and skip the theme park bag or is it a must-bring for any day at a Disney park?

Photo Credit: LL Bean

Lisa M. Battista is the author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers When she’s not chasing after her little ones, you can most likely find her at the beach or in the kitchen trying her hand at a new recipe. You can follow her on Twitter @DisneyExplorer or become a fan of Beyond the Attractions on Facebook.

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