There are two groups of people when it comes to the Disney Parks, the “wear a backpack group”, and the “don’t need to bring a backpack” group. I’m in the wear a backpack group! Backpacks allow a lot of freedom when it comes to going to a Disney Park. And if we’re being honest here, we all want to be prepared for whatever might come our way, whether it’s the three o’clock rain storms, random character meets, or being hungry in line!
I tend to explore the parks alone, so a backpack is necessary. My backpack is Vera Bradley, and has five different compartments, because organization is key to a successful Disney day, even if you’re just winging it around Magic Kingdom. I chose this backpack as my go-to for a few reasons:
1. It’s comfortable to wear all day!
2. It has a lot of space inside the main zip area!
3. It can be washed!
(Seriously though, how cute is Mulan?!)
Looking Good on the Outside
On the outside of my backpack I always have a few of my favorite park accessories, Parkbound Buttons! I love wearing buttons around the park, and these from Casey are so much fun. I tend to match my buttons to the park or experience I’m going to for the day. If I’m at Hollywood Studios my buttons are Star Wars themed, and if I’m at Magic Kingdom I have on princess buttons. I don’t think I’ve ever gone to a park and not gotten a “Hey, where did you get that button at?!” These buttons serve as good conversation starters. I’m a pretty outgoing person, and I’ll talk to just about anyone. So when someone asks about something I’m wearing, I tend to keep the conversation going, which helps long stand-by lines go a little faster.
The other button I have on my backpack straps is from the parks, and it’s an “I’m Celebrating” button. I always get one of these when I head to the parks. There’s always a reason to celebrate, whether you’re at Epcot to celebrate your dad’s retirement, or at Animal Kingdom celebrating Tuesday! I also keep my Magic Band on the strap of my backpack. This might seem weird because you’re supposed to wear them like a bracelet, but I don’t like wearing mine, and since I always have a backpack on, this is the perfect spot!
On the Side
Every backpack is different, but most have a side-pocket. This is where I keep my phone and Chap Stick for easy access to both items. Since I have a Disney-inspired Etsy shop, I carry my business cards with me as well in the second side pocket.
It’s What’s on the Inside That Matters
Just like what’s on the outside, what’s on the inside of your backpack matters! In mine there’s the pretty obvious stuff, like my wallet with my Annual Pass Holder card so I can get 10% off merchandise and at some restaurants, motion sickness pills (because I love Mission: Space, but not the way it makes me feel after), and three portable phone chargers. Yeah, three. I don’t ever want to be in a sticky situation where I’m in a rush to save my dying phone by trying to find an outlet, or race to the charging stations at the Rapunzel bathrooms.
Some stuff that never gets unpacked out of my Disney backpack, even after I’m home, is my tangle teaser, a throw-away poncho, and my pen pouch! If you’ve never heard of a tangle teaser, it’s a tiny hair brush, and perfect for post-Thunder Mountain hot mess hair, and pre-princess party with Rapunzel and Tiana in Princess Fairytale Hall. The throw-away ponchos I get are 99 cents from Wal-Mart in the camping section. This stays in my backpack until it gets taken out of the tiny bag it’s never going to go back into and used. After the rain is over the poncho gets thrown into the nearest garbage can. If it’s going to be raining all day I wear a zip-up rain jacket.
In my pen pouch there’s obviously a few pens because you never know when you’re going to need one. But this is the perfect place to put other small things that might get lost in the shuffle of a park day. I keep a Sharpie marker in here because you really never know who you’re going to see at a Disney Park! And sometimes I like to get my Parkbound buttons signed, and sharpies are really the best for Mickey to sign a button with his face on it. I also keep a few extra hair ties in this pouch, just in case the one that fits perfectly decides it’s going to break.
When it comes to things in my backpack that rotate in and out, there’s quite a bit. My GoPro, snacks, ears, Ziploc bags…. This list is still important though! The thing I love about Disney is there is so much to do that you could never do it all in one trip. And if you’re going by yourself you have a totally different experience than if you’re going with other people. This is why my GoPro rotates in and out of my bag.
Some trips I take my camera, and others I don’t. I tend to take it more on trips when I’m alone because I don’t want to make the people I’m with uncomfortable by having a camera in their face the whole time we are at a park. Snacks are a Disney necessity. Some of my favorite foods are Disney snacks, like Dole Whips, churros, and Mickey Premium bars! But sometimes you get the munchies in line, and once you’re in line for Space Mountain, you’re pretty much locked in. In my backpack I take snacks that aren’t messy to eat, and if the container tips in my bag it won’t spill everywhere. My go-to snacks are Goldfish crackers or Craisins. Ziploc bags are also an important part of my Disney backpack! I keep a few inside for my phone in case I decide to go on a water ride, if it starts raining and I don’t want my phone to get wet, or for a few extra cookies from lunch I had at Crystal Palace!
Things that rotate in and out of my bag and onto my head are ears and bows. I love being able to match my ears to my outfit, and my outfit to the park I’m at. If I’m park hopping for a day I will keep the other set of ears I’m going to be wearing in my backpack.
Pro Tip: If you’re headed to Hollywood Studios for the day, pack a few glow sticks, extra pens, or droid parts to take in with you to the Star Wars Launch Bay and trade with the Jawas. They won’t except anything of value, like coins, but love things that light up, make noise, or are shiny.
Get It At The Park
The last two things I get for my backpack I get from the parks. The first is water. When you’re wondering around World Showcase it’s really easy to get dehydrated, so one of the first things I do when I go into any park I buy a water bottle. I then use this same water bottle all day and just refill it at water fountains, or with quick-service water. You can bring your own food and drinks into the Disney Parks, but I don’t mind buying one water bottle for a day trip. If you’re going to be at the parks for more than one day or staying at a resort I would definitely suggest bringing a pack of water and bringing your own into the parks!
The other thing I get from the parks is napkins. I grab a few from the stand I bought water from and throw them in my bag. You never know when there might only be one table left somewhere, but a Cast Member hasn’t been by to clean it up, or if a seat is wet from rain, or if you’re going to need an extra one after your ice cream.
So whether you’re headed to the parks for a day, or for a week, what you bring into the parks is key to having a successful Disney day!
Megan duBois grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, just a few hours north of Walt Disney World! She started her Disney adventures when she was two-years-old, and over twenty years later she still loves the magic of the Disney Parks. Megan went to college for public relations and sport management, and is now an entrepreneur with her own Etsy shop, Mingling With Mickey, and is writing for two different Disney blogs. To keep up to date with her Disney adventures and Etsy updates, be sure to follow Megan on Instagram, @MinglingWithMickey.