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If your family is spending the day at one of the Disney World parks, you’re going to need plenty of stuff with you.
How much stuff depends on your personality, how old your kids are, and your eating game plan for the day, among other things. We’ll get to all that more in a little bit.
The important thing to know is that it’s super-important to pick a good quality bag that’s best for you and your needs.
So which bag is best? Do you need a backpack, or will a crossbody bag do? Does Disney World have any kind of “bag policy”? And perhaps most importantly, what do you need to put in them?
In this post I hope to answer just about every “park bag” question you could have, and help you choose a bag that you’re thrilled with.
If you’re curious (or in a hurry):
What is Disney World’s Bag Policy?
There are a lot of common question about what is and isn’t allowed to be brought into Disney World, and if there are constraints concerning bags. Let’s address them first.
Can I bring a backpack into Disney World?
Yes. Bags are fine, even backpacks, as long as they are no larger than 24″ (61 cm) long x 15″ (38 cm) wide x 18″ (46 cm) high.
You’re not allowed to bring suitcases into the parks, which for some reason, I find kind of funny. I guess because it whenever I heard that, I picture an image of of hordes of people hauling huge suitcases into the Magic Kingdom. I guess I’m easily amused.
Can I take my own food and drinks into Disney World?
Yup, that’s fine too. (And I would highly recommend it as a way to save money during your vacation.)
You cannot bring alcoholic beverages or glass containers into the parks, though. (Glass baby food jars are allowed.) Also, you cannot bring juice boxes or anything else with straws into Animal Kingdom, for the safety of the animals.
Great! I’ll load up a ton of food in our cooler.
The Best Backpack Cooler for Disney World
The TOURIT Insulated Lightweight Cooler Backpack is your best bet if your bringing outside food and drinks into the parks that you want to keep cold.
This backpack (dimensions 17 inches x 13 inches x 7.5 inches) has one main storage compartment with a lot of room, plus 2 side mesh pockets, and one large front zipper pocket with a mesh divider to keep utensils.
Reviewers described this backpack cooler as sturdy, leak-proof, and easy to clean.
Reviewer Bushkin78 says:
I love it. Sturdy and kept things cool. It did not leak and was comfortable to carry. We bought it for a trip to Arizona. We took several hikes of 3-5 miles each. Carried our water. Carried some water bottles frozen. It was 90-100 degrees and after 2 hours the frozen bottles were still frozen and we had to put them in the outside pockets to thaw so we could drink more. The size is perfect to carry water and lunch for 2 people on a day hike. Very satisfied with the quality, no leaking and sturdy.
I have prescription medicine I need to bring. Is that a problem?
No problem at all. If your medication is in a glass bottle, or if it involves needles, just explain the situation to the security guard during bag check. Also, the The first-aid stations at the parks can help you with any refrigeration or storage needs you might have.
What do I need to know about the Disney security check?
If you have a bag, you’ll to go through the line to have it checked at the entrance of any Disney park.
Try to make bag check quicker and easier for everybody by taking bags out of your strollers and opening and unzipping all compartments. And when your “turn” is over, get out of the way as quickly as possible instead of standing there blocking everybody when you zip twelve compartments back up.
It probably (hopefully?) won’t surprise you that you can’t bring weapons or marijuana into the parks, but it may possibly be surprising that you can’t bring remote control toys, water pistols, or selfie sticks. Also, remember that balloons and plastic straws are not allowed inside Animal Kingdom for the safety of the animals.
Why are selfie sticks banned at Disney World?
Because they’re annoying and obnoxious. Oh, and because there was an incident in the summer of 2015 where a roller coaster at Disney California Adventure got stuck for just under an hour, thanks to a passenger using a selfie stick during the ride.
What do we do with our bags on the rides? Can we bring them on?
Yes, you just bring them on the rides with you. That may sound a little weird at first, but it’s not a problem at all. For the vast majority of rides, you’ll keep in on the seat next to you or on the floor in front of you. Some rides, like Mission Space, have a dedicated bin for bags in the vehicle.
Kali River Rapids in Animal Kingdom has a bin inside the raft, but you may not want to fully trust it to keep things dry, because it is very likely that some one in your family will get very wet on that ride.
If you prefer to play it safe, you can either put items like your cell phones in plastic baggies, or you can use the free 2-hour locker rental to the left of the attraction entrance.
What is the Best Bag to Carry at Disney World?
Not surprisingly, there’s no definitive answer to that question.
I like it because it’s pretty, not too big or bulky, and has multiple compartments.
But as I’ve mentioned before, I tend to be a minimalist when I travel (so much so that my husband has gotten annoyed with me at times.) Obviously my bag wouldn’t accommodate things like lunch, extra clothes, and multiple autograph books.
So obviously, everybody is different — not just in personal preferences, but in their specific needs. When I was traveled with that bag, I was with my two daughters, who were ages twelve and fourteen at the time. No way would I recommend that same bag to a family with three kids under the age of 7.
Whoever you are, you want to think about things like comfort, size, durability, and ease of use. No matter what size bag you get, I would highly recommend that you get one with multiple compartments or pockets on both the inside or outside.
✅Best Backpacks for Disney World
Under Armour Hustle II Storm Laptop BackpackTOURIT Insulated Lightweight Cooler Backpack Soft Cooler Lightweight BackpackDisney “Frozen” Backpack for GirlsComic Images Yoda Back PackJanSport Disney High Stakes BackpackeBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender
I personally don’t ever bring backpacks into the park, because the idea of lugging around so much stuff all day gives me the heebie-jeebies. Still, some people swear by them, and if you want to super-prepared with food, water bottles, and extra clothing for several people, it’s a decent option.
Here are some great backpacks that many people love:
Under Armour Storm Hustle II Backpack
The Under Armour Storm Hustle II is made of 81% polyester and 19% nylon blend and has a water-resistant finish. It has and has adjustable shoulder straps, a soft-lined laptop sleeve that holds up to 15” laptops, 2 side water bottle pockets, and a top grab handle.
Reviewers loved this backpack not only because of its durability, but also because of the great colors and design.
Be sure to double-check the dimensions on this one. At 18 inches x 13 inches x 8 inches, it is “thinner and longer” than most typical backpacks.
eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible
The eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible is 9 x 22 x 14 inches and comes in 5 different colors.
People raved about how this backpack held a ton! (One reviewer said they packed for an entire 2-week vacation using this bag.)
So this would be a great bag for families who are flying into Orlando and want to avoid having to check luggage at the airport. It has zippers that lock, allows easy access to your laptop, and fits just right in an overhead compartment.
People who didn’t like this bag complained of the weight distribution, claiming it was uncomfortable to carry a large load for a very long time. Also, some people did not like the water bottle holder, which folds away into a zippered compartment.
Osprey Packs Farpoint 55 Travel Backpack
The Osprey Packs Farpoint 55 Travel Backpack is designed to handle loads up to 50 pounds. It has A mesh back panel improves ventilation, as well as mesh on the harness and hip belt reduces chafing under load. Most notably, it comes with a detachable daypack to carry the essential for a hike in the hills or an excursion downtown.
Reviewers were impressed with how sturdy and well made the seams, locking zippers, and clips were. It was also described as very comfortable, even for walking long distances, thanks in part to the waist strap that helps keep some of the weight off your shoulders.
People who didn’t like this backpack said that it had too much padding that too up too much space, and that it had an awkward layout without enough pockets.
JanSport Disney High Stakes Backpack
If you truly want a “Disney backpack,” the JanSport High Stakes backpack has 3 different Mickey Mouse designs in vibrant colors.(I like the “Tropical Mickey” best.)
It has padded shoulder straps, a fully padded back panel, and comes with a lifetime warranty. The dimensions are 8.5 inches x 16.7 inches x 13 inches.
Note that there are no water bottle pockets on the outside of the bag, and there is no computer pocket on the inside of the bag.
Comic Images Yoda Buddies Plush Backpack
I saw these Yoda backpacks a couple times on our last Disney trip and thought they were a hoot.
Sure, this is not the backpack to get if you’re packing lunch for four people and an extra change of clothes for your twin 3 year olds, but it’s great for carrying a few basic items — and for getting compliments.
Reviewer Caitlin Doane says:
I was a bit hesitant to order this item after reading some bad reviews saying that it was a completely different item than the one in the picture. I first saw someone wearing a Yoda backpack in Disney World and I just HAD to get one…and I did.
I believe I paid $50-60, and this was in Disney World, keep in mind. After a couple years of wear and tear, it ended up ripping inside and all the stuffing came out. I was super bummed and decided I needed to get a new one and ordered this one.
After comparing this one to my old one from Disney, I concluded that this one is the exact same as Disney’s, but much cheaper! I have had it for a couple of months and so far so good!
You will not believe how many people will stop and comment on it. I use it most to go to concerts/music festivals, or anywhere I will be walking around and need free hands. It is not designed to be a legitimate backpack (more of a novelty item), however you can fit the necessities (keys, phone, wallet, bottle of water, etc. It is more spacious inside than I expected. Overall, very pleased with this purchase.
Yoda — “I Can be a Backpack While You Run”
Small Minnie or Mickey Backpack for Toddlers
Amazon reviewer Becca explains why she loves this backpack for her 2 year old daughter:
I absolutely LOVE this little backpack! These aren’t the best pictures and they don’t do this bag justice, but I wanted to show how my almost 2yr old LOVES wearing it everywhere she goes! I use it as her diaper bag. I love the smaller front zip pocket. It is perfect for carrying her hair stuff, a small first aide kit and other little things. The two mesh side pockets are perfect for carrying her drink cups! I love the way the outline of the bow sticks out on top. It is so cute. I would definitely recommend this bag.
Frozen Print Backpack for Girls
There are a ton of kids’ cheap, cartoony backpacks and purses with Anna and Elsa on them. This backpack isn’t one of them. With padded shoulder straps, two zippered compartments and two side mesh pockets, this is a strikingly beautiful backpack for young elementary school-age girls.
Reviewer Chimney161 says:
I love this backpack. My daughter wanted a Frozen backpack for her first day of preschool and I had a hard time finding one that wasn’t too over the top with glitter and obnoxious colors. My daughter loves Elsa and Anna but doesn’t like the obnoxious bright colors too. This was subtle and beautiful, while still having Elsa. It’s a great size and a great quality, I think it will hold up for longer than just the school year. It’s a little big on her but she doesn’t mind.
I would definitely buy again!
✅The Best Crossbody Bags for Disney World
Vera Bradley Little Hipster, Water BouquetLeSportsac Classic Small Cleo Crossbody HoboKipling Alvar Solid Quilted Crossbody Bag, True BlueKipling Alvar Mini Crossbody Bag, CtrusorngeTravelon Anti-Theft Classic Light Mini Crossbody Messenger BagVera Bradley Triple Zip Hipster, Coral FloralWomen’s Little Hipster Havana DotsVera Bradley Triple Zip Hipster, Charcoal
I like using crossbody bags for Disney. They’re cute, convenient, and hold what I feel are the essentials if you’re bringing a lot of food or extra clothing.
Here are several bags that were attractive and highly recommended on Disney discussion forums:
LeSportsac Classic Small Cleo Crossbody Bag
This bag comes in 19 different colors. It has 2 exterior pockets: a large zippered pocket on the front and a large open pocket on the back. Its dimensions are 9 inches by 10 inches wide by 5″ wide at the bottom. It is very light weight and has an adjustable strap, so it can either be used as a crossbody or just a regular shoulder bag.
Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Light Mini Crossbody Bag
This bag measures 6.5 inches by 25 inches by 9 inches and includes a pen loop and tethered key clip with led light, a front zippered pocket, and a rear drop pocket for your phone. It comes in 7 different designs, including black and white stripes, mocha, and blue.
Some people disliked this bag because they felt the material was too thin and it was too small, with little room for versatility.
Amazon reviewers Heidi M. does a great job describing when she loved using this purse on her vacation:
I was looking for something small enough not to be bulky and large enough to carry multiple items as well as hold an iPhone 6s+ in a Mophie case. This bag did all of that and provides great anti theft properties.
#1 It’s well constructed. Seams are reinforced and zippers are smooth gliding. No catching on loose threads or hanging up and stuttering along. The strap is well attached and doesn’t seem flimsy. The main pocket zips ¾ around the bag and not just at the top making it easier to reach in and get stuff. The size is about the size of an iPad mini. The strap allows you to carry it over the shoulder, a hip pack and a cross body. I’ve used it all three ways.
#2 The strap is smooth and without kinks. Usually, the anti theft cables make most of the these strap stiff and not hang on your body very well but this strap is nice and smooth. It also unhooks at one side so that you can secure the purse to your chair or table and not worry about someone walking by and stealing it.
#3 It can lay flat but also fill up pretty good without being bulky AT ALL. I over stuffed it and it still looked nice and slim. The pockets are well designed and hold a lot without taking up all the room in the purse. It’s RFID safe too!
#4 The fabric feels like rip-stop nylon and repels water nicely. Looks like it won’t hold stains and is washable. It’s double lined because of the wire crisscross cables in between but doesn’t look bulky or add weight.
#5 The anti theft properties, wire cables in strap and bag keep it safely on you and guard against would be slash and runners. The main zipper pull is also a carabiner that hooks on a d-ring when bag is zipped closed to keep would be theives from getting into your bag.
#6 It has 2 great tiny little d-rings placed in strategic spots to hang keys or Chapstick from without it getting in the way.
All in all, I’m extremely happy with this purse and would not change or add anything to it’s greatness. It’s just the right size, shape and has all the features I was looking for in a travel anti theft bag – made by a reputable company that stands behind their product.
Kipling Alvar Solid Crossbody Bag
I must say, people on the DisBoards mentioned Kipling over and over as their favorite Disney park bag.
The Kipling Alvar crossbody has adjustable shoulder straps, a front main compartment that contains an open all-purpose pouch pocket, tablet pocket and two pen sleeves, plus a back main compartment contains one zipped pocket and a key clasp.
Reviewers love how it is lightweight, water-resistant, and has tons of room. In addition, the strap is wide and comfortable.
There were very few negative reviews of this bag, and many of them had to do with the fact that the color was different than they expected.
Kipling Aisling Solid Crossbody Purse
Here’s yet another Kipling crossbody bag that people raved about.
Described as “casual polish” with a “laidback but styled look,” this bag is made from crinkle nylon to give it a textural appeal and add to its durability. It has an adjustable shoulder strap, zippered compartments, and the cute “signature Kipling monkey key chain” (which you can see a photo of here.
Reviewer Nancy describes why she loves this purse:
Finally, the perfect purse. I didn’t like the color so I bought it in dark navy and I love the color. Mostly I like the size and reasonable/useful pockets. I wanted a purse that would collapse small when not stuffed but one I could put a book in, or a light sweater. It’s light weight, durable and useful for most occasions. As a former fan of Baggallini, I am now a Kipling convert.
Vera Bradley Hipster Cross-Body Bag
Vera Bradley Little Hipster Bag in Signature Cotton
And finally, here’s my personal Disney World bag — Vera Bradley’s Little Hipster.
I noticed just now that this is called an “RFID purse.” I had no idea what this was, even though I’ve owned two of these purses for years. Apparently it stands for Radio Frequency Identification Devices, and it’s some short of shield material that keeps people from electronically pick-pocketing you.
To be perfectly honest, that kinda sounded like a bunch of hooey to me. I’ll leave you, if you’re interested, to read this to decide whether the RFID part matters to you or not.
Either way, I’ve enjoyed the purse and have it to be just the right size for a day at a Disney park. I will say, however, that I’m getting a little tired of the busy, colorful pattern. For my next crossbody purse, I’ll probably get a solid color. And I’ll probably splurge and get a Kipling.
Cute Outfits and Accessories to Wear to Disney World
✅What Do I Need in My Disney Park Bag?
Minimally, you need to bring Magic Bands, ID, credit cards, and cash.
Past that, it’s somewhat of a personal preference. For example, some people may not be interested in pressing pennies, and people with short hair won’t need hair ties.
So take this list as more of a starting point, and not a definitive, everybody-must-have-all-of-these list. I’m sure it will be easy to see what resonates with you and your situation and what doesn’t.
Okay, this is is pretty non-negotiable. Don’t think that you won’t need sunscreen because it’s cloudy that day, or because it’s November, or because you burn that easily, or whatever. Trust me, you will need sunscreen, and plenty of it.
If your family isn’t as sun-sensitive as we are and you don’t feel that you need a “doctor-approved sunscreen,” you might to consider using a spray sunscreen. They’re much more convenient, especially if you have kids, and sometimes have the added benefit of smelling nice.
Also, don’t forget a lip balm with spf. Here’s one with fun flavors and good ratings:
2. Hat (or other head covering)
If you’ve ever gotten a sunburn on your scalp, you know how important some headcovering is when you’re spending a day outside in Florida.
I have this hat in my wish list for our upcoming trip:
Of course, Mickey and Minnie hats are fun too:
If you want something a little more versatile, you might want to opt for a bandanna:
3. Water bottle with filter
Yes, you can get free ice water at any counter service restaurant, but the tap water tastes … not great. This water filter is inexpensive, durable, BPA-free, and dishwasher-safe.
Sunglasses are important (and fun), and you don’t want to waste your time at the parks shopping for a pair.
5. Pennies & Quarters
Here’s a fun fact: There are 500 pressed penny machines throughout Disney World parks and resorts. Finding and using some of them is a way to keep the kids on their toes and get inexpensive souvenirs (two quarters plus a penny).
Instead of having tons of change banging around in your purse or backpack for the entire trip, you can store them in these, which has the additional benefit of being required to eat many M&Ms first.
If you’re really into the pressed penny idea and plan to get a lot of them, you might want to consider this Disney World pressed penny book for storing them in an organized way. One particularly nice thing about it is that the sections are divided by park, so there’s a specific section for the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, etc.
6.Mickey Mouse Ears
Some people like to carry an extra pair or two of mouse ears in their park bag so they can swap them out during the day.
You can find mouse ears at ShopDisney, but I’m planning to get some at Etsy for my next trip, partly because I like to support small business owners, and partly just because the selection there is amazing.
7. Rain ponchos
We’ve gotten caught in rain twice at Disney World. One time we got drenched, and another time we spent a fortune on the Disney rain ponchos.
Now we know better. These rain ponchos are cheap, disposable, and compact.
The Best Men’s Walking Shoes for Disney World
8. Portable phone charger:
Between using the My Disney Experience app and taking photos, you’re probably going to be using your phone a lot at the parks. You’ll want to have something like this on hand.
9. Hair ties
We have three people in our family with long hair, so we like to have plenty of hair ties on hand. Hair ties help us stay cool and keep hair from blowing in our face while we ride Test Track.
10. Hand Sanitizer
I read that the Magic Kingdom has over 50,000 guests per day. That’s a lot of germs that you’ll be wanting to get off your hands, and your kids’ hand, all day long.
If you like to stick with the Disney theme, there are several cute choices you can get before you arrive at the Disney parks.
Disney Hand Sanitizer with Classic Minnie Mouse HolderDisney Hand Sanitizers with Classic Mickey and Minnie MouseDisney Hand Sanitizer Princess Gels with Backpack ClipDisney Hand sanitizer — Mickey MouseDisney Pixar Cars ~ Hand Sanitizer with ClaspDisney Parks Ariel Hand Sanitizer Keychain
11. Wet Wipes
Similar to hand sanitizer above, but also needed for things like when your 3 year old eats a Mickey ice cream bar.
12. Change of Clothes
We never did this (I told you I was a minimalist), but I can see how it would be handy. There are many reasons you might get drenched, between rain, fountains, and rides like Splash Mountain in Magic Kingdom and Kali River Rapids in Animal Kingdom. (And let’s not forget the possibility of accidents if you have very young children.)
Are you or your kids likely to be miserable if you’re stuck in wet clothes? If the answer is yet, bring some extras, along with gallon-sized Ziploc bags to store the wet clothes in.
The Best Toddler Stroller for Disney World
13. Extra socks
I prefer to wear sandals at Disney World, but if I wore socks, I sure wouldn’t want to walk around in wet ones. You don’t need to have Princess socks — any dry ones will do — but these are cute and don’t take up too much space in your bag:
If you do get a pack of pins before you go to Disney World, make sure you buy official Disney trading pins, because there are some imposters out there.
A lanyard is nice for holding and displaying your pins, but not necessary. Some people prefer to pin them on their park bags or hats.
14. Eye drops
These are good to have on hand if you wear contact lenses. I go so far as to bring an extra contact lens, just because I’m so extremely nearsighted that having a contact tear or get lost during the trip would be a big problem for me.
15. Pain Relief Medication
Every Disney park has a First Aid center, and (somewhat amazingly) they offer a wide variety of over-the-counter medication, like cough syrup and Tums, for free.
However, I know when I start to develop a headache, I don’t want to have to quit what I’m doing and go on a hike looking for some Tylenol, so I always carry a small bottle in my purse.
16. Mosquito Repellant
Same as above — it’s available at First Aid, but you might want to have your own small container on hand.
17. Autograph book and pen for character greeting
Autograph books are not mandatory for for meeting Disney characters, but kids tend to like having them.
These 9 personalized Disney autograph books are really cute and worth checking out.
This is the pen I recommend for Disney signatures because the characters don’t have to fumble with a cap. I’d recommend packing one per kid and then an extra one. If you’re like me, writing utensils always seem to magically disappear.
Check it out here!
18. Ziploc bags
This is for keeping things like cell phones dry when going on water rides. Don’t forget to bring gallon-sized bags to put wet or soiled clothes in if needed.
Even if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, you’ll want to have some of your own food handy. How much and what kind depends on your family and how much you want to avoid eating the park food. Things like beef jerky, protein bars, and fruit strips work well.
20. Glowstick necklaces
You can easily save a lot of money by buying these at your local dollar store before your trip instead of paying a fortune for them at the parks. I like to have a few extra on hand to pass out to nearby kids who are glowstick-less.
21. Ear Protection for Kids
I never even knew about this until a month ago, but there are headphones specifically created for reducing noise for babies and toddlers.
That may sound strange if you aren’t a parent, but on our very first visit to the Magic Kingdom our girls started howling and shrieking non-stop when the fireworks show started. We had to run as fast as we could and duck for cover inside Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in Tomorrowland and be entertained by Sonny Eclipse until they were over.
22. Things to Keep Kids Entertained While Waiting in Line
No matter what you to avoid lines, you’re going to have to spend some time waiting in them.
Some people like to have things like bubbles, Play-Doh, pipe cleaners, or other small toys on hand to keep kids occupied. Actually, I’d probably enjoy rolling some Play-Doh balls while rolling in line myself. It sounds peaceful.
23. Portable Misting Fan
We never go to Disney World during the summer, but if we did, we would probably bring something like this.
So, um … that’s kind of a long list, isn’t it?
Don’t worry. I don’t think every single family needs all these things. Then again, you may want to be super-prepared and get almost everything on the list. Everyone is different!
Planning a vacation to Disney World is a strange thing. It often requires that someone (probably you, since you are the one reading this) needs to take on a part-time job of learning complicated details of things thing that are relatively simple in Real Life. […]
A big part of the Disney World vacation experience is dining. However, as you probably know, eating at Disney World is no simple matter. It requires planning (sometimes almost a ridiculous amount), there are a huge amount of choices, and none of it is cheap.
Here are 13 of the best tips & tricks to help you navigate your way through the world of Disney Dining.
1. Make reservations WAY in advance
The first time I tried to book ADRs (Advance Dining Reservations), it was a little over a month before our trip. I was very pleased with myself, thinking that I was planning very far ahead and that we would have plenty of available choices.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Sure, in the Real World, making dinner reservations at a restaurant over a month in advance would be almost ridiculously early. But Disney World is very different from the Real World in many ways.
You can (and ideally, should) make your ADRs 180 days in advance.
Yup, that means you’re scheduling your meals roughly half a year in advance. Crazy? Possibly, but this is Disney we’re talking about. That’s just the way it is.
Now don’t think all hope is lost if your vacation is in three months and you haven’t booked any restaurants. In fact, I’m in this situation right now. Our trip is in four months — yikes! — and I still haven’t taken the time to make our ADRs. I need to get on it!
If you’re in that situation too, just be prepared to be flexible … and keep trying! Just because there are no available slots today doesn’t mean that tomorrow, or the next day, or next week won’t be different. That’s how I booked I lot of our ADRs: after many days of persistence.
Oh, and by the way, those ADRs are not signed in blood or set in stone, so don’t panic too much that your family might change its mind sometime later. You can always cancel it tomorrow … or next week … or a few days before your trip. We have definitely done that ourselves.
2. Check out the website Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free WDW if you have dietary retrictions.
If anyone in your family is gluten-free or dairy-free, this site is a great resource. They have a podcast, Top Ten lists, recipes, and more.
3. Speak up about what you want (or need).
Speaking of special dietary needs, make sure you mention them twice — both when you make your ADR and then again when you arrive at the podium. We have never have to deal with food allergies ourselves, but I have heard that Disney is extremely accommodating. It’s even possible that the chef might come out to speak to you about your needs.
Along similar lines, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, even if it’s not on the menu. For example, if you don’t want the fries that come with your sandwich, let them know, and they’ll charge your accordingly.
4. Don’t forget about the Disney resort restaurants.
This was a sudden realization for me before out last trip. We were on the free Disney Dining Plan (more about that later) and I was trying to decide which restaurant we should choose. All of a sudden it hit me: We don’t have to eat at the parks! There are lots of restaurants at the resorts!
We booked lunch at Kona Cafe in the Polynesian resort, and and it was one of the smartest things I made on that trip. The food was fantastic, it was easy to go on the monorail line after spending the morning at the Magic Kingdom, and we got to see the Polynesian for the first time, which was beautiful.
‘Ohana Dinner at the Polynesian Resort
5. Eat a late breakfast.
There are a few good reasons for this. For one, the parks are the least crowded first thing in the morning, so it’s a shame to waste that prime time sitting in a restaurant. Second, this can save you some money, as breakfast prices are almost always cheaper. And third, if you time it right and eat at a leisurely pace, you can enjoy both breakfast and lunch menu options at Disney buffet restaurants.
6. Psst … the Crystal Palace open before the park does.
Speaking of breakfast, here’s a Disney dining secret we didn’t know until our last trip: The Crystal Palace, between Main Street and Adventureland (home to Winnie the Pooh and friends) opens for breakfast an hour before the Magic Kingdom’s normal operating hours.
This is awesome because not only because you get breakfast and meeting characters out of the way before the park even opens, but also … how cool would it be to get photos in the Magic Kingdom while it’s essentially empty?
Unfortunately, because it’s so awesome, it’s very difficult to get. I tried and tried and tried again, but we were never able to get reservations for that time. But maybe you will have better luck than I did!
Winnie the Pooh Girls Womens 6 pack Socks (Toddler/Little Kid/Big Kid/Teen/Adult)Disney Winnie The Pooh Nightshirt for Women MultiDisney Lazy Winnie the Pooh T ShirtDisney Store Original Winnie the Pooh Plush Set of 4 with Piglet, Tigger, Winnie and Eeyore16in Winnie the Pooh Plush – Winnie the Pooh Stuffed Toy by DisneyPillow Pets Disney, Winnie The Pooh, 16Disney Baby Girls Winnie The Pooh Cotton Pajama SetDisney Winnie The Pooh Little Boys’ More Honey No Problems T-Shirt
7. Make an educated decision about Chef Mickey’s.
If you didn’t already know, Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary resort is a somewhat controversial restaurant. Of course families often jump (like we did) at the idea of a character restaurant with “The Fab Five” (Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, and Donald Duck). But there are some people who really hate it.
So what to do? Is Chef Mickey’s worth it or not?
Well, it depends on what you’re looking for. Personally, I’m glad we went, although I have no desire to go again until I have grandchildren someday. It’s the kind of place that has a lot less appeal if you’re not traveling with little kids.
Robert, my husband, had less love for Chef Mickey’s than I did. He said it was “basically a Shoney’s breakfast bar.” Which isn’t the worst thing in the world — except that the buffet at Shoney’s doesn’t cost $41 per adult.
Of course, Shoney’s doesn’t have Mickey and Friends either, which is kind of the point and the key to whether or not you should decide to eat there. You’re paying for The Fab Five, not the food, and not even really the atmosphere (although watching the monorail go by is pretty cool.) Since Robert never gets too excited about seeing Disney characters, it’s not surprising that he wasn’t particularly impressed.
So if you love the idea of seeing Mickey and Friends all in one place, and you don’t mind eating at a restaurant that is busy and noisy and has little kids crawling all over the place, then I say go for it. Your kids are pretty much guaranteed to love it, not just for the characters, but also because they will love drenching their Mickey Mouse waffles in chocolate sauce, sprinkles, chocolate chips, and whipped cream.
However, I would not go there for dinner. Based on everything I’ve heard, while the food is “just okay” at breakfast, it’s downright bad at dinner.
I would also recommend getting to Chef Mickey’s as early as your family can stand it. They open for breakfast at 7am, so if you can get an early reservation, not only will it be little less crazy-busy, but you won’t have to sacrifice the ideal early-morning time at the Magic Kingdom.
If Chef Mickey’s is sounding pretty cringey to you right now, but your family really wants to see Mickey Mouse, I suggest trying The Tusker House in Animal Kingdom or The Garden Grill at Epcot.
Disney Boys’ Mickey Mouse Short Sleeve T-ShirtDisney Mickey Mouse Boys’ Face T-ShirtCharacter Kids’ Full Zip Hoodie ~ for Children ~ 3T-7 ~ Batman, Minnie, Mickey, Spiderman, Skye ~ Girls/BoysMickey Mouse Boys’ ToddlerDisney Mickey Mouse Plush Toy — 15”Mickey Mouse 90th Anniversary The Sorcerer’s Apprentice 14Disney 11Disney Mickey Mouse Plush Toy 25
8. Sharing food is the way to go.
I would highly recommend splitting counter service meals between two people. If you’re like Joey from Friends and don’t like the idea of sharing food, then at least get a kid’s plate. Not only will it save you money, but unless you eat like a horse, a full meal is way more food than you’ll need.
I would even recommend splitting most of the snacks. For one thing, many of the snacks are too big and/or too sweet to handle on your own.
Also, sharing allows you to try more items (for example, you can try both the Berry Cream Puff and School Bread in Norway). Also,
Funny story: Our family of five tried to all split a turkey leg in Frontierland once. It did not go well. Use some common sense when sharing food, please.
From what I have heard, Garden Grocer has a much better selection and better customer service, but is pricier.
If you have experience with either of these (or know of a third option), please feel free to share your wisdom with us in the comments.
10. Bring your own food into the parks.
Make sure you bring plenty of your own snacks with you into the parks each day. You don’t want to have to be at the mercy of having to buy park food every time someone in your family suddenly gets hungry.
Even though you can get free ice water at any counter service restaurant, you may wish to get one of these, especially if you’re picky about how your water tastes.
I use this park bag that is cute and small but still has room for food.
Great Snacks to Bring Into the Parks:
CLIF BAR – Energy Bar – Chocolate Chip – (2.4 Ounce Protein Bar, 12 Count)Jack Link’s Beef Jerky, Original Flavor, 16 OunceAmazon Brand – Happy Belly Nuts, Chocolate & Dried Fruit Trail Mix, 48 ozStretch Island Apricot Original Fruit Leather Snacks – Vegan | Gluten Free | Non-GMO | No Sugar Added – 0.5 Oz Strips (30 Count)
11. Visit Disney World when one of your kids is two years, eleven months old.
Kids under age 3 eat for free off a parents’ plate at Disney World buffets and family-style restaurants, which can save you a fair amount of money during your trip.
12. Check out the menus before your trip.
You can view the menus for each restaurant at the Disney World Dining Page. This is a nice way to help choose where to eat ahead of time and give you an order of what you might want to order when you get there.
13. You can search high and low, but you’ll never find a Pepsi.
Disney has a contract with Coca-Cola, and therefore does not sell any Pepsi products in the parks. Don’t worry there, you can click here to easily have all the Pepsi you want delivered to your room.
14. The parks all have a great spot just for Baby Dining.
Each park has a Baby Care Center that is air-conditioned, quiet and peaceful. You can sit in a rocking chair and nurse your baby, or feed them in a high chair. And if you’re short on baby food, wipes, or formula, you can buy it there. There are also toys and cartoons to keep your preschoolers amused while they wait.
15. Decide if the Disney Dining Plan is right for you.
Ah, the controversial Dining Plan … is it worth it? Is it a waste? When it it free? What exactly does it include?
For now, let’s just say that we had done the Dining Plan twice when it was free, enjoyed it very much, and plan to do it again this year. It may seem silly, but we love the fact that it’s “already paid for” and we can enjoy ourselves and not worry about it. And we indulge in a way that we wouldn’t dream of doing if we were actually looking at the prices.
However, I would not recommend getting the Disney Dining Plan unless you’re able to get it for free.
The Standard Dining Plan is $75.49 per adult and $25.75 per child per day. For our family (because our kids are considered “adults” now, that’s $377.45 a day for food, every day of the vacation.
Seriously? Would you have planned to spend that much money on food if you were paying for meals and snacks as you go? My guess would be no. But be sure to check out my guide to 2018 Disney Dining Prices & Tips so you can make the best decision for your family.
I hope you’ve enjoying these dining tips. I’m sure there are a ton more that I haven’t thought of, so feel free to share some of your own favorite tips below in the comments!
Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney FoodThe Disney Princess CookbookThe Ultimate Disney World CookbookDeliciously DisneyWalt Disney World Dining Guide 2018Disney Dining Plan 2019: Tips & Tricks for Making the Most of the Dining Plans at Walt Disney WorldDelicious Disney Sweet TreatsThe Princess and the Frog: Tiana’s Cookbook: Recipes for Kids (Disney Princess: The Princess and the Frog)
Overwhelmed by all the Disney Character Meal Options?
We all know that a trip to Disney World is going to involve waiting in line — and depending on when you go and your strategy (or lack of it), some attractions’ wait times can be as long as 90 minutes — or more! Fortunately, […]
Originally this post was going to be called “Ways to get your kids excited about your Disney trip,” which is sort of funny, if you think about it. As if most kids are sitting around lethargically complaining that they have to go to Disney World, […]
If you’re planning a trip to Disney World, you should really check out Etsy. They have some digital printable downloads that can make your vacation easier, less stressful — more fun!
Here are four types of printables you don’t want to miss. They are cute, colorful, and customizable. And because they’re instant downloads, you can enjoy them right away.
Click here to purchase my printable Deluxe Vacation Planner directly from my site.
It has 28 pages, including a list of restaurants in each park, a budget tracker, daily planners for each park, and a “best snacks” guide.
Surprise Trip Tickets for the Kids
We never did this, but I love the idea. Instead of just telling the kids you’re going to Disney World, have a customized ticket make the announcement. You could play this out in various ways, between setting them on the breakfast table to actually mailing them to your home.
Speaking of surprise Disney reveals, I’ve personally never been a big fan of “Hey, we’re going to Disney World … right now!” type of reveal. For one thing, whether my kids were four or fourteen, a big part of the fun was planning, shopping for, and discussing the trip for the weeks (or months) leading up to it. They would have missed a lot if we just sprung it on them at the last minute.
Second — and more importantly — some kids can get understandably upset if you play the game of, “Hey, everybody, let’s get in the car and head to [somewhere that is not Disney.].”
So I know those don’t-tell-the-kids-til-we’re-on-the-road reveals have worked well for many people, but I personally wouldn’t recommend it.
Regardless of when you choose to tell your kids, I think these printable tickets are adorable.
Disney Trip Reveal Letters
What could more exciting to a kid that getting a personalized letter from their very favorite Disney character telling them that they’re going to Disney World? I absolutely love this idea! They can be used either alone or together with one of the above tickets.
Disney Vacation Planners
My husband Robert thinks it’s so strange that, with all the apps and devices available to us, I often choose to — gasp! — write things down.
But there’s just something about writing, and being able to flip through a book to look at my notes, that works better for my brain then clicking through screens. If you’re the same way, you know exactly what I mean.
These printables are great for having everything you need to plan your Disney trip all together in one spiral notebook. Depending on the specific package, they include a countdown of tasks, packing lists, budget trackers, dining reservations, checklists of movies to watch before the trip, and more. Just looking at these gets my inner Monica Geller excited.
Disney Travel Journals
Both the teacher and the writer in me love this idea. What fun is an amazing trip if you don’t savor the best moments by writing about them?
Most of these are designed for kids, although some are more of an adult/child combo. It lets kids track each day, writing a little bit about their favorite thing they did that day, what they ate, what souvenirs they bought, what countries they visited at the Epcot World Showcase, and so on.