Monday, May 7, 2012

The Great "How to Pack for Disneyland" Debate

There are a few common questions that parents have to ask as they plan their visits to Disneyland or WDW.  


They are: 
1) What's a good age for a child's first visit? 
2) What rides can my kids go on? 
3) Do I need a stroller?
4) How do I pack for the park? 


For each question there are several answers as it will all depend on your situation.  How many kids do you have?  How old are they?  Are you a "I have to be prepared for everything" or "I just need the basics" type of parent?


I will review three types of bags/backpacks for park excursions and provide a little background into what kind of park parent I am so you can make the best decision for your scenario.


My Scenario
I hate carrying stuff.  Especially carrying stuff that I'm never going to use.  Therefore my packing is as light as can be.  There are still many basics that I need, but I definitely don't bring bulky extras like blankets, coolers, or sippy cups.  I like to be as free as I can be at the park so I can run with my daughter, hold her, hold a drink or snack and just enjoy the feeling of not lugging a suitcase.  


My daughter is 3.5 years old and fully potty trained now which means I don't have to lug around diapers.  I still carry wipes and some extra pairs of underwear just in case.  


The biggest item is my camera.  When I go with my daughter, I always bring my DSLR because I've missed too many moments using a point-and-shoot that has a slow shutter speed.  When visiting kid-free, I leave the DSLR at home and just bring the point-and-shoot.


Here's everything that I need to pack:
1. Wallet
2. Phone (loaded with my itinerary of dining plans, shows, etc)
3. Sunscreen (travel size)
4. Pack of gum
5. 2 snacks
6. Baby wipes (travel size)
7. 3 pairs of kid underwear
8. 1 pair of light pants i.e. leggings so it folds up small
9. 1 light jacket
10. 2 small plastic bags (in case of an accident with underwear/pants)
11. Hand sanitizer (travel size)
12. Hair ties
13. Sunglasses (but they primarily stay on my head)
14. Camera + 1 extra memory card


 From left to right...
1) A mini messenger bag
2) A multi-pouch backpack
3) A sling camera bag


1) Mini Messenger Bag
Long ago I purchased this bag from Disneystore.com and customized it with the Cheshire Cat.  They no longer sell this, but you can find mini messenger bags at Target or travel stores.


This bag is great and really holds all of my basics, with the exception of my DSLR camera.  This bag is used when I go kid-free to the park and will just use my point-and-shoot camera.  It's my favorite bag for these kind of visits.  If you have older children or don't need to bring a DSLR camera, this would be ideal.


The top flap has a zipper which easily holds the show schedule or any items that I need fast access to.  Once you open the flap, there are side pockets for your phone, or whatever you need to put there.




The main bag will hold everything if you just want to forego the side pockets.  




2) Multi-pouch Backpack


If you really need all the extra stuff like multiple jackets, extra sets of clothes, room to hold shopping bags, food, multiple water bottles, etc, then you're going to need a backpack.




This is my Roxy Snowboarding backpack, so it's made tough and is water resistant.  I love this backpack because it's got a lot of pouches, but for Disneyland with my daughter, it's too much for me.  Like I said earlier, I don't like to hold a lot of stuff.  


I used this bag for Leap Day 2012 at Disneyland to carry all my camera equipment and it ended up killing my back.  So that will be the last time I use this as a camera bag.


I did use this backpack for Walt Disney World and it was perfect because my husband and I did a lot of shopping.  But I didn't have my daughter at that time, so we basically carried an empty backpack during the day and filled it with stuff towards the end of the day.


3) Sling Camera Bag


This is the newest addition to my backpack collection and it's one of my favorites!  I was trying to find a bag that had protection for my DSLR camera, had space to hold my daughter's wipes and my little extras, but I didn't want it to be a backpack.  I was looking for a sling so my camera could quickly be pulled out for me to snap spontaneous moments.  Having a backpack took too long for me to take it off my back, open the zipper, pull my camera out and then put the backpack on again.  With a sling, it just sits right there and I can take it out any time.  It also gives my back a break and allows me to be "free".


This bag has an interior compartment for my DSLR camera that protects it.  It has extra space for extras and features a size zipper that expands the bag if I need the extra space.  Now that I love!  


On the left is the camera compartment, completely protected.  To the right, there's extra space for stuff.  You could fit extra lenses, flashes or anything else if you're not lugging baby wipes and stuff.

The top zipper (arrow) opens up so you can expand the interior space.
There's a bunch of side pockets all around the bag, including one for a water bottle.




If you need more space or anticipate needing more carry room, I recommend you looking bags that start small and open up to a full bag.  Below is one I got at the Disney Store a few years ago.  


It starts small (I put my iPhone next to it for scale).  


Then you unzip it.


And, voila!  You've got an extra bag to hold stuff!




So there you have it!  The Great Debate on "How to Pack for Disneyland".  I hope this helps you in packing for your trip and that you find the best solution for your needs.

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