Flying with a Child with a Disability

Flying with a child with a disability can be challenging.  Our daughter, Claire was born with a muscular disorder.  While she is ambulatory, standing or walking for long periods of time can be difficult.  Additionally, balancing on one leg to get her shoes off in the security line is tricky without assistance.

Navigating airports and flying days are physically taxing.  Using a wheelchair is the easiest way to get around!

We’ve learned a few things along the way, so I wanted to write a post to help other families flying with a child with a disability.  While Claire’s disability is physical and requires a wheelchair, many of these tips will also apply to other disabilities including cognitive disabilities.


The first step you’ll want to take to ensure a stress-free travel day, is to let the airlines know that you’re flying with someone with a disability.

While entering passenger information during booking, you’ll see checkboxes for guests who require additional support.  You can specify the type of support your child will need, including wheelchair assistance.

Checking this box will alert the airlines. HOWEVER, we have discovered that you will need to follow up with the airline prior to your travel day and/or when you arrive at the gate, depending on your needs.  We’ll go into more detail in a bit.


Security lines are the things nightmares are made of, especially for families that have a child with disabilities. TSA’s goal is to make sure everyone is safe, but they also want to move everyone through as efficiently as possible.  Enter TSA Cares.

What is TSA Cares?

TSA Cares is a program created to assist passengers with the security check process.  If you have concerns that make it difficult for you to comply with the usual TSA requirements (wearing religious garments, disabilities, medical supplies, etc.), TSA Cares is the perfect solution.

How to Get Assistance from TSA Cares

At least 72 hours prior to departure, you can complete a TSA assistance form online.  If your flight departs in less than 72 hours, you can make a telephone call to and speak with a TSA Care representative.

Be very specific about what accommodations you need.  For example, with our daughter, we carry medication that is in larger bottles.  She’s also not able to balance on one foot to remove her shoes without assistance.  Because of her muscle disorder, everything takes a little longer, and feeling hurried in the line is stressful.

Getting Through Security

As you approach the TSA security checkpoint, let the attendant know that you contacted TSA Cares ahead of time.  A representative will be called (or will already be waiting for you).

If you didn’t call ahead, no worries!  Just let them know about your situation and they’ll do whatever they can to make the screening process easier.  Notifying them ahead of time is preferred so that they can schedule staff to assist you, reducing your waiting time.

We had THE BEST experience at LAX with TSA Cares. Not only did we have two representatives assisting us, they even opened a separate security lane especially for our family!  The staff was very gentle, kind, and patient, taking their time to explain the process and assist our entire family.

There was a hiccup when they misplaced my ID. It got stuck under the ID machine), and they couldn’t find it.  The staff felt horrible.  They took us through the airport to our gate, assisted us with getting the wheelchair tagged and obtaining preboarding passes.  I can’t say enough good things about TSA Cares! 


The airline will provide you with a wheelchair if necessary.  If you need assistance, contact the airline directly prior to your departure date.  An airline representative will meet you at the front of the airport in the drop-off zone with a wheelchair.  TSA is not able to assist with wheelchairs.

Even if your child would not normally use a wheelchair, you may want to take into account the amount of walking and/or standing that may be required of them.  Much of this depends on the airport size, the busy-ness of the travel day, and your child’s stamina levels.


Passengers who are traveling with their own wheelchair will need to visit the gate agent upon arrival.  We typically don’t check luggage, but if you do, you can also talk to the ticketing agent at the front of the airport.

The gate or ticketing agent will help you with two steps that need to occur prior to boarding when flying with a child with a disability.

Tag Your Wheelchair

The gate agent will provide you with a tag to attach to your wheelchair, just like you would for checked luggage.  While the wheelchair is stored in a separate compartment from the luggage, this extra step ensures it doesn’t get lost and identifies it as yours.


Individuals with disabilities are permitted to board the plane first.  The gate agent will print you a special boarding pass for the passenger with a disability.  Some airlines only permit one companion to assist during preboarding while the remainder of the family boards with their typical boarding group.

This can be more challenging when you’re flying with an airline that doesn’t pre-assign seating, like Southwest.  We did find that the gate agents generally make exceptions and allow the whole family to board, but it was always awkward and a bit confusing.


Wheelchair users will leave their chairs at the entrance of the plane at the end of the sky bridge.  The wheelchair will be placed in a special storage compartment with other chairs, car seats, and strollers.


Because it can take a little while to bring the wheelchairs back up to the sky bridge, check with your flight attendant to see if you should remain in your seat or deplane with the rest of the passengers.  We have a piece of rolling luggage that Claire is able to sit on in the sky bridge while we wait for her wheelchair to arrive.  If we didn’t have that option for her, we would opt to stay seated so she didn’t have to stand and wait.

Start Planning for Your Trip

Flying with a child with a disability isn’t easy, but with a little preparation and help, you can reduce much of the stress of your travel day!

Do you have any questions about the process?  Are you planning a trip soon?  I’d love to hear from you!  Drop your questions in the comments!

Printable List of National Parks {FREE DOWNLOAD}

Our printable list of national parks located in the United States will help you plan your next trip!

Did you know that there are currently 63 national parks in the United States?  Additionally, there are more than 1,000 sites that you can visit FOR FREE if you happen to have a fourth-grader. 


Every year, 4th-grade students and their families can participate in the Every Kid Outdoors Program.

You can learn more about this amazing program on my blog post, 4th Grade National Park Pass (A Guide to the FREE “Every Kid Outdoors” Program).


National park road trips have been some of the biggest travel highlights of our summer travels.  Almost every summer, we plan a family road trip, and, usually, it includes national parks.

The western United States is jam-packed with national parks, which makes for some great routes.  

Some of our all-time favorites have included our Yellowstone + Grand Tetons + Dinosaur National Monument trip as well as our most recent adventure exploring the Mighty 5 national parks in Southern Utah.


Start planning today, and check off your bucket list using this FREE printable list of national parks.

Either click on the image below and save it or print it, or scroll down and click on the button to open the list in PDF format (higher quality).

printable list of national parks

4th Grade National Park Pass (A Guide to the FREE “Every Kid Outdoors” Program)

Yes, it’s true.  There is such a thing as a FREE 4th grade national park pass.  Every child in fourth grade in the United States can get a pass that grants them, and their family, access to every national park in the country!

This initiative is called Every Kid Outdoors (formerly known as Every Kid in a Park).  It began in 2015 to help get kids outside and interacting with nature.  This program also ensures that more families have access to our amazing national parks.

Our family has been able to take advantage of the 4th grade national pass several years (child number three is in 4th grade this year). We visited some amazing parks including Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Pinnacles, Crater Lake, Lassen, and Yosemite!

Bonus: FREE Entry for 5th Grade Students, too!  Due to COVID travel restrictions, they expanded the free park pass program to include 5th graders for the 2020-21 school year!

How to Get Your 4th Grade National Park Pass

Getting a pass is easy, peasy.  With your 4th grader, visit the Every Kids Outdoor website

Have your 4th grader follow the prompts on the screen to select their own adventure.  These prompts don’t actually do anything, they’re just for fun!  After a couple of questions, you’ll enter your zip code and a free national park pass voucher will be generated.  

Yellowstone National Park

How to Use Your 4th Grade National Park Pass

Print out the pass and take it with you on your next visit to a national park.  Electronic copies are not accepted, so you’ll need a paper copy.  At the park entrance kiosk, hand the voucher to the ranger.

The ranger will ask to see your fourth grader.  Roll down the back window and allow your child to say hi!  The ranger will give you a pass made of hard plastic (the size of a credit card) and ask the 4th grader to write their name on the card using a permanent pen or marker.  Once you have the pass, you no longer need the voucher.  You can simply show the pass at the entrance of the next national park you visit!

The 4th grade national park pass is good for the fourth-grader and everyone traveling in the vehicle with them.

Hiking in Grand Teton National Park

How Long Can I Use My Free Pass?

The Every Kid in a Park pass is good for one year.  Access is granted starting September 1st and is good through the end of the school year and summer, expiring on August 31st.

You can use your 4th grade national park pass as many times as you would like, there is no limit as long as your fourth-grader is in the car!  If you enter a park on foot or by bicycle, the pass will cover all children under the age of 16 and up to three adults.

Where Can I Use My 4th Grade National Park Pass?

Your free national park pass is actually so much more than a national park pass!  The Every Kid Outdoors pass will grant you access to both national parks AND federal recreational lands and waters.

This means you have free access to more than 2,000 recreation sites!  63 of those are national parks.

barnacles sea urchins sea anemones in a rocky tide pool

Grand Canyon National Park

Get Your FREE Pass and Start Planning Your Trip!

Road trips to national parks are one of our favorite ways to enjoy a family vacation.  Camping in or exploring national parks is also an affordable way to travel!

We love finding ways to help you SAVE MORE, and getting a free 4th grade national park pass is definitely a bonus!

If you need help planning for your trip, check out our post on creating a foolproof trip budget in 9 steps!  Or, if you plan to tent camp for the first time, we can help you get started with A Beginner’s Guide to Tent Camping: 102 Things to Pack.

Where you do plan to use your free park pass?  Tell us in the comments below!

Packing List for Yellowstone National Park–FREE Printable! (22 Essential Items)

You’re headed to one of the most iconic national parks in the world, but you’re not sure what to put on your Yellowstone packing list.  Don’t worry!  We’ve got you covered!

Visiting Yellowstone National Park was one of the most memorable road trips our family has taken (you can find our detailed 3-day itinerary on our blog).  We try to be minimalist packers, but we also like to make sure we have all the important things.

I have a love for beautiful, useful things, so I created a FREE, printable pdf of our Yellowstone Packing List for you!

Here’s what’s on our packing list for Yellowstone:

Bear Spray

Bears were my number one concern when we started planning our trip to Yellowstone.  We’re from California and bears are a normal part of mountain exploration…but not grizzly bears. 

Black bears in California will break into your car, crack open your ice chest, tear open your backpack, and eat all your food.  But, generally, they leave humans alone.  

Grizzly bears in Yellowstone generally leave people alone, too, but if they are surprised on a trail, they may attack.  So, you want to be prepared.  

While sounds scary, there’s good news:  we saw a grizzly bear, and we’re still here to talk about it.  The best news is that it was far enough away we didn’t need bear spray.

It isn’t necessary to carry bear spray on highly trafficked trails, but you will want it if you plan to hike in less-trafficked areas.  

Rent or Buy Bear Spray

Bear spray can be purchased throughout the park at gift shops and stores, or outside the park at sporting goods stores (think Walmart or REI).  You can also order it on Amazon, just make sure it’s an EPA approved bottle like this one.  If you want to save a few dollars, you can rent bear spray at Yellowstone Canyon Village.

Mosquito and Bug Repellent

If you’re visiting Yellowstone during the summer, you may encounter mosquitos.  The good news is, they typically only hang out around dawn and dusk.  The bad news is, there are A LOT of them.

My son and I tend to be mosquito magnetics (apparently we metabolize cholesterol quickly, creating a tasty smell on our skin that attracts mosquitos).

We use this natural repellent and opted to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants first thing in the morning and evening to help deter the crazy critters.

Also, eating around the campfire helps, too!

Poncho or Rain Jacket

Afternoon thunderstorms can occur, so pack your favorite rain jacket or poncho.  I prefer ponchos because they are nice and small, taking up less room in my suitcase.  They’re easy to throw over a t-shirt, sweatshirt, or jacket, depending on the temperature.

Long Sleeves and Pants (even in summer)

The elevation of Yellowstone varies several thousand feet throughout the park, averaging around 8,000 feet above sea level.  Even if it’s warm during the day, the evenings can get cool (plus, don’t forget about mosquitos).  Do yourself a favor and pack some jeans and long-sleeved shirts even during the summer.

Sweatshirt and/or Jacket

Layers are the name of the game when it comes to packing for Yellowstone.  Tanks, short sleeves, long sleeves, sweatshirts, and a jacket are all things you’ll want to put in your bag!


Your iPhone is great for many shots, but if you’re hoping to get some close-up shots of wildlife, you’ll want a camera with a telephoto lens.  Park officials advise that guests stay 100 yards away from wolves and bears, and 25 yards away from elk, deer, bison, and other large animals.


We brought and borrowed a few pairs of binoculars for the whole family to share, but we often wished we had a pair of binoculars for each person.  We spent quite a bit of time looking at wildlife–it was something that was a highlight of the trip for our kids (and us)!

Swimsuit/Bathing Suit

When I think Yellowstone, swimming isn’t usually the first activity that pops into my mind.  Swimming in hot springs is forbidden (dangerously hot!).  However, there are a couple of places that are recognized as safe swim areas.  Water from the hot springs mixes with the cold water of the river, making for perfect swimming temperatures.

These two areas are called the Boiling River (near Mammoth) and Firehole (near Madison Junction).  Check the National Parks website to confirm operating hours for swimming/soaking as well as updates and current conditions.


While sunny and bright conditions aren’t guaranteed, it’s nice to have something to block the glare on those summer days (or any time of the year).  Plus, did you know that you can get skin cancer in your eye?  Yep.  That’s why I don’t go anywhere without my sunglasses…plus, I have unusually large pupils, making it hard to see on bright days.


Throw in your favorite hat to shield you from the afternoon sun.  I’m a baseball cap, trucker cap gal, but I probably should be a wide-brimmed hat type.  I do have long hair, though, that typically covers my neck and ears.  


We try to keep a bottle in our vehicle and a small travel-size bottle in our backpack.  We didn’t notice the sun being particularly intense during our stay (you are pretty far north), but it’s always a good idea to protect your skin.

Refillable Water Bottle

Conserve space and reduce waste by bringing your refillable water bottle!  There are water refilling stations throughout the park.

External Charger

There are two places I like to take my external charger: Disney and on the trail.  Service is spotty and non-existent throughout much of the park (yay for unplugging!), but if you’re taking a lot of video or pictures, you may need to recharge your battery.  

First Aid Kit

Fortunately, we didn’t need this on our last trip, but you never know!  We keep one in the back of our vehicle…just in case!

Anti-Itch Cream

If you’re unlucky, like me, you’ll want something to help with the itching, post-mosquito-fest.  Some people like cream or lotion.  I’m a bit more natural (avoid chemicals as much as possible), so I like to bring along some activated charcoal or clay.  Just mix it with a little water and spread it over the bites.  It will bind to the toxins and help reduce the itch!


Because cell service is so spotty, you’ll want to have an old-school back-up plan.  When you check-into the park, you should receive a park map.  Otherwise, you can download a pdf before you enter the park.

Mailing Addresses

What?  Why do you need mailing addresses?  We love dropping a postcard in the mail to friends and family while we’re on a road trip.  It’s always helpful to save these to your phone before your trip for easy access!  


Even if you don’t plan to do any crazy hikes, it’s always nice to have a backpack or daypack for hauling around your essentials.  Throw in your wallet (yes, there’s ice cream in Yellowstone!), ponchos, water bottles, sunscreen, maps, phone charger, and snacks!

Hiking Boots

Hiking boots may not be your thing, but at the very least, you’ll want to bring some comfortable walking shoes.  Between exploring hot springs, boiling mud pots, waterfalls, and valleys, you can do a fair amount of walking over the course of a day.  Be comfortable!

Cash for Showers

We opted to stay at Canyon Campground because we’re tent campers and Cayon Campground has luxurious, hot showers.  Well, they’re not actually luxurious, but they sure seem fancy-pancy when you’re spending every living moment outdoors.

Showers aren’t your typical coin-operated type.  Instead, there’s a shower attendant that you give a few bucks to in exchange for unlimited hot water.  It’s all kinds of lovely.


If you plan to jump in the river (at the designated areas) or take a shower, you’ll want a towel.  They had some small towels at the shower facilities (that had to stay in the facility), but we prefer to take our own.

Flashlight or Headlamp

There are no street lights in the great outdoors.  You’ll want a flashlight or headlamp if you plan to do any walking (even if it’s to the restroom) at night.  Headlamps are also handy for setting up camp after dark, keeping your hands free so you can put together your camp faster!

Get a FREE Printable Packing List for Yellowstone

To make your life easier (I’m all about saving time and money), I’ve created a FREE Yellowstone packing list for you to download!

Use it in combination with your general packing list and my camping basics list and you’ll be ready to go!

Have any questions about packing for Yellowstone?  Drop them below!

Visiting Disney World During Covid (7 Things You Should Know Before You Go)

You want to visit Disney World during COVID but you’re not sure what to expect when it comes to COVID protocols.  I recently visited both Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World and can give you all the details!

It’s true.  Things have changed this year.  It hasn’t been easy for anyone.  Disney’s response to COVID and their accommodations for guests are impressive.  Spending time at “The Most Magical Place on Earth” felt safe, AND I laughed more than I have this entire year!

I visited the parks with my sister and some girlfriends, so I didn’t have my kids with me.  However, we saw plenty of families with kids, wearing their masks, and having a wonderful time!

Buying Disney World Tickets During Covid

Good news!  The price for Walt Disney World tickets went down at the start of 2021.  And if you know me, I’m all about saving money at Disney, so I get excited over simple things like price drops. 

Purchase your tickets through the app, on location, from their website, or from an authorized dealer (like your hotel).

I purchased my tickets through the app (My Disney Experience) because it’s convenient and fast.

Reservations Are Required at Disney During COVID

Walt Disney World is currently operating at a reduced capacity (yay, smaller crowds) and requires that all guests make a park reservation in addition to purchasing a ticket.

Before you purchase your ticket, check the reservation availability for the parks you want to visit on the days you want to visit.  Once you’ve confirmed there’s availability, go ahead and purchase your ticket.

Immediately after securing your ticket(s), confirm your park reservations using the app (or online).

Reservations are free and should be made as soon as possible.  You can change your reservation to a different park at a later time if there’s availability. 

Entering the Park

Typically, we like to arrive at the parks early in time for rope drop.  However, due to COVID, Disney is trying to minimize crowds of people in small areas, so there is no rope drop.

Both mornings, we arrived at the park 30-45 minutes before opening and were able to park and get into the park immediately.

Temperature Checks by Disney Medics

As you approach the turnstiles, medics dressed in blue and armed with a forehead thermometer take each guest’s temperature.

Security Screening at Disney

Once it’s confirmed that your temperature is normal (they are fast–Disney is efficient), proceed through a metal detector.  Guests do not remove backpacks, cell phones, or any other items.  There are no bag checks (unless there is cause for concern).  Simply walk through the detector.  That’s it!

All Guests Must Wear Masks at Disney World, No Exceptions

Disney asks guests to wear masks at ALL times.  They have signs stating that if guests refuse to comply, they will be asked to leave.  They also make regular announcements over the loudspeaker, reminding guests to comply.

Everyone did an amazing job of abiding by this request.  I only heard one cast member ask a guest to pull up their mask.

Remove your masks in relaxation areas (designated social distanced sitting areas) or while eating and drinking.  The only caveat is that you have to be stationary while eating or drinking, and guests should refrain from eating and drinking while in line.

two women wearing masks on a girls trip to Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida

Reduced capacity during COVID makes for smaller crowds

Food Options at Disney Parks During COVID

Food options are limited while the COVID precautions are in place.  But never fear!  You won’t go hungry!

Not all restaurants are open, and for those that are, not all menu items are available.  You can preview menus for all restaurants using the My Disney Experience app.

Mobile Ordering is the Way to Go

Even before COVID, mobile ordering was my preferred way to order food at Disney.  To limit contact, mobile ordering is strongly encouraged at quick-service restaurants in the parks.

Effective this year, guests are no longer limited to using a credit card to make their purchase in the app.  Instead, guests can now use Disney gift cards or Apple Pay in the app.

Food Condiment Bars

Food places with condiment bars have closed the condiment bars, understandably.  Instead, condiments are served on the side.

I ordered the nachos from Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe.  On the side, I received sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, and salsa.  If you want or need additional condiments, just ask a cast member.  Disney is generous!

Restaurant Seating

Currently, there is both indoor and outdoor seating.  Disney spaces further apart and promptly cleans them when guests depart.

two women waiting for gluten free churros at Nomad Lounge in Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World

Waiting for some gluten-free churros from Nomad Lounge in Animal Kingdom (amazing!)

Social Distancing in Attraction and Ride Lines

Disney has put a tremendous amount of planning and work into helping guests social distance while in line for rides and attractions.  Lines are well marked and spaced 8-10 feet apart.  Having this extra space beyond six feet allows all members of a party to stand together in line without crowding other guests.

Because of the distance between each party, attraction lines can appear very long.  However, the lines move quickly.  We also found at Animal Kingdom that the ride wait times were significantly shorter than the app estimated.

Examples of Line and Ride Modifications at Disney World

Disney installed plexiglass in some lines in areas where it’s too narrow to properly distance.  Also, on some rides, like Kilimanjaro Safari, they installed clear dividers between each row so more guests can be accommodated more efficiently.

Some attractions have been modified to be more COVID-friendly (or unfriendly).  Disney is doing their best to make sure every guest visiting Disney World during COVID has a safe and efficient experience.

Haunted Mansions Ride Modifications for COVID

Guests walk through the Haunted Mansion stretching room straight to the Doom Buggies.  While the stretching room portion of the attraction is a fan-favorite, It just doesn’t make sense to crowd 50 people into a small space.  Nor does it make sense to only allow a handful of people in the room at a time, as this would significantly increase wait times for the attraction.

Pandora Flight of Passage and Other Ride Modifications for COVID

Ride modifications for other attractions are more subtle.  For example, during Flight of Passage, you typically stand on your dot in the debriefing room.  Instead of everyone standing on their dot, their have you stand with your group.

Any items that could normally be touched, like the jewels in Seven Dwarfs Mine Train attraction, are roped off and have signs declaring them off-limits for now.

No Character Meet and Greets During COVID

As expected, there are no character meet and greets at this time, but Disney does a great job at both Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom.  As I entered Magic Kingdom in the morning, at least eight characters were waving to guests right as we walked in…from a distance.  Seeing favorites like Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Mary Poppins, Tigger, and more, immediately upon entry, is magical.

Instead of a Parade, Magic Kingdom Has Cavalcades

Magic Kingdom also has cavalcades (basically miniature parades) that start by Splash Mountain, go through Frontierland, past Liberty Square, in front of Cinderella Castle, and down Main Street, exiting near City Hall.  The cavalcades run regularly throughout the day, almost every 15-30 minutes in the afternoon.  

Animal Kingdom Has Characters on Flotillas

Animal Kingdom has flotillas (decorated motorboats) with characters cruising on the water throughout the park.  If you hang out on a bridge or the water’s edge, you’ll see them floating along the Discovery River throughout the day.

Visiting Gift Shops

One area that appeared to be a challenge for social distancing was the gift shops, particularly at closing time.  Cast members monitor entrance and exit doors.  

There’s typically one entrance door with a socially distant line of guests waiting to enter.  While the lines can be long, they move rather quickly.  I was a little surprised by how many guests they allowed inside at one time, although I’m sure it was consistent with local recommendations.

Cast members make sure everyone adheres to social distancing in the check-out line, as well as making sure guests stand behind the plexiglass when speaking with the cashier.

Visiting Disney World During COVID Feels Safe

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect while visiting Disney World during COVID, but I felt safer at Disney World than I did at the grocery store.  Disney has done a phenomenal job of limiting crowds and organizing the parks to meet COVID safety standards.  

Are you planning to visit the parks soon?  Do you have any questions about COVID safety protocols within the parks?  Drop them below!  I’d love to hear from you!

What Should I Bring to Disney? (15 Things You Should Pack in Your Backback)

If you’re headed to Disneyland in California or Walt Disney World in Florida, you’re probably asking, “What things should I bring to Disney?”

I’ve been to both Disneyland and Disney World, and I always pack these 15 items in my backpack.

Backpacks may not be uber fashionable, but they’re very functional. I opt to take a small one with me whenever I visit an amusement park.

There are two main reasons I opt for a backpack on every trip:

  • It saves time (no trips to a locker or vehicle)
  • It saves money (snacks, water, rain ponchos…they all add up, and these items are EXTRA expensive in the park!)

Use this checklist to pack a perfect backpack on every trip to Disney!

1. Cell Phone

Your cell phone is one of the most important things to bring to Disney. I like keeping my phone in my backpack as much as possible.

I use my phone too frequently to keep it in the backpack all of the time, but it’s a great place to store it during rides or when you’re not using it.

Random Story: Once, after riding Matterhorn, I realized I no longer had my phone. I had it in my back pocket during the ride and didn’t realize it had fallen out during the ride (those bobsleds are crazy bumpy!).

I stood there while the cast members checked each bobsled that came in, and I got lucky. There it was, lying on the floor of one of the bobsleds!

Before You Visit Disney Download the App on Your Phone

Each park has its own app!  These apps are absolutely essential when visiting the park.  You can use it to purchase tickets, get FastPasses, order food, check wait times, find restrooms, locate characters, and so much more.

For Disney World, download My Disney Experience, and for Disneyland, download the Disneyland app from the Apple or Google store.

2. External Phone Charger

Even if you have a great battery, after a long, 12+ hour day at Disney, you might need a recharge. My phone is older than dirt, so it usually needs a pick-me-up by late afternoon or evening.  

While they have external chargers that you can rent in the park, I like having my own (it saves time and money–are you noticing a pattern?), so I use a charger that I got on Amazon. 

3. Credit Cards/Cash/Wallet

Thanks to the ingenuity of the Disney app creators, you can link your Disney gift card, credit card, rewards card, or debit card in the app to pay for any in-app purchases like food, drinks, tickets, MaxPass, or Memory Maker.

However, I usually throw in one card, or some cash, just in case!

4. Identification (Driver’s License)

You’ll need your ID to get into the park or to purchase any alcoholic beverages.

One time, when we were waiting to get into Disneyland Park, Allan realized he had forgotten his ID. Or maybe I forgot mine. I conveniently don’t remember which one of us was the guilty party.

He had to run all the way back to the hotel to grab the ID. Ooops. It was a little over a mile roundtrip. I think he felt like he was in middle school P.E. all over again, although I don’t think he was able to muster up a 6-minute mile. Such an invigorating way to start the day.

5. Snacks

It’s always nice to have a little something in your backpack, just in case. If you have young kids, extra (cheap) food is one of the most important things to bring to Disney.

Keep those blood sugar levels stable and keep everyone happy. Nobody wants to have a hanger melt-down at “The Happiest Place on Earth”.

6. Refillable Water Bottle

Disney is wonderful about letting guests bring in outside food and drinks, provided it meets their requirements. Refillable water bottles are great for your wallet and our planet!  

There are refilling stations located throughout the parks or you can get a free cup of water from any quick-service restaurant!

7. Rain Poncho

I always like taking a rain poncho to Disney. In California, we don’t really need to for the rain (it’s more sunny than rainy), but it’s certainly handy if you’re expecting some afternoon thunderstorms in Florida at Disney World.

The main reason I pack a rain poncho in California is for the water-based rides. If it’s not a blazing hot day, it’s not terribly fun to walk around in dripping wet clothes that don’t dry. It’s nice to have for Splash Mountain, Grizzly River Run, or Kali River Rapids.

You can grab one for $1 at the dollar store or get them in bulk online.

8. Flip Flops or extra Socks

I also like wearing flip-flops on water-based rides. Walking around with wet socks and shoes is a good way to get blisters. When you’re walking 8+ miles per day, you want your feet to be happy.

For that reason, I like to have a pair of flip-flops in my backpack or a dry pair of socks.

9. Zipped Plastic Bag for Wet Items

If you have a wet poncho or socks, you can place them in a zipped plastic bag so that everything else stays dry!

10. Sunglasses

If it’s dark when you head to the park, be sure to pack your sunglasses in your backpack! Did you know that you can get melanoma in your eyes? It’s also nice to not be squinting all day long.

11. Sweatshirt

You’ll especially want a sweatshirt if you’re headed to Disneyland. Even when daytime temps are high, it almost always cools off at night. It’s not uncommon to have a 40-50 degree change between day and night.  Add it to your list of things to bring to Disney!

12. Sunscreen

Pavement can reflect sun rays and increase the chance of sunburn. I like carrying a small bottle or stick of sunscreen in my backpack to use in the parks.

13. Wipes/Hand Sanitizer

Honestly, I never carry either of these items. The alcohol in the hand sanitizer and wipes makes my skin go crazy. If I’m desperate, I’d rather use a little water from my water bottle, but mostly I use the sinks in the restroom.

But, I would guess that most people would want this in their backpack, so I’m adding it to the list.

14. Chapstick

I truly have nothing to say about this one other than it’s always a good idea to keep some chapstick nearby.

15. Extra Mask

A year ago, this wouldn’t be in my backpack, but things have changed. Having an extra in your backpack just in case one falls on the ground–or (heaven forbid) in the toilet–is a wise choice.


There may be a few other items you may want to bring to Disney in your backpack (like make-up, medications, trading pins, or autograph books), but this list will get you started!

Being prepared gives you more time to do what’s important—rides, attractions, and snacking!  If you want to learn more about Disney tips and tricks, check out 11 Hacks To Help You Save Money on Food at Disney or How Many Rides Can You ride in One Day at Disneyland? (more than 18 if you follow these tips)

Do you typically take a backpack to the parks? Is there anything in your backpack that’s not in mine? Tell me about it in the comments section!