There are a few items I always bring into every theme park with me that make my day go smoother (and puts my worry-wart heart at ease). The days are long and can be unpredictable with kids, so I find that having the following items helps to alleviate any disasters and/or instances I’d have to run (drive, actually) back to my hotel room for things, as this isn’t always feasible. It doesn’t matter whether your hotel room is a walk, skip, or 5-minute monorail ride away—bring prepared with the following items from the moment you get there keeps you prepped for any child messes, minor medical emergencies, and/or weather mishaps.
- Backpack (preferably waterproof): When I first went to theme parks I would think “hands-free” is the way to go, right? That’s only a half truth. Not only should you be hands-free, but totally arm-free. I used to carry a crossbody bag but then I noticed that on rides, when taking my kids to the bathroom, and when moving around I would have to make mental room for my purse: next to me on the ride, dangling when I bent down to button their little pants, falling over my shoulder, and practically strangling me when I would bend to the side to pick up a pacifier. Then one day I said let me try out a backpack. Obviously it seemed like the practical choice, as a walk-through any theme park will tell you this: everyone’s carrying a backpack. I decided to buy one from one of my favorite bag brands: Longchamp, a french brand, that although makes luxury goods, has products that are actually quite affordable—and durable—as I own many of their products which have lasted me for many, many years. I love their nylon bags for travel purposes especially because they’re wipeable, can withstand a good antibacterial wipe cleanse, won’t get damaged in rain or on water rides, and the leather straps are durable enough to carry all the things I have to lug around for myself and my kiddos. I’ve used backpack on several trips now and have yet to find something I like better. And the best part? It folds down completely flat and tiny to fit inside your suitcase without taking up any room, weight, or being forced to use it as your carry-on for your flight. (If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now you will notice I love anything that’s foldable, light, and compact for travel.)
- “Comfort fit”, “Athletic”, or “Breathable” sneakers: Let’s make something clear—if they hurt your toes while wearing them, don’t bring them with you. If you feel like you can’t run a marathon in them—don’t bring them with you. If they’re half a size too small—for the love of God, don’t bring them with you. And if you feel like you should bring an extra pair to be safe—keep the first pair at home. The only shoes that will do are those that are listed as being for walking, running, breathable, etc. I’ve made the mistake of trying to wear the cute sneaks on one instance to take cute photos in and really regretted it TWO HOURS into our morning. I could barely walk in them by hour 4, and by the time we left that evening for the fireworks they were only half way on, my feet were actually swollen to twice their size, and I would have to constantly take “shoe breaks” during the day in which to remove my shoes while seated to rest my poor feet and toes. Apparently this wasn’t only me though, as I noticed another woman on the way out wearing the same exact shoes with her own also half way off (I’m not going to share the name of the brand as they do make comfy sneakers as well, but that specific shoe wasn’t made for walking, so to speak.) Lesson learned and I never sacrificed comfort for style again as today there are plenty of sneakers that offer both style and functionality. (Maybe that can be a future roundup post one day?)
- Sun Protection: This should be self-explanatory as most theme parks are in hot and humid climates that get plenty of yearly sunlight (looking at you Sunshine State), but I’ll reiterate. Bring a hat, sunglasses, lip balm with SPF, and a travel-size tube of sunscreen for reapplication during the day. This especially holds true for babies and kids in strollers as their little legs can be in the sun all day long—make a mental note to reapply sunscreen multiple times. This also goes for the face, which can be reapplied over makeup using
- Essentials Kit: Grab an old (or new) tiny makeup bag and pop some of your daily essentials inside. This might include headache/pain medicine, hand cream, contact lens solution, an extra pair of contacts, kids pain relief, etc, etc. Whatever you use often that you feel would be a hinderance if you were without, bring it with you. Because although there are multiple Medical Centers inside theme parks the last thing you want is to be holding a fallen contact lens in your hand and looking for Med Center while praying it doesn’t dry out before you find one (especially remember that hot sun, oh those babies will dry out in 30 seconds flat).
- Rain Poncho: Sometimes during the day it rains (quite often actually during some parts of the year). And sometimes it’s totally unpredictable. Theme park companies know this. So what do they do? They charge triple the cost of a normal average for a rain poncho inside their gift shops. It’s quite genius actually, they know you’re in desperate need and likely to purchase regardless of cost. I don’t fall for these ploys. I bring my own that I either purchase from the Dollar Store or on Amazon. They don’t take up any room and/or extra weight inside your bag. If it rains simply pull it out of it’s little flap pouch. If it doesn’t, do what I did: save it for the next trip.
- Cardigan or Lightweight Jacket: Weather changes can be periodic and unpredictable sometimes. You don’t want to be caught on an unexpected chilly evening without one or you will be miserable.
- Extra Clothes for all: For the kids I roll an entire lightweight outfit (socks, undershirts, t-shirt, leggings, etc.) into a Ziplock bag and squeeze the air out. I say “lightweight” because you don’t want to be carrying around an extra pair of blue jeans. For adults I usually throw in an extra t-shirt for the occasional food spill, water ride soaking, child who spills their drink on us, etc.
- Sanitizer/Hand Wipes: This one should also be self-explanatory but I’ll reiterate. Theme parks are germ city. Sanitize constantly—after every ride, before eating, after sitting at shows, etc. Always try to remember that there were many, many people who rode Dumbo before you that day.