Welcome back to another Disney Top 5.
Summer is in full swing here in New York and that means vacation time. However, for this particular this summer things are a little twisted and turned. My wife and daughter had an opportunity to go to Germany with my wife's father. He was born and raised there. They'll visit his hometown, see their roots, and experience the homeland through his eyes. My daughter will meet cousins and family she had no idea she even had. It's going to be a wonderful and memorable experience for all of them. Once the Germany plans were finalized, I began to think…if those two are taking that trip, why shouldn't I go somewhere with our boys at the same time? So while the ladies of the family are off touring through Bavaria, the three Barry boys will be…where else…at Walt Disney World!
As a matter of fact, as you read this we will most likely be on our way, and I can't wait for nine days in Orlando with my sons. We'll miss the girls for sure, but this trip will definitely be special for my twin boys. This is really their trip. Whatever they want to do. Wherever they want to go. It's going to be a magical time for them and for me as well.
As you may imagine, we've been in final trip preparation mode the last two weeks. I was double checking flight times and dinner reservations. We made sure that everyone had what they needed for the plane as well as all the necessities for just over a week in the parks. Lists were generated. Shopping took place. It was an exciting time as we anticipated being engulfed in all of that Disney magic.
Over the last two weeks, it was time to dig out and prepare the things that we needed most on our journey. A trip to Walt Disney World for any amount of time requires specific things. There are "must-have" items that we've grown accustomed to having with us. Things that can make or break our comfort level as we walk 10-13 miles each day in the sweltering Orlando heat. There are things that make our trip easier, and things we can't imagine being without. It's certainly a long list but it's one that after years of trip experience we pretty much have fine-tuned down to a science.
I thought I'd narrow that list down for a Top 5 article. What are the things that seem to have become essential on all of our Disney trips? To paraphrase the old American Express commercials: what are the things we "won't leave home without?" Here are my Top 5 things I always pack for my Walt Disney World vacation:
This may seem like a fairly inconsequential item to some, but it's something that I use every day and something that I can't imagine traveling without. There are two camps out there: there are wallet guys and there are money clip guys. I was a wallet guy for years and was pretty close to reaching George Costanza status on just how much I used to stuff in there. Those of you who know the Seinfeld episode I'm referring to will remember when George's wallet literally exploded walking down the street. I knew it was getting packed, but I never gave it a second thought. After all, I was a wallet guy.
Walking through an antique fair one day a while back, I came across this Underdog money clip. I always loved Underdog, so it was a must-have purchase to display on my collectible shelf.
A few years later, I found an identical clip, but this one had a Pez clown on it. My wife is a Pez collector, so it caught my eye. They're vintage and solidly constructed despite the fact that they were more than likely designed for kids.
That same year, while on vacation in Venezuela, I was pickpocketed on a train. Using classic diversionary techniques, a pair of gentleman made off with my wallet, which I thought to be safely tucked away in my backpack (I realize that's a travel no-no, but the Costanza wallet was too big for my pocket). On our next trip, which happened to be to Disney World, I broke out the Underdog money clip. I narrowed down what I needed to carry to a driver's license, debit card, health insurance card, and cash. I kissed the Costanza wallet goodbye, tucked the clip easily into my front pocket and never turned back. It's non-magnetic and pliable enough to hold the above-mentioned items. When I hit Disney World I have room to add my Key To The World card, AAA card (for discounts) and a few Fastpass tickets quite securely. Most importantly, nobody's taking it out of my front pocket. I find it kind of humorous that I trust my cash, ID, and bank card to money clips with cartoon characters on them, but I rotate them to keep them in good functioning shape and they've never failed me.
This has long been my wife's staple when it comes to packing. From the start, she has packed a few boxes of cereal and a few boxes of granola or snack bars in her suitcase. There are a handful of restaurants in Walt Disney World where we enjoy eating breakfast. For instance, we usually start our trips over breakfast with Pooh and his Pals at the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom. That's become a tradition of sorts for us. I've also grown pretty fond of the Tonga Toast at the Polynesian Resort, so we like to eat at the Kona Cafe.
However, breakfast at Disney for us, for the most part, has consisted of Diane returning from her early morning run through the resort with some cold milk, coffee for herself, and a couple of fresh bananas or apples. Then we sit there, have our fruit and cereal, preferably on our balcony at the Polynesian, and get ready for our day. For our clan, that's the nicest way to start each day in the most magical place on Earth. The granola and snack bars are a good, healthy snack waiting for us in our rooms after a busy day touring the parks. This practice has saved us lots of money and just as many calories over the years. Plus, as my wife's always fond to point out, without the cereal boxes in the suitcase on the way home, there's plenty of room for more souvenirs and shopping loot.
With a few exceptions, we have typically traveled to Walt Disney World in late August. I'm usually off from work. The rates drop a bit. Florida has gone back to school and the crowds die down just a little. We find that, if you can deal with the heat, it's a decent time to travel there. Of course, in Orlando in August, you can almost set your watch on the afternoon thunderstorms. That's where the Mickey ponchos come in. They always come with us on every trip.
Granted, you can buy rain ponchos at your local drugstore or superstore for less money, but they tend to be cheaply made, more like garbage bags than ponchos and let's face it…they don't have Mickey on them, do they? We dry our ponchos on the hotel balcony after a downpour. They get folded neatly, packed in a suitcase, and brought home where they wait patiently in the cedar closet for our next trip. We've had two of the famous yellow ones for 9 years now. That's not bad for an $8 investment. No mere afternoon rainstorm is going to keep us away from the parks and the ponchos have always been with us, ready to keep us going.
I hate to sound like a commercial for North Face here, but I've had my yellow North Face backpack for years now and I swear by it. I bought it as a light hiking pack and it's been with me to Europe, the Caribbean, South America, countless Disney trips, multiple water park and theme park trips, skiing all through New England, dozens of Grateful Dead shows and many, many other trips both long and short. It's the perfect bag. Ironically, I couldn't find any pictures of me wearing the pack at Walt Disney World, but I did find a shot of it on my back in Central Park last spring:
I use it as my airplane carry-on. Once inside our Disney resort I stack the magazines on the night table, lock the iPod and DS in the safe and it becomes my daily park bag. It's not overly complicated. There are only three compartments; a large main one and two smaller. The smallest compartment perfectly fits the kid's autograph books. The next is just the right size for a small camera and park maps. The main compartment will typically have hats, sunscreen and Mickey ponchos as well as that day's souvenirs. I love using the key holder in the middle compartment to hold the in-room safe key and the mesh water bottle holder at my hip is crucial on those hot Florida afternoons.
It's slightly more technical than your average daypack, which means that it's got a padded hip strap and a sternum strap as well. Each of those features helps lighten the load on a long day walking around the parks. The bright yellow color has made it easy for the kids to spot me should they trail behind. On top of that, each of the kids gets to choose one of their plush Disney character's heads to stick out of the top zipper each day, making it even easier to spot me in a crowd. " Look for Daddy. He's the guy with the bright yellow backpack with Brer Rabbit's head sticking out of it!"
A bag to use on a trip to Disney is a crucial choice. My wife isn't a fan of backpacks and has found a few small over-the-shoulder type bags that have fit the bill for her. Choose your bag carefully. It's with you a whole lot on one of these trips. I consider myself lucky for having found mine, and I never take a trip without it.
Nothing on a trip to Walt Disney World can be more important than wearing the right pair of shoes. It's said that the average Disney guest can walk up to 13 miles a day while on property. Think about that. When's the last time you walked 13 miles? How about 10? How about 5? The trick is to get confident about a pair of shoes before you're hoofing it around a Disney park. Walking back and forth several times around the nearly mile-and-a-half World Showcase section of Epcot in the heat is no time to experiment with iffy shoes.
I've always been a proponent of walking sneakers or athletic shoes for a Disney trip. At the moment I'm pretty happy with a pair of Saucony running sneakers. They're light. They have plenty of support and plenty of cushion. However, I'm also a huge fan of Crocs. I know that some people think they're ugly and for some models that's a pretty accurate statement. I think they're incredibly comfortable and I don't care what they look like if my feet are happy. The higher-end Crocs have more support than the basic models. Most importantly for Orlando in August—they are waterproof. My Sauconys are pretty useless in an afternoon rainstorm. My Crocs, however, dry rather quickly and the rubbery material never chafes or leaves blisters. They may not be good for everybody, but they work incredibly well for me. Remember when it comes to Walt Disney World, happy feet = happy campers, so think about your shoes more than you normally would when you're in the final planning stages of your trip.
Obviously, there are many other things that make it with me on a trip to Walt Disney World, but these are the 5 things that I just feel we always have to have with us or have to get right. They're not even a thought. These things are automatically included each and every time we hit that two-week window. They're laid out on the guest-room bed and ready to go.
But these are only the physical things. Don't forget, a trip to Disney encompasses so much more than the physical. Don't forget to bring your "sense of wonder" and make sure to dust off your "inner child." You might want to make sure that your "open mind" is in good working order as well. You'll need all of these things to thoroughly enjoy all the magic and wonder that exists at Walt Disney World…just like the boys and I will be doing right about...now. Wish us luck!
That's my list of must-haves for Walt Disney World. What are yours? Click on the "Discuss this article on MousePad" link below and let's hear what you have to say.
(Send an email to Chris Barry)
Chris Barry lives on Long Island in New York with his wife and three kids. He has had a lifelong love of cartoons, comics and animation. Those who know him well say he has truly, "earned his Disney PhD." Chris has been involved with Television Production for 20 years and began his career working with The Muppets at Jim Henson Productions in NYC. Currently teaching TV Production to high school students, Chris has been writing about many different facets of The Walt Disney Company for several years now.