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The Trip Planner
Practical travel advice
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Lani Teshima, editor

The bare necessities for the "jungle" out there

Taking a "carry-in" for your park visit

If you have visited my Travelite FAQ Web site, you know that there is a lot you can do pare down your luggage for your trip. In fact, you can travel with just a carry-on bag! But how many of us put thought into what we carry into the park? We either bring too much, or find ourselves without the bare necessities. In this column, I'll give you some simple tips for packing a "carry-in" for the park, with a particular focus on the stuff we need when we're on the go all day.

This packing list is particularly good if you don't have time for leisurely sit-down meals, and plan to be on the move.

For example, this list is perfect if you are signing up for Kevin Yee's MouseAdventure on December 10, the scavenger and trivia hunt contest brought to you by MousePlanet. Don't forget Fab's special MousePlanet walking tour of the park that weekend on December 9th, too!

Keep in mind that my general Travelite philosophy operates in full force here. If you plan on being on the go all day, you do not want to carry lots of extra stuff you won't need. That includes using a sturdy (but bulky) backpack. If you are visiting the park with your family, get everyone to carry their own things so no one person has to carry everything (yes moms, I'm talking to you!).

I have broken the list into a few categories:

What to carry your stuff in

Ladies, leave your regular purses at home. Purses tend to accumulate a ton of extra stuff you don't need forover to a small waist pack or a travel pouch (either a fanny pack style, or a "wallet" on a long strap that you can wear cross-wise).

Daypack: The daypack is probably the most convenient carry-all. "Daypacks" are backpacks that are marketed as bookpacks and made by companies like JanSport, Wolf Creek, L.L. Bean, and Eagle Creek. They are not the same as the large hiking backpacks you would buy at a camping store. Chances are you already have one at home. You can even use your daypack as your carry-on bag on your flight over. Check my "Luggage Tips" page at my Travelite Web site for tips on how to look for good day packs.

Pros: Daypacks are recommended over shoulder bags and duffel bags, since the two backpack straps allow you to distribute the weight evenly. Totally hands-free if you were both straps.
Cons: Keep in mind that wearing a daypack all day can tire you out. Just because there's room in the daypack doesn't mean you can stuff it full. If your daypack gets too full, you may have trouble stashing it when you go on an attraction.

Belt pack: Also referred to as a "fanny pack" in the US, belt packs come in various sizes but all have the belt strap that cinches around your waist.

Pros: Belt packs provide more security, as you are less likely to lose your valuables. You are also less likely to forget your belt pack, as you rarely take it off.
Cons: You are limited to what you can carry in belt packs because of their small size. Belt packs don't fit everybody though, especially expectant moms and extra-large folks.

[Note: Consider getting in the habit of calling it something other than a "fanny pack" if you are planning on traveling to Europe (say, for Disneyland Paris). In England, the term refers to a woman's privates, and is considered a very rude thing to say!]

Photographer's vest: Marketed as traveler's or photographer's vests, you can find these in camping and travel catalogs. They are distinctive in their look; they usually have at least six big pockets on them, if not more. Many of these pockets are huge, and you can fit quite a lot of things in them.

Pros: Totally hands-free, weight distributed well. Easy to get to everything.
Cons: Have to remember where you stashed everything. Cumbersome to remove (tip: leave it on!)

Day-use lockers: If you end up bringing in more than you can easily carry, use the $3.00 day-use lockers available both outside the park entrance, and on Main Street. These provide unlimited in-out privileges during your day's visit. If you choose to use a locker, pick one out as soon as you get to the park. On busy days they fill up fast. Day-use lockers are particularly handy if you don't plan on returning to your hotel or car during the day, and might need warmer jackets or sweaters in the evening.

Pros: Totally hands-free. Lets you take in a lot of stuff.
Cons: Not free. Requires you to walk to get to your stuff.

The least you should bring

Wallet items: Notice I didn't say "wallet." You don't have to bring your entire wallet. All you need are Driver's license or other ID card, ATM card, Disneyland passport or annual pass. You might consider bringing your MKC card, AAA card and health insurance card if you wish. Leave all of your extra cards at home (extra credit cards, local video rental card, supermarket card, etc.).

Money: Instead of bringing a big wad of cash or paying ATM fees, consider purchasing Disney Dollars to use as cash while in the park. You can always return them for cash at the end of the day.

Comfortable shoes: I realize this is not something you carry, but you can avoid having to carry a lot of extra stuff (bandages, moleskin, etc.) if you wear the most comfortable shoes you own.

Pockets on your clothes: If you have a choice, wear clothing with lots of pockets so you have places to put your Disneyland Today guide and other necessities. Be careful not to use shallow pockets for important stuff.

Handy extras to bring

This list differs somewhat from a standard day-pack list, and is customized for a visit to the park. Note: Unless you want to be totally bogged down, do not bring everything on this list! Make sure to bring only those you know you will use, not just niceties you might use. This list is numbered in the order of importance (which is subjective, but what the heck; I'm the Baglady!)

  1. Sunblock / lip balm: Even on cloudy days, wear and carry sunblock and lip balm to protect your skin. On drier days, sunblock also serves as moisturizer.
  2. Sunglasses with cord, or sunglass clip for your glasses: Protect your eyes from the sun, and make it easier to adjust your eyes when riding a dark ride during the day.
  3. Hat / Visor: Bring a hat or visor that can be folded up and stashed in, or clipped on your daypack. Provides shade in sun, and an awning for your face if it rains.
  4. Water: Avoid spending $2 or $3 each time you get thirsty, by bringing your own water. Drinking water also keeps you from overloading on sugared drinks. If you have a fridge in your hotel room, consider freezing half a bottle so you can have ice-cold water throughout the day. If you have a wide-mouth bottle, you can just plop some ice from your hotel's ice machine. I go into detail about the importance of water in a previous column.
  5. Camera / camcorder: If you have a small point-and-shoot, tuck it in your bag. If you have a large camera set-up or a camcorder, think hard about whether you want to carry it around with you at all times. This may require its own carry case, in which case someone else in your party needs to hold onto the carry-in.
  6. Film / Video: Film and video cassettes, while available in the park, are quite expensive. Since they don't take up a lot more room, always pack at least one extra canister or cassette in your carry-in.
  7. Batteries: Bring a spare set of batteries for your camcorder or camera (especially if you have a digital camera -- those things eat up batteries like nothing else!). If you normally use rechargeable alkalines, consider bringing your re-charger and charge up your spares in your hotel room. [But don't forget to take it home with you when you check out!]
  8. Extra-large garbage bag or rain poncho: Unless you already have a cheap rain poncho from one of the parks, bring the largest lawn or garbage bag you can bring. These things are very handy. Use them to sit on for picnics or for waiting for Fantasmic. When it rains, poke three holes on the top and turn it into a rain poncho! With a hat or visor, you stay amazingly dry while you enjoy short queues that are outdoors.
  9. Small first-aid kit (Band-Aids, Tylenol, Pepto-Bismol): While the park's First Aid Center provides analgesic and bandages, sometimes it's not convenient to get there. What if you get a headache or a blister while in a long queue for Splash Mountain? It's a good 20 minutes before you can get back to the edge of Main Street. You can use a little traveler's first-aid kit that you can buy at a pharmacy, or put together your own and put it in a little Zip-loc baggie.
  10. Palm OS-type handheld organizer: You can do away with a lot of extra paperwork if you bring your Palm handheld with you. Keep confirmation numbers, list of attractions to go on, phone numbers, addresses, travel itineraries with you. You can even download e-books and games to provide amusement if you're waiting in queues! I have a Handspring Visor, and the thing has really been a god-send for me.
  11. Small notebook & pen: Takes notes (confirmation numbers, list of attractions you want to go on, show times, etc.) on your notebook. Keep a pen handy to write on postcards as well.
  12. Zip-loc baggie: One of the handiest things for any traveler, bring a few baggies of different sizes with you. Keep the insides of your carry-in organized, and keep your children's things separated. Guest writer Mary Kraemer offers nice tips for using baggies, in a Parenting in the Park column.
  13. Postcard stamps/address labels: One big problem many of us experience, is not getting the postcards in the mail until we get home! Be prepared with both a booklet of postcard stamps, and pre-printed address labels for your friends and family back home. You don't even have to have fancy computer-printed labels. Just write the addresses out on blank labels by hand.
  14. FRS (family radio service) radios: Keep in touch with members of your party with an FRS radio. Don't forget extra batteries if you do, though. Adrienne Krock has an article about FRS radios.
  15. Safety pin: Takes up almost no space, but comes in very handy should anything break, like zippers and buttons.
  16. Bandana / handkerchief: Bring something to wipe yourself with, especially when it's hot, or the forecast calls for rain. Wet wipes are handy, but they are also readily available in the park. Tip: Most restrooms are equipped with diaper-changing stations, where you can get disposable paper "towels." Extremely absorbent and surprisingly thick, they easily take the place of wash rags or bandanas. As Adrienne Krock recommends, "They are very big and absorbent, so take one, get it wet, and put it on your neck - it will help you stay cool, and the line to get relief will be much shorter than Splash Mountain!"
  17. Cell phone: If you have free long-distance service, consider bringing your phone with you. Otherwise, leave your phone back in your room. Don't forget to bring your battery charger.

Special things for MouseAdventure

Trying to put together a carry-in for the upcoming MouseAdventure on December 10th (or Fab's special walking tour at Disneyland on December 9th?) [You haven't? Goodness, you absolutely must! Alex and I will be there, and we'd love to see you!]

Add a few more items to your list:

  • Clipboard: Your questions are provided to you on sheets of paper. Having a clipboard helps you keep your sheets organized, and easy to write on.
  • Pencil: Some of the tests require you to work out some puzzles. Bring a pencil to work out your solutions before getting them down in pen.
  • Watch: Your team members should each wear a watch so you can keep to your tight schedule.
  • Munchies: While the park doesn't officially allow you to bring food in, there are many places where you can buy munchies and snackables. Consider purchasing them early in the day and keeping them in your carry-in. A bag of Mickey-shaped pretzels or an apple goes a long way to keep the appetite in check while you work to answer the questions.
  • Water: While it's important to bring water with you, it is imperative that contestants bring their own water. You do not want to waste time in queues to buy soda, and you do not want to get dehydrated running around.
  • Umbrella: Light sprinkles? Keep your papers dry with an umbrella. Better yet, bring a large Zip-loc baggie in which you can put clipboard.

Handy strategies

Have each person carry some things: Visiting the park with your wife? Have each of you take a separate carry-in that holds different things. This lightens the load on each person, and prevents overlap. This is particularly handy if one person wants to be "trip photographer" and carry the camera bag (with film, batteries, and a notebook to keep notes on what was shot).

Consider combining more than one carry-in: I sometimes go with a traveler's vest, then carry a daypack that folds into itself and can be worn as a belt bag. If I buy some munchies to carry, I unfold the daypack and use it as a carry-in while still wearing my vest.

Put your name on everything: Whatever "carry-in" you choose, make sure it is properly labeled, so that it can be identified if turned in to the park's lost & found. This can be as easy as safety pinning a business card on the inside. Speaking of ID, it is imperative that your children are properly tagged. Even older children might get disoriented and forget the name of the hotel they are staying at. Take a piece of masking tape and write your name, hotel, and room number and stick this on the inside of the child's jacket, or use the safety pin trick, including this information on your business card, and pinning it somewhere hidden.

Package Express: Don't forget that you can use the park's Package Express service so you can pick up your packages outside the park exit when you are done with your day's visit. Unless you purchase hats, clothes or food that you use while in the park, there is no reason to lug your shopping bags with you.

Do not leave your carry-ins unattended!! I have seen many folks leave diaper bags (and even purses and camera bags!!!) on strollers while they go on attractions. Do not leave things behind that you do not wish to have stolen. This includes leaving your carry-ins on tables while you go to purchase food.

What to pack for a day visit

John Wayne Airport

A number of you chimed in to proclaim the wonders of John Wayne Airport (SNA) after reading my September column. Some of you had questions or suggestions.

Steve M. and Robert mentioned that tickets to John Wayne Airport cost more than tickets to LAX or other nearby airports. This is true, and is partly due to the lack of competition among airlines (and the lack of a really strong presence by Southwest Air). When pricing your vacation, consider the total value of using SNA, instead of just the bottom dollar. Only you can decide if it's worth the price difference.

Readers like Rhonda H. and Chris W. said the more relaxed experience and cheaper shuttle prices to the park made up for the higher ticket cost of flying in to SNA.

Don B's comments however, summed up the general sentiment. He writes:

"I couldn't agree with you more on your assessment of John Wayne Airport. It is a joy to use; wouldn't think of using LAX to visit DL from Seattle.

"The only thing that is a bit disconcerting is when someone runs for a departure gate and the floor of the building shakes!

"And the car rental counters co-operate with each other! And care about their customers. What a change from LAX!"


Contact Lani Teshima if you have any travel tips or questions about trip planning.

A Hawaii ex-patriate, Lani is a technical writer for a San Francisco Bay Area software company.

When Lani is not managing the copy editing tasks here, you can usually find her at the gym, slogging away those slow miles on the treadmill as she trains for the WDW Marathon (held in January). She also maintains her internationally recognized Travelite FAQ.

In the occasional spare moment, Lani and her husband, Alex—our MousePlanet CEO and MouseAdventure event coordinator—attend baseball games, and drive down to Disneyland in their 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid (which gets 50mpg).


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