Vacation Tips

It’s In The Bag

A backpack or bag can be a necessity when spending a day at a Disney Park.  Hopefully you can pass the responsibility of carrying a bag off to someone else in your party but we can’t all be that lucky.  Having that bag can be a blessing and a curse.  Have something in the bag that someone needs?  That person is then forever trying to repay the kindness you sent them.  If you and your backpack are missing the item that your friend or family member needs?  Well, as the wise Tom Haverford would say, “You’re dunzo.”

So, what should go in your bag on a day at a Disney Park?  Good question, that’s why I’m writing this ever so helpful (I haven’t said one meaningful thing yet) blog post.  Unfortunately, I don’t know the type of people you are going with.  I can only tell you about what’s in my bag when I visit a park.  It will almost surely be different than yours but I do think there are a few essentials that can be helpful to everyone.   I don’t have any children, so my bag will obviously be different than anyone who is bringing kids with them to the park.  We’ll do another post in the future about what to pack if you are bringing kids to the park with you.  With that being said, there are some items that everyone should bring.  I’ll link to the more obscure items in here. Without further ado, here’s what is in my bag!

Pandora waterfall AK night

The Bag – Lowepro Tahoe BP 150

I guess we have to start with the bag before we get to what’s in it.  I’ve switched backpacks fairly regularly since photography has become an integral part of my park going.  This blue, lightweight backpack has been extremely durable.  It’s fairly large, with plenty of compartments to fit lenses and other odds and ends.  I’m not the most organized person so having backpacks with sections in it helps me out.  There are certainly better backpacks out there but at the current cost, I’d recommend this over spending a couple of hundred dollars on backpacks.

If photography isn’t important or hobby to you then I’d definitely recommend a smaller backpack.  Disneyland and Disney World are both usually hot so carrying something smaller won’t make you sweat as much.  There’s also the aspect of going through security, having a small and organized bag there will definitely expedite the process there.  While I’m on the topic, as you are walking up to security unzip your backpack and organize it a little bit for them.  They will appreciate it and so will the people behind you in line.

Mediterrenean Harbor Canal day TDS

Camera – Nikon D7000

Being fairly new to photography, I have a somewhat outdated DSLR.  Truthfully though, it suits my needs and has shown few signs of wear and tear.  Nothing the camera does ‘wows’ me but it’s also extremely reliable.  I do have plans to upgrade in the next year or two.  I have had good luck with Nikon products and the mirrorless cameras are intriguing, if you are looking for a newer option.  If you aren’t then this camera is fairly advanced and much cheaper than other options (due to it being an older edition.)

Camera Lenses

The list of camera lenses in my bag is ever-changing.  I don’t want to bore you too much so I’ll just list a few of my favorites.  I have five lenses that are my regulars currently.  My favorite of these lenses is the Tokina 11-16 mm f/2.8.  It’s a wide angle lens that is incredibly sharp and is versatile, whether shooting dark rides, during the day or at night.  It’s by far my favorite lens I’ve ever purchased, and comes at a decent price relative to other high quality lenses.  I still enjoy using my fisheye lens that I recently purchased.  I like that a fisheye can capture more in the frame, especially when in a Disney Park.  The edges of the lens are sharp, which can be a concern for some fisheye lenses.  I use this lens regularly.  Another lens I always have with me is the 50 MM lens.  This is the most budget friendly lens I have but it’s one that I’ve seen universally recommended by photographers.  While I think the ‘nifty fifty’ can be hard to use in some settings, it can also force you to take more creative shots.  It’s surely sharp, reliable and easy to use.  It’s also a quality lens for around $130, which is cheap in the photography world.  The last two lenses I consistently use are zoom lenses, one being an 18-135 mm Nikon lens (the typical kit lens) and a 70-300 mm lens.  They both do the job but are fairly low quality.  I admit that I’m often too reliable on zoom lenses, when others can give better and crisper shots.  Still, when walking around a theme park there’s a wide array of shots to be taken.  A zoom can give you some versatility in the shots that you’ll be able to take.

Genie Castle Dreamlight TDL

Other Camera Stuff

I know, I know… This has just been a ‘What Camera Gear Does Andrew Have’ post so far.  This is the last of the camera gear in my bag and I grouped it all into one category.  This group includes several camera straps, a tripod hooked on to the outside of my bag, a Mickey Mouse lens cloth, a battery charger, extra memory cards, and rain gear for my camera.  It sounds like a lot but all of that stuff (excluding the tripod) just fits into a side pocket in my backpack.  On to the other stuff!


Don’t want to get wet on a water ride?  Going to Walt Disney World during storm season?  Ponchos are always a good thing to have no matter the time of year you are going to a Disney Park.  I regularly use one on trips just to cover my backpack on water rides.  Some may argue the merits of carrying ponchos in your backpack to in turn cover your backpack with a poncho but those people just like to argue that sentence is confusing.  We just buy cheap ponchos at a Wal-Mart or Fred Meyer before our trip and use those.  Repacking ponchos in to our bag after using them is something we’ve done before but wasn’t all that enjoyable.  So buy 10 ponchos for $10 and just get rid of the ones that get soaked as you go.

Singing in the rain GMR DHS

Caffeine Mints

A trip to a Disney resort is exhausting.  Late nights, early mornings, tons of walking lead to being quite tired.  Caffeine mints provide a nice energy boost instead of spending a ton of money on mediocre coffee.  These things have become essential parts of our trips, keeping us moving when we’re tired.

A Jacket

The weather forecast is your friend but I almost always pack a jacket of some kind.  Disneyland, specifically, gets deceptively cold on some nights and it’s not enjoyable to be caught without a jacket.  In the winter months, you may want a fairly heavy jacket.  In storm season, I usually bring a rain jacket.  In other months, a sweatshirt will usually do.


I’m not a big breakfast fan so I will almost always pack granola bars, Cliff Bars, fruit snacks, fruit, pop tarts, etc.  You can bring food into the parks so why waste $5 on a snack you don’t really like?  Just suffer through a lousy granola bar to tide you over until you get to eat somewhere tasty.  This is especially true if you are on a budget or on the dining plan.

BTMR from boat river TDL

Portable Phone Charger

These days having a phone at Disney Parks is almost a must (this is somewhat unfortunate but that’s a subject for another day.)  With that in mind, I like having a portable charger with me in case my phone runs low on battery.  It’s bad to be caught with a dead phone when you want to add an impromptu FastPass or dining reservation.  I’m open to any kind of brand with these chargers, but here’s a cheap option.

Hat and/or Sunglasses

The weather report doesn’t say it will be sunny?  You don’t like wearing sunglasses or hats?  Proceed at your own risk.  I’ve been caught at Parks without sunglasses a few times and I almost always give in and buy a cheap pair by the afternoon.  There’s a lot of objects for the sun to get a glare off of in the parks and the California and Florida suns are hot and bright.  Just trust me, pack a hat or sunglasses.

Chapstick (a late addition!)

A few readers have commented saying that they always bring chapstick.  I admit that I completely forgot about this item but always bring it with me.  Obviously this doesn’t take up much room.

Tiger sign Maharajah Jungle Trek AK

Body Glide

At the risk of sharing too much information, chafing can be an issue while at Disney World.  Sweating is a problem and that leads to other problems.  Body Glide is amazing, fairly cheap and will keep you comfortable.  I also like Foot Glide, as it’s the best way I’ve found to avoid blisters.

Band-Aids, Mole Skin, etc.

Along the same lines as Body Glide, little issues can pop up when you’re walking nearly 10 miles a day at Disney Parks.  Band-Aids, Mole Skin and other things that are in your First Aid Kit at home can be useful and don’t take up much room in your bag.

Notable Omission – Water Bottle

That’s about all that I pack although I’m sure I missed something.  One thing that many people pack and I don’t is a water bottle.  To me, they take up unnecessary space when you can just ask any counter-service spot for an ice water.  Not only is the water cooler but you don’t have to carry it around all day.  Yes, the parks don’t have the best tasting water but you’ll have to put up with that whether you have a water bottle or not.

Mcduck's Department Store and statue TDS

Did I miss anything?  Let me know in the comments.

– Andrew

5 replies »

  1. I like to pack as light as possible so sometimes I opt to not even take my little camera! Typically, I try to have sunglasses, eye drops, Chapstick, lotion, wallet, phone, jacket. If it’ll be cold, a beanie. I think that’s really the essentials on my list. Maybe 1 small snack.

    • Chapstick is definitely a necessity. Packing lightly is definitely a good option and something I prefer if I’m not going to do any photography. When I have my camera though I know I’m already carrying around 15 pounds of gear, so what’s another 3 pounds of stuff? Great logic, I know!

  2. I would definitely add Chapstick, and most people would want sunscreen. Band aids might be a good idea and I would take eye drops.

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