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Is a Disney vacation in your future? Part of the planning process is knowing what those Disney must haves are that you can’t forget to pack. Buy these Disney essentials prior to your trip to save money at Disney.
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The Disney vacation pixie dust can easily take over and lead to extra spending. When the parade at Magic Kingdom starts and every other kid has a glowing light toy, you can guarantee your toddler will find them fascinating. And you’ll find the price to buy one at Disney mind-boggling,
Some advance planning can yield big savings, with lots of these items available at your local dollar store, on shopDisney, or through a quick Amazon shopping trip.
Here are the Disney must-haves to buy before any Disney trip.
Why You Should Buy from shopDisney
Disclosure: The following section is sponsored by shopDisney.
The Disney vacation pixie dust can easily take over and lead to extra spending. You can get authentic Disney merch at shopDisney for much less than you’ll pay in the parks! Proper planning can yield huge discounts if you shop ahead of time. Keep an eye out for shopDisney’s frequent sales, including two big semi-annual sales. And there’s always free shipping for purchases of $75 or more.
Check shopDisney for great deals on authentic Disney merchandise.
TravelingMom Tip: You can now book Disney vacations up to 500 days in advance! That means you can book now for visits in 2022. All it takes is a $200 down payment. The balance isn’t due until 30 days prior to travel. You can get details on this, as well as help booking, from our partners at Get Away Today. Not only does the company have the lowest prices, it offers a best price guarantee. If you ever find park tickets cheaper, Get Away Today won’t just match the price, the company will beat it.
Practical Disney World Essentials to Buy Before You Go
You know what makes your day at EPCOT miserable? A toddler with a sunburn. One essential item on your Disney World packing list needs to be sunscreen. Don’t forget this Disney must-have because it’s a pretty pricey hotel gift shop purchase.
And remember, sunscreen has a “Use By” date printed on it. This year I scored sunscreen on markdown at the end of the summer at Target, getting three aerosol bottles for just $2.99. Buy this before your Disney vacation and score major savings.
Heads up – if you’re traveling with only a carry on, this won’t be an option for you. Check out our favorite sunscreens for kids here.
Savings: Around $21
TravelingMom Tip: Pack a few Ziploc bags. Not only do they come in super handy for all sorts of reasons (wet clothes, diaper blowout), you should pack each bottle of sunscreen into a Ziploc bag to protect the rest of your stuff in the suitcase in case of accidental leakage.
2. Aloe Vera
Even with the above sunscreen warning we know some of y’all are going to wind up with a sunburn. It just happens. The excitement, the heat, the sweat. Be prepared by bringing aloe vera to soothe sore spots. We love the way this one smells.
When it rains at Disney, this magical theme park becomes a sea of Mickey ponchos. At roughly $10 per poncho, it would cost $60 to cover our family of 6. But who wants to pay that?
Skip the cheap Dollar Store ponchos. They rip. I found heavier ponchos with reusable pouches for $3 (kids) and $4 (adults) at Walmart. The bonus was that my family stood out with our red and blue ponchos, making the kids easier to spot. Buy these before a Disney vacation for uniqueness and savings!
I also love these adult ponchos from Amazon. They call them disposable but they’re sturdy! You can use these through your whole trip without ripping them.
Savings: $33-45, depending on the quality of ponchos
TravelingMom Tip: Even if rain isn’t in the forecast, bring the ponchos to Animal Kingdom for Kali River Rapids. You will get soaking wet. If that isn’t your thing, wear a poncho! Other water rides such as Splash Mountain vary on the “soak factor,” so you’ll have to decide how comfortable you are with being damp.
Disney Must Have to Beat the Heat
4. Misting Fans and Cooling Towels
First time visiting the Disney World resort area? In case you hadn’t heard, Walt Disney World is in Florida. Florida is hot. In some months, unbearably so. And the heat wave in the western U.S. means it’s pretty toasty in Anaheim, California, home of Disneyland, as well.
Preparing for that in advance and packing for Disney in a smart “heat friendly” way will be a lifesaver. A misting fan can go a long way in lowering the whining levels of little ones during long wait times.
5. Water Bottle
Dehydration is a very real danger when it’s hot. Having a water bottle for everyone will help combat that. You can get free refills of ice water from any Disney quick service restaurants. It’s one of the best free things at Disney.
Kiddo doesn’t like water? Bring a few flavor packets and turn that water into pink lemonade or Gatorade.
I love these water bottles that clip onto things. If you’re bringing a stroller you can buy a huge carabiner clip and put them all on it. Then clip it to the stroller handle and you’ve got easy access! Even the kids’ water bottles with the built-in straws have convenient carrying loops.
Or pick up a super cute Toy Story backpack cooler to carry you own drinks and snacks.
Disney Must Haves: Food
Bringing your own food can result in a TON of Disney savings. Yes, part of the experience is eating the special Disney treats, but find out how we saved at least $50 every day by packing snacks and being selective about dining in the park. Best part? You’re not surviving on granola bars. We’ve got a whole list of varied snack and food ideas. Make it Disney-fied by packing it in this cute Princess food storage set.
TravelingMom Tip: Get answers to all of your Disney questions with our Disney World FAQs.
7. Coffee Options
I say this with love, but the in-room coffee choices at the most magical place on earth? Not super magical. Having worked in the coffee industry for years I may be a little spoiled but I’d rather drink decent instant than bad brewed coffee.
In the parks, you’ll find Starbucks locations, but the lines can be brutal. My husband needs coffee before he can get out the door and be functional. I always pack some instant coffee packs like Cafe Bustelo or even the Starbucks Via mixes. Bonus: If you need an in-park pick-me-up, dump one into a water bottle for iced coffee.
Disney Must Haves: Clothing Items to Think About
8. Sunglasses & Hats
As we mentioned before, it can get HOT! Our Disney essentials include sunglasses and hats for all family members. But buying them on site can really add up. We always include a few extras. Our teen son has a habit of putting his hat into the mesh pocket on roller coasters and walking off without it.
It seems silly, but if you want to save money at Disney World, you’ve got to be prepared for shenanigans.
9. Disney Clothing/Pajamas
With sales at the Disney Store and the outlets, you can often score Disney t-shirts for $4.95-$9.95 and pajamas for $7.99-9.99. We usually grab a few t-shirts for $4.95 and nightgowns for 9.99. If you don’t want to head out of your house to hunt for deals, shopDisney offers discounts when you buy multiple sleepwear items.
Savings: At least $10 per child
Looking for more t-shirt ideas? Check out a these fun family shirts!
Need help planning your Disney trip? Get all your questions answered from our Disney Planning & Fun Facebook Group!
10. Slide Sandals
I used to pack flip flops for my kids. Don’t get me wrong, they’re fine. But I’ve found the Disney character slides to be far higher quality. These didn’t just make it onto this list for pool and water park use though. Remember when we mentioned that it POURS at Disney sometimes? My kids take after me and hate having wet shoes.
Disney Must Haves: Cell Phone Accessories
11. Portable Charger
Disney sucks the juice from phones the way a toddler empties a Capri Sun — FAST. Bring backup power for your phone so you don’t have to search for a spot to plug in (or buy a pricey Fuel Rod). With 2021 changes at Disney you’ll be using the My Disney Experience app more, so having extra phone power is more important than ever!
When it comes to chargers, name brand really does matter. I’ve received a lot of the lipstick chargers and promo ones and eventually they stop working, usually at the worst possible moment. I recommend (and carry) an Anker charger. These chargers come with an 18-month warranty and even the cheap $19.99 model will get you three full phone charges.
12. Longer Phone Charger Cord
Let’s face it, in the battle of phone charging cords at Disney, size does matter. Plugs are sometimes a little bit hidden, so the longer your cord the better chance you have of reaching it. This is a convenience item that we highly recommend.
This pack comes with 6 (!) cords for under $12. I set the extras aside for when my kids steal my cords or claim they can’t find theirs. I also keep a backup in my purse and car.
Disney doesn’t allow selfie sticks, but there are other ways to take creative pictures of your family on your trip. With a PopSocket you can pop it out, lean your phone and take a cool picture of the whole group, including Mom!
I particularly love this one because it’s a combo phone wallet/PopSocket. I like to bring at least my ID into the parks even if I’m using my MagicBand to pay. This PopSocket definitely makes our Disney must haves list. Looking for something a little cheaper? This Yoda PopSocket is perfect!
Disney Must Haves: Safety Essentials
14. Masks (and More Masks)
In these pandemic times, you’ll be required to wear a mask at Disney on transportation and indoors. There are masks available for purchase at the Parks and even mask vending machines. But bringing multiples of your own will be cheaper.
We love the cute character multipacks that shopDisney has. With the heat and humidity, having multiple mask changes for each family member is a good plan as we outline in this post on what to expect at Disney in 2021.
And on the topic of masks, do yourself a favor. Bring mints or gum to keep everything fresh and pleasant under the mask. You can’t buy gum at Disney!
15. Hand Sanitizer
Keep sanitizer close at hand on your 2021 Disney trip with these adorable hand sanitizers and holders. Shaped like Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, you can clip them right onto a belt loop or backpack.
16. Basic First Aid Kit
Yes, Disney does have First Aid Centers in the parks. You can go to them to get basics like bandages and basic over-the-counter medications, but it’s cheaper and easier to bring some basic supplies with you.
Most of the First Aid Centers are in the front of the park and blisters usually happen well into a long day. Save the pain of limping to the front and do two things:
- First, always always always break in shoes before wearing them at Disney. Comfortable shoes are a Disney must have. We’ve got some great recommendations here for comfy shoes for theme parks
- Second, carry a few Band-Aids and some moleskin in your Disney Park bag or fanny pack (yes, those have made a comeback). They are Disney essentials that can make or break your day.
Buy Before Disney: Fun Disney Essentials
17. Glow Sticks/Light Up Toys
Night descends on Disney and glow sticks and spinning light toys pop up everywhere. Pick up a few packs of glow stick bracelets, wands and necklaces, and you’ll have your kids covered for $3 instead of $27. These may not be “Disney must haves” but if you’ve got toddlers, they will see everyone else with them and you will definitely hear about it. It’s fun to be able to surprise them without breaking the bank.
Not feeling the plain dollar store offerings? Head to a Disney Outlet and still save money, even for the fancy light wands. Or head over to shopDisney. Their wands also blow bubbles and run $22.99 on site. In the parks they cost $27+.
Savings: Up to $24
18. Disney Must Have: Costumes for the Kiddos
A favorite tradition of ours has become having the girls wake up at the hotel on their first morning at Walt Disney World to find a dress left for them by a “princess.” By keeping an eye on shopDisney emails, I am usually able to snag these for an average of $23 apiece when they are on sale. Timing wise, sales tend to happen before Halloween, between Halloween and Christmas and then around April. Check out these adorable princess costumes from shopDisney!
While at Walt Disney World during our last visit, I spied the exact same Belle dress my girls were wearing for $64.95.
19. Autograph Book
A popular toddler and kid activity at Disney is collecting the autographs of various characters as you wander the parks or attend character meals. Autograph books in the parks average $15-$20. We made our own out of dollar store notebooks (2 per pack for $1) and Disney princess stickers (also $1). You can also pick them up for $9.99 on shopDisney. (Note that character autographs are suspended for now, so avoid disappointments by skipping autograph books until that resumes.)
Savings: $12.50+ per child
TravelingMom Tip: Feeling a little fancier? Here are 11 unique ways to collect Disney character autographs!
20. Disney Pins/Lanyard
Pin trading is a great way to interact with the characters and to introduce a new aspect of Disney to kids who may have visited several times already. Pins need to be Official Disney Pins with the original Mickey-shaped backing on them in order to be traded.
I bought several at the Disney Store Outlet for $4.95 each to get each of my kiddos started. I repurposed my collection of conference lanyards (I knew I was saving them for a reason!) for the pins.
Another way to save is to purchase a starter set on shopDisney. These sets come with a lanyard and 4 pins. Are pins a Disney must have? You can do a trip without them, but in my opinion it makes the trip really fun for kids (and adults). There’s something about hunting down that perfect pin.
Pins in the Disney parks range from $7.95-$13.95 each and you’ll pay around $12 for a lanyard.
Savings: $15 per child.
21. Bring Change for Pressed Pennies at Disney
Packing pennies and quarters may seem like strange advice, but it will save you on souvenirs once you’re there! It’s at the top of my Disney must haves.
There are penny press machines in the parks and kids love pressing pennies. This souvenir will cost you a mere 51 cents, but only if you remember to pack the change. Check out these free and cheap things at Disney.
Lock in Your Disney Savings Before Your Disney Vacation
22. Discount Gift Cards
The art of discount Disney gift cards is truly that – an art. Disney gift cards can be used across the parks for everything from dining to hotel rooms to souvenirs. Plan ahead and shop sales to turn your Disney budget up a notch.
For example, my local grocery chain HEB recently offered a special coupon to buy $100 in Disney gift cards and save $20. Using my husband and my son’s mobile apps, we purchased $300 worth of Disney gift cards for $240. These deals tend to pop up starting in November and run through the Christmas season.
In addition, you can purchase Disney gift cards at Target using your Red Card for an everyday savings of at least 5%.
Savings: 5-20% of the value you buy.
My biggest Disney Essentials TravelingMom Tip: When packing for Disney, use a packing list! Print it out and check it twice for Disney World essentials. Nothing makes the cost of a Disney vacation skyrocket like items you forgot to bring. Knowing about things to buy before Disney only works if you remember to pack them!