Surviving Theme Parks With Little Ones


This past weekend, our family went to Disney World for the day to celebrate Bean’s fourth birthday.  Since we are Orlando residents, we are fortunate enough to get to visit the theme parks pretty often.  I used to carry a full diaper bag, a snack bag, my purse, the camera bag, and a whole mess of other items with us whenever we went to one.  But after a couple years of regular park visits, I have narrowed down exactly what we need to surivive a day at the parks with little ones.  

First, I take a large backpack now instead of various bags for different purposes.  Everything we have for the day goes into this backpack.  This is incredibly helpful because it lightens my load when I’m juggling two little ones.  It is also helpful because at most parks, you have to park your stroller while you ride rides.  With the one backpack, we can just grab this bag and go and not have to worry about loading and unloading every time we want to park our stroller somewhere. 

Now, I even leave my wallet and purse at home so that I don’t have to worry about leaving our backpack somewhere while we go on a ride that won’t allow us to bring our backpack. We just use Chris’s wallet that day, and then there isn’t the hastle of trying to keep an eye on my purse or wallet while we’re on the go.


Inside this backpack are lot of pockets, and that makes it really nice when we’re packing for a full day out somewhere. I divide things up based on how often we’ll use them throughout the day. My cell phone (when it’s not in my pocket) and all our sunglasses go in the outside small pocket because those are things we will use all day.


In the next size pocket, I keep snacks and juice boxes. Most parks now will let you bring these items in, especially if you have little kids. We don’t pack them full lunches or anything, but I do bring little snacks for them to have throughout the day. Make sure that whatever snacks you pack can get hot, especially if you’re visiting during the summer months. Also, I freeze my juice boxes the night before. They are nice and thawed, but still really cold all throughout the next day and it is really refreshing for the kids.




The juice boxes are great to help the kids cool off at various points throughout the day, but primarily what they drink is water. I fill their cups with ice when we leave the house, and it usually has melted into cold water that lasts for the first few hours of the morning. At lunch, we buy everyone bottles of water (I don’t bring them only because I don’t want to carry them around – they are heavy!). We use the water bottles to refresh their sippy cups throughout the afternoon. I keep the sippy cups in the outside pockets of this backpack for easy reach.


In the next pocket size up, I keep my pack of diapers and a pack of clean clothes for both kids. In my diaper pack, I always make sure I have diaper cream because it is so hot and we usually take longer between diaper changes since we are so busy. Gracie is almost out of diapers, though, so this is getting ready to be booted from the backpack. Yay for more space!

I make sure to bring each child a complete change of clothes. (Hint: For girls, you can pack rompers because they take up less space but they are a complete outfit!) This isn’t just for potty accidents, either. Sometimes they might get wet on a water ride, or it might get so hot you just dunk their poor little heads in cold water! Having the extra clothes keeps you from panicking when they get wet or dirty. The kids can go to town because I know I have spare clothes for them.



Also in this larger pocket, I keep a Ziplock bag with two clean, dry washclothes. This is a tip I got from my mom, and it is brilliant! Throughout the day when it gets hot, you can duck into a bathroom and rinse these washclothes down with cold water, and then wipe the kids faces. Then, when you’re done, just throw the wet washcloth into the Ziplock again and you’re good to go. Repeat as necessary for wilting children (and parents!) on hot afternoons.


In the large pocket of the backpack, I keep all the bulkier things or items that we would only need in an emergency. First, I take a little first aid kit. Sea World gave us these awesome little plastic first aid boxes in some advertising packet a few years ago. I have three of them and keep them in my diaper bags. They are the perfect size for a few bandaids and some alcohol swabs. If you don’t have a little kit like this, I have also use those little soap boxes that you get in the travel section of the pharmacy. It keeps things from getting smooshed or lost in a big diaper bag. I also pack a Neosporin spray, and on this particular day I packed Tylenol and some Pepto pills for kids because we were just getting over a stomach bug and I didn’t want to be somewhere and have it rear up again. (Don’t forget your medicine dropper if you have wee ones!)


Also in this pocket, I keep hats for both kids in case their little faces start to look pinkish, and all of our sunscreen. Make sure you put it all in big Ziplock bags so that if the sunscreen leaks, it doesn’t get all over everything.


And that’s it, kids. We are good to go all day with those essentials. What about YOU? What can you not leave home without for a day trip?

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13 Thoughts to “Surviving Theme Parks With Little Ones”

  1. Disney’s the only theme park we’ve done — and your backpack sounds perfect for the day there! I would also add a swimsuit (for those crazy pop-up splash parks everywhere) and also recommend that the best escape at Disney is the diaper changing stations. With air conditioning, Disney television, and kid-sized chairs, it’s the perfect place to recover from the heat or meltdowns and rest your feet for a bit! (And your kids don’t need to be in diapers to utilize their services!)

  2. Leah

    This is great!! We’re going in Jan with 2 toddlers and this is the best post I’ve found for a backpack ready for little ones. Where did you get your backpack? I’m struggling to find one with so many pockets.

  3. I love the backpack too instead of a diaper bag. Much easier to carry! I also need to be better about keeping kids medicine with us. When my daughter was 7 months old she spiked a fever on a plane!

  4. Carla

    I was just thinking of emailing you to ask about going to Disney with little ones and this post is so helpful.
    My other question relates to age appropriateness. My sister asked if we’d meet up with them at Disney this July ( we’re from Canada). Our son will be 20 months old by then. I can see why you would go often with your kiddies, being so close to home but, in your opinion, is this a trip that would be better suited for when our little guy is a little older?
    Also, my sister’s kids are older (6, 9 & 12) so I imagine we would need different areas of the park. Is that a safe assumption to make?
    I know you are super busy but any advice would be really helpful and totally appreciated.
    Thanks for this great post!!

  5. Miranda

    This is such a great list!! I am going to use your tips for our upcoming trip to Disney. Thanks!!!

  6. Mary

    I love your pack! It looks like you’ve got the theme park thing down! Have you considered taking children’s benadryl in case someone gets stung by something?

  7. Laura B

    That is so well written and clear. I have three kids and am constantly reevaluating this. Good reminder to freshen things up for summer!

  8. Kat

    We switched a backpack too! We actually bought a diaper backpack which is totally useful with two little ones. I love all the extra pockets and the easily reachable wipes which get used to wipe little faces and hands more so than their tush. I’m DYING to visit Disney with the kids one day.

  9. My 3 year old is out of diapers, but can still have an accident here or there, so I always have a clean change of clothes for her, plus some pull-ups for a nap. When we went to Disney, we also bought their water bottles but we filled up at the water fountains that are all through the park. Now that the weather is warmer, I always keep sand toys, bathing suits and towels in the back of the car, for spur of the moment trips to the beach.

  10. Carla, I think at 20 months, you would be going to the park mostly for yourself. There are a few things that under-2s can do, like It’s a Small World, Country Jamboree, maybe the Dumbo Ride? If YOU like to go on rides, and you have someone who will watch the baby while you go on the rides, then go for it. Otherwise, it’s not worth the money.

  11. Carla

    Nancy, thanks so much for answering and the helpful advice! 🙂
    After reading some forum discussions about it, I realize you are right. My first reaction to the invitation was purely the kid in me wanting to go back to Disney. The mommy part of me realizes that it’s probably best to wait a year or two. Thanks, again.

  12. Good decision! I hope your bubble wasn’t burst too badly. 🙂 I went with my 3 year old (on her 3rd birthday!) and I was surprised at how much she was able to do, so you won’ t have to wait long, especially if your child is on the tall side. (Mine are on the short side, and still had plenty of fun!)

  13. Cindy

    I just came back from Disney with my kiddos who are 4, 11, and 14 years old. I took our jogging stroller. I packed a small soft sided cooler (thirty one brand) that was full of small ice packs and several bottles of water, gaterade, and tummy yummy’s which I had actually froze the night before. Then we had another bag that had sun screen, snacks, and small umbrellas (some people at the parks actually had ponchos too, which would have been a good idea since a tropical storm came through on Wednesday/Thursday). I had another thirty one brand wristlet wallet that held my money, cell phone, and Disney passes that I actually would grab when I would leave the stroller at the ride entrance. This was definitely adequate for us. I would recommend that you try to park the stroller in a covered area though if there is any chance of rain showers!

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