In the months leading up to our very first Disney World trip (back in the olden days when our kids were still little) we did a ton of research on park bags. And, for the most part, our park bags were typically backpacks to hold all the stuff that you always seem to need with little ones.
But, before we knew it, the kids grew up and we were able to shrink our park bags down to crossbody-style purses. And with that, all was great in the world and with our backs.
For a few years, anyway.
Just when we had settled into our new routine, 2020 came knocking on the door and everything quickly turned into the bad place. And because of all the changes 2020 has brought, we're back to researching (and testing out) what things we need to bring with us into the parks at Walt Disney World.
And guess what? Our list of items that we need has grown again.
Here's what's new in our Disney World park bags:
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First things first
Keep in mind that we don't expect (or even recommend!) that you pack everything on the lists above. Instead, use them for guidance as you try to narrow down exactly what your family will need.
Pick the best bag for you
For us, even with the additional items we're now carrying, our crossbody bags still work.
For reference, we really like the Fossil Maya Crossbody Bag. It's leather and sturdy and comes with an extra-wide strap that makes it comfortable on our shoulders:
It is pricey, but it's our everyday shoulder bag at home, too.
If you opt for a crossbody bag, we highly recommend you pay close attention to the straps - especially if you know you'll be packing your bag full. Wider straps are definitely more comfortable than thin ones.
If you are planning to carry stuff for more than 1 person, you may find that a lightweight backpack works better. But just like with crossbody purses, be mindful of the straps.
Wider straps will likely feel a lot better on your shoulders and back than string bag-style backpacks.
What's new in our park bag?
Clear bag for metal items
Disney has been switching up their security procedures making it easier to get through without having to open up every last zipper inside of your bag.
The caveat is that some (but not all) metal items will cause the metal detectors to go off.
Disney Security will ask you to remove umbrellas and metal water bottles, but we found that other items, like our large external chargers, also set it off.
To avoid that we started separating out out metal items into their own clear bag that bypassed the metal detector to be visibly inspected instead, and that worked like a charm.
Anything (and everything) we had that was metal went inside of it: external batteries, inhaler, Altoid tins, etc. We definitely were operating under the "better safe than sorry" mantra and it was worth it because after we started separating things out we never set off the metal detector again.
In addition to using these bags to separate metals, they are also the perfect size for your masks.
If you use reusable masks, make sure you have 2 pouches: one for clean and one for dirty.
Refillable hand sanitizer bottles
We were always pretty good about washing our hands and using hand sanitizer, but we're now washing and sanitizing fanatics.
Having hand sanitizer that is attached to the outside of your bag makes things a lot easier. And, while Disney does have tons of hand sanitizer stations around the parks, we frequently found them empty.
Repeatedly purchasing travel sized containers of hand sanitizer adds up, plus they aren't always so easy to find so we've switched to purchasing our hand sanitizer in bulk and refilling small bottles (at home) that we then attach to our bags with carabiner clips.
We like this set of bottles because it gives us 5 good-sized bottles and that is typically plenty for our trips.
We've always had umbrellas on our packing list but, truth be told, we typically left them in our room and opted for the trusty ponchos instead because when the parks are packed it can be difficult to use an umbrella without jabbing people in the eyes.
We've totally changed our tune now.
At Disney World, one of the side-effects of social distancing is the way queues for attractions are being used.
Typically the line queues are plenty long to hold hundreds and hundreds of guests without spilling out into the walkways. But, with 6 foot physical distancing policies in place, that isn't the case anymore.
That means that even if the wait times are low, many attractions will find their queues extending out of the building - and into the sun (and rain).
And that is where an umbrella becomes more of a necessity.
Not only can it protect you from the rain, it can also give you a little bit of shade (which is in short supply in Florida). And with plenty of space between you and the next party, umbrellas are much less of a hazard now than they have been in the past.
Fans have also long been on our packing list, but in the past we preferred the kind that you had to wave yourself. But, masks have changed the game a bit and we found that we wanted something a little bit more powerful to help move the air around our faces.
That's why we're now packing electric handheld fans, too.
The downside to electric fans is that they either require charging or batteries, so if you plan to use it a lot make sure you're prepared for that.
We like this fan because it has a long runtime (if used on the lower settings) and it is small enough to easily fit inside of our purse.
Anti-touch door opener tool
Our last new addition to our park bags is a little tool that you can use for opening doors or pushing buttons, etc.
It's durable and strong enough to grab onto a door handle and open it.
We were always relatively cautious about not touching surfaces unnecessarily, but now we're extra-aware of where our hands go and this tool definitely helps keep our hands from touching things we don't need to.
Don't forget to charge!
If you don't already travel with a small external charger you may want to think about bringing one with you if you plan on visiting Walt Disney World.
Not only will you likely be using your phone a lot for pictures, but don't forget you'll also be using the My Disney Experience app a bunch, too.
Add in an electric fan that is rechargeable and you'll probably find yourself needing power when in the parks.
If you already have a FuelRod, those will work okay (and we carry them ourselves) but they aren't going to give you a ton of juice. Plus, the free exchanges for FuelRods won't last forever (unless you're grandfathered in) so they aren't an economical solution for most people.
We like external chargers like this one:
It is small enough to not weigh down your bag but will still give you enough power to charge up a device. If you will be charging multiple devices, you might want to consider going with something a bit larger.
One final note:
While most of the rooms now have USB charging ports available, not all do and if you have multiple people in 1 room, there may not be enough spots for everyone to charge their devices.
That's why we like to travel with a USB charging station like this one:
It has multiple outputs so we can get all of our electronics (phones, electric fans, external batteries, etc.) charging at once.
Video: What's in my park bag now