Everything You Need for Disneyland with a Toddler (& Nothing You Don't)

packing for disneyland with toddler

Earlier this week, I shared my three tips for making Disneyland with a toddler just a little more enjoyable. (At least, what I will remember for next time! You live and learn, after all.) Now, it's time to talk about what, exactly, you should pack. 

When we first started planning our trip, I downloaded every Disneyland packing list I could find. I devoured packing lists. I read blog post after blog post. I made lists. I bought clear plastic containers at Wal-Mart to pack snacks and more in. I organized and fretted and bought extras. 

Here's the truth: we didn't touch maybe 75% of what I packed. It was just extra. Totally useless. We didn't need it. Maybe in an emergency, we would have needed it, but realistically, in the park, I wouldn't have access to my two plastic tote bins of medical supplies, band aids, life vests, and more. I would only have what was in my very stylish fanny pack and the stroller. 

This leads me to a very stark reality: everyone overpacks for Disneyland. We all do it. Realistically, if you go in the summer (and, if you can, do try to avoid it), it's going to be too hot to wear anything cute and you're going to sweat all over it anyway. Even more realistically, bags get searched going into the park area, so the more bags you have, the more you get searched. 

While going through security one day, the guard complimented me on the fact that I only had my fanny pack and Forrest's small backpack (which is actually a leash, but we'll get to that); little did he know that, originally, I had planned on bringing a cooler, a backpack, and way more crap... only to narrow it down after one very long day. 

The truth is, Disney makes everything available to you. At a price, of course. But what you gain is the ability to spend less time dealing with all the stuff you brought into the parks and more time just enjoying life there. 

With that in mind, this is my list of the essentials you need for Disneyland. 

  • Water. If you're driving, buy a Costco pack before you head down. If you fly, get an Uber to Costco in Anaheim and buy a pack there. Put as many bottles in the fridge as will fit.
  • 1 small bag. I'm talking small here. I bought this fanny pack (or bum bag, if you're British and think I'm very gross) before we left and I don't regret it. I looked extremely frumpy, but I was hands free. It had enough room to hold my ticket, my debit card and license, my cash, sunscreen, lip balm, and a few extra hair ties. I can also use it for hiking in the future.  
  • Sunscreen. Seriously. Just buy 3-4 bottles of sunscreen and take at least one in the park every day. I saw so many sunburned children and it broke my heart. Reapply every 90 minutes. 
  • Two snacks. Not a box of snacks. Not every snack ever. TWO SNACKS. Every day in the park, I packed my son a fig bar (his favorite) and a packet of applesauce. He always ate both, plus other snacks that we bought ourselves. 
  • For younger children: a bottle & formula; a water cup; diapers; and a pack of wipes. I bought travel packs of wipes to keep in Forrest's backpack, which we used as our "diaper bag." 
  • A "safety harness." Some people let their young toddlers run freely in the park because, ultimately, it is safe. However, Forrest is a runner and if I set him down, he would be halfway across the state if I let him. This is why we use a leash. This is the one we have. It gave Forrest some freedom in the park, without me having a panic attack that he was running straight at a pretzel cart. 

That's it. That's all you need. I know, right? Michelle, where's the Motrin? What about the band aids? A first aid kit? Ponchos? Jackets? Changes of clothes? Girl, leave that in the hotel room. If you really need it, you can go get it. If it's urgent, Disneyland does have first aid centers where you can get band aids. If you have small children, they have fully stocked changing rooms in the Baby Care Center on Main Street USA. You don't need to bring your whole kitchen in the park.