What’s in Sarah’s Disney Backpack?

Packing your backpack for a day in the parks at Walt Disney World and wondering what essentials you’ll need? This post shares tips for the most important things to bring, along with a glimpse inside Sarah’s backpack that she’s carrying right now for the Christmas season. (Updated November 19, 2021.)

Sarah’s day-to-day backpack for a visit to the theme parks differs pretty considerably from our What to Pack for Walt Disney World (+Checklist) post. With that packing list, we take a kitchen sink approach, with the rationale that it’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.

When you’re spending a day in the parks, it’s better to not be bogged down with a bunch of extra junk, so our philosophy is to take only the essentials for any given day. Well, plus some fun accessories and the like. In that spirit, here are the highlights–and must-pack essentials for a day at Walt Disney World…

I should say that’s Sarah’s philosophy, not “ours.” My camera bag weighs over 25 pounds when fully-packed, so I cannot claim I’m only taking the essentials. With that said, I will soon finally be switching over to Nikon’s mirrorless system, and have already picked out some of what I’m going to get. Not that any of you care, but that’ll cut down the size and weight of my bag pretty dramatically.

It’s also worth noting that what’s in Sarah’s bag for the holiday season is not the same as what would be in it during the summer. For seasonal packing tips, we recommend reading our Winter Disney Packing Tips and Summer Disney Packing Tips, each of which offer specific ideas for the most humid/hottest months and the coldest months.

Before we get to what’s inside Sarah’s backpack, in response to the photos in our recent Photos & Review: Is Disney Very Merriest After Hours Worth It?, many of you asked where Sarah got her Mickey Mouse purse and scarf. Both are from Tokyo Disneyland.

In general, if there’s something she’s wearing that’s not recognizable, there’s probably a 90% chance it’s from Japan. Not only do those parks offer a range of cute merchandise, but as a practical matter, it’s also cheaper (aside from Duffy stuff). Those purses and ear headbands usually cost around $17. Her backpack itself is also from Tokyo Disney Resort. (Did you spot the mouse ears on top?)

Anker PowerCore Slim External Battery – We have over a dozen external batteries, ranging in capacity and size. Normally, we each carry our own, with this being Sarah’s go-to that she’s been using for the past several months. Light, compact, fast charging, and with enough juice for a full recharge of multiple iPhones. A must if you’ll be using Genie+ and Lightning Lanes.

EltaMD Face Sunscreen – I’m not very particular when it comes to sunscreen–I just use cheap stuff. Sarah favors this fancier brand, which is recommended by distinguished scientists from all over the world. (Probably.)

Face Blotting Sheets – Sarah swears by these for eliminating sweat and oil so she doesn’t glisten like she has “Florida Face” in photos.

“Parade” Mat – For years we simply improvised and sat on park maps while waiting for parades, fireworks, or other entertainment. This proved to be a gamechanger, securing our space–and not just a small square. This is pocket-size, waterproof, and puncture-resistant. That’s all nice, but the biggest benefit to having a parade blanket is claiming your turf–otherwise, you’ll notice your space “magically” shrinking as showtime draws nearer. With parades returning in early 2022, it’ll become even more relevant soon. (If you’re visiting the beach while in Florida, it’s even better for that–which is why we originally bought this!)

Pro Ponchos –  This one is a no-brainer, and an “insurance policy” that’s always in Sarah’s bag, no matter the time of year or where we are. Ponchos in the parks cost $10 each, and over the course of a vacation, that can really add up. We recommend buying a few of these pro ponchos, which can be reused. They’re small and light that you can throw a few in the bottom of your bag and just forget about them. (Sarah also carries this Repel Travel Umbrella, which is windproof, durable, and compact.)

Mamma Chia Squeeze – It’s easy to not get enough fruits and vegetables while in the parks–and individual servings are expensive–so these natural and nutritious snacks are a great answer to that. Another great option is GoGo squeeZ, which similarly has good ingredients.

Kitchen & Love Quick Meals – Most of these taste foul, but I’m told they’re incredibly healthy and packed with powerful nutrients. The packaging is a bit cumbersome, but they are incredibly filling and help us power through the day–I’ll give them that. 

Poshi Artichokes – These actually taste good and provide a nice, fresh snack–but aren’t nearly as filling.

Larabars – Another healthy snack that’s full of nutrients and natural ingredients. As an added “bonus,” these actually taste great!

Chomps Beef Sticks – If left to my own devices, I’d probably bring a stockpile of Slim Jims. Apparently, those aren’t as “healthy” as Chomps, which boast a laundry list of “clean” selling points. These are now our go-to beef jerky for the parks–they’re also available at Trader Joe’s and a variety of other grocery stores. (We like every flavor except the cranberry one.)

Mount Hagen Organic Instant Coffee – One of the most embarrassing experiences (for our friends who travel with us!) is when we bust out these packets to make our own coffee. In our defense, Starbucks is not that good, the line is always long, and we each “need” 3-4 servings of caffeine per day to function. Buying coffee in the parks would add up quickly and cost us a lot of time. Cutting coffee from our travel budget saves us a ton of money, and is worth it even if we look like cheapskates making coffee in the parks.

This might seem like a lot of food to take to the parks–and it is–but keep in mind that menus are still reduced and Mobile Order is slow during busier times due to staffing shortages. At Magic Kingdom in particular, counter service restaurants simply are not worth the time and money.

Life Straw Go Filter Water Bottle – Florida tap water tastes awful straight from the swamp, so it’s key to get a bottle with a filter. This bottle is the best option, hands down. It’s durable, BPA-free, dishwasher safe, and uses a 2-stage activated carbon filter reduces odor, chlorine and leaves zero aftertaste. (We also like the Brita Filter Water Bottles as an inexpensive alternative.)

Travel Hand Sanitizer Sometimes there isn’t a bathroom nearby when you want to have a snack. Or, you just want clean hands. We’ve found this essential beyond Disney, where bathrooms are perpetually out of soap.

WetBrush Detangle – This hair brush performs well with wet or dry hair, making it great for attractions like Splash Mountain (when your hair will get wet) and also water-less attractions like Space Mountain that’ll leave your hair tangled. A staple of Sarah’s Disney Parks backpack, she swears by this as the best brush for detangling hair.

Insect Repellant Bracelets – Pests are drawn to Sarah (that’s how she acquired me!), so these are another staple of her bag. Probably not a strict necessity for most people, but not a bad thing to have, either.

We receive a small commission from purchases via the above links, so buying through this post helps support the site. However, neither the price you pay nor our recommendations (or lack thereof) are impacted by that.

Change of Ears – Sarah’s collection of mouse ear headbands rivals my collection of Disney Parks books both in terms of quantity and variety. She has a vast repository of ears: ones from every park in the world, vintage ears, custom-made ears, etc. These mouse ear headbands are a quick way to accessorize and make for better photos (for those times when your outfit doesn’t match nearby walls).

In terms of things that are almost always in Sarah’s backpack for the Disney Parks, that’s it. Plenty of other things make sporadic appearances and a ton more stays behind in our hotel room, but as you can tell, it’s a fairly light bag. Remember, whatever you put in your backpack you have to lug around all day, for the 10+ miles you’ll probably walk in the park. Unless you’re crazy like me and back pain by the end of the trip, go light.

Need Disney trip planning tips and comprehensive advice? Make sure to read Disney Parks Vacation Planning Guides, where you can find comprehensive guides to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and beyond! For Disney updates, discount information, a free download of our Money-Saving Tips for Walt Disney World eBook, and much more, sign up for our free monthly newsletter!

Your Thoughts

What goes into your backpack for a day in Walt Disney World or the other Disney Parks? Do you use anything on this list, or have alternative recommendations? Agree or disagree with anything in her bag? Any questions about any of the items on this list? We love hearing from readers, so please share some of your favorite items for travel, or any other thoughts or questions you have, in the comments!

61 Responses to “What’s in Sarah’s Disney Backpack?”
  1. J.Brown November 23, 2021
  2. JulieD November 20, 2021
  3. Julie November 20, 2021

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