First, I would recommend finding a checklist online. This will help you remember all the basics, clothes, toiletries, etc. You can find that information anywhere, so I'm going to focus on tips given to me by friends and things that helped us save time when we arrived.
We chose to separate our luggage based on need. I'm a little neurotic about certain things, so some of this may be overkill, but it really did help me to know exactly where things were which saved us some time and stress.
1 - Bags for the flight
We had two bags that we took on our flight.
The hubby carried on a backpack (which we later used at the park). This had our camera and camcorder as well our chargers, and extra memory cards. We also packed swimsuits in case our room wasn't ready when we checked in at our resort.
I carried a shoulder bag which had several, smaller bags inside.
I had small totes, one for each child. Each of these totes had a cuddle buddy for the flight, coloring pages, stickers, crayons, fruit snacks (to help with 'popping' their ears during the ascent and descent), lollipops, an empty spill proof water bottle (for the park), autograph books with a pen, a glowstick for the first night, and sunglasses.
I had a park tote that would prove irreplaceable during our Disney trip. Inside this bag was my wristlet (you do not need a purse in Disney) with my ID, health insurance cards, debit card, and some cash for tips (you'll want to tip mousekeeping, tip at table restaurants, and also tip the driver of the shuttle to and from the airport). Having a wristlet was also very convenient to hold our park passes and room keys.
- A folder to contain itineraries, boarding passes, park maps, and envelopes for the tips for mousekeeping.
- A notebook with notes about things we wanted to do, restaurants we wanted to try (for counter service restaurants), places to use our snack credits, and a list of which rides we wanted to ride first at each park. We also used this as a journal.
- My favorite planning book about Disney World.
- A gallon size plastic bag with park essentials: hand sanitizer (make sure it's under three ounces for the flight), sunblock (again, under three ounces), bandages, triple-antibiotic ointment, stain remover wipes, hair brush, ponchos, tissues, pain medication, a small deodorant stick, wet wipes, a small flashlight, moleskin and blister bandages. For the liquid items: sanitizer, ointment, sunblock; you'll want to keep them in a quart sized baggie so that they're easily removable for x-ray when you're at the airport.
- I also left some room for jackets since we were there in January.
- If your child is frightened easily by the automatic toilets in the parks, you could also pack self adhesive notes to cover the sensor on the toilet (a family member gave us this great tip!).
We used one bag for all our toiletries. Of course there was shampoo, body soap, deodorant, toothbrushes etc. - but some things that most people don't think about packing were also very helpful - hand soap (they do not provide it in your room), a small package of laundry detergent, a larger bottle of sunblock, and a larger bottle of hand sanitizer.
3 - Checked luggage - clothes/toys/food
We packed our food in a large, plastic shoebox. Before we left our house, I measured a cup of cereal into sandwich sized baggies so that each morning, we could just grab a baggie and go. Having the food in the shoebox kept everything from getting smashed in the suitcase. We also packed some plastic grocery bags to put our water bottles and snacks in each day.
We brought a couple things that our kids sleep with every night (favorite stuffed animal or blanket), but they really didn't need any toys while we were there. We woke up, went to the park, explored our resort or swam, then went to bed. If you pack glowsticks, you want to put them in a zipper bag just in case they break.
Probably my favorite tip of all was an easy and space saving way to organize clothes for the kids. I used a bunch of gallon sized zipper bags to store their outfits. For each day, I put a pair of shorts/pants, shirt, underwear, and socks (and hairbow for the girl). I also labeled each bag (taking into account the weather forecast) with their name and a day of the week. This was a great time saver as each morning, we just grabbed their bags then got them dressed. We could also put their dirty clothes/pajamas in the empty bag when we were done.
You also want to make sure to have comfy shoes for everyone - you'll be walking. A lot.
We used cable ties to secure each bag. We placed a heavy-duty nail clipper in the front pocket of each bag so that we could easily open the bags when we arrived. We also packed extra ties in the front pocket of each bag for the flight home. We used big, obnoxious bows to mark our luggage. This made it a breeze to pick out our luggage (that looked like everybody's luggage) when we came home.
4 - Strollers
We chose to bring an umbrella stroller for each child. This saved space in our hotel room. One thing that I'm really glad we did was mark each stroller with a big (glittery) bow. There were several strollers there that looked just like ours, and the cast members at Disney often rearrange the strollers when you're visiting an attraction. Having the bow made it very easy to find ours in a sea of hundreds. At night, you could also use glowsticks to mark your stroller.
I hope you are finding these tips helpful. Again, I am not a Disney-expert, so please, if you have any tips to add, I'd certainly appreciate it!
Check back for the last post in this series - all about tips for when you're in the park.