When you’re packing up to go to the theme park, you want to be sure you are taking everything you need, but you don’t want to lug a suitcase around all day.
Here are Theme Park Mom’s top tips for packing your bag for a day at an:
1. Choose the right bag. You need a bag that has plenty of pockets for organization. It also needs to have a zipper closure so that you don’t drop things when getting on and off the rides. Theme Park Mom’s favorite bag is the Vera Bradley Villager. I got a compliment once from one of the security guards at the Walt Disney World bag check because my bag was so organized. The pockets on the Villager are the key. The other reason I recommend it is because it’s washable.
2. Downsize your wallet. We moms often have jam-packed wallets. You don’t need your checkbook, grocery store discount cards, warehouse club membership cards, library card or voter ID at the theme park. All that plastic can weigh your bag down. So switch to a smaller wallet that just holds the essentials — ID, health insurance cards and a credit/debit card, plus your cash.
3. Sunscreen. Be sure you are bringing plenty of sunscreen. Sure, you can buy it inside the amusement park, but it will cost you at least 30 percent more than you can pay at the drug store just down the street. While we’re talking sunscreen, be sure you and your family re-apply often — every 2 to 3 hours is the rule of thumb. Use the wait time at attractions or shows to re-apply. I recommend bringing a cream or lotion — the newer spray sunscreens are quick to apply, but you’re often in close quarters at a theme park, and it’s difficult to put on the spray sunscreens without spraying other park guests.
4. Tyvek wristbands and a Sharpie. These are the quickest, easiest way to perform “loss prevention” with your kids. Write your cell phone number (and only your cell phone number) on the wristbands, attach them to your kids wrists. They won’t fall off, and the number won’t disappear if they get wet. Tell your kids that if you should become separated, they should find a security guard, park employee or another mom with kids and ask them to call your mom at that number. They have a visual reminder that they have a tool to find you, and it works better in a “panic situation” than asking them to remember a specific rendezvous point or remember the number themselves. You can get reusable wristbands specifically made for this purpose at spotmeid.com . You can also buy one-time-use wristbands in quantities from 10 to 500 by searching “Tyvek wristband” on .
5. Single-serve powdered drink mixes. A SeaWorld EMT told me that the most common health problem they see at the theme park is dehydration. Many of us simply don’t drink enough water during a day a the amusement park. One reason? A bottle of water can cost anywhere from $2.50 to $5. So here’s one solution: Buy or bring in a water bottle and refill it at water fountains in the park. Theme Park Mom recommends bringing in the drink mix “sticks” so that you can easily mix up lemonade, fruit punch, tea, etc. It gives your kids a little variety and also covers up any off taste from the water fountain.
6. Small First Aid kit. While we’re on the subject of first aid at the theme park, I suggest you carry a small kit with a couple of bandages and some antibiotic ointment, to take care of a skinned knee on the go. Most amusement parks have a wonderful first-aid facility where you could get these items, but if it’s just a scrape, you might not want to take the time to walk across the park for a bandage. You can get a small plastic one like this for about $1 near the trial-size containers at the drug store.
7. Carabiner clip. I take a second to attach one of these clips to my bag before I head to the theme park. Theme Park Mom recommends saving the souvenir shopping for the end of the day so you’re not lugging bags around, but these still come in handy. Many theme parks sell children’s meals in reusable lunch boxes or popcorn in souvenir buckets. You can attach these to your bag with the clip and still keep your hands free.
8. Swimsuits in a zip-top bag. Even if you aren’t going to a water park, I strongly suggest that you bring a swimsuit for each of your children. Nearly every amusement park and attraction out there has a water play area or splash park now. Even zoos and aquariums have them. And while your kids may think it’s fun to run around getting their clothes wet, they won’t appreciate the car ride home when they are soaked to the skin. Children’s swimsuits fold up small and are lightweight, so it’s easy to take them just in case. Put them in a zip-top bag, so that you’ll have an easy way to carry them home when they are wet.
9. Camera and extra batteries. Of course you’ll want your camera on the trip, but you should also bring along an extra set of batteries. They will be for sale at the park, but just like everything else inside the gate, they will be much more expensive than the identical ones you can buy down the street. Don’t spend your souvenir money on this essential.
10. Hand sanitizer and wet wipes. Theme Park Mom’s rule of thumb is to use hand sanitizer after every attraction. My rule is based on two factors: a. Riding attractions usually requires gripping rails or handles that were just held by countless others. And b. It’s easier to get in the habit of using it if you do it after every ride. It only takes a second. I also carry wet wipes because of the inevitable stickiness that results from theme park snacking — cotton candy, ice cream bars, candy apples, giant lollipops. It’s just easier to be able to pull the wipes out of my purse than to go to the bathroom for every clean-up, especially when I might be greeted with an air dryer rather than a paper towel dispenser.
What other essentials do you need in your bag? Please leave your suggestions in the comments below.