What to wear to Disney World: Ultimate Disney packing list
By Helen Wright
If this is your first time to Orlando, you may have no idea what to wear to Disney World – other than some iconic mouse ears, of course! Orlando, Florida is different to anywhere else in the USA and putting together a packing list for Disney is a whole new world (see what we did there?). You’ll already have the basics sorted; Mickey T-shirt; shorts; sunglasses. Easy! However, many first timers make the same mistakes, some of which can totally spoil your holiday. To help you work out what to wear to Universal Studios, Walt Disney World and the other epic Orlando theme parks on your trip, we have put together the ultimate Disney packing list to help you pack properly for the parks.
Cover image: Tony Tran
What to wear to Disney World
A packing list for Florida before you travel:
One of the biggest mistakes that UK visitors make when packing for Orlando is filling their suitcase with ‘dressy’ clothes. Florida is very casual and even in fancier restaurants, like the Bull and Bear at The Waldorf Astoria Orlando, patrons tend to favour a smart t-shirt and shorts or a casual dress in the evening. For a first time visit to Orlando as a tourist, it is extremely unlikely you will wear heels and you don’t need a lot of jewellery and accessories. It doesn’t take a lot to feel very overdressed in central Florida.
When you are considering what to wear to Disney World, one of the most important things to pack is a pair of comfortable, supportive shoes. Your Disney packing list should start from the ground up because, trust me, you are going to be doing a lot of walking. On one visit to Epcot and Animal Kingdom, we did over 16,000 steps and you are likely to be on your feet most of the day, so be prepared.
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The best shoes for Disney World
WHAT TO WEAR TO Disney World packing list: Best shoes for Disney World
I take multiple trips to Orlando every year and always pack the same three items of footwear to wear to Disney World. Orlando is a tropical climate that has warm weather all year round, but is prone to rain showers (most prevalent in summer in autumn) and cooler evenings (usually in winter and spring). No matter what season I travel in, the shoes below are what I always pack:
Even though you will be covering a lot of ground, you don’t need to pack full walking shoes for Disney World, but a good pair of trainers will keep you comfortable on your feet all day. Ideally, in the theme parks, a lightweight trainer with good foot support is the best option. Some rollercoasters (such as Mako at SeaWorld, where your legs hang freely) don’t allow riders to wear shoes that can easily fly off, so it’s less hassle if you’re wearing trainers or shoes that fasten. Wearing flip flops doesn’t mean you won’t be able to ride, but you will be asked to hold your shoes or leave them in a locker. I love my Converse sneakers (and in the interests of honesty, they are what I usually wear), but in reality, sturdy shoes that support your feet, ankles and knees, like a proper training shoe, are always best for any trip where you will be doing a lot of walking.
Wearing trainers or shoes that cover your feet are also best for when it rains in Orlando, which should be expected at any time of the year. As well as keeping your feet (and socks) dry, you will be less likely to slip.
TOP TIP: Don’t buy new shoes to wear to Disney World! Trainers that have been worn in before your trip are better because with two-weeks of theme park walking to do, the last thing you want is a blister.
Okay, okay, I know they aren’t brilliant for your feet but I am a sucker for a Havaiana. If you are planning more of a leisurely day at the parks, rather than pounding the pavements on a mission to get on every ride, a rubber flip flop is a good option. Shoes that dry easily are a good choice, especially if you plan on going on any water rides – such as the Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom – because you get absolutely soaked!
In the really hot weather, it’s nice to be able to kick your shoes off when you stop for a rest or a picnic on the grass. And, of course, for the water parks (such as Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, Volcano Bay, Discovery Cove and Aquatica) a casual flip flop will help you out because those concrete floors and sand can get burning hot in the sun!
Flat (dressier) sandals
As I said earlier, Orlando (in fact, much of Florida) is super casual. Save space and weight in your suitcase and leave your fancy frocks at home. However, you are on your holidays, so it’s nice to dress a bit smarter if you go out in the evening. Aside from the theme parks, Orlando is a fantastic city with some lovely areas to eat, drink and shop. It is definitely worth checking out our ‘things to do in Orlando besides the theme parks‘ post for ideas, but in reality, a first timer in Orlando won’t need a lot of smart, evening clothes. Long days at the parks mean, often, you won’t even change for the evening, heading straight to Disney Springs or Universal Citywalk on your way home for a bite to eat before bed.
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A brand that I talk about a lot, and have worked with on my Instagram, is Vionic Shoes. They make stylish shoes that are also biomechanic and approved by podiatrists for being good for your feet. I am definitely not a fashion blogger, but I rave about Vionic because their shoes are perfect for travel – especially to places like Orlando where you’re guaranteed to do a lot of walking. I always travel with a pair of Vionic sandals to sunny places. They are one of the best shoes for Disney World and other theme park destinations because you can walk about comfortably for hours on end, yet still feel fashionable.
What to wear to Disney World: Packing list for Disney
(Scroll further down this post for tips on packing your bag for the park and what to bring to Disney World on the day)
Packing for Disney – a few more essentials you need in your suitcase
pack a Disney T-Shirt to wear to Disney World
Once in Orlando, there is no shortage of places to buy Disney T-shirts, Harry Potter merchandise and other character clothes. If you are anything like me, preparing for your holiday to Walt Disney World is part of the fun and top of your packing list for Disney should be at least one item of clothing with your favourite character on! The good news is, you can save money on what to wear to Disney World by stocking up on Disney merch before you travel – and we have done the hard work for you. Click below for our post on the best Disney T shirts you can buy in the UK for our pick of the cutest Disney bits to pack. We update this every month!
A pair of Lightweight shorts – but not denim!
Trust me, there is a reason I say no denim and it’s something I’ve already mentioned higher in this post. I am, personally, a true denim shorts fan and spend virtually all summer in my denim cut-offs. However, even in Florida’s glorious sunshine, denim takes AGES to dry – so if you’re heading to a theme park with a water ride, I would avoid denim for the day! Watch our Florida with friends video to see how soaked we got on Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges…
These tailored, linen shorts below (which are actually from Amazon, believe it or not) are the perfect shorts to wear to Disney World. As well as drying quickly after a soaking from Popeye and pals, they are lightweight and ideal for Florida’s hot sun. A lot of walking can bring on the chafe (sorry ladies but most of us have been there…), so shorts that are made from a soft material will help you stay more comfortable in the heat. Plus, they fold small for your suitcase and can be easily washed in a hotel room sink if you plan on packing extra light for your holiday to Walt Disney World!
Cute Disney PJs
If there was ever a place to rock some cute Disney pyjamas, it’s on your holiday to Walt Disney World! Even more so if you plan on staying at a Disney resort hotel, am I right? Flights from the UK usually land in the afternoon in Orlando, so it’s not likely you will have time to go shopping for cute Disney outfits when you land. Stock up on your character PJs before you go and, if you want to go full Disney-on-tour, get matching ones for the whole family.
What to wear to Disney World
Packing list for Disney – things to bring to Disney World on the day:
If this is your first holiday to Walt Disney World, waking up on your first Disney day and getting ready to go to the parks is one of the most exciting things ever! When it comes to doing a packing list for Disney, my top advice would be not to bring too much stuff with you. It’s inevitable that you will pick up a souvenir or two, plus food, drinks and other extras throughout the day, so try not to leave the hotel with your bag already bulging. However, there are some things that I do recommend to take to Disney to make your day hassle-free, more enjoyable and also to save money:
what to wear to Disney World – the best backpack for Disney World
A backpack is the best bag for Disney
A backpack is definitely the best bag for Disney because it allows you enjoy the parks hands-free and carry all the bits you need (below) without needing to think about it. If you’re going to be wearing it all day, a rucksack is better for your back than a shoulder bag or a tote bag and you won’t spend all day with it annoyingly slipping off your shoulder either. Plus, you are also far less likely to put your bag down and leave it somewhere if you use a backpack for Disney World. There will be a lot going on once you get to the park and you don’t want to mislay your belongings during the excitement.
The other reason that a backpack is the best bag for Disney and the other theme parks is that some attractions require you to place your bag in a locker before riding (examples of this are Hagrid’s Magical Motorbike Adventure at Universal Islands of Adventure and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at Universal Studios). A compact bag that zips up and is quick and easy to place in the locker will speed up the process. The lockers are really small, and oversized tote bags or baskets won’t fit. There are currently no rides at Walt Disney World where you are required to use a locker (it’s unlikely you will be able to use a bag on TRON when it opens in 2021) but there are some attractions where you might want to, such as the Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom (again) and Splash Mountain, because your stuff will get wet!
The best backpack for Disney World is one that has padded shoulders (as opposed to the cord, string type bags), and is made from a waterproof, easily drying material. Go for a backpack with internal pockets for your valuables and some exterior pockets that you can stash things in that you might want to get to easily, like sun cream, your phone or lippie. Lastly, a side pocket to store your water bottle is also a good idea. We love this cute backpack above for its Minnie Mouse vibes. When in Rome and all…
If you would rather pack even lighter, the bag of the moment on every Disney packing list is definitely the 80s bumbag (or ‘fanny pack’ as the Americans call it). This saves the hassle of having a whole bag, whilst giving you a place to store your phone / camera / suncream. The material on the one below makes it a great bag for Disney because its not too kitsch, it’s big enough to actually fit things in and has a handy little pocket at the front. The colour is cute too. Of course, if you’d rather go for one with full Disney branding emblazoned on the front, we aren’t judging!
(even if it is cloudy)
Seems obvious, but I can tell you from multiple trips to Orlando every year, it is not obvious to everyone. I have spotted a lot of sunburn, especially from us Brits, and it’s cringeworthy. The problem with Orlando is that it often looks a bit cloudy and those of us from non-tropical countries take this as ‘not sunny’. However, it is more than possible to get sunburnt through the cloud, especially in Florida because the sun is hot, even when you can’t see it.
My pick is a good quality sun protection that lasts all day. One that I really like is this P20 SPF30. Even if you go for a once-a-day lotion, do take it with you to the parks because you’re going to be outside a lot, often with limited shade and you’ll definitely need a few top ups in places like noses, back of the neck, shoulders and top of your feet. One time to be extra wary of the sun is waiting for the parades at Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. You’ll likely be in the direct sunlight, in the middle of the day and finding your spot and waiting for the show is a great time to give you and the family a little top up.
Bring a refillable water bottle to Disney World
If you have read our Budgeting for Walt Disney World post, you’ll know if you buy a bottle of water at Disney World, it is going to set you back $4 each time. Florida is hot, you’ll be doing a lot of walking, the food is salty… what I’m saying is, you’ll drink a lot of water and you can save a lot of money by bringing your own water bottle.
Yes, you can take your own water bottle into Disney and there are water fountains all over the park for you to fill up. Choose a chilli bottle that will also keep your water cold all day (if you can sneak in a little ice). The Hydrate bottles below have handy cords on them so you can clip them on your bag and not have to hold it all day either, genius.
Wear a hat
Again, it’s sunny. Often really sunny. So, if you are planning what to wear to Disney World, a hat should be at the top of your list. Standing in line, waiting for shows and parades to start and simply wandering around in the tropical sunshine is a recipe for overheating and a bout of sun stroke will seriously spoil your holiday. This one folds and has a decent coverage for your face and the back of your neck.
A waterproof lanyard
Visitors to Walt Disney World who do not have MagicBands, access the park with their physical theme park tickets. As well as providing your fingerprint on the first day, you will need this ticket every time you enter and re-enter a Disney park. As most tickets are valid for 14 days, it’s important that you don’t lose your tickets and also know which ticket belongs to each member of your family. You can also use your physical tickets to request Fastpass+ in the park, and again, you will need them readily available at all times.
TOP TIP: Just in case you do lose your ticket, take a photo of the back of the ticket with all the codes and serial numbers and this will make it quicker and easier to replace your ticket at customer services. We explain everything you need to know about Fastpass+ and MagicBands in our Orlando: frequently asked questions post.
A great way to keep your passes safe is with a waterproof lanyard. These are colour coded and perfect for bigger groups. You can also fit your iPhone inside too, so if you’re on one of the notorious water rides or swimming at Blizzard Beach, you can keep on top of your social media at all times.
READ OUR POST: Where to take the best photos at Walt Disney World
Packing list for Disney – add a hoodie or light jacket to your bag
We know what you’re thinking. ‘It’s August, you’re in Florida, it’s more humid than you’ve ever experienced… a hoodie, you say?’ Believe me, there is surely some scientific fact that the hotter it gets in Orlando, the colder they crank up the air conditioning. Air con at the theme parks is a life saver. After a long afternoon pounding the cobbled streets of Magic Kingdom, a freezing cold gift shop really is the happiest place on earth. However, don’t stay in there too long or you might lose a finger to the frost! It’s wise to take a hoodie for indoor restaurants, indoor attractions and queue lines, or even just to cover over your shoulders if the sun becomes too much.
In the spring, autumn and winter, evenings in Orlando can be cool and so packing a hoodie in your backpack for Disney World will keep you warm if you stick around for the fireworks or decide to go straight out without going back to the hotel.
Fold up, waterproof poncho
I know you’ll think I am obsessed with getting drenched at Disney but I have slip-slopped about in soggy wet clothes and socks after getting a Florida soaking one too many times. I just want to save you from the same fate. If you look at the weather in Orlando at pretty much any time of the year, it will say scattered showers or thunderstorms are predicted at least once a week. Guys – that’s just Florida. Don’t be alarmed if you’re in the UK getting excited about your trip and it looks like all the fun will get rained out. Most of the time, the rain in Florida will last less than ten minutes before reverting back to glorious sunshine. It’s weird, but it’s the truth.
You don’t need a proper waterproof coat for Disney World, we visited Disney during a hurricane and we were still in our shorts and t-shirts. You can buy a poncho at the parks but they are a lot more expensive than if you bring them with you.
Packing list for Florida theme parks – the last few essentials
That’s all the main things covered when deciding what to bring to Disney World, but this final list has just a few, smaller things, I recommend you pop in your bag before you head to the parks. Being prepared means no time wasted and maximum fun can be had on your holiday to Walt Disney World.
PORTABLE PHONE CHARGER
You’ll likely use your phone at lot. WiFi is free in the parks and you can use the My Disney Experience app to sync your family’s Fastpass+, dining reservations and memory maker, plus utilise the maps and queue time checker. The same applies for the Universal Orlando Resort app. Of course, you will definitely take a gazillion photos as well, so invest in a portable charger so you don’t get caught short with no battery life half way through the day.
I use the Anker Power Core, which charges the iPhone 11 four times on a full charge.
America is really strict on drinking laws and Florida is one of the stricter states. If you are over-21 and you want to have an alcoholic drink at the theme parks, you will be asked for I.D. and they may request proof of age even if you are over 50. Take it as a compliment! Passports are the best form of I.D. as there have been times in my personal experience when a UK Driving licence was not accepted.
Are you planning on driving in the USA? We have a very detailed post on driving stateside, insurance and renting a car in America.
PLASTERS (BAND AIDS) AND PARACETAMOL
Blisters, cuts and scrapes, paper cuts… having a few plasters in your pocket will save a lot of time than if you have to head to the medical centre. Rollercoasters in Orlando are brilliant – but if you overdo it, you might need something to cure a headache and they won’t give out medication in the parks, so BYO pills.
BAG OF MIXED NUTS
Slightly random, but if you think you (or one of the family) might get hangry while waiting in line for the attractions, a bag of nuts might get you out of a grumpy situation. Sure, after the ride there are plenty of places to buy food, but when you are stuck in the queue line, you’re on your own. A small bag of nuts usually fits neatly in the bag and won’t get squashed during the day.
So there you have it! That’s everything you need on your packing list for Disney, Universal, SeaWorld and all the other theme parks in Florida. Have we forgotten something? Give us a follow on Instagram and let us know what we’ve left off!
WANT MORE FLORIDA? CHECK OUT SOME MORE OF OUR DISNEY AND ORLANDO POSTS
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An easy guide to buying Orlando theme park tickets
How much does it REALLY cost to go to Walt Disney World?
Why Disney World in 2021 is going to be epic
Where to stay at Universal Orlando Resort – what is the best hotel for you?
Orlando’s best kept secret – Discovery Cove
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Orlando’s closest beach – Daytona Beach. What to do when you get there.
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