What’s in your backpack?
A well-stocked pack can help you make your day at Disneyland, Six Flags or Universal Studios a more enjoyable one, providing you with the stuff you’ll need to stay healthy and comfortable. Well-chosen supplies also can help prevent minor annoyances from becoming day-wrecking disasters.
Yet, unless you’re the new owner of Hermione’s purse, you won’t want to cram too much stuff into your pack, making it too heavy and bulky to carry comfortably around the park all day.
So here is Theme Park Insider’s list of backpack essentials. Remember that not everyone needs to carry all of these items, but that someone in the group should have each one.
1. Ponchos or rain jackets
Why spend big bucks to outfit everyone with rain ponchos when the summer afternoon thunderstorm hits? Buy your ponchos in advance for a fraction of the cost you’ll pay inside the theme park.
Check the weather forecast before you leave, though. If it will rain much of the day, bring a more comfortable hooded rain jacket instead. (And check our tips for visiting a theme park in the rain.)
You can skip the rain gear only if you’ll be visiting a Southern California theme park between Father’s Day and Labor Day. You’ll have zilch chance of getting caught in the rain then.
Which you selected and bought in advance, right?
3. AAA card
An auto club membership card can be used for in-park food and merchandise discounts at Universal, SeaWorld/Busch Gardens and Legoland theme parks. It’s a great buy for most theme park fans, but only if you remember to bring it, and use it.
4. Water-proof zipped bags
If you’ll be riding any water rides, you’ll want to keep your cell phone and camera dry. A zipped baggie does the job just fine, if you aren’t going to leave your electronic items in a locker, or with a friend or family member who isn’t riding.
5. Reusable water bottle
Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day (and the day before your trip!) Rather than paying for expensive plastic bottled water, or worse, drinking expensive sodas, bring your own water bottle and refill it as needed throughout the day. You can use self-serve drink stations for water fill-ups, if you don’t like fountains or they’re not available.
You don’t want to (a) fry to crisp on a sunny summer day or (b) pat $20+ a bottle inside the park. Bring your own so you can reapply as needed throughout the day.
7. Simple first aid supplies
A blister or scrape can ruin a day, if left untreated. So pack a few adhesive bandages, pain pills, and a small tube of antibiotic ointment. You don’t want to pay theme park prices for these, or lose time in the park filling out paperwork at the first aid station for something small.
8. Change of clothes (including underwear) or swimsuit
These are a must if you’ll be riding any water rides. Some parks now have “family dryers” next to flume rides’ exits, but even those won’t get your underwear dry. (Plus, a couple minutes in the dryer often costs $5.) Some folks prefer to change into a swimsuit before going on water rides (check if park rules permit this), while others prefer to change into dry clothes afterward. Bring a small towel, too, if you’ll be visiting a water park. Many parks don’t provide them.
Water-proof zipped bags (see item #2) are helpful to store soaked clothes, so they don’t get everything else in the backpack wet.
9. Snacks for kids under 8
Some parks continue to prohibit bringing in outside food. I’m also a fan of making meals part of the theme park experience. But little kids who need a small snack between meals shouldn’t have to rely on sugary or fat-laden theme park treats. Pack a few granola bars, grapes or other favorite to help keep your little ones happy before their tummies make them grumpy.
This can be your cell phone camera, or a regular digital camera. But be sure to use this as soon as your arrive – to take a photo of where you park.