Updated on September 1, 2020 by Asher Fergusson
But to fully enjoy your theme park experience takes a bit of planning ahead. I’ve put together this theme park packing list to help you know what to bring. Additionally, you’ll information on what to wear to a theme park, what NOT to bring, seasonal information, and FAQs.
What to pack for a theme park trip – 17 essentials
There’s no way around it—theme parks require a lot of walking. They also involve a lot of water rides, which means the odds are very high that you will get wet at some point during your visit. Walking and mushy, wet shoes are not a good combination. Grab a pair of waterproof sneakers that are comfortable to walk in whether they are wet or dry.
2. Chilly Pad
From misters to large ceiling fans, theme parks do their best to keep you cool throughout your visit. Still, there’s just no getting around it—theme parks can be extremely hot, especially at those peak hours between noon and 4pm. A cooling towel can help stave off the heat.
Whether it’s capturing the perfect selfie with your favorite character or using apps that help you navigate park maps and ride wait times, odds are high that you will be using your cell phone a lot during your theme park visit. A compact, lipstick-sized charger will help make sure all that use won’t leave you with a dead battery.
4. Blister Balm
Visitors to theme parks love to swap stories of how many miles they walked in a single day. The numbers can be pretty impressive, with many people averaging upwards of 12 miles a day and more! Make sure you have blister balm on hand. It will help keep your feet up to the task.
Water is a necessity for making it through long days and long waits in line, but buying water in theme parks can be hard on your pocketbook. While you can always use public drinking fountains, germs are always a concern. Bring along a water bottle with a built-in filter to help fend off harmful bacteria and parasites. Your tummy (and your wallet) will thank you.
Water rides are a theme park crowd-pleaser for a reason. Not only are they are exhilarating, but that fresh spray of water offers respite from the heat of the day—unless that fresh spray of water advertised ends up resembling something closer to a tidal wave. Take heed if the ride warns “You will get wet!” Pack a poncho to make sure your water ride experience doesn’t turn into an-all-day soggy clothes extravaganza. Cute patterned ponchos can even be a part of the fun, building in a bit of costume and whimsy into your theme park adventure. Because if you can’t wear pink polka-dotted ponchos to Disneyland, where can you??
7. Travel Towel
Parades are a perennial favorite at theme parks, but spaces get filled up fast. Make sure you aren’t left standing in a cramped corner by bringing along a travel towel that serves double duty—it can help you dry off after a water ride, but also serves as a picnic blanket to sit on for optimal parade viewing! Compact travel towels like this one even come with storage bags, making for easier transport.
Between glittering lights, the scent of baked goods, and crowds moving in all directions, finding specifics things you have packed in a stroller or in your backpack can be challenging. Keep everything organized with packing cubes.
Many rides require you to leave your belongings safely in a locker. When they don’t, it’s nice to have a lightweight backpack that can effortlessly go on the ride with you. Make sure it is waterproof to best protect everything inside.
11. Hand Sanitizer
Frequent hand washing is a must when visiting a theme park — after all, those safety bars and handrails you are utilizing are touched by hundreds of other hands in a day! Washing your hands after every single ride isn’t always feasible though. A good bottle of hand sanitizer is the next best thing.
12. Neck Wallet
While theme parks can be rightfully proclaimed some of the most magical places on earth, that doesn’t make them immune to pickpockets or wallets taking flight on an exhilarating roller coaster ride, never to be seen again in the depths of a ride’s mechanics. Don’t be a victim to either by using a neck wallet that is built to stave off pickpockets and forgetfulness.
When you are taking the plunge on a rafting ride or a tall flume ride, you don’t want to be thinking about capturing the perfect picture. A waterproof camera that is not only built so sustain water but also to take voice commands can help you capture memories so you can focus on enjoying the ride.
The odds that something will go wrong while you are traveling to a theme park are pretty low, but if something does go wrong, medical bills can be hefty. A travel insurance policy can not only keep you protected, it can also give you peace of mind.
16. Deodorant Wipes
17. Bug Spray
The only critters you want to encounter at a theme park are the cute cuddly kinds that starred in your favorite movies. Keep the other less desirable critters away with a bug spray that is suitable not only yourself, but for your children.
Other theme park trip list items NOT to forget
Travel curling iron
Notebook or journal
TSA-approved travel-sized bottles
Re-usable storage bag
Electric hand warmer
Stain remover pen
Trail Mix packed in Reusable Snack Bags
What to wear at a theme park
Planning what to wear for a theme park trip can be tricky. You don’t want to wear extra clothes that will weigh you down when standing in line or walking from ride to ride. On the other hand, you don’t want to be left too hot or too cold. Many people find the deceptive heat of the day luring them into tank tops and shorts without packing any extra layers to accommodate night’s cooler temperatures. While souvenir shops are happy to sell branded sweatshirts to patrons in need of an extra layer, your pocketbook will thank you if you pack an extra layer or two of your own in advance.
During warmer months, it is probably a pretty safe bet to wear shorts and t-shirts as temperatures tend to stay warm even into the evening. But check the night temperatures for the dates you are visiting, because even warmer climates such as Florida or California can get surprisingly cold at night!
Remember to consider the climate of your theme park destination. Florida, for example, can be particularly hot and muggy, and lightweight clothes are almost a requirement. California, on the other hand, is similarly hot but doesn’t carry the same level of humidity. Check the weather forecast for the days you will be visiting to best know what to pack.
SPRING: (March, April, May)
– While theme parks might look bright in sunny in TV commercials, you might find them to be more cloudy and rainy than warm if you are traveling during Spring months. This can be good for staving off crowds, but just remember to dress accordingly by packing an appropriate rain jacket , a compact travel umbrella in case it gets drizzly, and a versatile scarf to keep exposed areas of your neck and face warm if needed. Don’t forget water resistant shoes that can handle rain as well.
SUMMER: (June, July, August)
– In general, summer months are hot—scorching hot. For the most part, shorts, short-sleeved shirts, closed-toe sandals, and comfortable sneakers are the standard attire. However, don’t forget to check evening temperatures and pack a light jacket or sweater just in case you need it.
FALL: (September, October, November)
– Theme parks can be incredibly fun in the fall when the holiday seasons begin to set in. From apple pies to Halloween festivities, there’s something especially magical about this time of year. But as the air gets a bit crisper and colder, layers can be especially important. During the fall it isn’t unwise to allow your attire to skew a bit more towards the warm side with jeans, a light jacket, scarf, and comfortable shoes.
WINTER: (December, January, February)
– As the holiday season approaches, theme parks are at their most enchanting as things really begin to light up. Food offerings become warmer with specialty hot chocolates, and rides are even converted to accommodate the time of year. Your wardrobe should adapt to the colder climate as well. Don’t forget to have a warm jacket and scarf on hand, and consider wearing comfortable shoes that are a bit on the warmer side (or can at least be paired with warmer socks).
What NOT to bring on a Theme Park trip
1) Unnecessary valuables: While theme parks are one of the most magical places in the world, they aren’t immune from thievery or loss. It is better to leave your fancy jewelry at home, especially meaningful pieces… unless you want them to take up permanent residence in the mechanical underbellies of your favorite roller coaster or flume ride.
2) Restricted items: It is fairly obvious why some items such as pocket knives and other weapons aren’t allowed at theme parks, but other restrictions are not so clear. For example, did you know remote-control toys are a no-no in Disney parks? The specific list of restricted items is worth taking a glance at, whatever park you are visiting.
3) Alcohol: Alcohol technically falls under the restricted items list, but deserves special attention. Most parks have their own on-site restaurants if you are hoping to enjoy a glass of wine or a beer, so leave the liquor at home.
- High Heels: Unless you find high heels as comfortable as your favorite pair of sneakers, they will be pretty out of place in a theme park. And with pathways and scenic designs featuring all kinds of crooks and crannies for skinny stilettos to get stuck in, high heels can also be dangerous.
- Open Toe Shoes: With crowds moving back and forth in rather erratic herds, open-toed shoes are practically begging for your toes to get stepped on over and over again.
- Clothing That Is Too Revealing: Generally speaking, theme parks are intended to be a place where people of all persuasions can come together to have a good time. While revealing clothing isn’t technically against the rules, it might be “bad form” (as Captain Hook might say).
- Cosplay: With the advent of comic conventions and YouTube tutorials by the thousands, many people have gotten incredibly good at achieving professional-level costumes. When it comes to theme parks, it’s best to leave them at home, though. Most parks ban cosplay for anyone over the age of 7 or 8.
FAQs about theme park trips
1.) What is the difference between a theme park and an amusement park?
In short, amusement parks are centered around roller coasters, midways, and rides that aren’t designed to match any particular theme. You aren’t as likely to see your favorite movie or literature characters appear. Theme parks, on the other hand, are based around a central idea.
2.) What is the number 1 amusement park in America?
AECOM and the Themed Entertainment Association release a yearly report covering the top theme park attendance numbers from all around the world. In 2019, Disneyworld’s Magic Kingdom came out on top with over 20 million visitors annually. California’s Disneyland came in a close second with over 18 million visitors.
3.) What is the number 1 amusement park in the world?
With over 20 million visitors last year, Disneyworld’s Magic Kingdom holds the ranking for the number 1 amusement park not only in America but in the entire world. In fact, Disney properties held 2019’s top four attendance spots between Disneyworld, Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, and Tokyo Disneysea.
4.) Is Disney California or Florida better?
Which is better between Disney California and Disney Florida is largely a matter of personal preference. Disney Florida contains four theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and the Animal Kingdom. Disney California has two properties: Disney California Adventure and Disneyland.
For those who have several days to spend, a trip to Florida might be better because not only are there more Disney parks to explore, but there are also nearby Universal properties to mix things up a bit. However, for its special sense of nostalgia and history, many feel there’s nothing that quite compares to the original Disneyland in California.
5.) Why are there no mosquitoes at Disneyworld?
Many visitors might wonder why there is one critter that seems to be magically missing from the happiest place on earth: mosquitoes.
It turns out that the parks are engineered to be as non-welcoming to mosquitoes as possible. From engineering the rides, buildings, and landscapes to prevent standing water in any form (yup, even the swamp water in the Jungle Cruise is constantly circulating) to liquid garlic sprays that act as a natural mosquito repellant, Disney engineers are hard at work to keep the parks pest free.
6.) Where can I get discount tickets for Disneyland or Universal Studios?
Discount tickets for Disneyland or Universal Studios can typically be found through AAA or even at a local Costco. But members of the military, school teachers, college and other students, as well as employees or certain companies can also find discount tickets through other sources.
The important thing is to confirm the source is reliable. Be wary of tickets sold secondhand—you might find yourself at the ticket gate with a pass you bought at full price only to make the unfortunate discovery that you can’t use it for one reason or another.
7.) What is the least crowded time of year to visit a Disney or Universal theme park?
In general, the most crowded time of year to visit a Disney or Universal theme park is during major holidays, as well as most of the summer. Crowd calendars for each park can help you determine the best place to visit, and crowds are fairly consistently smaller during colder months of the year (such as January). You should keep other factors in mind as well though, including seasonal events, temperature, operating hours, weather forecasts, and even the schedule of new ride or land openings.
8.) Can I bring my own food and beverages into a theme park?
Each theme park has its own rules, but in general, guests can bring their own food inside so long as that food is not contained in a glass container. Alcoholic beverages are also typically a no-no. Here is a full list of Disneyland’s food and beverage rules. Universal’s food and beverage rules are a bit more specific.