All of the Disney Essentials to Buy BEFORE Your Trip for Maximum Savings

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two little girls chat with cinderella at a disney character meeting. they are wearing dresses that match hers.
On our things to buy before Disney list? Disney princess costumes. Our Disney savings really add up when we pack these! Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

A Disney vacation makes once-in-a-lifetime memories. One thing you don’t want to cloud those memories? Overspending. And those add-ons — from plastic rain ponchos to darling princess dresses — can really add up! This list has all of the Disney essentials you want to buy before Disney to get the same awesome experience without the higher price points.

image of the pool in front of the grand floridian resort at walt disney world blue water with palm trees and a red roof topped white building
The pool at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist

Practical Disney Essentials to Buy Before You Go

1. Sunscreen

You know what makes your day at EPCOT miserable? A toddler with a sunburn. Don’t forget this Disney must-have because it’s a pricey gift shop purchase in the hotel or the Disney parks.

And remember, sunscreen has a “Use By” date printed on it. I scored sunscreen on markdown at the end of the summer at Target, getting a three-pack of aerosol bottles for just $2.99. Buy this before your Disney vacation and score major savings.

Heads up – if you’re traveling with only a carry-on, this won’t be an option for you. Make sure to put bottles of sunscreen into Ziploc bags when packing them in checked luggage. You don’t want any messy surprises!

Read More: Best Sunscreens for Babies and Kids

She BuysTravel Tip: You can now book Disney vacations up to 500 days in advance! That means you can book now for visits in 2024 with just a $200 down payment. Your balance isn’t due until 30 days prior to travel. For more details and help booking reach out to our partners at Get Away Today. Not only does the company have the lowest prices, it offers a best-price guarantee. If you ever find park tickets cheaper, Get Away Today won’t just match the price, they will beat it.

2. Aloe Vera

Even if you regularly slather on the sunscreen, chances are someone will end up with a sunburn. It just happens. The excitement, the heat, the sweat. Be prepared by bringing aloe vera to soothe sore spots. I’m a huge fan of the kind that comes in tubs. Less potential for mess. A new find I love has been aloe vera wipes, perfect for us carry-on queens.

Read More: Best Lightweight Carry-On Luggage – Under Seat and Overhead

SheBuysTravel Pick
Rainy day at Disney World
Buy ponchos for a rainy day at Disney World. Photo credit: Breeze Leonard

3. Rain Ponchos

When it rains at Disney, this magical theme park becomes a sea of Mickey ponchos. At roughly $12 per poncho, it would cost $72 to cover my family of 6 — an entirely unnecessary spend. I found heavy ponchos with reusable pouches for $3 (kids) and $4 (adults) at Walmart. The bonus was that my family stood out with our red and blue ponchos, making the kids easier to spot when we were walking in the rain or riding one of the you-always-get-soaked water rides like Kali River Rapids.

I also love these adult ponchos from Amazon. They call them disposable but they’re sturdy! You can use these throughout your whole trip without ripping them. In the spirit of keeping things dry, we also recommend looking at a backpack rain cover. Keep all your belongings dry with a bright cover that doubles as a clear visual for the kids to find you.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Don’t get really cheap and buy the plastic ponchos from the Dollar Store. They rip.

SheBuysTravel Pick
Hagon PRO Disposable Rain Ponchos
$14.99 $12.99
Buy Now
03/09/2024 03:11 pm GMT
mom wearing Minnie ears and son at disney
Buy Disney ears BEFORE you got to Diseny! Photo credit: Grisell DeNapoles

Disney Must-Haves to Beat the Heat

4. Misting Fans and Cooling Towels

In case you haven’t heard, Walt Disney World is in Florida. Florida is hot. In some months, unbearably so. It can get pretty toasty in Anaheim, California, home of Disneyland, as well.

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Things we always buy before Disney to help with the heat? Cooling towels and misting fans. A misting fan can go a long way in lowering the whining levels of little ones during long wait times.

SheBuysTravel Pick

5. Water Bottle

Dehydration is a very real danger when it’s hot. Having a water bottle for everyone will help combat that. You can get free refills of ice water from any Disney quick-service restaurant. It’s one of the best free things at Disney.

Kiddo doesn’t like water? Bring a few flavor packets and turn that free water into lemonade or an electrolyte drink.

I love these water bottles that clip onto things. Even the kids’ water bottles with built-in straws have convenient carrying loops.

Disney Must Haves: Food

6. Snacks

Bringing our own food has saved us at least $50 every day we’re in the parks. Best part? You’re not surviving on granola bars. We’ve got a whole list of varied snack and food ideas. You can carry food into the parks. We like using a backpack cooler.

7. Coffee Options

As a must-have-coffee-now person, I know that the in-room coffee choices at the most magical place on earth are not super magical.

In the parks, you’ll find Starbucks locations, but the lines can be brutal. My husband needs coffee before he can get out the door and be functional. I always pack some instant coffee packs like Cafe Bustelo or even the Starbucks Via mixes. If you need an in-park pick-me-up, dump one into a water bottle for instant iced coffee. For me, a Disney essential is definitely a well-caffeinated parental unit.

If you are driving, never underestimate the power of ready-to-drink iced lattes. Bring a bunch. Stick a couple in the fridge and you’re good to go.

Heading to Animal Kingdom with toddlers? The drums are always a hit!
Heading to Animal Kingdom with toddlers? The drums are always a hit! Be sure to pack sunglasses and hats. It can get HOT! Photo Credit: Nasreen Stump

Disney Must Haves: Clothing Items to Consider

8. Sunglasses & Hats

Our Disney essentials include sunglasses and hats for all family members. We always include a few extras. Our teen son has a habit of putting his hat into the mesh pocket on roller coasters and walking off without it. We jokingly got him this one and he STILL lost it!

9. Disney Pajamas

You can often score Disney t-shirts and pajamas at a steep discount. If you don’t want to head out of your house to hunt for deals, head to shopDisney.

Read More: Disney Family T-Shirts – Funny, Cute and Clever Options

Disneybound outfit as Minnie Mouse.
Disneybounding is easy — buy a cute polka-dot dress before you head to the parks. Photo credit: Sarah Gilliland

10. Comfy Disneybounding Options

Think you might take part in Disneybounding? We love this super comfy skirt option. It comes in a variety of colors so that you can be inspired by almost any Disney character. Or go the full dress route with a vintage-inspired beauty that comes in a rainbow of options.

Read More: What is Disneybounding?

11. Slide Sandals

Remember when we mentioned that it POURS at Disney sometimes? My kids take after me and hate having wet shoes.

We always carry a Cotopaxi backpack. As soon as it starts raining I pull out the slides and we tuck away their shoes to stay dry. They don’t take up much room in the bag and it stops a lot of whining. Plus we’ll use the slides at pools and water parks too.

12. Disney Sweatshirt or Jacket for Chilly Nights

Even though the Disney parks are located in warm-weather states, you’ll be glad to have a sweatshirt or jacket with you once the sun sets. Honestly, this one isn’t even as much about the savings as being able to pick one that is your taste. If you wait until you’re there you’ll see the same Disney sweatshirt options in every store, and on everyone.

Disney Must Haves: Cell Phone Accessories

13. Portable Charger

Disney sucks the juice from phones the way a toddler empties a Capri Sun — FAST. Bring backup power for your phone so you don’t have to search for a spot to plug in (or buy a pricey Fuel Rod).

When it comes to chargers, name brand really does matter. I’ve received a lot of the lipstick chargers and promo ones and eventually, they stop working, usually at the worst possible moment. I recommend (and carry) an Anker charger. These chargers come with an 18-month warranty and even the cheapest model will get you three full phone charges. I do recommend paying the extra $10 for the model that comes with a USB-C port.

SheBuysTravel Pick

14. Longer Phone Charging Cord

Let’s face it, in the battle of phone charging cords at Disney, size does matter. Plugs are sometimes a little bit hidden, so the longer your cord, the better chance you have of reaching it. This is a convenience item that we highly recommend.

This pack comes with 6 (!) cords for under $12. I set the extras aside for when my kids steal my cords or claim they can’t find theirs. I also keep a backup in my purse and car.

Don’t want to fish around in your bag trying to find the ends of cords? Cord management is a breeze with these cord ties. Or go next level with this cord-organizing case.

15. PopSocket

Disney doesn’t allow selfie sticks, but there are other ways to take creative pictures of your family on your trip. With a PopSocket you can pop it out, lean your phone and take a cool picture of the whole group, including you!

I particularly love this one because it’s a combo phone wallet/PopSocket (and Stitch is my favorite). I like to bring at least my ID into the parks even if I’m using my MagicBand to pay. Looking for something a little cheaper? Try this PopSocket Kickstand.

16. Wireless Headphones Case

My teens don’t go anywhere without their wireless headphones–this includes Disney. Practice good line etiquette by wearing these when watching videos in line! Keep them contained in cute protective character-themed cases.

young girl with her hair in pigtail buns looks over the rail at Disneyland's big thunder mountain railroad
Packing some basic health and safety basics for Disney is a smart move. Photo credit: Christy Emmanuel

Disney Must Haves: Health and Safety Essentials

17. Masks

Masks are no longer required at Disney, but if Covid taught me anything it was that people are gross. I usually have one on hand just in case a symphony of sneezing, coughing, snarfling and phlegm gymnastics happens in a confined space.

And on the topic of masks, do yourself a favor. Bring mints or gum to keep everything fresh and pleasant whether you’re wearing a mask or not. You can’t buy gum at Disney!

18. Friction Stick

What is friction stick you might be asking? Have you heard of Disney rash? Ever been in a Disney planning group when people start talking about thigh burn? This will save you and that’s priceless. Basically, it’s like deodorant for your inner thighs and prevents painful chafing. It’s a must!

19. Hand Sanitizer

Keep sanitizer close at hand with silicone holders that can be attached to belt loops, backpacks and strollers.

20. Basic First Aid Kit

Yes, Disney does have First Aid Centers in the parks. You can go to them to get basics like bandages and basic over-the-counter medications, but it’s cheaper and easier to bring some basic supplies with you. I LOVE this container for medicines– it’s compact and sorts everything. It also works surprisingly well for packing stud earrings when traveling.

Most of the First Aid Centers are in the front of the park and blisters usually happen well into a long day. Save the pain of limping to the front and do two things:

Buy Before Disney: Fun Disney Essentials

21. Glow Sticks/Light Up Toys

When the parade at Magic Kingdom starts and every other kid has a glowing light toy or a bubble blower, you can guarantee your toddler will find them fascinating. Meanwhile, you’ll find the price to buy one at Disney mind-boggling,

At night glow sticks and spinning light toys pop up everywhere. Pick up a few packs of glow stick bracelets, wands and necklaces for big Disney savings. These may not be “Disney must haves” but if you’ve got toddlers, you will definitely hear about everyone else’s glow toys. It’s fun to be able to surprise them without breaking the bank.

Want more than the plain Dollar Store offerings? Head to a Disney Outlet and still save money, even for the fancy light wands. Or buy them online ahead of your trip.

A quick PSA: You know your kids best. If you’ve got one that’s a bit clumsy it may be worth the splurge in park for the bubble wand. Why? Well, if it stops working while you’re at Disney, they’ll replace it.

22. Disney Must Have: Costumes for the Kiddos

A favorite tradition of ours was our girls waking up at the hotel on their first morning at Walt Disney World to find a dress left for them by a “princess.” By keeping an eye on shopDisney emails, I am usually able to snag these on sale. Timing wise, deals tend to happen before Halloween, between Halloween and Christmas and then around April. Check out these adorable costumes from shopDisney! I’m also eyeing this adorable light-up princess dress. How amazing would this be for nighttime castle pics?!?!

On one Walt Disney World visit, I spied the exact same Belle dress my girls were wearing for more than twice what I paid for it.

23. Autograph Book

A popular toddler and kid activity at Disney is collecting the autographs of various characters as you wander the parks or attend character meals. Autograph books in the parks run close to $20 for the cheapest option and go up from there. We made our own out of dollar store notebooks and Disney princess stickers.

Disney pin trading tips for first timers.
Many Disney cast members wear pin trading lanyards. Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen

24. Disney Pins/Lanyard

Pin trading is a fun way to find unique souvenirs. It can also be something new to do for repeat visitors. Pins need to be Official Disney Pins with the Mickey-shaped backing on them in order to be traded.

I bought several at the Disney Store Outlet for $4.95 each to get each of my kiddos started. Another way to save is to purchase a starter set of pins to trade. You can also buy a lanyard. Unpopular opinion – I actually dislike the lanyard method. Not only were most too long for my younger kids, but the pins kept coming loose. We use small zippered pouches to sort. Each kiddo gets a different color.

Are pins at Disney must-have? You can do a trip without them, but in my opinion, it makes the trip really fun for kids (and adults). There’s something about hunting down that perfect pin.

If you wait to buy pins in the Disney parks they start at $7.95 and go up from there. Lanyards run close to $15.

Winnie the Pooh Pin Set
$23.99
Buy Now
04/13/2024 01:00 am GMT

25. Mouse Ear Headbands

Getting a new pair of Mouse Ear Headbands at the park might sound like a fun idea, but have you ever exhaustingly stood beside a tween while they try on every pair and attempt to make up their mind? Save money, time and your sanity by grabbing Mickey ears ahead of time. Who knows, you might even be able to score a limited release that you can’t find at the parks when you arrive. We’ve also seen great deals on this Disney must-have at warehouse stores like Sam’s Club and Costco.

If you’re like me and have that one child who will repeatedly misplace them, buy a multipack of cheap ones for Disney savings. Your blood pressure will thank you when they suddenly don’t know where their third look of the day is.

26. Plan for Pressed Pennies.

We used to advise to pack change but times have altered that. Elongated pennies are still a Disney must-have that will save you on souvenirs. However, only some machines still take cash. The remaining machines take credit cards only. Pressing a penny costs $1. The credit card machines allow you to buy 8 presses for $5.

What Disney must have should you bring now to save? The collectible booklets to put the pennies into. Pack one and pop the pennies in as you gather them. They’ll stay safe and you won’t be tempted by a pricier version in the parks. Have several kids interested? The 3-pack offers greater Disney savings.

Read More: 25+ Free Things at Disney

What to Buy For Your Disney Trip: Advanced Disney Savings

27. Discount Gift Cards

The art of discount Disney gift cards is truly that – an art. Disney gift cards can be used across the parks for everything from dining to hotel rooms to souvenirs. Plan ahead and shop sales to turn your Disney budget up a notch.

For example, my local grocery chain, HEB, recently offered a coupon to buy $100 in Disney gift cards and save $20. Using my husband and my son’s mobile apps, we purchased $300 worth of Disney gift cards for $240. These deals tend to pop up starting in November and run through the Christmas season. Sam’s Club also runs discounted gift card deals.

In addition, you can purchase Disney gift cards at Target using your Red Card for an everyday savings of at least 5%.

Overall, one of the biggest tips I can give is to use a packing list! Print it out and check it twice for Disney World essentials. Nothing makes the cost of a Disney vacation skyrocket like items you forgot to bring. 

6 responses


  1. very good tips what about tips for senions on a fixed income where to stay in disney world and is the first or second week of december a good time to visit to see christmas

  2. Dear parents! Let the kids choose their favourite Disney Parks souvenirs!!! When the kids are very good, then they deserve more souvenirs. Every good behaviour kid should have 1-2 bags of Disney Parks souvenirs: 1-2 plush toys, 1 bubble blower, 1 Mickey ears, 2 t-shirts, 1 jacket, 1 drinking bottle, and some pins or magnets. Please buy only those Disney Parks souvenirs, what the kids very want!!!! I know many Disney souvenirs are very expensive, but when the kids are very good all the times, then sometimes they deserve these things!!! Please be kind parents and make Your kids very happy with these Disney Parks souvenirs, what the kids have chosen and don’t say NO all the times, when the kids very deserves those Disney Parks souvenirs for good behaviour!!!

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  4. how did you get the disney outlet emails? I can’t seem to find the website.

    1. Looked back in my email and it comes from DisneyStore.com but mine often has outlet specials in it- maybe because I am located near one and it knows that from my zip code?

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