This shop featuring my theme park packing tips has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #RoadTripTreats #CollectiveBias
Now that the wee ones aren’t so…. wee, our summers have changed. They haven’t napped in over half their lives, and the local pool doesn’t hold the same attraction it once did. They have fewer day camps and look for more thrills. Last year, we got season passes to our local theme park, and we get our money’s worth from them!
Our first couple trips were fine, but as we go more often, we figured out exactly what to pack to ensure that we have what we need while there – even if we don’t use everything each visit. I wish I’d had these theme park packing tips years ago! We still don’t overpack because no one wants to carry more than they have to, but we have the necessities and rarely have to stop to purchase anything in the park. Our most recent add was ibuprofen, something I forgot when we went with a friend whose daughter had to leave the park due to a bad headache.
We generally don’t have to run to the store each time we go to the theme park, but when we start to run low on any basics, we pop into a Walmart on the way to grab the necessities. The other week, I realized we had a theme of missing items. Can you guess what it was? We picked up and eight pack of 12 ounce 7UP® bottles, RITZ Crisp&Thins, and a bottle of unwrapped TRIDENT spearmint gum.
All these work perfectly for a day at a theme park. The 7UP® bottles are plastic and resealable, plus they’re single serving size. With my family, no caffeine is a requirement, too! The RITZ Crisp&Thins come in a variety of flavors, but I chose the sea salt flavor because that would pair with anything. My daughter begged for salt and vinegar, and I wanted bacon (because mmmm bacon!), but I stuck with the classic. The chips get baked, not fried with 50% less fat per serving than the leading regular fried potato chips (though a heads up – these do contain gluten). Unwrapped TRIDENT means no accidental littering of gum wrappers, and 50 pieces means we won’t run out anytime soon. Can you guess the theme of these three items? They all help my family when they overdo it on rides and start to feel a little motion sick.
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While every theme park has different rules – and I strongly recommend you look them up before you pack your backpack! – this list of theme park packing tips covers everything you need. Note that some allow you to bring in food and drinks while others allow none and still others allow only sealed items. Even if the theme park you visit doesn’t allow food inside, just about every theme park lets you stamp for reentry. If you want to save money, pack those snacks and other food in a cooler in your car and picnic if you can’t bring anything inside.
My other recommendation? Look up the weather before you go, and that includes a last check before you head out the door that morning. In the midwest, our weather changes constantly, so you may realize it’s too hot or that it will pour rain all day. Even check their social media channels. This spring, we planned to visit our local theme park after my daughter’s nearby lacrosse game. Just before we drove over, I saw they announced they were closing at 3pm for the day due to weather. Had we visited only to discover a closed parking lot, she would have been devastated. A last weather check also verifies whether you need to stick the umbrella(s) in your park backpack or if you’re safe leaving it at home.
Either way, use my theme park packing tips printable to help you survive the theme park. I print mine out and laminate it so I can check off each item as I add it to the backpack. I also store it in the backpack (yes, we have a dedicated theme park backpack) so I can find the theme park packing tips easily.
Theme Park Packing Tips
All my theme park packing tips come in a handy printable, too. Just print it out and laminate it so you can use it over and over again. This is perfect for those quick day trips to a theme park and as a reminder for what you need to pack for a bigger vacation where you may visit multiple theme parks over the course of several days.
Small insulated backpack
Our insulated backpack is a lifesaver. We used to carry simply a string backpack, but we realized the strings cut into your shoulders over the course of the day. A school backpack is too big generally, but this backpack is small enough to meet the size requirements of every theme park I’ve visited, and its wide straps make it comfortable to carry all day long. Even my teenage son doesn’t complain when I ask him to carry it.
Bonus? Any theme park drink cups easily attach to the straps so one person can carry everything and not risk forgetting the cup somewhere. It killed me our first few trips to the theme park this year when I saw the yellow yearly cups left all over because people weren’t used to carrying them.
Phone and portable charger
This goes without saying, right? First, remember to charge your phone the night before you go if that isn’t already your habit. The same goes for that portable charger, since they typically take longer to charge than a phone. With all the pictures I tend to take while at a theme park, plus everything else going on, I run my battery down. I learned to always keep a portable charger in my theme park backpack to ensure I don’t get stuck with no battery. Trust me, I’ve been there, and it’s not a good feeling, especially when I have other kids with me.
Theme park passes or tickets
If yo have a season pass, you don’t want to forget it. Trust me, that’s no fun. Check your local theme park though, as many now have apps that store your season pass so you can scan that to enter and not have to bring the pass each time.
On the other hand, if you don’t have a season pass, buy your ticket in advance. Many parks offer discounts or coupons you can use to purchase online ahead of time, which saves you money. As an added bonus, you don’t have to wait in line with everyone who waited to buy tickets at the park. In my mind, the more park time we get, the better! If you buy online, make sure to print your ticket and bring it with you, however! I almost didn’t add this to my theme park packing tips, but then I almost left the house without our season passes. Yikes.
Sunglasses and hats
Protect your eyes and face, and make sure you bring both. I prefer a baseball cap to shade my eyes and face. This helps me avoid heat related issues. Personally, when I don’t wear a hat, I’m far more prone to headaches and migraines. Beyond that, this helps protect your vulnerable face from the sun to some degree. Sunglasses? I can’t go anywhere without them. The last thing I want to do is spend my day squinting. If you have a sunglasses case, add it to your backpack so you can safely store your sunglasses once the sun goes down.
Zip top baggies
These sealed baggies are a lifesaver. I place my phone and portable charger in a sandwich size bag before I go on any water rides to ensure they stay safe. While my insulated backpack tends to repel water, I like that extra layer of protection, pun intended. Zip top baggies work great to hold any leftovers either of my RITZ Crisp&Thins or items I buy in the park that my family doesn’t finish in one sitting. If we couple a water park with the theme park, the gallon size bag readily holds wet swimsuits, too. I also place all our fist aid items in a baggie to ensure they stay together just in case we need them.
Mini first aid kit
This all goes in a sandwich size baggie. I add antibacterial ointment, bandages, a few Ibuprofen in a pillbox, and motion sickness meds (if my husband joins us). For a single day at the park, we don’t need more than that, and if there’s a larger issue, theme parks always have a first aid stand. If we can handle it easily, I prefer to avoid taking the time to go there, however! Luckily, none of my kids have serious allergies or asthma, but if yours do, make sure you include an asthma inhaler or Epi Pen, as needed.
When it’s hot out, my kids love water rides. What they don’t love? The soaking wet shoes that somehow stay wet through the next day. Couple that with the fact that wet sneakers are more likely to rub and cause blisters, and we pack a pair of flip flops for each person. When we head to a water ride, we swap shoes and put the sneakers in the backpack (inside a gallon size baggie because my kids and their feet!). They wear flip flops on the ride and until their feet dry then put their socks and shoes back on.
Sunscreen and bug spray
On my Facebook feed yesterday, I saw three friends complaining about sunburn and how they weren’t sure they could go forward with their plans for the day. No one wants to deal with sunburn. When you wait in ride lines, you often don’t realize how much sun you’re getting. Apply sunscreen before you get to the park, then apply again throughout the day to ensure you stay safe.
While many theme parks spray for bugs, not all do and not all efforts are effective. Make sure to protect yourself, especially if you’re in a region here Zika has been found. Generally, bugs are out in early morning and later in the day. By the time we arrive, bugs are gone, but we need to apply bug spray in the evenings. Aside from bites, it’s no fun to constantly swat them away as you walk through the park or wait in line.
Drinks and snacks
Even if you go to a theme park that doesn’t allow food and drinks inside the park, you can still leave the park and reenter after a picnic. RITZ Crisp&Thins make a perfect complement to so many foods. We tend to pack these with cheese (kept cold with ice packs) and fruit and often beef jerky or salami. They make a fantastic meal or snack throughout the day.
We also bring the 7UP® eight pack of 12 ounce bottles. The resealable bottles make it perfect to drink some and save some for later in the parks. The 12 ounce bottles help control servings, too. As a bonus, when a kid (or my husband) overdoes it on a ride the 7UP® helps settle their stomachs. For the theme parks that don’t allow outside food or beverages, we pack these in the cooler for picnics during busy ride times (e.g., don’t eat right at noon when everyone else does).
Our local theme park is one that doesn’t allow food and drinks inside the park. We still need to stay hydrated during the day, so we purchased their season long refillable containers. This makes financial sense and allows my family to refill as needed. We have a rule that they can refill only once during the day for portion control. Fortunately, our park also offers to fill these containers with water, which we do often. If you plan to only visit for the day, bring your own (empty) insulated water bottle and have them fill that!
I always travel with gum. I bet you didn’t expect to see this one on my theme park packing tips. Why do I bring it? Aside from the obvious reason to freshen breath throughout the day, we use the TRIDENT spearmint gum to help my family when someone starts to feel a little motion sick. This may not work for everyone, but the mint definitely helps my family. One note – make sure you throw the gum away in a garbage can before you go on the next ride. You don’t want to have issues on the ride while chewing gum, and no one wants to accidentally discover your improperly discarded gum.
Pick up the TRIDENT Unwrapped Bottles for the park. They come with 50 pieces of gum in a plastic bottle that won’t get soaked on water rides. Have you ever forgotten to take a regular pack of gum from your pocket? Oops! Because each piece is unwrapped, I can dole out a piece on the go without worrying about finding a garbage for the wrapper or discovering the wrapper in someone’s pocket after I do a load of laundry. Been there, too.
Small wallet or phone case with storage
When we visit a theme park, we have the backpack. The last thing I want to do is carry my entire purse, too. Ergo, this gets added to my theme park packing list. My husband uses a money clip, and this works great for women when you head to a theme park. I purchased a phone case that has a sliding back to store items. It holds my driver’s license, a credit card, and some cash. Aside from that, put your medical insurance card with your first aid kit in the baggie, and you’re set. My phone with this case still fits in a sandwich size baggie. Check your case or small wallet to see what size bag you need. You may want to “upgrade” to a quart size.
Battery operated personal fan
Growing up, my mom bought us a battery operated fan attached to a spray bottle. We used it that day in the park, but we didn’t often after that. The cool mist felt great, but it was awkward to carry and took up a lot of room. My daughter has a personal fan smaller than her hand that we tend to use instead on hot days. This one is small enough to easily slip in the backpack. As an added bonus, we don’t run the risk of water leaking over anything else we packed.
How many times have you gone to a theme park and sat down at a table to find it had something a little sticky still on it? Or a kid touched something gross. Or you ate something sticky, juicy, or otherwise messy? All those occasions and more are a great time to pull out the wipes container and clean off hands, faces, or tables. There are plenty of times napkins just won’t do!
Weather dependent items
Check the weather before you go. These items fall under “optional” in my theme park packing tips. That said, you don’t want to ruin your day because of weather. If you have a chance of rain, bring along ponchos and/or an umbrella. The rain may not last the entire day. Even if it rains for part of the day, not all rides generally close. Our local theme park has several indoor rides that tend to stay open. We’ve done one ride over and over in the rain while everyone else abandoned the park. The usual 70+ minute wait was nonexistent, and my kids loved it. Ok, so did I.
Even when it’s hot during the day, once the sun goes down, it can cool off quickly. It’s July, and the last time we visited our local theme park, my friend and I shivered once the sun went down. It was in the mid 80s during the day, but even 60s without sun feels cold! Check the temps for the whole day you plan to visit the park, and bring a light jacket if needed.
What are your theme park packing tips? Did I miss anything?
The next time you head to a theme park, use my theme park packing tips printable. It’s the perfect way to ensure you have what you need. Stop by Walmart on your way, and pick up anything you don’t already have, whether it be 7UP® bottles, RITZ Crisp&Thins, and a bottle of unwrapped TRIDENT spearmint gum or something else entirely!