Each day that we visit the parks is a day full of decisions: what park we’re going to, what clothes to wear, where to eat, etc.  And one of the biggest decisions you’ll make each visit is what you’ll be carrying with you into the park that day and how you’ll be carrying it.  This might seem like small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, but it can really change your day.  For example, your child got a cut, do you have an adhesive bandage?  Or maybe it starts raining, did you bring a poncho?  Or you’re doing an Ultimate Touring Plan, did you remember some protein bars so you don’t have to stop to eat?  A charger or extra batteries for your cell phone.  Do you have enough room for everything?

Mmmm... Carrot Cake Cookie
Mmmm... Carrot Cake Cookie

The items we need in the parks are as diverse as we are, and so are the bags we carry them in.  With the help of this past Sunday’s TouringPlans meet attendees, I wanted to touch on the variety of the bags that we take with us into the parks.  Thanks to everyone at the meet who was willing to pose for me and show of their park bags, or lack thereof.  You all earned your treats!  Now lets take a look at their bags.



There are a number of reasons why a person might consider not bringing a bag into the parks.  For some it starts right at the front gate with the security bag check points.  If having a bag means going through security and having their stuff touched by strangers, then some people would rather go bagless.  Others just don’t want to waste those precious moments at security when they could be halfway to their favorite attraction.  But security isn’t the only reason for this, some people just don’t like the feel of the strap of a bag on their shoulder weighing them down.  Or they associate the carrying of a bag with work or school and they don’t want to be reminded of either while on vacation.  A little freedom from burden while traipsing through the parks can go a long way toward rest and relaxation.

Small & Simple

Small & Simple

Maybe there’s just a few simple “must haves” while you’re in the park.  These things may be too big and bulky for pockets, but would leave a larger pack mostly empty.  Perhaps you don’t like carrying things in your pockets or you have no pockets at all.  This can range from a small woman’s purse, to a small shoulder bag, to the infamous “fanny” pack.  Or maybe just a camera in a simple camera case.  The point is that there are things you need to have with you, but there’s not a lot of those things so you need something small and compact to carry them in.  And because it doesn’t hold a lot, it also doesn’t weigh a lot.  It’s almost the same as going bagless, but with the stop at security.  Otherwise, these bags won’t slow you down.



Single shoulder courier bags (a.k.a., mailbags or satchels) are common in the parks and they come in varying shapes and sizes all their own.  These generally have a sporty flip open front that has a securing mechanism of some sort for keeping the bag from opening at the wrong time.  Underneath you’ll find anywhere from 1 to 3 slotted compartments that are great for carrying things like a notebook, netbook, or iPad.  It’s the perfect bag for storing your Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World as the pockets will help keep it nice, flat, and protected.  It’s also one of the easiest bags to work with while walking as you can just swing it around to your front to fiddle with the contents.  These bags often have water bottle pouches on either end.  If you love organization and convenience of use, this bag is for you.

Modified Saddlebag

Modified Saddlebag

In the days of the wild west, saddlebags were the preferred method of carrying items for those who rode horseback.  Originally consisting of two bags connected together by a length of material (leather, wool, etc.) they would be slung over a horses back.  More recently these bags have made a resurgence, but in a slightly modified form.  Instead of having two bags, they now have one, and the length of material has been replaced with a shoulder strap.  While the mode of carrying is very similar to the Courier, the storage structure is very different.  Generally this consists of 1 or 2 very large and very deep, almost cavernous, pockets where you can just toss in your stuff quickly and move on out to whatever lies ahead on your journey.  There may also be a smaller zipper pouch for a wallet or keys, and maybe even a pouch for a water bottle.  When you’re on the move this bag moves with you.

Old Faithful

Old Faithful

This is your standard issue backpack, the kind you’ve seen a thousand times before.  These come in all shapes and sizes but the thing that sets them apart is the straps, two – this allows for flexibility.  You can use one strap if you need the quick grab and go feel of a Courier or a Saddlebag, or if you want to distribute the weight of a heavier load use both straps – one on each shoulder.  These bags usually have 2 or more large pouches, 1 or more small pouches, and slots for 1 or more water bottles.  You’ve got plenty of space for stuff, and plenty of places to organize that stuff into.  The only downside is more space generally means you’ll carry and buy more stuff, and, if you do, you’ll be glad to have those two straps.

Camera Couture

Camera Couture

You have great pride in your pictures and love to take them – your camera is always at your side.  With that camera can come a lot of gear: lenses, tripods, batteries, memory cards, etc.  And you’ll need a place to store it all.  These bags exist in all shapes and sizes, but often come with highly structured organizational compartments capable of storing a camera and all it’s accouterments.  These bags aren’t just about storage, they also offer protection for the items stored inside as the compartments are often cushioned or foam lined.  With one of these on your shoulder your camera will be well taken care of.

Proud Parent Packin’

You’re a parent, you’ve got your kid(s) with you, and in addition to your stuff, you need their stuff as well (diapers, bottles, food, snacks, etc.).  And most importantly, you need a place to put all of it and them.  For you, a stroller is the only way to travel.  And I’m not talking about the ones you rent from the parks, oh no.  I’m talking about the ones that are a veritable bonanza of storage space.  They’ve got pockets on the top, baskets on the bottom.  Cup holders for the “driver”, and ones down below for the kids.  Any bags you’ve got can get stored underneath, hooked on the push bar, etc.  It’s amazing just how much a stroller can store.  I don’t have kids, but when I see strollers I get jealous of the respite they bring from slinging around a backpack.

So as you can see, the bags we carry into the parks come in many different shapes and sizes according to our needs.  What about you? What are your needs?  What are those essential items you must have with you?  What sort of bag do you carry into the parks?  Are you looking for a new bag?  Thanks for reading!

The post is part of the Sixth Disney Blog Carnival; click on the link for more great Disney articles.


  1. In past trips to Disney I have used a small insulated backpack. I packed the night before going to the parks and had everything a family could need; laminated touring plan, water, bandages, camera, snacks, ponchos, sunscreen, moleskin etc. I prepackaged everything in zip top baggies. I was always prepared only this year I went BAGLESS! I never thought I would, but I did. I felt so free. I put a small tube of sunscreen in my pocket and off I went. If I wanted water I went to a counter service restaurant and asked for it. If I wanted a snack I used a snack credit. I made a purchase in MK and had it sent to my resort. I moved through the park with ease. I was as free as a bird. I am changed. I am a believer. I did it. I went bagless and I lived to tell about it!!

    • Sounds like a great trip. My solo trips are often the ones I do bagless as I’m not carrying stuff for two people. There is to me a sense of security in having a bag though.

  2. For the last 3 years I have brought a Camelback into the parks with me. My parents made fun of me before our last trip for wanting to bring it, but they were’t making comments when they were able to drink free cold water in the middle of the day. The great thing about it is it’s small enough not to weigh me down, yet big enough to hold a few face cloths, park tickets and sunscreen. Also, nothing beats the summer heat like washing off with an ice cold face cloth and some cold sunscreen. Another plus, it keeps my back nice and cool all day long.

    • Oooo… I like that name: camelback. I hear you though, I’ll often make pit stops just to clean that sweat sheen off my face and forearms. A quick cleanup can go a long way toward refreshing you.

  3. Great post! I have another related question, as we are planning our first trip (!). What limitations do bags give you on rides? Will a backpack be allowed on all the rides? Don’t really want to have to rent a locker. Just not sure what to do aside from bringing a really small bag (which we may do).

    • txmama- I have never had an issue with my bag on a ride. As long as it is not huge you will be fine. I usually wear my bag or put it on the floor of the ride and hold it between my legs. Some rides have storage places. Many, many, many people carry bags on the rides.

    • It’s all about securing your bag on some rides, there are a few tricks to it. On Space Mountain I’ll hook one of the straps around the T-brace that holds you in before closing it. Other rides like Rockin’ Roller Coaster I’ll hook it on my leg. Soarin’ has a perfect pocket for medium bags and smaller – larger bags can be left off to the side. On Splash I’ll put it by my feet, but stick my feet under it so it doesn’t get soaked in a puddle, etc. Tower of Terror is one you hook to your leg, same with Everest or Dinosaur.

  4. At our local park, we go bagless. But at WDW, my wife uses a Bagallini that can be converted into either a purse or fanny pack, while I use a fanny pack. (Yeah, I’m not proud. It works for me!)

    Of course, I also have a camera bag. Some day I hope to find the perfect camera bag that will do double-duty for all the other little stuff, so I can ditch the fanny pack.

    • Cool, another bag name. I’ve now got this picture of “The Great Bagallini” going through my head. I’m also convinced people make fun of “fanny” packs because they’re jealous. Just sayin’

      Maybe someone more camera oriented than I am will chime in with some bag suggestions for you.

  5. Great post, Todd. My bag needs have evolved over the years. When I first went, I was a Camera Couture guy, because I had a camera bag that would hold the Camcorder and still camera in one bag on my belt. Plus, it had a nice flat back to store my tickets/FPs in.

    When I became a parent, the Backpack was the thing. Our diaper bag was a backpack, so it made it easy.

    Now that the kids are older, I just buy a big ol’ pair of cargo shorts and pack it all in there. Typically I carry my phone, Flip, digital camera, a couple of ponchos and sunblock without any issues.

    • Those sound like some mighty big shorts there Ryan 🙂

      Yeah, while I’m primarily a back-packer, I’ve tried several over the years. Right now I’ve settled on the MEI red bag, because it’s a backpack, but has saddlebag qualities to it. And it’s a bit smaller which is perfect for my usually medium load.

  6. I felt so free on our last trip! My kids are almost 5 and 7. We ditched the stroller (which worked for us only because we utilize the mid-day nap break!) and no longer need the diaper bag. I can’t go completely bagless but a small purse was all I had this time. Still had bandaids and water bottle but didn’t have to slow down searching for the stroller after every attraction. Yay!

    • Yes, the stroller parking can be a mess, and on certain attractions (*cough* Muppets *cough*) getting back to your stroller is a real chore. So I do imagine that getting to skip that must be great.

      • I’m one of those people who carries a huge purse around everywhere so I wouldn’t feel right without a big bag at Disney! My husband just benefits from it.

  7. This is the first year we are going to leave our stroller at home (after 7 years!) and I can’t wait to have only a backpack. The worst nightmare was getting that packed stroller onto the tram! Once all it’s storage is full, you just can’t fold the darn thing. I’ve always wondered why Disney hasn’t thought of putting some kind of trailer attached to the tram to put your stroller on. It would be much faster than waiting around for people to get those bulky strollers onto the trams. I’ve even walked back to the parking lot after touring (sometimes all the way to the end) just to avoid having to fold up and stuff myself into a seat with it.

    • Yeah, I’ve seen many strollers take the walk instead of the tram – even all the way out to the Duck Pond (Donald & Daisy Lots at MK). Good luck on your first stroller-less visit!

  8. Great post Todd!! I used to love going into the parks with just my tiny backpack. I would see all the people carrying around a ton of stuff and think they were crazy! However, now not only am I a mommy, but I’m pregnant, which means the amount of stuff I take into the parks is ridiculous. There is tons of stuff you can’t even see in the picture! In addition to a diaper bag and rather large backpack, I also always have an umbrella, several ponchos (to cover the stroller if it looks like rain), a spray bottle fan, snacks, juice, extra cups, maps and show schedules for all 4 parks, sweaters (just in case, although I’ve never used these), and emergency info in case I go into labor or pass out from heat or something (both on me and in my stroller in case my stroller is not with me at the time). Whew! A lot of that stuff I only take because I have the stroller, but I really love having all of it and knowing my baby and I are prepared for anything that could happen. Although, I do always have to walk into the parks, and I totally miss the tram.

    • Thanks Scarlett. I knew those things stored a lot. BTW that picture I took of you and your son (not sure you want me using his name) rocks – I love how he’s checking out the book with you.

      • I love the picture of me and Malcolm also! P.S. You can totally use his name! All anyone has to do is check out Lines chat and find out all kinds of stuff about us! 🙂 Thanks for asking first though.

  9. […] Anatomy Of A Park Bag | Blog Perhaps you don’t like carrying things in your pockets or you have no pockets at all. This can range from a small woman’s purse, to a small shoulder bag, to the infamous “fanny” pack. Or maybe just a camera in a simple camera case. … … Read more from the original source: Anatomy Of A Park Bag | Blog […]

  10. Our next trip will be shortly after our daughter turns 6. We’re agonizing over whether or not to haul the stroller down yet again. She didn’t use it at all last time, but it was so nice to just be able to park it somewhere and have all our stuff in the parks. For us it is worth the trouble to have a place to store our stuff. Drinks, resort mugs, snacks, ponchos, hats, towels, pin trading stuff, all the stuff you get in the parks (i.e. Epcot Kidcot masks, flashing cups, popcorn buckets)… Oh, and bathing suits so we didn’t have to take the kids home dripping wet on the cold, air conditioned bus at night after letting them play in the fountains – their favorite part of the trip!

    The trick is to just park it and only move it a few times a day to different sections of the park. It’s also really handy dealing with carry on luggage in the airport.

    I’m really going to miss the stroller….

    • Yeah, since you can’t bring wagons into the parks anymore I imagine it is a huge help – though I think people would get suspicious if I pushed one around and didn’t have a kid with me 🙂

  11. I took a Baggalinni messenger bag on our recent trip to Disneyworld with 3 children. It was perfect for our needs – not much bigger than a purse but easier to carry, easy to fit on the rides, and well-organized space. The zipper pocket on the strap was just right for Keys to the World and the cell phone pocket was easy to access. There are slots within one compartment for keys, a credit card, pen and cash so I didn’t have to carry a bulky wallet. An outer water bottle holder was useful and there was plenty of space for a small camera, bandaids, sunscreen, a few snacks, and ponchos in the main compartment. Check it out on Amazon…

  12. Love it! In our family, we called it the Disney bag. It was always packed and ready to go, as most of the family mostly lived in Florida since about 1978. I’m now the only family left, and live in NJ . . . but the bag lives on!

    Contents: collapsible umbrella, wipes, pocket pack of Kleenex, sun screen, spare sunglasses, small zip-loc bag (with neosporin, band-aids, Q-Tips, lens wipes, and pill box of aspirin.) Folding hairbrush with covered hair elastics. Disney wallet with Annual Passes, tables-in-wonderland card, post-it note with location of our family walk around the world block, unused fast passes, and what ever gift card(s) still have some money left on ’em. There are always old park maps and entertainment schedules . . . just in case you can’t find one when you need one.

    Camera stuff changed over the years and went from a variety of film cameras to what we have now . . . just a Nikon Coolpix with spare batteries. Other recent additions are the recharge pack for the iPhones.

    Right now, the bag is an ancient, cheap, “Bugs Bunny” backpack, which we find hysterical in a warped family sense of humor sort of way. It was just upgraded, and will be with me on my next visit though, to a Vera Bradley large backpack because cotton against your back is more comfortable than vinyl!

    I prefer a backpack as I am better able to relax my neck and shoulder muscles. A single strap, even a cross-body strap, seems to result in a stiff neck or shoulder(s) after 12-14 hours of touring.

    • Hey Janet! Glad you liked the post.
      It’s great how tradition can live on like that. While I may be a Disney boy, but I can totally respect Bugs (and Popeye, Mighty Mouse, etc.). Very Bradley sounds very chic. Maybe even though the bag has been updated if you carry along a piece of the old backpack with it (not the whole one) it’ll be just like the tradition lives on!

      • Great idea, Todd! I’m going to store the old Bugs bag in the owner’s locker as an emergency spare and ultimate keepsake.

  13. I bought a shoulder bag at Animal Kingdom that I thought was really cute and big enough to fit my few items comfortably. I always carry sunscreen, key to the world card, money, sunglasses, an autograph book, pen, water bottle that I attach to the strap with a caribeaner(sp?) and mickey visor I attach to the strap. I liked it so much when I bought it that I kept using it instead of my purse when I got home…until my boyfriend made fun of me for looking like a Disney nerd.

  14. I was always a small backpack person (loaded with snacks, ponchos, Unofficial Guide, wet wipes, and a change of clothes for my little girl in case she wanted to play in the fountains). I was always prepared for most anything. Last year I tried a cinch sak (very lightweight bag with two straps that you put over both shoulders). I am now hooked on this bag. I don’t know what it is about it, but I could never tell I had it on. In the past I always had to pass my backpack off to my husband several times throughout the day as my back or shoulders would hurt. Last year I carried it all 10 days and often forgot I had it on. I am slowly packing less each year as my daughter gets older, and maybe one time soon I too can try bagless, though I am not holding my breath with my obsessive planning ways…always be prepared!

    • And when kids get old enough, you can get them carrying their own stuff 😉

      It might have been the weight distribution thing. Usually if you use one shoulder all the weight is on that shoulder, but if you use two straps you actually distribute the weight to both shoulders and your back, so a heavy load can feel lighter.

      • Yes, I bought my 6 year old her own cinch sak for this year 🙂 I may be bagless earlier than I thought!

  15. I started going bagless 3 years ago. I picked up a nice vest that has many pockets. I have the benefit of not stopping at security and having places to put stuff. I don’t have to worry about where to put a bag when I go on a ride as well. It’s amazing what you can get into the pockets of the vest.

  16. One place where many people might like to go bagless is Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Most of the “big” rides there have a no-bags-no-nothin policy which means you have to use these time-limited free lockers just outside the ride entrance. The lockers are really easy to use (based on locker# and fingerprint), however they defeat many people. Saw some folks every day who forgot their locker# or couldn’t open or close it for some reason. A bit of a drag going bagless there, because they have these discount drink bottle things where you pay once and get cheap drinks forever afterwards.

    Disney is a bit friendlier with pouches and other ways of bringing bags on the rides, and the rides are of course a bit toned down compared to USF, IOA, Seaworld and Busch Gardens.

    Another option is to rent an all-day locker. Put your cameras, dry clothes, drink bottles, cell phones and other junk in a locker first thing in the morning, then do your touring plan thing hitting the biggest and most intense (and wettest) rides from 9am-12 noon. Then swap clothes, get out your gear, and go have a relaxing afternoon and evening in the park.

    A word about trying to keep your cell phone in your pocket on the really intense coasters at non-Disney parks: I wouldn’t. When we were standing beside Manta at Seaworld we heard a “clang!” as the train went by, apparently as someone’s phone hit a steel beam. And there was speculation when the Universal employee was clocked in the head by Dueling Dragons last year during morning testing, he had been scouring a popular fishing hole where iPhones collect like hailstones after a thunderstorm.

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