About six months ago I had a conversation with my brother and sister-in-law about their upcoming vacation. They were planning a trip to Walt Disney World and that other place that as a huge Disney fan I cannot mention by name but, it’s where you can find some of Disney’s recently acquired characters such as Spiderman. This was to be their first trip back to the “holy land” since vacationing there in 2001.

As the so-called family expert on Disney they asked me for advice. Now, I thought they were going to ask for help planning out their time at Disney World but instead they were most interested in finding out if there was anything special they should bring. First, you have to understand that my sister-in-law is one of “those people” who just don’t get what Disney is all about. That doesn’t make her a bad person, but it has made it difficult for my brother, nephew, and nieces to truly experience the magic. I even tried convincing them to stay on property but they had an excuse for everything. I know people have their reasons for staying off property but I believe you can’t truly immerse yourself in the Disney magic unless you’re staying on property.

I tried to advise my brother and sister-in-law on what days they should visit each park and I even offered to help them choose places to eat. Unfortunately, they didn’t want to hear any of it. Their only plan was to show up at whichever park they felt like visiting that day. Actually, my sister-in-law was more concerned with the pool in their hotel than she was with Disney World. All I could say to myself is “those poor dumb clucks.” I would have used another word but this is a family blog.

So, they wanted to know if there was anything special they should bring. As a true follower of the Disney faith I emphasized the one thing they absolutely had to bring. As a matter of fact, it was something they needed to get right away. They needed to study it and learn from it as thousands upon thousands have done before them. What I had to make clear to my brother and sister in law was that this item was something so great, it could save their lives. I also told them that of all the items they needed to pack this was the far most important and the only thing worse than forgetting this item would be leaving one of their young children home alone. Of course, I’m referring to the bible of the Disney religion, ‘The Unofficial Guide To Walt Disney World’ co-authored by the legendary Len Testa (Visit http://www.touringplans.com/.)

Then, I gave them a copy of something else that is an absolute must have in the parks. One might say these are the Disney World Seven Commandments that to Disney fans all across the nation and around the world are known as the Sacred Seven immortalized by the Wonder Woman of Disney Wisdom, JL Knopp who brought them down from the top of Space Mountain to share with the entire Disney fan population (see them here).

Here are some other essentials you should always have with you at the Disney World theme parks:

– Sunscreen. Even on an overcast day you can roast like a chicken. Make sure you bring plenty of sunscreen strong enough to protect you and your loved ones from the UV rays.

– Sun glasses, a hat, or visor to protect your eyes from the harmful UV rays.

– Water bottles to keep you hydrated in the very hot Florida sun. Some people like myself like to carry as little as possible around the parks so as an alternative you can go to any counter service restaurant and ask a cast member for a cup of ice water, and best of all its free.

– Always have on your person some cash, credit cards, or your Key to the World to purchase food, beverages, souvenirs, etc.

– A manageable backpack or tote to carry some of your belongings.

– It frequently rains in Florida so bring a rain poncho for each member of your traveling party. Sure you can purchase these on property, but you can save yourself a lot of money buying them at a local dollar store.

– A light sweatshirt or jacket can come in handy at night or when inside air conditioned restaurants and attractions.

– If someone in your party has dietary restrictions then bring some snacks specific to their needs. Keep in mind that Disney has always been very mindful of those with special needs.

Well, my brother and sister-in-law didn’t take my advice and they didn’t ride the Monorail, or even have a single sit down meal at one of Disney World’s fine restaurants. They also missed out on some of the attractions. Even though their stay was short it’s a shame they never got to see more of what Disney has to offer. A little pre-planning goes a long way.

Whether you’re a first time visitor or you haven’t been to Walt Disney World in years do yourself a favor and prepare long before the vacation departure date. A great way to get ready for your trip is with a guide book. My favorite has always been ‘The Unofficial Guide To Walt Disney World’ but there are so many really good ones on the market like the PassPorter Planning Guides or Lisa Battista’s ‘Beyond the Magic’ geared toward parents of little ones ages 2 to 5 years old. When looking for a guide book don’t go out and buy the most expensive or the cheapest. Get one that you think best suits your traveling parties needs.

Always remember, the essentials you need for visiting the Walt Disney World parks starts at home.

I’d love to hear your feedback and let me know if there is something you find essential to bring to the parks that I didn’t list.

Contributed by: Stuart S. (NDD #47). Stuart is a contributor to the Disney Driven Life and is the author of the Disney Geek Dad blog.

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