I spent the last week at Disney World in Orlando, FL and… since I’m me… the trip afforded the opportunity to pause and reflect on what would be the best bag to take on an amusement park vacation. First off, some background. I’ve had plenty of park experience from which to pull from. This was my third trip to Disney World. I’ve also been to Disneyland in California four times. I’ve also visited several Six Flag Parks, Universal (Hollywood and Orlando), Seaworld (Orlando and San Diego), Hershey Park, Knott’s Berry Farm, Silver Dollar City, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, and a few others. Some as a child but most as an adult with and without kids.
There are a number of things to consider when deciding what to take to any of these parks.
First and foremost, check the park’s policies on their website. Most have limitations on what you can carry in. For instance, Six Flags does not allow any food or drink. Some allow “loose articles” on their attractions and some don’t. Disney allows bags on their rides at all of their parks and in some cases provide small storage bins to stow them. On other end of the spectrum, Six Flags requires that loose articles be left with non-riders or in provided storage lockers. They charge a fee and it adds up throughout the day. Universal enforces a mandatory locker system at its big thrill rides but the lockers (approx. 9.5” wide x 11.5” high x 17” deep) are free for the amount of time that it takes to get through the standby line plus a 15-minute cushion. The park also has all-day lockers that charge a one-time fee with unlimited access.
I don’t carry a bag at any of the Six Flag parks because of their limits on what you can carry in and to save from having to deal with the locker situation. I wear cargo shorts and use the pockets for what I want to carry. I just make sure the pockets have zippers or buttons so they are secure. When I had small children, I chose a backpack as my diaper bag and used it to store other items to limit the number of lockers I needed to pay for.
Are you carrying stuff for just yourself or others? Are you planning on buying souvenirs while you’re in the park? At Disney, due to the weather, I carried four rain jackets and we used them everyday while we were there. Outside of a water bottle that I could refill, hats, and a small first aid kit, not much else was needed. We took advantage of Disney’s package delivery service and had all of our souvenirs delivered to our room – for free since we were staying at a Disney resort.
How large are you and the bag you carry? At 6’4 255 lbs, my body took up most of the available room in each ride so I had to keep my bag small. I opted to carry the Vertx EDC Ready Pack.
At 19″ H x 11″ W x 8.5″ D and 25 Liters, the Ready Pack is on the larger size of what I’d normally take but I needed the extra room to carry everyone’s jacket. That said, on several rides at Disney, I was barely able to fit the bag in the car with me. For instance, at Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, or even the new Seven Drawfs Mine Train – I had to place the bag in my lap and loop the straps through my arms to keep it from flying out of the car.
Smaller individuals would have less trouble.
Would you take Backpacks are the best choice to limit fatigue. I’ve carried shoulder packs on days when I didn’t need the added capacity, but nothing beats a two-strapped bag when it comes to carry comfort over a 12-hour visit to an amusement park. You always do more walking than you think. I did 8-miles on our Magic Kingdom day this trip. Be pragmatic when it comes to bag choice. Your back and shoulders will thank you later.
TACTICAL OR NON-TACTICAL
For EDC hobbyists, this has always been a topic of discussion. I can tell you that in 2016, it’s almost a non-factor. I paid particular attention to what others were carrying at Disney and I saw a large number of tactical/military packs. Everything under the sun from generic MOLLE gear….
To more serious stuff like this Mystery Ranch 3DAP….
To covert carry gear like this Grey Ghost Stealth Operator.
Nobody cared. Carry what you want. You may get some extra attention upon entry at security. I got pulled aside and wanded in two of the four parks. But otherwise, it’s no big deal.
I hope this helped you formulate a strategy when it comes to your own bag choice. Taking park restrictions out of the mix, I usually opt for the smallest backpack I can manage with a design that dedicates most of the space to the main compartment so I can carry things like jackets, hoodies, and souvenirs when needed. It has to be a pack that I can carry all day without being worn down. It should have a valuables pocket for my sunglasses or smart phone. Also some pockets to organize and secure small items so they don’t get lost as I’m quickly getting in and out of the bag.
If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t have taken the Vertx Ready Pack on this most recent Disney trip. I couldn’t have gone with anything smaller but the pocket setup wasn’t quite right. I also lost my Nalgene on the Dinosaur attraction at Animal Kingdom when the bungee cord system failed to secure it and it went flying out of the jeep (my kids claimed a Dino ate it).
What would have been alternatives? A Mystery Ranch ASAP? Or a Triple Aught Design Litespeed? Those might have worked. But to be honest, despite my inclination towards military/tactical inspired packs, a nice hiking oriented day pack with a removable hip belt in a lightweight material would have fit the bill quite nicely. Remind me I said that next time I go on one of these trips.