It’s no secret that going to Walt Disney World with your little ducklings in-tow takes some serious planning. Since we have two small children (and two not-so-small ones) in our flock, a well-stocked park touring bag is a MUST. So, what should or should not go in it? We could talk about that until the cows come home…and then some. But not today. Instead, I would like to focus on a pair of oftentimes overlooked considerations pertaining to the park touring bag… or, as I like to call it, my lifeline.
First, let’s consider the construction of the bag itself. Does it really matter? Nah, not really. Well, not if you don’t mind sweat pouring down your back for hours on end in the blazing Florida heat. Or if you’re indifferent to whether or not the contents of said bag – including (gasp) that pretty, new cell phone – make it unscathed through the 3 o’clock cloudburst you never saw coming or the child behind you in line that has ridden the Teacups one-too-many times today… However, if you happen to NOT be cool with having that kind of day, you have come to the right place!
In order to serve you best, a park touring bag needs to be lightweight and water-resistant. Lightweight because you will be lugging it around for large blocks of time and water resistant because Florida weather can be unpredictable. As can spilled drinks, rides with water elements, Mickey Bars, children’s bladders, etc. Now is not the time for suede/leather, natural fibers like cotton or hemp, or those awful heavy-duty, clear plastic backpacks some school districts require. By and large, my material of choice is ripstop nylon. Good ‘ole polyester/nylon is a pretty close second, especially if you need a bit more room or sturdier bag. They are the perfect choices as they meet both criteria and are surprisingly strong and pretty inexpensive, to boot. Bonus points if it folds up into itself for storage when not in use.
A strapping matter!
Next, consider how you prefer to carry your park touring bag. Do you like one strap (cross-body, sling style) or two (traditional backpack style)? I am a cross-body girl, so it’s one strap for me. The choice is yours but I want you to take a look at the underside of the strap(s). This is important. I’m talking ‘ruin your day if you get it wrong’ important. The underside NEEDS to be padded and breathable. Keep in mind that the strap(s) may lay against your bare skin. Look for a smooth mesh with underlying sponginess. Not only will this type of strap relieve pressure points on your shoulders, it will protect you from getting all sweaty, irritated, and chaffed beneath it. Take it from me, the wrong straps can be misery.
Bad straps!…Run away!
Much better! Nicely padded and breathable.
So you’ve found a great fire-engine red (ok, MY favorite is red) ripstop nylon bag with squishy-yet-breathable straps. Yay, you’re nearly there! Just one more attribute to ponder… How many pockets/compartments does it have? While an abundance may initially seem like a good idea (i.e. ‘A place for everything and everything in its place’ mentality), please reconsider. Especially now with the newly revamped security procedures, a plethora of pockets will only make navigating bag-check in a reasonable amount of time with some semblance of your sanity intact about as likely as getting into Be Our Guest without a reservation…with a party of 10!
You see, you must open every single zipper and compartment before you offer up your bag for inspection to security personnel and their trusty dowel-prober-thingy (I’m certain that is the technical term for it). All the while you will be attempting to contain the effervescent enthusiasm practically bubbling out of your little ones. Not to mention that, later on, you will inevitably find yourself desperate for some item you have carefully tucked away behind one of those zippers and you will not, for the love of all things Mickey, remember which one. Not that this…ahem…has EVER happened to me. Suffice it to say that this is an area where simplicity rules and less is truly more.
Simple interiors are best!
Pack ‘yer park touring bag (the right way!)
Ok, you finally have the perfect bag and you are ready to pack it up and get your Disney on. What actually ends up in your bag is highly dependent upon the particular and ever-evolving needs of your flock, err, family. No, my friends, I do not care WHAT you pack. Except sunscreen, ALWAYS pack sunscreen. I do, however, care HOW you pack it. I even have a secret weapon in my park touring arsenal that I am going to share with you so you, too, can cruise through that bag-check line like the boss you are! My secret weapon is…(insert drumroll)…Clear, re-sealable, zip-closure bags. In multiple sizes. Ta-Daaaaa! Simple right? Of course! But aren’t most of the truly great ideas? And the genius lies in the method.
Here’s what you do: Group all your like items and put each group into size-appropriate baggies. Snack, sandwich, quart. Then (here’s the genius part I was telling you about), take all of those baggies and place them into a gallon-size baggie. Oh, yeah, you see where this is going now…You waltz up to the security check point where everyone around you is fumbling with a zillion zippers and are already stressed because they have stuff EVERYWHERE and you whip that single gallon baggie with its easily-identifiable contents out of your simply perfect touring bag. The screener will smile with relief all the while thanking you profusely for your thoughtfulness and obvious skill. You will then immediately be named “Family of the Day” and given a lifetime supply of Dole Whip. Ok, ok, maybe not. But you will sail through effortlessly and with full knowledge that you are a complete rock star!
What are your tips for picking a park touring bag? Share them in the comments!
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