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Disney obsessives weigh in on what you need to bring to the happiest place on Earth

There's a lot of prep that should go into any trip to the most magical place on Earth. (Photo: Gary Hershorn, Getty Images)

If you’re going to the happiest place in the world, how, exactly, do you prepare for the big trip?

I mean, it’s easy to get distracted from the dull stuff like planning when you’re about to be just feet away from Cinderella. Or Belle. Or Mickey Mouse. Add in all of the rides and parks and attractions and restaurants that you’re sure to visit, and there’s no chance you’ll spend a ton of time on vacation prep. It’s hard enough wrangling the family together on time for the airport.

Getting your packing right takes time. Even Disney obsessives who venture out to the parks multiple times each year struggle with figuring out what to bring. But after a few go-arounds, these Disney veterans have learned a thing or two. And luckily enough, they’re sharing their tips and tricks for how to make any trip to Disney the adventure of a lifetime.

Our advice? Don’t forget your mouse ears!

Water bottles are key

With all of the exploring you’re bound to do at Disney, you’ve got to stay hydrated. The parks offer free water at any restaurant location, and have drinking fountains throughout the area.

Ryan Levine, a Disney travel planner and fanatic, opts to bring a refillable water bottle rather than buying pricey plastic bottles of water at the park.

“It gets disgustingly hot,” he explained, adding that Hydro Flasks, known for keeping water cool throughout long days, are perfect.

Travel Agent Christina Doka specializes in planning Disney trips. She always recommends Brita 20-ounce bottles that come with a filter (Being in Florida, some park-goers aren’t fond of the water provided in the parks).

“They're lightweight, have a straw that makes sipping easy and prevents against spills, and include a filter to make sure the water you're drinking is extra-clean, especially when your'e filling up at a water fountain,” Doka said.

Heads up: Disney World is transitioning to only using paper straws in the park, so if you want to sip using something a bit more sturdy Doka recommends buying reusable straws ahead of time.

Shoes, shoes, shoes

One of the most important things to remember about Disney parks is their locations. Disney World is in Florida, Disneyland is in California — two very hot and humid places, for most of the year.

“Dress to sweat,” Levine said. “Even in the January month it’s not going to be cold at Disney.”

Obviously this means wear a T-shirt or any other type of short sleeve, along with some durable shorts. But a key note Levine shared is what summertime item you definitely should not wear: flip flops.

Instead, the Disney fanatic says it’s best to opt for worn-in sneakers with a high arch support. “You’ll walk at least 10 miles a day no matter what park you go to,” he explained. Comfort is crucial.

He usually wears Converse with insoles inserted, and Levine recommends Birkenstocks.

“My friend swears by her Tevas for park wear,” said Jess Pendergrass, an annual pass holder who runs a Disney-themed Etsy store. She noted that you can’t go wrong with any Nike tennis shoes.

Doka says she also recommends Tevas sandals (and the Sanuks Women’s Yoga Sling Wedge) to park-goers.

Bring a backpack

With a list of things to bring, there obviously has to be something you put it all in. But there are also some very Disney-specific hacks that come along with some backpacks.

“I use a classic Hershel backpack in the parks,” Pendergrass said. “I like it because of the built in laptop compartment. That slot is perfect for storing Minnie ears when you’re on a ride or otherwise don’t want to wear them.”

Levin always carried a backpack filled with things like snacks, water bottles and a change of clothes if water rides are on the itinerary. Bryan Kardisco, a Disney YouTuber, recommends packing an extra pair of socks (and change of clothes) for the same reason.

Stay charged

“Snapping pics and posting on Instagram, plus using the Disney app to check wait times or make Fastpass selections, can drain a phone's battery pretty quickly,” Doka said. “A portable charger is a must.”

Having a charging port on you help you maximize your time between rides, since you won’t need to set up camp next to the first outlet you see.

The one surprise necessity: a poncho

Kardisco puts it best: “It’s not a matter of if it’s going to rain, it’s when it’s going to rain,” he said. “Sometimes function needs to take the front seat over fashion. Have a poncho on you.”

The rainy weather frequenting California and Florida make a pack of ponchos a must-have for any Disney trip. And, buying the ponchos beforehand will definitely save you some bucks, since family packs are so cheap online.

Ponchos can also be used on water rides if there’s a member in your group who isn’t fond of getting a bit wet. Also, Kardisco recommends bringing a few big Ziplock baggies to store smartphones or other items you want to keep dry.

Mouse ears

We told you not to forget these!

To stand out from wearing the same ears as everyone else in the crowd, Doka recommends getting some customizable mouse ears ahead of time. You can shop around for these on places like Etsy, where Disney fans create.

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