STROLLERS: This was a big decision for me. Bring my own single, double? Rent one at the park each day? Rent one at private stroller company that delivered to the hotel? I put way too much thought into this but it was worth the thought and personally, for Carter (4) and Addie's (2, almost 3) bringing our own 2 single lightweight comfortable umbrella strollers was my decision and I am 110% happy that we did. 2 reasons - First, I liked the singles because we could maneuver SO MUCH easier than the folks with the doubles in the crazy crowds. Second, I liked having the strollers outside the parks and couldn't imagine having to give it up each day before we left. We got some of the MOST BENEFICIAL use between the park and our hotel room. Third, I liked not having to even mess with picking it up each morning once we got there and were headed to the biggest ride in order to beat the crowds.
WATER BLADDER and COLLAPSIBLE WATER BOTTLES: Blake picked this up a month ago for his fancy new backpack he was taking to Disney. I kinda rolled my eyes when he showed it to me thinking it was stupid but again I WAS WRONG and this "stupid" little $8 bladder saved us around $150 easily on bottled waters and drinks all 7 days! I brought the individual Gatorade and Lemonade packets and we mixed those in the bladder each day and left them in the refrigerator overnight to get nice and cold.
I also found these collapsible reusable water bottles at Target.com and got them for the kids and LOVED that hung from the stroller, backpack or my purse! So brilliant and we refilled them multiple times a day!
HANGING HAND SANITIZER - best invention ever and we used it non-stop.
PACK YOUR OWN NICK KNACKS!
At all the night time parades and shows, there are tons of temptations to buy $15 light up toys that they play with for what, 30 minutes and if you are lucky, on your way home? Julie and I had been stocking up on little gadgets like this for 6 months and cost us about $2 bucks a pop vs. $9.99 for the identical item at Disney World! My kids had NO IDEA where it came from and were just happy to have it for the 30 minutes!
BUY and BRING YOUR OWN PRINCESS DRESS! (Surprise your kid so they don't know you are bring it but you seriously could save a BUNDLE and again Addie and Carter had no clue where it came from.) Aunt Erin had given Addie a Cinderella dress from ToysRUs that had been on sale for $17 and similar dresses were going for $59.99 at Downtown Disney and at the parks. We also brought TONS of fun makeup, hair and face glitter and special hair clips to do our own princess party before Cinderella's Royal Table!
BUY NEW DISNEY SHIRTS AT HOME AND PACK THEM for the kids and adults! I had 3 different people stop me and ask me where I got one of the shirts I wore one day. I didn't feel guilty at all when I told them - It was $7 bucks at WALMART of ALL PLACES! You can afford to have new shirts for each person in the family every day for the price you will pay for 1 new one in a park store that isn't even that cute.
CAMERA - Take a camera you don't really care about. I brought my old canon Rebel xti simply because it is old and the lens is even older and I don't really care how many times it gets banged around getting in and out of rides and shows. Next time, I will have a nice point and shoot and have it clipped to my lanyard for easy access.
LANYARDS - All adults must have one. They are brilliant for your tickets, your numerous Fast Passes, Photo cards to quickly have the professional cameras scan, etc...
AS YOU ARE SHOPPING ALL WEEK at the different parks - If you see something you have your heart set on, buy it then and there. Even the largest of the large stores in Disney World don't carry the exact same items.
LEARN THE FAST PASS SYSTEM like the back of your had and use it!
BRING TONS OF LITTLE ACTIVITY BOOKS FOR THE LINES: Addie LOVES Magic ink books. Bring a deck of cards for waiting at parades and shoes. Books, Stickers and puzzles. Carter LOVED Marshall's DS.
MAKE SURE YOUR CELL PHONE HAS GOOD GAMES: for emergencies when you need to kill time in a line. (Bug Squash always bought some good time!)
BRING POOL TOYS TO DIVE FOR at hotel pool.
SPF every single morning!
Light jacket for kids in the early morning in March.
SNACKS, SNACKS, SNACKS - bring them in or be ready to say good by to $25 a day easy!
Next time, If it is a busy time of year book the DINNER PACKAGES that allow to you eat at "off times" like 4 PM and have GUARANTEED seating for shows like Hollywood Studios FANTASMIC instead of getting there 2 HOURS before hand.
I brought SEVERAL 99 cent emergency ponchos for the 2-3 water rides like Splash Mountain and the River Rapids I didn't want to be soaked along with my camera. Or be prepared to shell out the 8 bucks each time for the one they sell as you enter!
I packed an extra duffel bag in my suitcase for our return purchases.
The ONE item I forgot to put in the bag on Saturday morning at 6AM, our portable sound machine since we 4 were sharing a room. The app on my EVO worked GREAT however it meant not having access to my phone anytime we had it on like during naps in the afternoons. Remember to bring a separate one next time!
NEVER EVER EVER got to Disney in June-September (if we can help it and especially while kids are young.) It was only 83 degrees as a high and by 2-3PM it was so uncomfortable and hot. I would rather go in November or December.
No matter where we stay next time, it must a have a small refrigerator like we had this time for milk to keep drinks and to have cereal in the mornings.
Blake - bring his golf clubs. There were amazing courses all around and he managed to sneak in 9 holes while we were there.