(This arti­cle may or may not con­tain affil­i­ate links. What does that mean?)

In my fam­i­ly, sum­mer is theme park sea­son. I’ve been rid­ing roller coast­ers since I was 42″ tall. Final­ly tall enough to take on the Jack Rab­bit at Ken­ny­wood in Pitts­burgh PA. Those fam­i­ly trips had a huge impact on my life. Even now, to me a fam­i­ly vaca­tion is usu­al­ly a theme park, not a relax­ing trip to a beach or a resort. My trav­el agency even focus­es on theme parks, all thanks to all those fam­i­ly trips to Ken­ny­wood and Geau­ga Lake (RIP).  Now that I’m the par­ent, I know that kids come with a lot of stuff. I swear, since I had my tod­dler, the amount of stuff I have to car­ry around every time I set foot out­side my door has quadru­pled. But, who wants to car­ry around a heavy bag all day walk­ing around an amuse­ment park? So, out of lazi­ness, I’ve nar­rowed my theme park bag down to just the necessities. 




Kennywood, Pittsburgh, Roller Coaster

Hap­py Birth­day to the Jack Rab­bit at Ken­ny­wood, it turns 100 this year! It’s been the first roller coast­er ride for gen­er­a­tions of kids, includ­ing me! Pho­tos Cour­tesy of Ken­ny­wood Park



Backpack or Fanny Pack


The first step is choos­ing what you will use to haul every­thing around all day. I high­ly sug­gest that you go for a back­pack as your bag of choice. It’s eas­i­er to car­ry than a purse or tra­di­tion­al dia­per bag. You don’t want to haul your good dia­per bag or purse around all day any­way, the chance that it will get ruined is pret­ty cer­tain. I can just about guar­an­tee that you will end up with Pep­si or some oth­er sticky sub­stance on it at some point dur­ing the day. It’s prac­ti­cal­ly a par­en­t’s right of pas­sage. It’s also good to have your hands free and avail­able for child wran­gling.  If your kids are old­er, or you’re going kid free, I love a good fan­ny pack. Func­tion over fash­ion my friends! Fan­ny packs can ride safe­ly with you on many rides, no lock­er required. I’m also a big fan of car­go pants/shorts. If you can trav­el light, with car­go shorts you might be able to ditch the bag alto­geth­er. When I’m at a theme park, I’m dress­ing for com­fort. A big plus is that your phone is less like­ly to end up fly­ing off a roller coast­er if your pock­ets have but­tons. I have sev­er­al pairs of car­go shorts, and they come in quite handy!


As one of my cousins told me at a fam­i­ly gath­er­ing, I’m not try­ing to impress any­one here. Func­tion over fashion! 


Family Photo, Roller Coaster

Every sum­mer The House­hold­ers took a fam­i­ly trip to a theme park. Even at 10 I knew the impor­tance of being pre­pared, hence the fan­ny pack.





If there is even a small chance of rain dur­ing your trip, hit up your local dol­lar store and get some cheap plas­tic pon­chos. If you are vis­it­ing Flori­da, just go ahead and buy all the pon­chos you can find, because those mid after­noon thun­der­storms are bru­tal. My fam­i­ly once hid under a Jeof­freys cof­fee cart in Epcot for a good hour. I’ll nev­er for­get the feel­ing of watch­ing that rain­storm come in, and lit­er­al­ly sprint­ing for cov­er. We were total­ly soaked.


Universal, Theme Parks

Yet anoth­er time I was the vic­tim of a Cen­tral Flori­da rain­storm, this time at Hal­loween Hor­ror Nights. I nev­er learn.



Cheap Sunglasses


While you are the dol­lar store, go ahead and pick up some cheap sun­glass­es too. No one wants to lose their favorite sun­glass­es on a ride, so pick your­self up a pair that you don’t care about. If your glass­es hap­pen to break, the first aid sta­tion might be able to fix them up for you. I’ve been res­cued by the first aid staff at a theme park on sev­er­al occasions. 


Dont miss! Splash­ing Around the Great Wolf Lodge


First Aid Kit


Speak­ing of First Aid, I like to throw a few bandaids and some antibi­ot­ic cream in my bag. I would­n’t wor­ry about bring­ing any­thing more seri­ous, most theme parks have a first aid sta­tion that can patch you up. I have noth­ing but nice things to say about the first aid sta­tions I have vis­it­ed. They have fixed bro­ken glass­es, giv­en me OTC pain med­ica­tion, and even looked me over when I was 6 months preg­nant and got very over­heat­ed at Dis­ney World. All free of charge.  But it’s nice not to have to walk halfway across the park because your kid has a skinned knee or you have a blister. 


If we had to go to first aid every time my tod­dler fell down, that’s all I would do!



Rechargeable Battery Pack


Tak­ing all those great fam­i­ly pho­tos is going to drain your bat­tery. I have a Fuel Rod I use at Dis­ney World and Uni­ver­sal Orlan­do and it’s a life­saver. If you’re going some­where that does­n’t have a Fuel Rod kiosk, then any bat­tery pack will do. Don’t for­get the pow­er cord for your phone!



Disney Castle

With­out a bat­tery pack, your phone will die before you get the chance to take a pic­ture of the fireworks!



Hand Sanitizer and Wipes


Even before COVID, I have always includ­ed hand san­i­tiz­er and wipes in my Theme Park Bag. In 2020, these items have become even more essen­tial, but even if you are read­ing this arti­cle after the pan­dem­ic is over, you’ll still want to take some hand san­i­tiz­er and wipes with you. It’s just a fact that you will be touch­ing a lot of sur­faces when you vis­it a theme park, so go pre­pared to keep your hands as clean as you can. There’s noth­ing worse than com­ing back from vaca­tion with a cold.






You’ll want sun­screen for you and for the kids so you don’t end up with a painful sun­burn or sun poi­son­ing. Super­goop’s spray is my go to spray for my face, as you can spray it over make­up. For my son, I like Baby­gan­ics spray sun­screen. Like most tod­dlers, he can’t hold still for very long. The spray seems to be faster to apply, I just spray it into my hands and then rub it on him.  Don’t for­get the back of your ears! 


Volcano Bay

Just look­ing at this pic­ture of Vol­cano Bay will prob­a­bly give me a sun­burn #mid­west­prob­lems



Change of Clothes for Everyone


I usu­al­ly leave this in the car, so I don’t have to haul it around all day. I think it’s good to have a com­plete change of clothes, includ­ing under­wear, socks and shoes, avail­able. If we aren’t dri­ving, or stay­ing near­by, then we usu­al­ly get a lock­er to keep a change of clothes in. You just nev­er know when some­one will get soaked, barf or oth­er­wise need an out­fit change. Every par­ent I know has been barfed on by their child at some point, and I would pre­fer not to walk around with barf on me all day. 




You’ll enjoy your theme park day a lot more if you pre­pare a lit­tle before­hand. This list cov­ers what I would con­sid­er to be the absolute essen­tials, since I pre­fer to trav­el light. I gen­uine­ly love theme parks: the food, the rides, even the cheesy car­ni­val games. That’s why I write about them, and sell trips to them at my trav­el agency. I want every­one to feel the same way about theme parks as I do. There’s some­thing spe­cial about a theme park, you can ride the same ride over and over until you’re dizzy. You can eat cot­ton can­dy and ket­tle corn and no one will stop you.  Being pre­pared is the best way to enjoy it all to the max!


Dis­claimer: I recent­ly became an affil­i­ate for the Ama­zon web­site since, as a mom, it’s the most fre­quent way I shop now and it’s also how I rec­om­mend prod­ucts to friends that I’m using and love. You can’t hold back my love. Yet, I’m not an affil­i­ate of any of the oth­er prod­ucts I rec­om­mend­ed. See? Love.



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You'll enjoy your theme park day a lot more if you prepare a little beforehand. This list covers what I would consider to be the absolute essentials, since I prefer to travel light. I genuinely love theme parks: the food, the rides, even the cheesy carnival games. That's why I write about them, and sell trips to them at my travel agency. I want everyone to feel the same way about theme parks as I do. There's something special about a theme park, you can ride the same ride over and over until you're dizzy. You can eat cotton candy and kettle corn and no one will stop you.  Being prepared is the best way to enjoy it all to the max!



Emi­ly House­hold­er Stacey is a writer, trav­el agent and mom based in sun­ny Cleve­land, Ohio. Emi­ly runs Aida’s Adven­tures trav­el agency while her son takes his after­noon nap. She has trav­eled through­out Aus­tralia, Asia and North Amer­i­ca and the rest of the world is on her buck­et list. Emi­ly and her fam­i­ly love a good theme park. They have annu­al pass­es to 6 of them!