This article was originally published in May of 2021 and then underwent extensive updates and editing in September of 2023 to remain current and relevant.
Let’s face it, life as a parent often makes you feel like a pack mule — lugging around all of the stuff and supplies your family needs to get through the day. But, in all honesty, not packing a needed supply for a day at the theme parks can turn the experience upside down when you are trying to simply enjoy much-needed family time away from home.
With four kiddos ranging from 3-11, I have packed many theme-park-day-bags and below are my tips to help you pack what you really need for a day at Universal Orlando Resort.
First and foremost, make sure to pack your fully-charged phone with the downloaded Official Universal Orlando Resort App. Everyone with a smartphone should bring their phone fully charged and download the app. You will need this to get through the day with your family. Check out further app tips here.
Now onto the packing lists for the kids…
Infant (Newborn – Age 1)
So let’s start with the kids that need the most stuff — the babies.
First, yes, you should pack all the diaper bag basics you need for your baby. Think through what they generally need for a day at home and plan out what can and cannot go with you, then go from there. After doing this for four very different children, here are my suggestions:
- The Bag: Pack a sturdy backpack diaper bag with an insulated bottle pocket OR a sturdy backpack with an insulated lunch bag that fits inside while allowing more room for the rest of your supplies. And make sure that your selected bag can be securely attached to a stroller handle because you will not want to be lugging it around all day. Bonus points if the bag is washable when you get home because, well, spills and messes happen.
- Changing Supplies: Changing tables are available throughout the park in every family restroom, just look for the family restroom symbol on the map within the official Universal Orlando Resort App. To make the oh-so-fun process of changing a diaper in a new place easier, make sure to have these supplies on hand:
- Sterilizing Wipes – To wipe down the changing table if you would like. The changing tables and bathrooms are cleaned and sanitized frequently, but you may have the desire to do so yourself before you lay the baby down on the table.
- Changing Pad or Towel – I find It makes the changing process much easier if you have a small changing pad or even an old hand towel from home to lay under the baby before you lay them down.
- Baby Wipes – This is a given. Make sure to bring a full new pack because running out mid diaper-change is the absolute worst.
- Enough Diapers for 12 Hours Plus Two – Why plus two? Well, regardless of how awesome your day in the parks is, your baby will be on a different schedule than they are at home, so accidents and change in habits make those extra diapers a necessity. And do not forget your:
- You favorite diaper cream — you never know when you will need it.
- Three to four swim diapers if you are visiting Volcano Bay for the day; swim diapers are required throughout the water park.
- Two Changes of Clothes and a Light Jacket or Hoodie – We all know babies can have accidents, plus you never know when a spill or Florida wet weather will hit and you need an extra change. Also bring a light jacket or hoodie for the baby — it is warm most months of the year, but at times the weather can change quickly and the indoor AC can necessitate an extra layer for the little ones.
- Add an Extra Swimsuit and Towel for each family member and swim diapers if you are going to Volcano Bay.
- Plastic Bags for Dirty Clothing – Bring a few zip bags or old grocery bags to tie off and store away wet or dirty clothes, this will help to make sure the rest of your supplies do not get wet or dirty.
- Food & Bottles:
- Enough Bottles for the Day Plus One – Bring enough bottles for the entire day plus one. You never know when baby will need some extra nourishment to get through the day or when you will need an extra bottle to help sooth them. If you are bringing pumped milk from home, I recommend bringing it frozen because Florida heat can be intense. If you are bringing formula, bring the water and powder packed separate so you can mix as needed and not worry about spoiled formula. Water bottles are available for purchase throughout the destination. Nursing is, of course, welcome throughout the park but private nursing rooms are also available in all three parks and at the entrance of CityWalk.
- Food for the Entire Day – Since babies often need special food options, I recommend you pack enough baby food and formula for the baby to cover the entire day plus a few snacks that don’t require heating or refrigeration.
- Stroller: Bring your most compact stroller. Strollers are available for rental at the entrance of each park, however, infants may need their stroller to be comfortable so they can easily nap when needed. Do not bring your biggest and heaviest stroller though, you may need to collapse it to fit it in a tight space from time to time and you will want the most compact yet useful stroller you have.
- Hat & Baby Sunscreen – It is Florida and sunscreen is a must as well as a hat, especially for those little ones with delicate skin.
- Baby Carrier – If you have a baby who is soothed by being held in a carrier, you may want to bring it for those times you are waiting in line or breaking between activities.
Toddler/Preschooler (Ages 1 – 4)
Next on to the preschool age kiddos. You still need to pack a pretty solid supply bag for this age range, but at least you can leave some of the bulkier items at home. Here is what you should bring at a minimum:
- Bag Basics:
- All The Bag Basics – They may no longer be infants, but, as any parent knows, those bag basics are still needed. Check out the infant bag list above and make sure your sturdy diaper bag is well-stocked.
- Extra Clothes:
- Two Changes of Clothes and a Light Jacket or Hoodie – Spills and Florida wet weather will hit and you’ll need an extra change. Also bring a light jacket or hoodie — it is warm most months of the year, but at times the weather can change quickly and the indoor AC can necessitate an extra layer for the little ones.
- Plastic Bags for Dirty Clothing – Pack a few zip bags or old grocery bags to tie off and store away wet or dirty clothes.
- A Swimsuit and Towel– This is a given if you are going to Volcano Bay for the day, but my kids always love visiting the various water play areas throughout the park, so I often put them in dri-fit clothing for the day or have them wear a swimsuit as part of their clothes for the day, then dry off and change when we are done with the water play areas.
- Food & Drink:
- Water Bottle – I always bring our own water bottle and fill as needed throughout the day for the little ones. A day in the park is beyond fun, but it can also be exhausting, and they will need to keep hydrated. Bottled water is available for purchase throughout the park, but you can bring your own full water bottle and refill as needed at water fountains throughout the park.
- Snacks – You can buy some pretty awesome food and snacks throughout the park, but it is always a good idea to pack a small snack bag of your kids’ favorites to pass out when needed. I always pack dry snacks that do not need to be kept cold for the little ones in the group.
- Stroller & Nap Supplies:
- Compact or Umbrella Stroller – You will need this for kids under 5 at all times. They will get tired and will need to rest while the rest of the family is on the go. Bring your lightest and most compact stroller or rent one at the park entrance.
- A Naptime Lovey – They will get tired and cranky at some point throughout the day, so prepare by having a small lovey or blanket for them to hold and to provide comfort when they need to rest in the stroller for a bit.
Elementary (Ages 5 – 10)
While these kiddos are a bit older, they still need a lot of the same stuff to get through the day — remember schedules will be off, they will get hungry and messes will happen. So be prepared…
- Backpack with On the Go Basics: Make sure back a sturdy and washable backpack with the basics you may need for the entire day including:
- Spare Clothes – One change of clothes including underwear and spare socks and shoes. You never know when a spill or accident will happen.
- Water Wear – A spare bathing suit and towel for your day at Volcano Bay (again, accidents and rips happen). And a bathing suit under clothes or extra set of Dri-Fit clothing to wear on water rides or water areas at Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure.
- Refillable Water Bottle – You can also buy water bottles throughout the park.
- Small, Dry Snacks – The kids will be on the go all day and very hungry, so make sure to have some of their favorite dry snacks on hand for emergency moments.
- Portable Phone Charger – If you plan on using your phone to help fill down times (waiting in line, breaks, etc.) make sure to bring a portable charger so you do not run out your battery charge when it is most needed.
- Sunscreen and Hat or Sunglasses – Again, always needed.
Pre-Teen/Teen (Ages 11-17)
So now on to our pre-teens and teenagers. While you may need to pack less, these items are absolutely key to your day at the park:
- Portable Phone Chargers – Every single person with a phone should bring a portable phone charger, especially those teens who spend a lot of time taking pictures and texting. Plus if you plan to let your older kids go off on their own, you will want to make sure you can keep in touch with them.
- Sunscreen – Yes, they will fight it because that is what teenagers do, but they will need to wear sunscreen and apply it periodically throughout the day.
- Sunglasses or a Hat – Again, helps with the sun — plus they will have accessories for their selfies (wink).
- Change of Socks in a Plastic Bag – Again, they are teens and will insist they do not need them, but if their feet get wet on a water ride, the complaints will start. So just pack an extra pair of compact socks just in case and a bag for the wet socks.
- Spare Swimsuit & Towel – This is very important for a day at Volcano Bay. A ripped swimsuit or broken swimsuit strap can end their day in the water park very quickly, so a spare is always key.
- Reusable Water Bottle & A Small Snack – Teens get hungry or dehydrated in a hurry and a small snack and some water are both key to a successful day. Protein bars or granola bars are perfect for these hangry moments.
- Spending Money or Set Spending Limits on the Universal Orlando Resort App – Make sure that your teens have spending money if going off on their own. The official Universal Orlando Resort App makes this very easy — you can create accounts for every person with a smartphone and set spending limits for everyone so they can have some autonomy within the park, while also not breaking the bank.
Whew, well those are my recommendations for now. Now we want to hear from you — make sure to share your packing tips in the comments below and tag us while visiting the destination. And be sure to check out this packing post for additional tips for the entire family as you plan your trip.