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Going Hands-Free at Disney

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We’ve all had quite the unexpected break from our Disney vacations, and it occurred to me last week that there might not be a better time than now revisit our park routines and avoid that relationship rut with our favorite vacation destination.

As my children have grown older, I find myself needing to take less and less into the parks to survive the outing. Gone are the days of strollers with bottles and diapers packed in the bag; they’ve now been replaced by everyone’s wallets, phones, and jackets in my backpack. But, not too long ago, I noticed a post on the Disboards Facebook group where members were making well-constructed arguments for going to the parks hands-free, and I’ve got to say, they almost had me over the line.

Even though my backpack stays, well, on my back, it still doesn’t leave me with free hands to move around and do whatever I like. I am always taking it on and off to navigate attractions, moving it to the front in large crowds so I don’t accidentally hit anyone, and constantly opening and closing it to get out everything from my camera to our water bottles.

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With technology taking the place of everything from your park ticket to your wallet, the need for a backpack full of stuff is becoming less and less relevant. A jacket can tie around your waist, your credit card, park ticket, and FastPasses can be stored on your MagicBand, and all you need is a pocket for your phone. But where do you put all the other things that you need to survive with the family? What about your inhaler and the antihistamines? Where do you put your hand sanitizer or your water bottles? I have questions.

I’ve worked so hard over the years at refining what goes into my perfectly curated backpack that the idea to now throw that all away and go in without any storage seems risky, but also quite exciting. I can imagine being able to get on and off rides without storing things, no longer with the anxiety that everyone is waiting for you to wedge your bag into that tiny mesh opening on Star Tours. No longer stressing that the pack you have pinned between your knees will go flying around that bend on the Matterhorn. And don’t even get me started on how lovely it would be to avoid the backpack-shaped sweat patch in the warmer months as all your belongings increase your body temperature a few-too-many degrees!

But I still need to know about the logistics. Those of you that do successfully navigate the parks without a bag in tow, how do you manage? Where do you put your collectibles or your ears when that headband-shaped dent behind your human ears becomes too much to bear? And, does your likelihood of needing a bag change depending on which park you are going to? For example, if you were doing shorter hours in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, taking in more shows and experiences, would you be less inclined to bring something with you than say a full day from early morning to late evening at Walt Disney World‘s Magic Kingdom?

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Personally, I don’t think I am quite ready to take the leap into being backpack-less at Disney. I’m quite attached to the convenience of having a place to throw everything in: the hats, snacks, and medications. Where do they go when you don’t have a backpack to store them? What do you do with your $2 ponchos before you ride Splash Mountain? That’s right, I wear a poncho! Having learned the hard way what it feels like to misjudge your likelihood of getting soaked on a winter trip, I take them and use them. But where do you put them without the safety and security of your backpack?

My question to you all is, how do you do Disney? Do you fill your pockets or rely on your trusty bag to house your supplies? Do you feel naked without the security of having everything with you or do you enjoy the feeling of being footloose and fancy-free without the stuff weighing you down?

As someone on the verge of transition from one camp to the other, I am looking forward to your answers.

Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.

Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.


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