Packing is not my favourite thing, let’s just get that right out in the open.  Packing for a 13-day road trip for a family of five is only made bearable by keeping the destination in mind, but packing while trying to keep that destination – DISNEYLAND – a secret?!!  Let’s just say it was tricky and required a box ounce or two of wine patience. I have been to Disneyland in December once before, three years ago, so I felt fairly confident about my packing decisions.  Based on my previous experience, I figured dresses, leggings, light sweaters and comfortable shoes should do it…  I was wrong.  So wrong.

Not gonna lie, rain at Disneyland felt like an injustice.  #whatupCalifornia 

Aside from having to buy umbrellas (!), I packed more than enough

  • 2 black dresses with pockets – ENTIRELY DIFFERENT
  • polka dot dress
  • pink dress
  • Soya concept dress
  • navy shift
  • Moulinette Soeurs dress
  • green dress
  • grey Lolë dress 
  • raspberry, teal and mustard cardis
  • Tinkerbell, cobalt and grey wool sweaters
  • navy leggings, Eileen Fisher leggings and black Icebreaker leggings
  • blue, navy, black, floral and printed scarves
  • one pair of skinny jeans
  • pj’s
  • denim jacket, teal light jacket, London Fog jacket
  • a whole lotta shoes including Miz Mooz boots, Saltwater Sandals, and Skecher Go Walks

All of that fit easily into a mid-size suitcase along with my toiletries, accessories and hair tools.  I tried to wear everything but I mis-packed.  You see, I looked at the weather reports and just assumed it’s like Alberta where the forecast changes hourly so I didn’t believe it would be so chilly.  Consequently, there were a few dresses I didn’t wear (in red) and I wished I had brought more jeans and long warm tops.  Living and learning!  (Next time, I’ll do that and it will be gorgeous!)

Like last time, I tried to take a pic daily so amidst my OOTD shots below, find twenty tips for packing for a road trip to Disneyland!

1 – Start thrifting for Disney gear as soon as you decide you’re going.

Though they didn’t wear them all on the same day, I thrifted all the kids some Disney gear. I had no troubles finding pieces for any of them – at a fraction of the cost at the park!

2 – Travel in dresses.

First hotel stop, weary after 10 hours of travel.  I wore this long-sleeve Avon dress 3 of the travelling days! No one likes to deal with waistbands while enjoying road snacks.
Dresses are basically public nightgowns, so they transition easily from driving to hotel lounging.

3 – Check the weather report – and believe it.

Sure it was WAY warmer than at home but 9 degrees is not exactly balmy.

4 – Check out Pinterest for all kinds of Disneyland advice.

I didn’t do this the last time we went and felt much better prepared this time.

5 – One suitcase, one backpack per person and put a headlamp or book light in everyone’s bag for the trip.  

Santa brought them new suitcases that they could manage themselves – critical for long walks into smelly Vegas hotels.  I did NOT have a backpack but had a great cross-body bag along with a bag full of books and magazines at my feet in the van.
I carried a thrifted Fossil cross-body bag the whole time.  Santa got their reading lights at the dollar store and your hubby will thank you for reading by the light of the headlamp rather than doing a bunch of backseat driving, not that  I know from experience.

6 – Take a separate bag for shoes and another for outerwear.

No, I did not feel bad for taking several pairs of shoes!!  I had no idea how my feet would hold up and wanted to have options.  As it turned out, I wore boots until I hit warm weather, changed into my yellow sandals for one stroll through Downtown Disney, and wore my Skechers the rest of the time.

7 – Got more than 2 kids?  Take a Thermarest-style mattress and sleeping bag.

Some hotels might provide a cot (or pressure you into a second room) but this was a better solution. Compact and cozy!

8 – Keep all the movies in one bag.  Make a trip to the library before you go (or thrift movies before and during).  

We are lucky to have a sweet sweet 2007 Honda Odyssey with a DVD player – HALLELUJAH!  I coached the kids to thrift each other movies for Christmas, borrowed some, had some from the library and thrifted some “new” ones for the ride home.  My kids were thrilled to watch hours of screen time without mommy telling them to stop!

Here I am cruising the Vegas strip in my sweet sweet ride! In truth, we are so thankful our van made it there and back without a single problem. #hondayodyssey4evah

9 – Carry-on suitcases are the right size for kids if you roll your clothes

I Santa debated what size of suitcase to get the kids but it turns out the carry-on size is perfectly fine even for boy children larger than the average supermodel.  You wouldn’t think rolling clothes rather than folding would save that much space but it does.  Try it, you’ll see.

10 – Empty the trash at every gas stop and keep a small garbage up front along with a box of tissues.

Is this a no-brainer?  Just in case it’s not, I include it to ensure no one suffers from PVD (Premature Van Demise).  Near the end of your trip, your vehicle will resemble the aftermath of a tornado, but this can be stayed by emptying out all the debris at each stop.  I might have given them their own garbage receptacle but there wasn’t really room.  By handing it up to me, it was contained and easily emptied.  As for the tissues, lots of Pinterest links recommended having wipes or wet ones but for my fam, tissues were adequate.  No tissues would have been a disaster.  #kidsrgross

Unrelated shot but thought I would share photo evidence that I wore my pink dress even though it was far too cold because I was meeting princesses, dangit.

11 – Stop when you need to, not on a schedule, and use Yelp when you do.

My kids surprised me by being able to go for a LONG time without a driving break.  I monitored the sitch but had we stopped every 2 hours, the trip would have taken a whole lot longer because every stop is at least 15 minutes and usually twice that.  Just wait till all hell breaks loose your kids give cues that they need a break, then stop.  I LOVE Yelp for finding off-the-beaten-path restaurants.  In my experience, Yelp reviews are pretty accurate…

Mr. Hot Dog in Butte, MT was so… interesting AND delicious!  At this point, I’m doubting Yelp reviewers.

My daughter said, “it sure is pretty in here.” (me, still skeptical)
My son: “Hashtag best hot dog ever.”
Bruges Waffles et Frites where my husband proved you don’t need utensils to eat a waffle (and we forced our kids to speak French, so basically #bestparentsevah)
I am now addicted to coffee with creme fraiche.

12 – Take a toaster

This was perhaps our most brilliant move – not seen on any Pinterest packing lists because who travels with a toaster?!!! WE DO!!

We toasted late night snacks and inexpensive breakfasts and YES there were a few pop tarts. #dontjudgeme

13 – A collapsible laundry hamper will save your life.

I’ll spare you a photo of our dirty laundry but this was a Pinterest tip and now, I’ll never leave home without it.  Way better than a plastic bag.  I should also note that we planned from the get-go to do laundry midway.  Let me clarify, *we* didn’t do the laundry; we dropped it off and picked it up the next day, neatly folded in the hamper which is PRICELESS.

14 – Parade blankets are worth their weight in gold.

I got these waterproof pocket parade blankets from Amazon and they were invaluable.

We used them to stake our claim and sit on while waiting for fireworks, to cover the stroller and backpacks while we went on rides or in to eat, and even to cover my daughter in the stroller to keep her warm and dry.

15 – Skechers Go Walk shoes are my new BFF.

Here I am illustrating how my nails match my colour palette but more importantly, MY FEET DID NOT HURT! I have bunions (on one foot)! I had foot surgery 7 months ago! I walked an average of 20 000 steps a day! Not a single blister and no achy feet.

16 – If you take only one piece of outerwear, make it water-resistant.

Eh hem, I didn’t take *only* one coat but wore the other two only once each. This London Fog is fairly warm and waterproof – perfect for water rides and ladies in denial about the weather.
The denim jacket would have looked great with everything I packed but it was no where near warm enough most days.
I wore my lighter teal coat one day – including for my son’s first time in the driver seat – and FROZE and not in an Elsa kind of way.

17 – In the park, rent a stroller.

Sure you can rent a locker but what if your darling child needs HER water bottle immediately??  Also handy for hauling all the everything.  Including six-year-olds.

18 – Backpack essentials: concentrated water flavour drops, glow sticks, large baggies, portable chargers, Rubix cube.

We took refillable water bottles and a couple of containers of concentrated water flavour drops – way cheaper than buying drinks all the time.  Glow sticks are amazingly engaging plus they help you spot your family in a crowd!  Large baggies hold Disney autograph books, wet clothes, snacks, etc.  The portable charger is obvious and my kids spent a ton of time in line playing with their Rubix cubes.

19 – Personal essentials – nice shampoo, flat-iron, perfume, travel mug, shower cap.  A few accessories go a long way.

Given my over-packing tendencies, some things were nonetheless indispensable including small over-priced bottles of my salon shampoo, travel sized perfume, a Contigo travel mug, and shower cap because hotel shower caps are about as effective as disposable ponchos.  I took a few accessories including my She Does Create build-your-own pendant.  There’s no reason not to be stylish and finished!!

Some of us accessorize with crowns, some with scarves.
Choosing a colour-palette can facilitate packing and dressing on vacation.
Same scarf, different outfit. #magic

20 – Lower your standards.

Everyone is excited and tired and not eating normally and staying up way too late AND NOT SLEEPING IN THE VAN! (Why?  Why.)  Your road-tripper will get messy, you will run into a few glitches – like your husband losing his park ticket – but you’re still in the happiest place on earth!  Leave your usual habits and standards at home and just enjoy yourself! (Except your manners, take those.)

You CAN get wine in California Adventure!!

Something happens at Disneyland.  You think you’re not a ride person or a princess person and whatnot, but you get there and everything changes.  Hopefully these packing tips will help YOU the next time you go an adventure!  What do you think?  What is YOUR top packing tip?!


  1. Rebecca C

    We always buy a little umbrella stroller for $15ish from target on south harbour and just leave it for the next person strollers are the best for carrying everything!!!! Not sure if rental cost at park?!! But $15 is cheap or bring one-have done that too. Loved following yr trip. We go several times a year but my kids don’t want to go anymore:( . I even suggested a road trip there this Christmas for something different…NOPE! So I got to see it through your eyes! Mind me asking what costs were approx. for gas and hotels??? I’m from Calgary-love yr posts!

    • nicole

      yes we probably should have bought one though I don’t think an umbrella one would have been sturdy enough! lol Not to mention we couldn’t have squeezed another thing into our van! We figure we spend around $700-800 on gas including a pretty significant detour to Monument Valley. My husband travels a lot for work so we used travel points to cover most of our hotels on the way down and back. I think the average hotel was about $150 Canadian if you were paying for it. Nothing fancy but we didn’t spend much time there. THANK YOU for reading and following along – makes my day to hear it!! xoxoxo

  2. Great ideas! When we have multiple nights in different places, we have an ‘every night’ bag that contains everyone’s toiletries, jammies etc that are needed every night and then another bag with 1 change of clothes for everyone (1 such bag for each night in a different place) so we are not dragging eeeeeverything in every night when it’s not needed.

    • nicole

      That is a great approach to packing that I’ve heard before and considered doing but I just couldn’t wrap my head around getting the outfits together for everyone, especially not exactly knowing the weather, not to mention it would have meant quite a few bags!! Ultimately I compromised by getting small rolling suitcases that they could manage themselves. Still a lot to schlepp but turned out not to be too cumbersome! I like your suggestion for shorter trips though!!

  3. When we travelled from Edmonton to whitefish Montana with a 2 year old and a 5 year-old I packed a plastic tote with special “presents” . When the kids were starting to get bored I would give them a new present ( scratch art kit, colour wonder, special markers, a vtech tablet, water pen colouring book etc). This kept them well occupied and we only had to make a couple stops each way. I also took the plastic tote with us into restaurants and it was a lifesaver while we waited for our meals.

    • nicole

      An excellent strategy! I have head of this and might have done it if I were more organized!!!

  4. I bought these “presents” whenever I was out shopping and happened to see something I thought the kids would enjoy. I had two months to prepare. I hid the presents and didn’t bring them out until the roadtrip