Day-pack essentials for theme park trips

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Warm weather is finally here! As spring heads into summer, visiting a theme park (or two, or three!) may be in your vacation or staycation plans. Whether our family’s headed to Disney, Universal, Six Flags or another destination, I always bring what my family affectionately calls my “black backpack” on all of our theme park trips. I don’t like carrying a purse when we’re in theme-park commando mode, and I’m also not a hip pack kind of person. 

A few years ago I discovered the perfect small, yet durable sling-style backpack. It’s the perfect size for everything I like to bring on day trips, yet it’s much smaller than a traditional backpack. It’s got lots of pockets, it’s well-made, and it’s pretty gender-neutral, meaning my kids or my husband don’t mind taking a turn with it when we’re out and about. 

Swiss Gear sling bag

My bag of choice is this Swiss Gear teardrop sling pack. I originally purchased mine for $25 at Target about five years ago. At the time of this writing, Amazon sells an updated version of this bag, and they also have the original style at Amazon in red. This photo doesn’t do justice to showcasing how small and unobtrusive, yet high-capacity this awesome sling pack is. You can wear it cross-body or over one shoulder, and it’s got a bunch of pockets for holding all of your theme park tactical gear:


I’ve also seen a similar sling pack from a different brand on Amazon.

What goes in this bag? On a typical theme park day trip, this pack contains:

Day pack contents

Other optional items:

 Sling botle

We also like to take a one-quart water bottle with us to save money on buying beverages at whatever park or event we’re attending. I bring pre-measured powdered lemonade mix along in sandwich bags. These fit inside the zippered cover on the bottle. Then, when we’re ready to mix it up, we just pour the pre-measured bag of mix into the bottle, fill it at a drinking fountain, and shake it up! I clip the bottle to the backpack’s strap.

Drink bottle:

 A few tips if you plan to take a bottle:

  • Six Flags Great America does not let you bring any beverages in the park. They will let you bring an empty bottle in, or a bottle of water, but not a premixed bottle of lemonade. We learned the hard way to mix it after entering the park’s gates.
  • When we fly to other destinations, I bring a sealed canister of drink mix along. Every single time I’ve had this in a suitcase, our luggage has been flagged for inspection, and the TSA agents have handled our canister of Country Time or Kool-Aid as if it were some sort of explosive device. I’ve learned to remove the canister of drink mix before going through the luggage X-ray and putting it into a bin along with shoes, toiletries and what not. We’ve had a much easier time getting that scary drink mix through security by removing it from our luggage.
  • We like Country Time and Kool-Aid because the canister lid is marked with a one-quart line, which makes measuring individual sandwich bags of mix easy and quick.
  • We’ve also experimented with bringing collapsible water bottles like this one — they’re easy to roll up and stash inside the bag when empty. But, we’ve found they’re too easy for the kids to accidentally squirt the contents out of, and they don’t keep drinks as cool as the insulated bottle does. 


Minimalist plan:

For “grown-up” days when we don’t need this level of tactical theme park preparation, I like to take a cross-body wallet. This is my favorite:

Simply Smart

It’s called the Simply Smart Cross Body Tech Companion Travel Bag. I found mine at Hobby Lobby awhile back for $9.99, and Amazon carries them too. What I love about it is that it’s got secure pockets for your driver’s license and credit cards that seal with a Velcro closure. A zipper pouch on the side holds cash, keys and other essentials. And on the back? A smartphone pocket with a window allows you to use your touchscreen while it’s safely stowed in the pouch. (This pocket also closes with Velcro.)

simply smart bag

I like to wear this cross-body, over one shoulder and under one arm.

simply smart

While I wore it over my shirt for the above photo, this is how I actually wear it when I’m theme-parking:

 simply smart bag

It hides under my shirt and isn’t easily visible. It’s very secure (I’ve worn it on roller coasters!) and allows me to go on rides without leaving a bag behind. And, even when I do bring the little black backpack of gear, I wear this too. Some park rides require you to leave bags behind in a cubby or on a shelf while you ride. With this, all of my personal items stay with me just in case my bag were to take a walk. 

If you’re planning some day trips, theme park trips or other events, I hope some of these tips help make your day out even more fun & easy!

Related: Heading to a theme park? Check out my ultimate one-minute theme park tailgating setup — yes, it really sets up in one minute!

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    • says

      Sunscreen is the very first item on my list! In the photo of the bag’s contents, you can see a tube of Australian Gold SPF 45 to the left of the Kool-Aid limeade. :)

    • says

      I have some of that in here too (listed as “insect repellent” in list though, so you may have missed it.) It’s the little orange-capped bottle of Cutter Advanced insect repellent next to the Kool-Aid in the above photo. :)

  1. Elise Young says


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