I’ve seen a lot of families at Disneyland over the years, and I’m always a little irritated by the fathers who passively walk behind the kids leaving all the parenting to their wives.  They don’t do much besides push a stroller or moan about the cost of a churro.  These are the dads who forget that the happiest place on earth is where they can truly engage with every member of the family, just by doing something small, but incredibly vital–something that will continually gain the admiration of friends, family, and even the occasional stranger.

The one small thing that every dad should do at Disneyland?

Be the one to carry the crap.

When you travel with a family, there are things you just need to have with you, and going to Disneyland is no exception.  A woman can carry her purse, but that’s not exactly something she wants to lug around for 10 hours on a hot California day.  And there are plenty of man-friendly shoulder bags  that work great.

What are the things you should carry in this bag for your family?

Well, if it’s a good bag, it’ll have easy access compartments, and you’ll want to find something with space where you might normally put a credit card or photo ID.  You’ll need a couple larger pockets, and if you really want to go full pack mule, you’ll need something big enough to carry water bottles, small snacks, etc.

(Dads with diaper-age children, your bag will be a diaper bag.  Deal with it, because it gets so much better when they get older.)

Our family has two teenagers and two elementary age kids, there are three guys and three girls, and all of us need some basic essentials that every man should carry for the whole gang.  Remember, the goal is to get that purse off your wife’s shoulder for a few days.  So what are the Disneyland essentials every husband and father should carry?

  • Passports.  You’ll need these when you come and go from either Disneyland or Disney California Adventure.  Put them in an easy access pocket where you can get them quickly–you don’t want to be the family that holds up 75 people anxious to get into Disneyland.  It’ll quickly become the un-Happiest Place on Earth.
    • PRO TIP: Don’t use the plastic holders you can purchase to hang from a Disney lanyard.  They can easily tear and fall off.   You can afford to lose a $20 gift card, but you can’t easily replace $1000 worth of passports.
  • Resort Room Key or Credit Card.  If you’re staying at a Disney hotel and want to charge your room for everything, you’ll want to keep this handy.  Same thing for that card you’re charging those Mint Juleps too.
  • Lip Balm or Lipstick.  This may or may not be for you, but someone’s going to ask for it during the day.  If your family is like mine, those dry lips will only get drier going in and out of air conditioned attractions.  Keep it handy, and if you get the right kind, you’ll be glad you have easy access to it.
  • Portable Battery.  The Magic Kingdom is also the battery-draining kingdom.  Your smartphone will need juice during a regular day–especially after all the photos you took of your daughter with those girls from Frozen–and there are a few charging lockers on Main Street and Buena Vista Street.  But those cost money, there aren’t a lot of them, and you have to leave your device.  There are a few easy access outlets you can use (subscribe to The Disneyland Dad email to get the locations), but it’s easiest just to carry a small portable charging battery.  Get one big enough to handle two devices, and you’ll keep everyone happy.
  • USB Cords.  You’ll need these to work with the portable battery.  But you knew that, right?
  • Trading Pins.  Once one member of your family has experienced Disney pin trading, they might have a tough time letting go of it.  I know this by experience.  Everyone in the family has their favorites they are always looking for, so being the go-to resource for pins means your family will come looking for you for more than just money.
  • Cash.  Most of the Disneyland vending carts take debit or credit these days, but you may prefer to grab a churro with an actual bill instead of using a card and wondering what that weird $4 charge is on your bank statement a month later.
  • Gum or Mints.  You’ll need them after a day of delicious snacking, and you can’t get gum anywhere at the Resort (because it’s almost as nasty to step in gum as it is to step in the authentic horse manure you occasionally find on Main Street, USA), and the only mints are ridiculously overpriced Altoids ripoffs in the shape of the Fab Five.
  • Sunglasses/Eyeglasses.  If you have anyone in the family who wears glasses and doesn’t have prescription sunglasses, you’ll need to lug them around and change them out every time you go in and out of an attraction.  This is one of the major items in Disneyland’s lost and found, and you don’t want your eyewear to become a statistic.  Putting them someplace safe is so much better than hanging them from the collar of your shirt.
  • Feminine Items.  Again, probably not for you, but the women in your family will appreciate that you are prepared.
  • Pain Relief Medicine.  You can always go to the seriously awesome First Aid (one of the nurses at the Resort has seen us so often we now exchange Christmas gifts), but if you only have a slight headache and aren’t anywhere near Main Street, USA, your family members won’t be super happy losing their spot in the Splash Mountain queue.  Keeping some ibuprofen handy will be a huge help.
  • Change.  You’ll need coins for the very cool pressed penny machines all over Disneyland (most of them are 51¢ and little kids love them).  Keep a small baggie full of quarters and pennies, and when you find them, you’ll be ready.
  • Family Gift Cards.  Be the keeper of everyone’s spending money.  You wouldn’t hand your six year old a credit card at Target and expect them not to lose it–it’s the same idea if you have a Disney gift card.  Just because it has a cartoon character on it doesn’t mean it won’t get lost.  Keeping the cards handy also means you can encourage your kids to make wise choices with their money.  Trust me, they really don’t need that foam flying Buzz Lightyear that looks so awesome right now.
  • Disney PhotoPass.  This handy card lets you attempt to get a great photo at some pretty awesome locations around the park.  Yes, from those annoying photographers that probably don’t actually know much about photography.  But we’ve managed to get some stellar shots, and PhotoPass lets you look at whatever you like back at home, choose what you actually want, and get a copy for yourself.
  • Phones.  Yep, you’ll probably end up carrying most of the phones, especially if you’re about to hit Splash Mountain or Grizzly River Run.  Nobody likes to see their electronics ruined with a healthy dose of Disney water (spoiler alert: just because it’s from the happiest place on earth doesn’t mean it makes your iPhone any happier).
  • Miscellaneous.  Disneyland Souvenir Maps, Entertainment Schedules, stickers from Disneyland Security (after you lost your kids), a piece of crepe paper from Mickey’s Soundsational Parade, etc.  It will all end up there, so that’s one thing you’ll need to clean out every time you head back to the hotel.  Trust me.

Carrying these for your wife and kids will turn you, like Hercules, from zero to hero.  This frees up your wife from worrying about her purse–enabling her to have her hands free for wiping dirty faces, etc.  And when your teenagers’ phones begin to die and you produce a charging device and a cord, they’ll look at you the way they used to look at Mickey Mouse.