Are you trying to figure out what are essential items for highly sensitive kids at Disney World? The last thing you want to do is haul everything in your house for a family vacation. I have to admit, I tend to be an overpacker because I want to be prepared for all circumstances. But after multiple trips to Disney World with my highly sensitive kids, I have figured out a list of must-bring, essential items that you ABSOLUTELY need.
If you’re not sure what highly sensitive means, read more here.
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1. Noise Canceling Headphones or Ear Plugs
Highly sensitive and sensory sensitive kids startle easily from sudden noises. And constant auditory stimulation is so overwhelming for them. My kids will sometimes complain that their ears hurt or that they have a headache after being exposed to lots of loud noises. So, how do you prevent your highly sensitive kids from sensory overload due to the loud sounds experienced at Disney World?
The answer is noise canceling headphones or ear plugs! We have two pairs of these headphones, which has a noise reduction rating (NRR) of 25 dB. The NRR measures how effective the device is at reducing noise levels. Any product rated in the mid-20s and low 30s is considered pretty good! There is a different model of these headphones which have a slightly better NRR at 27 dB.
For the littler ones, we love Baby Banz. My son outgrew his about 2.5 years old, but it was so comfortable for him even as a baby.
We used noise canceling headphones ALL the time on our Disney trips. Parades, shows, rides, and even the bathroom. Those notoriously loud automatic flushing toilets at Disney World can scare any newly potty-trained kiddos.
This is why this is an essential item for highly sensitive kids at Disney World.
2. Comfy Shoes
Disney World involves a ton of walking. The littler ones will probably be spending more time in the stroller, but it is still so essential for them to have comfortable shoes. Because Florida weather is generally hot and humid, with frequent rain storms, I love shoes that can get wet. It’s also perfect for all those rides where you might get splashed, and it’s a good option for all your pool days.
It’s all the more important for highly sensitive kids to wear comfortable shoes because they are more prone to notice and be bothered if their shoes pinch or rub. If your highly sensitive kids already have a favorite brand of shoes, go with those! You don’t want to be breaking in new shoes in a brand that your highly sensitive child hates while at Disney World.
Some of our favorite waterproof shoes for highly sensitive kids are:
Crocs – Crocs are not exactly the cutest shoes in the world. But boy, are they comfortable. We love that they have Disney-themed ones. Our kids loved the light-up ones with Mickey Mouse on it. Plus, they can personalize and decorate their Crocs with little charms that they love. My daughter had an Elsa and Anna charms on her Crocs.
Keens – Keens are such a popular choice as summer camp shoes for kids! They can get wet, protect the little ones toes, and provide good support and cushioning for little feet.
Nike Sunray – These Nike Sunrays are AWESOME. Both kids wore these last summer. They are super lightweight, with flexible soles. My kids hate the feeling of clunky, heavy sandals. So this was a perfect option for us. It also has a quick-dry design, which is great for going to the pool or going on wet rides.
Natives – Natives are another popular summer shoe for kids. They seem to run narrow, but it’s a great shoe for comfort and play, as well as getting wet. This sparkly “bling” version is extra cute, and would pair well with cute Disney outfits.
Sneakers or Running Shoes
If your highly sensitive kids don’t like sandals or shoes without socks, there are a lot of sneaker options as well.
Skechers Kids Sport – My daughter has these and she LOVES them. They are memory foam, and are easy to pull on with no laces or velcro. She gets frustrated easily when she can’t get her shoes on quickly when she feels that we are rushing to get out the door. This is why these slip-on Skechers are perfect for her. The memory foam is also “air cooled” to prevent their feet from getting too sweaty, which is great for the hot Florida weather. The little bit of shimmer makes it feel a little fancy and glam, for a sneaker.
Nike Flex Runner – These Nike Flex Runners are also a great non-lace, non velcro option for kids. They are lightweight and features a breathable and flexible upper. These shoes have easy-on pull tabs so your highly sensitive child doesn’t have to struggle and feel frustrated getting their shoes on.
For The Littler Ones
See Kai Run – See Kai Run is a brand I LOVE for the younger ones, particularly 2 years old and younger. Their designs are developmentally appropriate, the soles are flexible, and little toes have enough space to wiggle. Because of this, their shoes are approved by the American Pediatric Medical Association (APMA). Not only that, their shoes are actually pretty darn cute.
Both of my kids had pretty chubby feet, and my daughter also needed to wear orthotics in her shoes from 18 months until about 2.5 years old. It was so challenging to find shoes that accommodated, but See Kai Run was the perfect fit for our needs.
And they have plenty of adorable sneakers, like these Stevie II ones. I had these exact ones in gray for my son, which he wore all the time. They have that classic sneaker look, like a Converse. But so much more supportive, and better suited for younger kids.
Bright lights and being under the Florida sun can feel like too much for some highly sensitive kids. This is why a pair of sunglasses is an essential item for highly sensitive kids at Disney World. These Rivbos Rubber sunglasses with a Minnie bow is a cute and functional accessory for your Minnie lover. I love that these have a strap attached to the sunglasses, so that your highly sensitive child can take them on and off as needed without worrying about losing them!
In addition to sunglasses, bringing a good hat is important! Not only is it good for protecting the skin on your face from the sun, it’s a great way to provide shade for eyes that need a reprieve from bright lights. This is especially helpful if your highly sensitive child doesn’t like the feeling of sunglasses on their face.
A bucket hat like this provides awesome coverage for not only your child’s face, but their ears and neck.
Continuing this theme of sun protection, sunblock is another essential item for highly sensitive kids at Disney World. Highly sensitive children often have a much lower pain tolerance, so the LAST thing you want on your vacation is a terrible sunburn! We use this Blue Lizard sunscreen all the time. It is mineral-based, which means no icky chemicals in there to bother your kid’s skin. Both my kids are prone to eczema and rashes, and they have never had any reactions to Blue Lizard sunscreen. Another popular and safe brand for sunscreen is ThinkBaby, which is also mineral-based.
6. Cooling Towels
If you plan on visiting Orlando between the months of March and October, it is absolutely essential to bring cooling towels. I had never used these until I went to Disney World in June. The heat and humidity during that time of year is stifling for anyone, so imagine how much more overwhelming it would feel for highly sensitive kids.
If you’re not familiar with how these work, you basically soak these towels in water and they keep a cooling effect while wet. We had these wrapped around the kids’ necks and covered the tops of their arms. I ordered a few packs of these Alfamo Cooling towels, which worked well for us. I loved how it came with a little carrying pouch which you could easily clip on to your backpack or stroller. For those who have a trip in December, January, and February, you probably won’t need to pack these.
7. Portable Fan
As mentioned already, Orlando gets ridiculously hot and humid for a good part of the year. So in addition to cooling towels, a necklace fan (like this O2COOL fan) is definitely an essential item for highly sensitive kids at Disney World. The reason why I LOVED these is because they are hands-free. And the vertical airflow vent has the air going right up to your neck towards your face.
If you’ve got highly sensitive kids in strollers, a sturdy stroller fan is essential if you’re traveling during those particularly hot months of the year. We have this specific one, and love how strong the clip is. It runs on battery OR you can charge it via a USB cable, which makes it super convenient.
Another type of fan that is helpful in the Florida humidity is a misting fan. This is another product I have NEVER used until I started going to Disney World. This is a handheld, rechargeable portable fan. But the major difference is that you can fill it with water so that you get the combined effect of the fan with a cooling spray of mist.
This is a question I’ve seen so often – “Should I bring my stroller to Disney World?” When it comes to highly sensitive or sensory sensitive kids, my answer is a resounding “YES!”. Even if you never use a stroller on a regular basis at home, being at Disney World is a whole different ball game. It is a lot of walking, even for adults, as we’ve typically logged 15,000 to 25,000 steps per day.
Not only is a lot of walking… Disney World is really overstimulating, especially if it’s your family’s first trip. The crowds. The heat. The noise. The sweltering Florida sun. If you want to prevent sensory overload for your highly sensitive kids, I strongly suggest bringing a stroller.
My daughter managed to get through the Happily Ever After fireworks show (*as of 3/12/2021, not on the schedule due to COVID-19 protocols) by sitting in her stroller seat, with noise canceling headphones on, clutching her lovey. It became a safe zone for her. She finally came out to watch the last 5 minutes of the show when she got comfortable enough.
So if you’ve got kids who are ages 7 and under, I would 100% bring a stroller.
We have the Uppababy G-Link, which is an umbrella-style double stroller. We’ve used it for all our Disney trips so far. It’s definitely still heavy and a little clunky to maneuver with bigger kids. But the things I love about it are: how it folds like an umbrella, how tall the seats are, and how much coverage the sunshade provides. Another double stroller that many Disney moms rave about is the Baby Jogger City Mini Double.
And if you’ve got a stroller, you definitely need a rain shield for your stroller. Orlando has frequent rain storms that pass through without warning, and while they don’t last very long, you don’t want your stroller getting soaked while you’re on a ride. We learned this the hard way. This is the rain shield we used with our stroller, but you can also easily buy a cheap shower curtain liner and clip it onto your stroller.
If you have no need for a double stroller, a great single stroller option is the Zoe Tour+ XL1 stroller. It is SUPER lightweight at only 11lbs, which will make it such a breeze when you need to fold up the stroller to get on Disney buses. It’s got a great recline for on-the-go naps, and this canopy is one of the largest I’ve ever seen! Your highly sensitive child will feel nice and cozy in there, and they’ll get a nice break from all the sensory overload at Disney World.
9. Poncho or Raincoat
Packing a poncho or raincoat is an essential item for highly sensitive kids at Disney World to prevent sensory overload meltdowns. My son in particular HATES getting wet. Splash Mountain is a ride that’ll probably induce meltdowns in him at this age (and we’ll see if this is something he’ll eventually grow out of). Highly sensitive kids can be more bothered and feel more uncomfortable when getting wet. Especially getting wet unexpectedly. Between the rides where you could get wet and the Florida storms, having a poncho or raincoat for your highly sensitive kids is really important. I love these lightweight raincoats because they are easily packable and it doesn’t feel too stuffy in the Florida heat.
10. An Extra Layer of Clothing
Yes, Orlando gets very hot. I think you probably get the point now. So you might be wondering why you’d need an extra layer!
I’ve found that some indoor rides and restaurants have pretty strong air conditioning. Highly sensitive kids could experience a lot of discomfort from going from hot to cold really quickly. And sometimes mornings in December and January can feel a little chilly as well. So I always make sure we have a hoodie or sweater in my bag for the kids.
A really fun option for an extra layer is a Cubcoat. My kids were gifted a Minnie and Mickey one this Christmas by my brother and sister-in-law. It is such a cute and functional concept. It’s a zip-up hoodie, and when you’re NOT wearing it, you can roll it up so that it becomes a little stuffed doll. The material is really soft and cozy, and kids will love carrying around their stuffies when they’re not wearing their hoodies. There are so many fun Disney-inspired choices like Darth Vader & Chewbacca for your Star Wars fans. Or Elsa for your Frozen obsessed kiddo. Or Winnie the Pooh for those who love that cuddly bear.
11. Change of Clothes
What happens if your highly sensitive child gets their clothes wet from a ride or the rain? If they’re anything like my kids, they will hate staying in wet clothes. My kids complain that they feel cold and uncomfortable. In order to prevent meltdowns, a change of clothes in your bag is an essential item in my mind. It’s also helpful for those newly potty trained kids who might have an accident in the parks. Instead of using disposable Ziploc bags, bring a reusable wet bag like this one. These are great to store wet or soiled clothes, and you can throw them in the wash too.
Highly sensitive kids who are tired and hungry are more likely to experience sensory overload meltdowns. One way you can prevent this from happening is by bringing snacks! Disney World has tons of snack options, but if your kids need a familiar snack item from home, definitely pack some or use a grocery delivery service to your hotel room. Minimize those hangry meltdowns by preparing ahead of time. You can use these stackable snack jars, which means your food won’t get crushed at the bottom of your backpack. We’ve also used these snack catchers so that the kids could comfortably hold their own snacks without worrying about dumping it all over themselves.
One of the things I’ve noticed about my highly sensitive children during the pandemic is an increased anxiousness about germs. Reduce these kinds of worries at Disney World by bringing your own sanitizer. I love these Mickey & Minnie sanitizer holders, and you can keep it easily accessible by looping it onto a belt loop, stroller, or bag.
14. Silicone Straws
In 2019, Disney moved towards the reduction of single-use plastics as part of their commitment to minimize plastic waste from their parks and resorts. This meant they started using paper straws instead.
While I wholeheartedly support Disney’s mission to be more “green”, drinking out of paper straws isn’t exactly the most enjoyable experience. They usually start dissolving while you’re still drinking your beverage, and it starts to feel like you have a piece of tissue in your mouth.
Highly sensitive kids will definitely notice the texture of these “different” straws. So instead of having them complain about these “gross” straws, bring your own! I bought this set of silicone straws, which comes with its own little carrying case, cleaning brush, and a hook to easily attach to your bag or belt loop.
15. Baby Wipes or Wet Wipes
It’s common for highly sensitive kids to dislike getting their hands dirty. We are working on this with more sensory play at home, but this is why I always keep a pack of baby wipes or wet wipes in my bag no matter where we go. Even though my kids are way past the blowout-poop-explosion days, I still consider baby wipes an essential item for highly sensitive kids at Disney World. Snacks and mealtimes might get messy, so I love having wipes easily accessible to quickly wipe down faces and hands.
My absolute favorite is the Kirkland Signature Baby Wipes from Costco. They are thick, soft, and sturdy. But these water wipes are a great option too. These are fragrance-free (great for highly sensitive kids!), and also super gentle on the skin. They’ve been awarded the National Eczema Association of American Seal of Acceptance since 2018, which is perfect our kids’ eczema-prone skin.
16. Weighted Blanket
My daughter has always had difficulty sleeping. It takes extra time for her brain to settle down, and she needs everything “in its place” before she can comfortably fall asleep. You can see how this could be challenging when leaving home and having to sleep elsewhere while on vacation. But this is why we love using a weighted blanket! How it works is that the deep pressure from the blanket is supposed to create a calming effect, just like a big warm hug.
The weight of the blanket should be about 10% of your body weight. So if your child weighs 40lbs, the blanket should be 4lbs. It is NOT recommended for children 2 years and younger. This specific one is machine washable, which is awesome, though you need to air dry it.
It can be a little difficult to travel with one, especially if you’re traveling by plane and have weight limits on your luggage. But if you can somehow manage to bring one with you, it’ll help your highly sensitive child settle down better at bedtime even in new surroundings.
17. White Noise Machine
Another way we make sure our highly sensitive kids get a good night’s sleep is to bring a white noise machine. Disney World hotels can be loud. When we stayed at Art of Animation, we were on the first floor. We could hear our neighbors above us, and other guests running through the halls. During our stay at Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary Resort, we could hear the Electrical Pageant outside every night. Having our white noise machine helped block out all those extra sounds for my kids, so they could sleep peacefully at night.
My daughter has had this Dohm Classic White Noise Machine since 2015, and she still uses it to this day. It is really sturdy, and has an actual fan inside so that the noise sounds more natural than a recording. We’ve traveled everywhere with this thing.
We also recently purchased the Hatch Baby Rest Sound Machine for my son. It is a sound machine and nightlight combined, and you can control it remotely with your phone. My highly sensitive son has a new fear of the dark so that nightlight component is really useful for us.
A familiar comfort item is an essential in the midst of overstimulation and new surroundings. My daughter has had these Angel Dear loveys since she was a baby, and they always travel with us. The size of these blankies are perfect to keep in your bag.
Angel Dear also makes these loveys in a larger version called a napping blanket. My kids love being able to cuddle with these for bedtime.
If you need extra support and community from other parents of highly sensitive kids going to Disney World, I encourage you to join my new Facebook group—“Planning Disney for Highly Sensitive Kids (and Adults too!)! You can ask all your questions and get feedback from a wonderful group of Disney-loving parents who are also looking to minimize meltdowns and maximize the magic during their Disney World vacation.
Get Your FREE Disney Ride Planner Tool
Also, I wanted to remind you to download your FREE copy of my must-have Disney ride planner tool!
With my Disney Ride Planner tool, it will be such a breeze to keep track of which rides you want to avoid and which you want to try with your highly sensitive kids. It will make planning your park days SO much easier!
It is an editable and fillable PDF file, but there is an option to print a blank copy so you can fill it out by hand.