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  1. Florida

Six things to bring on your next Florida theme park trip

The more prepared you are, the better.

Covering theme parks is the part of my job I love most, since it means riding roller coasters and checking out new multimillion-dollar thrills. But it’s not just for work. I actually love these places. Having spent more time than most people at theme parks, I will happily share my must-have and must-do essentials to ensure you’re the happiest visitor on Earth.

The theme park’s app

Main Street with Cinderella's Castle in the background at Magic Kingdom. (ALLIE GOULDING | Times)

Download this the night before because Wi-Fi can be spotty in the parks. Theme park apps are an essential way to save time and even money. There are many free third-party park apps, but all parks have official apps these days. You can get wait times for rides, and some even send alerts when the wait time gets into your preset level of interest. They also have maps and show schedules — some even let you save a place in line at a set time and earn rewards including free drinks for checking in at places around the park.

MORE: Everything new coming to Disney, Busch Gardens and more in 2019

Your top three attractions

Guests ride Slinky Dog Dash in Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios. (ALLIE GOULDING | Times)

Never walk into a theme park staring at a paper map and trying to figure out where to go. You’ve spent at least $100 to be there. Arrive the minute it opens, have a bucket list of attractions and make a beeline before crowds pile up.

Your bag

Guests at Busch Gardens walk past the old Gwazi wooden rollercoaster. (LUIS SANTANA | Times)

I go back and forth: A light string bag that leaves my hands free, or the mega mom bag that’s essentially a suitcase? If you’re a roller coaster fan, you have to check any bag in a locker, so size is moot. While it’s nice to have everything you need, that bag can get heavy by the end of the day. Decide your priorities.

The contents of said bag

Hollywood Studios. (ALLIE GOULDING | Times)

Stock your tote with battery-powered fans, frozen water bottles and phone chargers. Pick up a $1 battery-powered fan at WalMart in lieu of the park’s $10 version. Even better? The ones with water misters. A cord to charge your phone is vital because your battery will drop like a rock in a theme park. Or opt for a portable battery so you don’t waste precious time at a charging station. Don’t forget a small tube of sunscreen, and reapply at least twice.

Stroller essentials

Aloha Isle Refreshments, one of the only locations at Disney World where the famous Dole Whip ice cream is available. (ALLIE GOULDING | Times)

I always like to have a big beach towel in the stroller in case anyone wants to splash around. It also comes in handy when the sun is shining and the canopy isn’t helping. Instant nap setup. Roll up as a pillow, unroll as a blanket.

The right clothes

Epcot's Spaceship Earth. (ALLIE GOULDING | Times)

Clothing that wicks moisture is ideal, and a wide-brimmed hat can make a world of difference. Some rides will get you wet, so stash a pair of extra socks, or just wear comfortable sandals. Choose garments with the most pockets. You’ll want them when they’re not there.

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