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by Pirate Diva

During my first long trip to Disney World, my family and I stayed on site at Shades of Green. We ate all of our meals in the park or hotel and, as it was fairly hot that week, spent a fortune on drinks.

When we got home, we added up the cost of buying drinks everyday and realized that we had spent approximately $70 per day for drinks for our family of 4. We were shocked!

When you’re in the parks, you don’t always realize how much you are spending on the little things. So, we decided that, before we made our next trip to Disney World, we had to find a way to get the cost of drinks down.

As an Air Force family, Camelbaks were the obvious choice. They come in several sizes and styles, including one that is appropriate for small children. The adult packs holds a 2 liter bladder and the child’s pack holds 1 liter. For my sister and niece, who don’t really like to drink water, we add Kool-Aid singles, Crystal Light singles, Lipton singles, or even Mio. They generally last all day without needing to be refilled and keep everyone well hydrated. This is especially handy when waiting in line. Now no one will have to go buy drinks to make the wait more bearable. Staying hydrated can also help ward off the dreaded melt-down. The packs are quite comfortable and have enough storage to be convenient as a Disney day-pack.

My niece loves her small pink pack, and we’ve added Disney patches and pins to dress it up. Inexpensive carabiners are a great way to clip items onto the packs, although you’ll want to keep it simple as extra stuff can get caught in the bag bins on most rides.

The various styles of adult packs have multiple pockets for holding whatever you need to carry. I have two different packs, a small red 1 liter pack and a large pale blue 2 liter pack. The larger pack has one large pocket, great for storing rain gear, snacks, extra napkins, etc, and one small pocket just the right size for park maps, autograph books, pens, extra pins, pressed pennies, and other small items.

I have carried the pack for at least 7 trips and love it and YES, it is 100% ok to bring these into the park, but you will need to go through baggage check. I rarely run out of water before the end of the day but it’s usually empty by the time I get back to the hotel. The smaller pack is really only useful in the winter when the temperatures are cooler. I tried carrying it in May and ran out of water about two-thirds of the way through the day. However, if you’re going on a cool day and don’t want to carry a large bag, the smaller pack with one internal pocket large enough for a wallet and small autograph book and one cinch pocket just the right size for a rolled-up poncho, would be perfect.

I do have a few recommendations for using the packs. First, nearly all of the bladders are made for use with both water, flavored waters, and in the case of a pack we got from Target, even beer was listed as acceptable, although you couldn’t take it into a Disney Park. However, when using Kool-aid or another powdered drink mix, you will need to rinse the bladders out each night and allow them to dry. Camelbak makes a cleaning kit with drop in tablets and special scrub brushes, even one that will clean out the tube from end to end. We usually buy our water in gallons at Wal-mart.

Be aware that you will need more water than you think. I would estimate at least 1 gallon per day for every two people. If you don’t want to leave the bladders out to dry every night and your room has a refrigerator, you can rinse them and refill them with clean water before putting them in the fridge overnight. I wouldn’t add the flavoring until just before you leave for the day, but filling the bladders the night before does make it easy to grab them and go.

In the end, this is a very economical way to keep the whole family hydrated and we don’t really miss the soda that we don’t buy.

The packs themselves can be expensive if you purchase Camelbak brand, about $35 and up, but you can find other brands of hydration packs at Wal-Mart, Target, and other big retailers. We’ve recently purchased a few for $20 in the camping section, and I’ve even seen them go on clearance after the back to school sale ends for as low as $5.

So, while they can be expensive, they are a great investment in your family’s future vacations. When you start planning your next Disney vacation, consider purchasing hydration packs. They’re fantastic!

Amy, the Pirate Diva, also shares her Disney obsession on the Disney at Heart blog.