For the second year in a row, my daughter's Pop Warner cheerleading team is heading to the national championships in Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida. The annual event is held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, where dozens of the best teams in the country will meet for the number one spot in their respective cheer divisions. It’s such an exciting time for our group of young girls aged between 10 and 12 to have this opportunity; and while they definitely have their eyes fixed on the prize, some of them already feel accomplished this season for having made it to the finals. This is especially true for the girls that are cheerleading on a competitive level for the first time.
Because the 2016 Pop Warner Super Bowl and National Cheer & Dance Championships are officially in session, many families from all over the US are already in Orlando. So, this packing list is more of a personal checklist for me. Though, perhaps, this would also serve the girls and their families who will make it and travel to the national championships next year.
It may seem like I’m stating the obvious, but it has happened more than you would expect: forgetting to pack the uniform. Sometimes the one thing that we keep reminding ourselves to bring - and the most important one, at that - is the one that gets left behind. Make a list of your cheerleader's complete uniform. Pack and check. And then check again. And check one more time before you head out. The list of items may vary, depending on the team, but here’s ours:
- Crop top
- Bloomers/Compression shorts
- After-competition getup
- Practice shirts
I highly recommend packing light. After all, it is a one-day event for your team; two, if you’re counting the mandatory final rehearsal the day before your team’s assigned performance slot. The minimum stay at the Disney resorts for this event is three nights, which should allow you to pack everything you need in two carry-on luggage. But if packing light is really not your thing and you’ll have to check some bags, be sure to pack your uniform in your carry-on!
Hair ties, bobby pins + non-toxic hairspray or gel
You’ll need all the help you can get to keep your cheerleader’s hair up and her bow in place. Bring a pack of hair ties and bobby pins, and a travel-size hairspray or gel. Expect your teammates to be needing your supplies - and, as a true team member, share!
Don’t forget to bring the necessary styling equipment. My daughter's coach wants the team to have their hair straightened this year, which I'm grateful for. Otherwise, I'd have to get my daughter up very early to curl her hair! Bring your own to save your cheerleader and yourself some unwarranted tween drama moment. Sure, you can borrow from a teammate, but that would only mean taking more time for the entire team to be ready.
Nail cutter and nail polish remover
The other moms in my daughter’s team and I make sure that our girls’ nails are neat before our trip. That’s clean-cut and unpolished. There is always at least one mom who would pack these things, though, just in case. There’s no harm in being that mom. 😁
Plane tickets/boarding passes
As previously stated, sometimes the most important items are the ones that get left behind. Thankfully, plane tickets are electronic now and boarding passes can easily be reprinted at airlines’ desks and kiosks.
Sports waiver forms
Participating athletes in football and cheer as well as their parents and/or guardians must sign individual waiver forms because, of course we do.😳 Print the forms at home and turn the signed ones over to your coach. Athletes will not be allowed to participate in their sporting events without the signed waiver forms.
Disney Magical Express tags
The Disney Magical Express is a motorcoach that brings you from the Orlando International Airport to your Disney resort, and back to the airport on your day of departure. Every participating athlete is given access to this complimentary transportation. Attach the tags to your check-in items and the service will deliver your luggage directly to your hotel room.
The Disney MagicBands allow you access the itinerary, such as your FastPass+ and dining plans, which you have created for your trip through My Disney Experience. Matched to your fingerprint for verification, you can go through the theme parks, and dine and shop without having to haul your wallet, credit cards and driver’s license with you. I have ordered our MagicBands to be shipped to our hotel to avoid losing or leaving them, but if you have yours delivered to your house, be sure to pack them in your carry-on.
We, New Jerseyans, are already donning coats, scarves, thermal socks and boots this time of year. Going down to Florida to shed those layers of clothing off for a couple of days and bask under the sun is a sure treat. I don’t know about the other teams, but we do get some pool time.
Anything else I may have forgotten? Sound off in the comments!
Carol is one of the founders of get there | get lost. She is a New Jersey-based content producer and social media specialist, and a digital nomad wannabe. With regards to travel, she writes mostly about getaways with her family, and is a strong advocate of the “experience over things” mantra. Follow her everyday adventures @fcbsantiago.