By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.

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Air Travel 101 for Walt Disney World: 3. Bags and Packing

By Dave Shute


(This page is one of a series explicating Walt Disney World lingo, abbreviations, and FAQ for first time family visitors to Walt Disney World.)

This page is one of several designed to give tips and insights to those traveling by air to Walt Disney World for whom air travel is a new or rare thing.

I will try to cover in it all the key things they may not know about such travel.

This series purposely excludes tips and hints for getting the best deals on air travel.  Those are on a different page—Air Travel 201.

Air Travel 101 for Walt Disney World includes the following pages:

  1. Flights and Tickets
  2. Seats and Ground Transport
  3. Bags and Packing
  4. From the Day Before You Leave Until the Day You Return


Dealing with baggage

Most airlines now charge for bags that you check (that is, that the airline takes from you, gets to the plane, stores in its belly, and returns to you at your final destination airport), and charge even more for over-weight and oversize bags. Check the website of your airline for its specific details.

Moreover, checked bags do get lost. An average of one passenger per flight will have their bags lost.

Given this, the best answer is to check as few bags as you can, and manage with carry-ons instead. Carry-ons are bags that you keep in your possession, and bring on to the plane yourself.

If you have to check bags, try to check just one. (Check your airline’s limits on size and weight, though—you can spend hundreds of dollars on overweight charges.) This checked bag should contain the things you will miss least if it is lost, or its arrival is delayed.

If you are checking bags and using Disney’s Magical Express to deliver your bags to your room, put the Disney luggage tags you received in mail on your bags.

In addition, always attach a tag to the outside of each bag with your name, cell phone number, and home address. Put the same info inside of your bag on an index card (in case your outside tag gets torn off). You can get outside tags at the airport itself if need be.

Working largely or entirely with carry-ons is made a little easier by the fact that all Walt Disney World resort hotels have laundry facilities, and harder by the fact that there are strict limits on the size and number of carry-ons you can have.

  • Per person, you are limited to two carry-ons.
  • One of these must be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you. Think small briefcase or backpack, or large purse.
  • The other must be small enough to fit into the overhead compartment. Your airline’s website will have specifics on the size limits of your carry-on. This website may also help.
  • A note on purses: I have been on, I’d guess, more than 500 flights in my life (this is what happens when you are a management consultant.) Many of these flights have been packed to the gills. I have never, not once, seen a woman with three carry-ons, one of which was a reasonably sized purse, be fussed at for having three carry-on items rather than two.
  • The most common size of a carry-on intended for the overhead is 22″ x 14″ x 9”, measured externally. This size is allowed by pretty much all airlines.
  • The most flexible and handy bags of this type have wheels, a pull handle, and a zipped expansion pocket. This expansion pocket increases your bag’s capacity for when you intend to use it as a checked bag, and also makes it easier to pack. (Pack it with the expansion open, then sit on it and zip the expansion closed.)
  • Your carry on ideally will not be black. Since most are, this makes it easier for you to spot yours.
  • See this example at London Fog Oxford 21″ Upright
  • The best way to cram items into your carry-on is to first pack some clothes flat into a large zip-lock bag, and then sit on or otherwise apply pressure to force the air out, and then seal the bag. You will be amazed at how much more you can fit than you could have with the air still in.
  • Two-gallon zip-lock bags are ideal for this purpose, though sometimes hard to find. (They are also great for using when curing pork belly into bacon, but that’s another story…)

US security regulations as to what you can and can’t have in your carry-on change from time to time. If you are unsure, see this page and its links. On that same page you can also sign up for email notifications of when the rules change.

  • The most surprising thing for infrequent flyers is that you can’t bring liquids through security—no bottled water, for example. Small quantities (3.4 oz sizes or smaller) of standard bath supplies—toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, and such—are ok, so long as they are all packed into a separate quart sized clear plastic bag. Put this plastic bag someplace handy in your carry-on, as you will need to take it out at the security checkpoint.
  • (Note that once you are through security, you can buy bottled water and bring it on the plane with you.)
  • There are exceptions for items such as medications, breast milk, etc. See this page for what they are.

Changing your seats. If you don’t like your seats, return to your airline’s website every few days, and especially the last few days before your departure, to see if it has opened any more for booking, as commonly happens.

Airsickness etc. Talk to your pharmacist or physician for suggestions for dealing with possible airsickness, fear of flying, or claustrophobia.

(Note: a very rich source of advice on air travel can be found in Scott McCartney’s The Wall Street Journal Guide to Power Travel.)


  1. Flights and Tickets
  2. Seats and Ground Transport
  3. Bags and Packing
  4. From the Day Before You Leave Until the Day You Return



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