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.

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Air Travel 101 for Walt Disney World: 4. The Day Before You Leave Until the Day You Return

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 will include the following pages (links will be made live as they are published):

  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


Double check your flight status. The home page of your airline’s website will have a tool to do so. If your flight is canceled call your airline immediately to re-book. If it is already delayed in a way that’s a problem, call them and see what you can do.

Otherwise, check in over the internet as close to 24 hours ahead as you can and print your boarding passes.

If weather looks like it might at all be a problem, and you have a connecting flight, get the phone numbers of some hotels in the city where your connection is to happen. If weather shuts down a number of flights, such hotels will book very fast, and you may both have a better chance of getting a room if you call yourself. This will also almost certainly be faster than letting the airline do it for you.

For the same reason, have the airline’s reservation number with you so you can re-book yourself if needed.

If any of your traveling party has a smart phone that can access the internet, put a link to your airline’s flight status site on your phone. This site is also a helpful one to have and check.

Your flight is likely to be cramped, boring, and cold. Bring distractions appropriate to your family—I always have my Kindle and a few magazines, my laptop and an iPod. With all those I am never bored.

Bring also both small bills and credit cards onto the flight. Little in the way of food and drink is free anymore, and some airlines now take only credit cards for in-flight purchases.


The usual advice is to leave your home in sufficient time that you can be at the airport two hours before your flight.

This is overkill for most airports most times of the year.

However, it can’t hurt you and may help. Better safe than sorry!

It is possible that your spouse and kids may not be ready to go exactly on time…or even the same hour…You will not know how busy the airport is until you arrive there; you may have a flat tire on the way; you may have difficulty finding the airport parking garage; it may be a much longer walk than you had expected.

At the airport there are three basic steps:

  1. Find your airline’s ticketing/check in area and get your boarding pass and/or check your bags
  2. Pass through security
  3. Find and go to your gate.

If you have printed your boarding passes at home, and have no bags to step, you can skip the first step and go straight to security.

If you have your boarding pass but need to check bags, look for a line at your airline check-in area labeled “bags only,” or some such. If such a line exists, it will move more quickly than a line providing all services.

Next find and go through security. You will need to show you boarding pass and ID to enter the security area. (Those under the age of 18 at the time of travel are not required to have IDs. See this for more and acceptable IDs.)

Once in the security screening area itself, you’ll need to take off your shoes, and any coats or hats you are wearing, and to remove from your pockets and otherwise metal objects—phones, keys, coins jewelry, and some belt buckles. (I pack all this stuff into my carry-on before even getting near security.)

If you are bringing a laptop, you’ll need to take it out of its bag and run it through the screening machines alone. (You will not need to turn it on.) If you have one, you’ll also need to remove the clear plastic bag containing liquid toiletries from your carry-on, and run it outside of your bags.

Once you are through security, reassemble all your bits and find your gate. There will be display boards organized by destination that will have your flight and list your gate. (If you have a connecting flight, you will be looking for your first destination, not your final destination.)

Once you are at your gate, you do not need to check in there again. You are all set…unless the gate changes! Keep alert for announcements of gate changes, or mass movements of those around you waiting. Hitting the bathroom before departure is also a good plan.


Most airlines other than Southwest board in the same fashion—first class, then “elite” members of their frequent flyer program, then all others, in groups, starting at the back of the plane. Groups will be announced by row number—e.g. “Now boarding rows 20-29.” Your row number is the art of your seat assignment that is not a letter—e.g. seat 29e is in row 29.

When your group is called, show your boarding pass again and enter the plane.

The space in underneath the seat in front of your will be yours to shove your stuff into, but the overhead spaces are not so well defined (except that the ones in first class belong to first class passengers).

Because of this, as you get within 10 or 15 rows of your seats, eyeball the overhead compartments ahead of you to see how crowded they are, and grab the one that is before your seats for your stuff. (Avoid if you can those after your seats, as, when you land, you will have to wait for the entire plane to unload before you’ll be able to go back and grab your stuff.)

The courteous thing to do with coats and such smaller stuff is to stuff them above your carry-ons, or under your seat. This way carry-on space is saved for things that will only fit there, and fewer people are stuck with having to check their bags because the overhead bins are full.

On the topic of courtesy, if someone is in the middle seat, let them have both the armrests, and if someone is behind you, don’t recline your seat more than an inch or so.

If you have a connection, when you land at your connecting airport, you do not need to leave and collect your bags and/or go through security again. Gather all your carry-ons, leave your plane, and find your next gate on the nearest flight display board. If you can’t figure out how to get to that gate, ask an airport employee how to do so.


Orlando International Airport is laid out in two sides—Terminal A and Terminal B. Knowing which you have landed on is critical if you checked bags, as each side has its own baggage claim.

Once you plane arrives, you will walk to the center of the gate area and find the little train that takes you to the main terminal. After de-training, you will walk a little further and note signs to Terminal A baggage and Terminal B baggage.

If you need to get your bags, follow the sign for your terminal’s baggage claim and head down the escalators. Note at the foot of the escalators arrows indicating which way you go for baggage claim for specific airlines. Head to that airline’s area, and then look for additional signs telling you which carousel bags from your flight will be loading on. Find that carousel and wait for your bags.

Next find your ground transport. If you are taking Disney’s Magical Express, follow the instructions you got in the mail. Otherwise, follow the signs to ground transportation.


If you are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort, and using Disney’s Magic Express, follow the instructions at the end of this page.

The same page also notes how for most airlines you can check in, check your bags, and get your boarding passes at your Walt Disney World resort as well.

(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



1 Gretchen { 01.28.13 at 9:45 am }

We are arriving one day ahead of our visit to Disney. Will be staying in hotel by airport and returning to the airport to take the Disney Express. Can we have our checked-in bags sent to our resort at Disney the day before we check into the resort or what can we do with them until we are able to check in?

2 Dave { 01.28.13 at 12:30 pm }

Gretchen, you’ll want to not use the Magical Express bag tags, but rather check and collect your bags just like any other trip. Then bring your gas back to the airport with you when you use ME, and give them to the staff to load on the bus. ME does not require that you not get your own bags–it just gives you the option not to.

Follow on Facebook!

3 Gretchen { 01.28.13 at 9:48 am }

Our return flight leaves at 8:05 AM. What time should we leave for the airport from our resort and does the Disney Express run at all times?

4 Dave { 01.28.13 at 12:31 pm }

Hi again Gretchen! Check in with ME the day before. They will tell you what time the bus will pick you up–typically around 3 hours before your departure time. And yes it runs around the clock if guests need it to!

5 Gretchen { 01.28.13 at 10:27 am }

Will the resorts, Art of Animation, hold luggage for you untill the time you can check in if you arrive at Disney several hours before check-in time? This site is wonderful for first timers. Thank you.

6 Dave { 01.28.13 at 12:32 pm }

Hi again! Yes, they will! And I’m glad the site is helping!

7 Gretchen { 01.28.13 at 7:54 pm }

Thank you

8 Gretchen { 02.02.13 at 4:10 pm }

Dave, Can you tell me if the -National Cheerleading and Dance Finals, held on the week of
4-27-13 at ESPN Disney should bring a larger crowd than normal for that week in the year.

9 Dave { 02.02.13 at 5:54 pm }

Leave a Comment | Ask a Question | Note a Problem

My response to questions and comments will be on the same page as the original comment, likely within 24-36 hours . . . I reserve the right to edit and delete comments as I choose . . . All rights reserved. Copyright 2008-2022 . . . Unless otherwise noted, all photos are by me--even the ones in focus--except for half a dozen from my niecelets . . . This site is entirely unofficial and not authorized by any organizations written about in it . . . All references to Disney and other copyrighted characters, trademarks, marks, etc., are made solely for editorial purposes. The author makes no commercial claim to their use . . . Nobody's perfect, so follow any advice here at your own risk.