Flying tips for your Disney World trip – PREP039

Our family flies a lot and we've picked up a lot of tips over the years. Today, I have info on booking your flights, things to pack at home before you head to the airport, how things work at the airport, in-flight tips and some info on navigating the Orlando International Airport.

I also have a quick tip to help make it easier for you to find things as you travel.

These are notes from this episode. There's much more info included in the audio so be sure to listen to the episode for a better explanation.

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Booking your flight

  • Try to avoid connections (allow about 90 minutes between flights if layovers are required)
  • Pay for assigned seats
  • Consider booking an aisle and window seat
  • Factor in all costs when comparing prices (luggage, assigned seats)
  • Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are often the cheapest days to fly
  • Use Hopper or to research best times to buy and what price to expect to pay

Before you leave for the airport

  • You will be allowed a carry on and personal bag (purse, backpack)
  • Spread things evenly between checked bags
  • Make sure checked bags are marked so they can be found easily
  • Verify that checked bags fall within the weight limit and that you know the charges per bag
  • For any liquids that you want to carry on, make sure they are
    3 ounces or smaller and fit into a quart-sized Ziploc bag
  • Check in online and print boarding passes
  • Dress in layers, avoid jewelry and belts if possible, wear slip-on shoes
  • Pack things in a carry-on bag for kids to do - new toys, electronics
  • Consider packing medicine in your carry-on bag such as Sudafed and children's Dramamine
  • Can pack food and drinks in checked bags - use Ziplocs in case there's a leak
  • Pack ear buds or headphones and external battery charger

At the airport

  • Allow plenty of time
  • If checking bags, go to airline desk to check them (will need ID and boarding pass)
  • If finished checking bags or only have carry ons, proceed to the security checkpoint with boarding passes and ID
  • Go through security - take shoes off, place laptops in their own bin, take off all jewelry and take quart-sized bag of liquids out and proceed through security (explain to kids how this will work)
  • Gather belongings, head to a nearby bench to reassemble items, can put ID away
  • Proceed to gate
  • You can buy drinks, snacks and even food from restaurants to take on the plane
  • Most flights start boarding about 30 minutes before departure. Early boarding is available for families; if you need the extra time, board early. Otherwise, I recommend waiting to board to allow kids to move around as much as possible

In flight

  • Your personal bags will go under the seat in front of you, carry ons go in overhead compartments usually
  • Trays stay up on take off and landing, electronics can now be used during the whole flight in airplane mode
  • Take off and landing are when ears will hurt so have little ones suck on a bottle, chew gum, etc.
  • Many flights now have wifi but often don't allow streaming of things like Netflix or Hulu because it takes too much bandwidth
  • Temps often get cold in flight so having a jacket or sweater for everyone to wear will come in handy
  • Keep your seat belt on at all times and only remove it when the seat belt sign is turned off and you need to get up
  • Drinks and snacks are usually served in flight at no extra cost and international flights often include alcohol
  • Surprises are hard to keep on Orlando flights

After landing

  • Plane will pull up to a gate and everybody will get their carry on bags and exit toward the baggage claim area
  • Flying into Orlando: will fly into a satellite, take the tram to the main terminal. if you're using Magical Express and allowing them to get your bags, go directly to Magical Express on level B1 and use your MagicBand to check in
  • If getting your own bags, go to baggage claim and then proceed to Magical Express on level B1 or to your form of transportation (rental car, private car, etc.)

Flying home

  • On departure day, take checked bags to airline check-in desk at your Disney resort (this works for anybody flying a participating airline - not just those using magical express)
  • Participating airlines include AirTran Airways, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Northwest Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Air Lines, and US Airways
  • Take carry ons to luggage services at resort
  • Magical Express buses will pick you up 3 hours before your flight time (more for international flights) - don't be late
  • Orlando airport security lines are often very long
  • There are food court and sitting areas after security

Quick tip of the day

Take pics of things like your parking spot, luggage or your child each day of your trip to make them easier to find later.

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Any other flying tips you'd add? Or questions about any of the tips I had? Feel free to leave them in the comments.

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I heard that you can bring your own liquids (i.e. Water, Gatorade, juice, etc.) onto the plane if they are frozen.


Any thoughts on why all of the airlines don’t offer airline check-in at the resorts?
Never thought to take a picture of our parking spot! Last time we texted our spot number to each other. A picture would probably be better!

Maria B

This might be off topic – sort of:

I am wondering if you knew when the Magic Bands are shipped??

We are flying into Clearwater/St. Petersburg International Airport about three days before were are going to Disney. We will be staying with my in-laws in the Sarasota area for a few days and then renting a car and driving to Orlando from there. Basically, we are leaving on a Friday and should be in WDW by that Sunday.

I am hoping the Magic Bands arrive before we leave.


In the before you leave section you say that you can bring food and drinks in your carryon, that was not the case with me. I had an unopened 20oz bottle of Gatorade and they took it as well as an unused/unopened gel deodorant that was over the 3oz limit.


Any liquid you bring on prior to security needs to need the 3 ounce rule. You can bring solid foods provided that they are in the original packaging or there are no gel-like condiments on it.

Sara D.

I am always interested to know what frequent travelers/flyers use for their rolling carry on as well as the backpack/tote they stash under the seat. What do you use? What have you tried and not liked? I’d like to update some/all our luggage before our next trip…(at least mine!). Ideally I’d like something my 10 year old can handle herself so we can skip checking a bag & fly carryon only. Thanks for everything!

Cyndy Walsh

Hi, Sara. I can’t answer your question about a carry-on bag because we always check our bags (we are over-packers for sure!) But, as far as rolling backpacks for under the seats in front of us, we just purchased J World New York Sundance (laptop sized) bags from eBags. They are on the bigger/heavier side for backpacks but I was going for durability and these were very well reviewed. The girls have been using them around the house to get used to them. They are big enough for activities for the plane plus a change of clothes/shoes and a sweater… Read more »

Mariam Catapano

Sara D., maybe you will find this helpful….. I LOVE my zippered tote from Anne McAlpin that holds my purse, iPad, chargers, snacks, cosmetics, jewelry, and essentials for long plane trips. It will even hold a change of clothes (packed in a gallon size zip lock bag with the air squeezed out) in case I check my suitcase. It has a sleeve that slides over the extended suitcase handle. I will slide the tote over the suitcase handle and wear a crossbody purse. That way I will have one hand free~~a plus when carrying food/drink or traveling with children. Rick… Read more »

Amy M

This podcast was great! As this will be our first trip I was so thankful you described, in detail, getting to Magical Express. I would LOVE a podcast or post on how to “check-in” to Disney. Where to get refillable mugs, suggestions for getting oriented, resources at the hotels. I know you can do check in “in person” or online before hand, request certain rooms etc., but I don’t know how or when to do that. BTW your fb updates were fantastic during your trip. The 2 sided MK video was AMAZING. so exciting! Keep the podcasts coming!


I second this request. Particularly the online check-in.

Maria B

I could answer one of those – refillable mugs are sold in the quick service meal area of each resort.

Amy M

thanks. if its included in our package do we just go in and charge them to our bands?

Maria B

ooooo, good question. Since I have never gone with Magic Bands yet, I am not sure. I would think so, since I used our “Key to the World” to buy them with our package last time.

Does anyone know the answer? Either way, the CMs at the resort will be able to tell you when you check in.

Mariam Catapano

We returned from WDW 3 weeks ago using the Magic Bands. They arrived 10 days before our departure date. Disney even included a non functioning one for the 24 month old! We did EVERYTHING with them. Our dining plan was on them and we were able to charge table service dining tips to the band as well as any purchases we made at any of the parks or resorts. The band was our “wallet”, room key, Fast Pass, Memory Maker download….it was so inclusive that it no purse or wallet was needed. The children wore theirs swimming with no problem.… Read more »


On my departure day if I want to go to the parks I just gave to make sure I’m back at my hotel to catch the magical express?

Cyndy Walsh

Hi, Shannon. I’m a fairly new fan of your site. You do a great job of covering all of the practical things so thank you. We are frequent travellers as well but your tip for taking pics of parkings spots, luggage and kids was a great one! Never thought of doing that but so much easier than trying to describe a lost item (or child!) or remember what you’re rental car looks like! One more tip I’d add is to purchase a good quality rolling backpack for each of your kids. Even our 4 year old totes her own through… Read more »


Do you have a rolling backpack for children that you recommend?

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