Packing Your Disney Carry-On

I remember the days of flying into Orlando International Airport and having to stake out my claim next to the baggage carousel while other flyers tried to muscle their way into the scant few inches I had carved out for myself. Once the baggage was retrieved, we had to make our way to the Walt Disney World Resort. We tried it all – private car, car rental, shuttle – and all were costly and had one issue or another. With Disney’s Magical Express, I am thankful those days are long gone for my family.

Disney’s Magical Express is a tremendous help for young families. Guests board the Magical Express which transports them to their Disney resort and the luggage “magically” appears in the resort room 3-5 hours later; our vacation begins the minute we deplane. One of the side effects of using this service is that packing your airplane carry-on bag takes on greater importance. I would even say it’s as important as making sure the family has enough clean underwear and socks in your checked luggage.

Chances are you’ll want to start your Disney vacation as soon as you check into your resort. You may not visit a theme park but neither will you want to sit in your resort room. Visiting Downtown Disney, touring your resort, or taking the first ride of the trip on the monorail are inexpensive ways to start experiencing the magic. The thing to remember is that you won’t have access to any of your luggage for a few hours. Everything you need has to be in your carry-on bag. If my family is planning on touring the parks the day we arrive, we make sure that at least one of our carry-ons is the backpack style so we can use it as our theme park bag.

Besides the items I’ll use on the airplane, I make sure I have pack the following items in our carry-on to use when I first arrive at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Change of Clothes. During the months we usually travel to Walt Disney World, there is a pretty distinct temperature difference between our home in New Jersey and Orlando. We try to dress in layers with a short sleeve shirt underneath a sweatshirt but I’m sure to have shorts for the kids in the carry-on.

Shoes. If the kids don’t wear sandals on the plane, I pack them in the carry-on.

Diapers / Pull-Up / Wipes. I haven’t had a trip yet with my little boys where one of them wasn’t in either diapers or pull-ups. I pack lots and lots and lots of each in the carry-on to be prepared for every eventuality.

Tissues. If you travel with kids, you probably always have a pack of tissues with you.

Sunscreen. My local target carries sunscreen in travel sizes that are allowed by the TSA.

Hats. My little boys don’t wear sunglasses so a brimmed hat is a must for them in Orlando.

Wet Wipes. You can never have too many wet wipes. Enough said.

Medications. No one wants to feel under the weather on vacation but it happens. Besides packing essential medications that are taken each day, I make sure to have a dose or two of headache and stomach medicines in the bag.

Tickets. If we do plan on visiting the parks the first day, there would be nothing worse than forgetting to put our theme park tickets in the carry-on instead of the checked luggage.

Lanyard with Cardholder. I don’t know what I would do without my lanyard and cardholder. It allows me to keep my ID, ticket, room key, Tables in Wonderland card, PhotoPass card, and credit card with me without having to carry a handbag and wallet.

I’d love to hear what essentials you bring in your airplane carry-on.

Lisa M. Battista is the author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers and a columnist at WDW Fan Zone. When she’s not chasing after her little ones, you can most likely find her at the beach or in the kitchen trying her hand at a new recipe. You can follow her on Twitter @DisneyExplorer or become a fan of Beyond the Attractions on Facebook.

6 comments for “Packing Your Disney Carry-On

  1. Mary at Capturing Magical Memories
    10 December, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Great tips! The most important to us is the change of clothes and shoes. We also carry ’emergency food’. These are high protein healthy snacks just incase travel does not go as planned and we are stuck with a hungry child.

    • Lisa Battista
      10 December, 2011 at 8:20 pm

      Mary, my husband laughs at the amount of food and pull-ups I bring! However, both are essentials in my book and after being delayed five hours returning home from our summer Walt Disney World vacation, I am reminded why I “over-estimate” the amount of these essentials I need.

  2. 10 December, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Great tips!
    I don’t have kids but I am a kid at heart so I always bring the following in my carry on…

    Autograph book and pen
    Trading pins (most stay in the checked bag but enough to last me a full day)
    Pressed penny book so I can make sure I don’t get doubles
    An empty water bottle with a spritzer for hot days and free water in the parks.
    Glow sticks for the night time parades or fireworks.
    My camera.
    My phone charger.

    • Lisa Battista
      10 December, 2011 at 8:22 pm

      Thanks for reading! I’m really interested in the trading pins. Security will allow you to bring a small number through? I assumed they would confiscate them so this is great information.

  3. 10 December, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    I don’t check baggage at all. I can go for an 8 night trip to WDW with only carry-on! No I have no children . . .

    I have one hard-sider carry-on for overhead and a backpack (a decent sized one) that fits under the seat. I bring a lot of snack bars because I have food allergies, as well as breakfast & lunch is in the backpack. All the space taken up by food on the way there is taken up by souvenirs on the way back! I also bring old undies and socks and throw them out each day to get more souvenir space.

  4. Lisa Battista
    10 December, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    Gaylin, I love the old undies and socks trick!! Thank you for sharing.

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