The Airline Challenge You Need to Consider Before Your Next Flight to Disney World

How do you travel to the Walt Disney World Resort? While some Guests are able to make a road trip doable for their vacation to the “Most Magical Place on Earth,” many Guests opt to fly into the nearby Orlando International Airport. Flying brings with it several conveniences, notably shorter travel time which means more time spent on vacation experiencing Disney’s iconic theme parks and Resorts. But, it can also bring with it several additional challenges.

As the airline industry continues to spread out fees across various ticket add-ons, checked bag requirements, and more, travelers continue to opt to travel with carry-on bags only (and even then, there are some airlines that charge for the use of the overhead bins.) Now, it seems an increasing number of airlines are cracking down even further.

Cinderella Castle 50th Anniversary

Credit: Disney

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For years, travelers have run into issues when it comes down to available space in overhead bins on planes, with passengers being forced to check carry-on bags at the gate in some instances. Now several airlines, particularly budget airlines, have been asking travelers to check not carry-on-sized suitcases, but personal items as well.

With Walt Disney World being a family destination, many Guests heading to the Resort often fly in on budget airlines like Spirit and Frontier, so knowing what extra costs could surprise you at the gate is always helpful.

Orlando International Airport (1)

Credit: Orlando International Airport


The Washington Post recently shared several instances of Guests who were surprised to learn that their personal items (like tote bags and laptop backpacks) were too large to carry on. According to the report, the best way to know if your personal item will make it unscathed is to measure against the smallest personal item size guideline, which is Southwest’s 16.25 x 13.5 x 8 inches.

Measuring to the smallest guideline is not a guarantee that your items will fit and be accepted without an additional cost, but it is a good starting point. The report also notes that overflowing shopping bags, as opposed to solid-colored and fully zipped bags and backpacks, are more likely to attract attention and be stopped at the gate. (As such, you may want to bring a less conspicuous bag to bring home souvenirs on your Disney trip or ensure that there is enough room in your checked luggage.)

Orlando International Airport

Credit: Orlando International Airport

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Another tip- It is not recommended to check several types of electronics for the possibility of them breaking in your luggage (like laptops and cameras), and medications should always be kept on your person anyway. Therefore, airlines do have some wiggle room in allowing you to keep a personal item if it includes these items that should not be checked.

Fees for gate-checked bags can range from free to $89, according to one traveler whose story was shared in the recent report, but fees should be noted on your airline’s website.

As you plan your flights to Orlando for your next Walt Disney World vacation, be sure to check the individual carry-on and personal item size guidelines for your airline, and pack carefully to avoid last-minute gate-checking purses and backpacks.

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany is a New England-based writer focused on the history of the Walt Disney World Resort. She is the author of "Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Reality of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort," and "Brittany Earns Her Ears."