Traveling to Walt Disney World is not an excursion to Mount Everest, so when it comes to packing, less is more! Think back to your own travel experiences, to Orlando and elsewhere. Have you ever wished you packed more? One of the biggest time, money, and sanity-savers when preparing for a Disney vacation is to pack only what you need and can carry easily—preferably all in one bag.
Driving to Orlando provides more room and options for packing, but space becomes a big issue if you're flying. So if you're part of the mass of humanity passing through the Orlando International Airport on the way to see Mickey, this article provides tips on how to pack, what to take, and what to leave behind in order to save time and money.
With the possible exception of those traveling with babies and toddlers, everything you and your family need on a trip to Walt Disney World should fit into one carry-on bag per person. With most airlines charging exorbitant fees for checked bags, the up-front financial benefits are obvious. Less obvious is the time and money you will save on waiting for and paying people to take care of your luggage during your trip—porters, skycaps, and cab drivers, to name a few. You’ll also have peace of mind knowing your luggage is in your hands and not delayed, re-routed, lost, or stolen.
There are different types of carry-ons, with pros and cons to each. Children should be able to handle their own luggage, although you’ll make friends by helping your kids bring their luggage on the plane and stow efficiently. Otherwise, if they can’t carry it, they can’t take it.
I recommend a wheeled carry-on for elementary-age children and a backpack style carry-on for older children and for adults with children. Wheels and handles create more bulk and reduce usable packing space, but are invaluable for younger children to handle in an airport. It’s easier for parents to wear a backpack and pull or carry a wheeled carry-on through an airplane aisle than it is to maneuver two or three wheeled carry-ons. Many wheeled carry-ons come with detachable or hidden shoulder straps to enable a quick switch to either style.
Traveling light requires smart planning. A packing list is crucial, and lists for Disney and non-Disney related trips can be found online through a simple search on “travel light” or similar. Tailor a list to your specific needs, which doesn’t mean “add to” so much as “modify.” For example, a general packing list may include dressy clothing, but unless you are planning dinner at Victoria and Albert’s or one of a small handful of other more formal restaurants, dressy clothing is never required when dining in Walt Disney World. Look for opportunities to pack items which can perform double-duty, such as capris substituting for shorts and slacks, or for men, a pair of swim trunks that can also be worn as shorts.
Pack items that layer easily and which dry quickly. Socks by Smartwool or that use Cool Max material, and synthetic, athletic-style shirts are lightweight and pack easily. Confirm the weather forecast a couple of days before your trip for last-minute adjustments. For a five-day trip, consider packing at most six outfits, which should be a maximum for any trip (experienced travelers who are willing to layer extensively and rinse/wash some of their garments more frequently, can go with as few as three outfits for their trip).
Darker clothes are better for hiding stains, but lighter clothes are necessary if traveling to Orlando in the brutal heat of summer. Neutral colored clothes offer the best of both worlds and provide options for outfits by mixing and matching.
Laundry facilities in Walt Disney World are generally convenient, inexpensive, and efficient. You can purchase laundry detergent at your resort or bring concentrated laundry detergent or a product like Purex 3-in-1 laundry sheets in your carry-on, placing the detergent in the one quart zip-top re-sealable bag to go through airport security. If you plan to swim during your trip it’s even easier to get a load or two of laundry done as most resort facilities are near the pools. It may seem counterintuitive, but the down time doing laundry is more than made up for in the time savings of traveling more efficiently and having fewer things to keep track of.
The list doesn’t include essentials such as identification, tickets, confirmation numbers, emergency numbers, medicine, ATM and credit cards, and a cell phone, but these items are all on my personal list of what to pack:
Leave behind anything you want to bring “just in case.” Walt Disney World Resort hotels have well-stocked sundry stores in case you forget something. While buying sundries on Disney property might mean you pay 50 percent or more mark-up, you will wind up ahead by avoiding the time and money costs of checking bags.
My list of what to leave at home:
These lists are not exhaustive, but give you some basics packing tips to save you time, money and heartache on a trip to Walt Disney World. For more packing tips and in-depth packing lists, a simple web search will yield many well-known and respected websites devoted to packing light. Remember, your objective is Expedition Everest, not Mount Everest. One carry-on will set you free. Try it and lighten your load in more ways than one.
(Send an email to Margie Binder)
Margie Binder lives in Shoreview, Minnesota with her husband and three Disney-loving children. She has been a DVC member since 1995 and uses any excuse, including inviting herself along on relative's trips, to visit her Happy Place. She has been a helicopter pilot, special education teacher, stay-at-home mom, and corporate employee. Like many, she is either in Walt Disney World or planning her next trip. She still has her stuffed Pooh from her first visit in 1975.