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Most people need to take at least a small bag with them to Orlando’s big theme parks. Bottled water, sunscreen, and your wallet are among the most important items to keep on hand. As you’re packing your bag, there are some important considerations to keep in mind.

Theme parks are not created equal, even within a single property. You may find that what works at Disney is a hassle at Universal, and the bag you took into the Magic Kingdom may even have items that are prohibited at Animal Kingdom. Check out these tips for a rundown of the biggest differences between parks.

1. When your bags are checked

Bag check is a necessary routine that you’ll go through to get into any Disney or Universal theme park. Universal’s bag check is located just outside CityWalk. There’s one major bag check plaza at the bridge that leads from the parking garage to CityWalk. Additional bag check tables are set up along the walkways from the resorts to catch guests staying on property.

The downside of this is that you can’t even dine or shop without a bag inspection. The upside, however, is that you go through only one bag check to enter both parks. You can go back and forth between Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure without any additional hassles. This is particularly handy for guests taking the Hogwarts Express between parks. The only thing you need to have out if you plan to leave one park and enter another is your park ticket.

At Walt Disney World, your bags are checked at the entrance to every park. If you park hop, you will have your bags checked again before you enter the next park on your agenda. Since there’s no singular entrance for all of Walt Disney World, every park has its own bag check. Epcot is the only theme park to have two. Aside from the main entrance, there is also a second entrance leading directly into World Showcase and accessible by boat from Disney’s Hollywood Studios or any of the Boardwalk hotels.

While this can slow you down a bit when you’re going from park to park at Disney, it really won’t add more than a few minutes’ delay to your day. A greater perk of Disney’s system is that it doesn’t encompass Downtown Disney, so you’re free to shop and dine without having your bag checked.

2. What to do with bags on rides

When you’re packing your bag for a theme park, it’s important to remember that the main purpose of your visit is probably to get on the attractions. At Universal Studios, it’s pointless to pack your bag with items you plan to enjoy while you’re waiting in the queue for rides. Most rides prohibit bags entirely.

Free lockers are available at the entrance to all such rides so you can stash your belongings for the duration. While this provides a convenient way to stash your items safely, the process of moving your items from locker to locker quickly becomes tiresome. Ride lockers measure 10” wide, 10” tall, and 16” deep. If your bag is too large to fit, you’ll have to pay for a larger locker and you may end up storing it a good distance away.

At Walt Disney World, there are no ride lockers. Lockers are only available at the entrance to each park and none are free. Most bags will easily fit in your ride vehicle with you. There are pouches available for stashing purses, sunglasses, and hats. Even backpacks can usually fit securely at your feet. If your bag is too large to fit on the attraction with you, Cast Members will typically direct you to a nearby spot where you can leave your bag for the duration of the ride. You won’t abandon your bag until you get on the attraction, so it’s left unattended for only a few minutes before you return.

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Comments

The thing about Universal though is that their bag check is before CityWalk and there are some things you can't take on there that you can to universal. Like once, my friend tried bringing in a brand we redbull (he's diabetic) and the security guard made him throw it away. It was ridiculous.

At Magic Kingdom they also do checks on clothing. We saw an English tourist denied admission because she had a t-shirt on that read "FCUK". Dumb Disney security guard did not read this as the well know brand name. Apparently you do not need to know how to spell. We tried to help her by explaining but no, it was offensive language and she had to change her t-shirt.

Just to clarify one thing about ride lockers at Disney. Animal Kingdom recently installed free lockers near the entrance to Kali River Rapids. Kudos to them. It allowed my family and me to be drowned rats without worrying about wallets and cell phones.

When you put your stuff in the locker make sure it's locked before you take off. I came back from a ride and there was a girl in tears saying her stuff had been stolen. There was an attendant there helping her. I didn't stick around to see if it was actually true or if she had the wrong locker but once I thought my locker was locked and I tried it and it wasn't.

Plus whatever you bring along, you have to lug around all day. Even a bag that only ways 2-3 pounds can make you feel like you've done an olympic weightlifting workout by the end of the day.

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