Are you flying to Disney World? Orlando Airport (MCO) can be stressful due to its layout and the many families and infrequent flyers that use the airport. On this episode of Disney Deciphered we discuss our best orlando airport tips and how to make flying to Disney World a smooth and stress free experience.
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Why fly into Orlando MCO?
If you plan to stay at an on site Disney hotel and take Disney’s free shuttle service, the Magical Express, you must fly into Orlando MCO. Orlando also has a small regional airport (Sanford) serving mostly Allegiant Air, but MCO is the big airport with all the amenities. Orlando MCO is a convenient airport to use to get to the parks and has plenty of rental cars to go around.
Still, because it’s the main airport people fly into, the airport can be a little crazy. This is due both to high volume and the fact that a lot of people who fly through MCO are infrequent flyers. While we don’t recommend it, some people fly into other Florida airports (Tampa being the most notable) and make the drive to Disney World. You may save money this way, but it also may not be worth the stress for families.
General Airport Layout
One thing that makes Orlando MCO convenient when flying to Disney World is it’s simple layout. Regardless of what airline you fly, you will always arrive at the same main terminal. While the main building has two sides, labeled Side A and Side B, regardless of where you arrive you can make it to your gate easily.
After you check in for your flight, you will have to take a train to one of four satellite terminals to find your gate. Preflight security is located before these trains. MCO has TSA Precheck and CLEAR for those eligible which greatly reduces time in security lines. You can also use Global Entry for customs if arriving internationally.
Finding and taking the Magical Express to Disney hotels
The signage to Magical Express isn’t great, but since everything is in the main terminal it’s pretty straightforward. If you’re traveling with kids you’ll want to get there directly so follow these steps.
After you debark your plain, take the train to the center terminal. At that point you’ll want to navigate to the “B” side of the terminal and take elevators or escalators all the way down to the ground floor. At that point, look for Magical Express signs (a bus symbol with Mickey ears inside), and proceed all the way to the end of the B terminal.
We highly recommend checking bags from your home airport all the way to your Disney hotel. It makes transiting Orlando airport much easier. If you did not receive check in tags at home or forgot, you can just provide the Magical Express check in agent with your luggage tag IDs and Disney will pick your luggage up for you.
Be sure not to pack your magic bands into your checked luggage, as you’ll need them to check into the Magical Express and enter your hotel room with online check in.
Renting a car
There are car rental counters on both A and B side of the airport and garages on both sides as well. You can use websites like Autoslash to monitor car rental prices – we recommend booking a refundable car rental because prices drop frequently. Autoslash will help you rebook if the price drops. We also recommend renting using Costco or AAA rates if you are a member of either.
One note, AAA members can rent one car seat free of charge from Hertz when booking using the AAA rate. This can come in very handy if you have young children.
Also, sign up for the loyalty program of your car rental company – it’s free and with companies like Hertz and Enterprise, just being a member enables you to skip lines at the counter and go directly to pick up your car. You should receive an e-mail or a text telling you where to go and often get a choice of car (you’ll be directed to choose from a given row).
Using Uber, Lyft, and Uber Car Seat
Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft pickup on the Arrivals level. Note that Uber Car Seat is available in Orlando which can be again helpful if you have young kids (Uber Car Seat Orlando Guide). Expect to pay $35-$60 depending on level of service.
Returning to the airport after your vacation from a Disney hotel
If you are staying at an on site Disney hotel, you have multiple options for returning to the airport. The Magical Express shuttle is included with your hotel stay, note that the Magical Express leaves 3 hours before your flight’s departure time. You will receive an envelope the night before you check out with your Magical Express time. If you miss your bus Disney may accommodate you and put you on a later bus but there are no guarantees.
You can also take the Minnie Van service back to the airport, but we don’t recommend it as it costs $150. Minnie Vans do come with two car seats, but that is one of the few advantages (the other being leaving later). You can always Uber/Lyft back to the airport later for half the cost.
Disney resort airline check in
Disney hotel guests can check in for their flight, get their boarding pass, and check their luggage at the resort airline check in desk. The desk is open from 5:00 AM to 12 noon every day. You will be responsible for paying any relevant checked baggage fees, but you can check your bags in at the Disney hotel and pick them up when you arrive at your home airport. You must check in at a minimum of 3 hours before your flight time and all guests must be present, including children.
Resort check in is available for the following airlines:
- Delta (US Domestic flights only)
Read more about Disney resort airline check in here.
Getting through security at Orlando airport
Security lines can get very long at MCO. It’s not uncommon for lines to take upwards of an hour. To reduce wait times, we suggest enrolling in TSA Precheck (either on its own or through Global Entry). Orlando also participates in the CLEAR program, which has even shorter lines. (Read about signing up for and using CLEAR.)
If you don’t have either TSA Precheck or CLEAR, make sure you acquaint yourself with TSA rules before getting to the airport. Place your liquids in a separate clear plastic bag, be prepared to take off your shoes, and be prepared to take out your laptop.
Podcast Episode Description
A lot of visitors fly into Orlando International Airport (MCO) as part of their Disney vacation. The airport can be stressful due to the combination of infrequent flyers and the layout of the airport. In today’s episode, Leslie and Joe talk about the ins and outs of getting from MCO to Disney and back, with tips about making your transit to and from Walt Disney World efficient and stress free.
If you like what you hear, please share the podcast with others you think might enjoy it. Also, we’d appreciate if you subscribed on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or Google Play (please leave a positive review if you’re enjoying the show), liked our Facebook page, or followed us on Twitter!
You can also e-mail us at disneydeciphered AT gmail DOT com. Connect with Leslie @TripswithTykes on social media and Joe @asthejoeflies.
9 Tips for Flying to Disney World
Signing up for and using CLEAR
1:23 – Why fly to Orlando MCO?
2:49 – General airport layout
4:01 – Finding and taking Disney’s Magical Express
6:05 – Tips for renting a car
8:25 – Tips for taking Uber or Lyft
9:45 – Options for getting back to the airport from a Disney hotel
11:45 – Resort airline check in at Disney hotels
12:58 – Tips for getting through security lines at the airport
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