Florida Guide > Hints and Tips
Sanford v Orlando International Airports
As a regular traveller to Orlando and having used both Orlando International (McCoy or MCO) and Orlando Sanford (SFB) I can honestly say that for me, Sanford, although further out from Orlando and the attractions, is a far superior airport experience, at least when I have used it.
It seems that Sanford Airport is principally used by the charter airlines such as Thomas Cook, Thomsonfly and Monarch whereas Orlando International tends to be used by scheduled airlines with direct services from the UK such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. Additionally Orlando International has far more choice of airlines running indirect operations (i. e where you fly into their main base, like Atlanta for Delta and then join another aircraft to fly to Orlando).
The main reasons I prefer Sanford are as follows:-
On arrival I have found that unless you get caught behind a number of other aircraft all arriving at the same time, the time to get through immigration is far shorter than at Orlando International. Additionally once through immigration you collect your bags and then take them through to customs then once clear you are through and outside the terminal ready to collect you car, and I have found that I can disembark the aircraft at Sanford and be at my hire car within 15 minutes, whereas Orlando can take at least an hour or more (if travelling internationally and not domestically if you have “hubbed” through another airport en-route to Orlando).
On departure it’s a very similar story, getting through both check-in and security is extremely swift. At Orlando International the queues to get through security are usually longer, principally because not only are you having to queue with international travellers but all the domestic ones too and they all go through the single security point. At Sanford, domestic and international terminals are separate and although the areas are smaller (principally because Sanford has far less traffic) it is a breeze getting through.
Once airside, for approximately $25 you can use the lounge at Sanford (The Royal Palm Lounge) and this offers good seating, complimentary tea/coffee/snacks and two alcoholic beverages. There is a cinema, a games room for children, a smoking room and a place to store your hand baggage. You can also order food, which is then delivered to the lounge. I’d like to say that it’s worth booking this and we certainly do, but would be concerned if too many people used the facility and it became over-crowded which it is certainly not at present.
There is a duty free shopping area, food outlets and a bar area and in all the times I have used the airport it has never felt at all overcrowded and there seems to be plenty of seating.
Driving to/from Sanford is easy; we tend to use State Road 417 and it takes us just about an hour, door to door. I would guess it’s about 50 minutes to the Disney resort turn off and about 50-55 minutes to the 192.
Car hire for Alamo and Dollar are right outside the terminal building, although there is a little walk to the Alamo rental pick up building, once there it is air conditioned but luggage/trolleys are not allowed inside, so someone ends up waiting outside.
There are also buses and taxi’s into Orlando and all the resort areas on hand.
All in all, I would choose to fly into/out of Sanford over Orlando International as I have always found it a more pleasant experience - the additional 30 minute drive is more than compensated with the time saved at baggage reclaim, security and immigration. Against that is choice, and it is beyond doubt that there is far more choice of airlines which operate through McCoy.
Whichever airport you choose once you do get through the security, immigration and baggage you’ll have a great vacation to look forward to in the great sunshine state.
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