While Orlando has certainly earned its reputation as the theme-park capital of America, cheap flights to Orlando are more than just a ticket to the hair-raising rides and fantasy worlds of neighbouring Lake Buena Vista. They bring you to an excellent stopping-over point before you embark on a cruise from nearby Port Canaveral, or head toward fun-filled days at a variety of theme parks in and around the city. Orlando is unsurpassed for family entertainment but adults can also find great theatres and galleries like the City Arts Factory and score cheap tickets for productions at the Mad Cow Theatre, which is dedicated to nurturing local talent. For a relaxed afternoon in downtown Orlando, hire a swan paddle-boat or board a gondola to cruise around Lake Eola before making your way to one of the many waterfront restaurants.
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Most domestic and international airlines with flights to Orlando land at Orlando International Airport (MCO), which is also the main gateway for other cities in Orange County. Airlines serving this airport include JetBlue, US Airways, AirTran, Southwest, Delta, Continental, United, US, American, and Spirit. Air Canada has direct flights to MCO from Montreal and Toronto, while WestJet has direct routes from Toronto only. Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB) is approximately 32 km away from the city and is served by a number of low-cost and full-service airlines such as Allegiant, ArkeFly, DirectAir, Icelandair, and Vision Airlines. Charter companies like Monarch, Thomas Cook, and Thomson Airways also have cheap flights to this airport.
There's no time of year when Orlando is without tourists. From Christmas to just after New Year's and around Thanksgiving is when flights to Orlando are most expensive and, despite the muggy summer weather, Orlando is busy with families taking advantage of the school holidays from June to August. March Break, spring break, and the periods around Easter are also peak travel times in and around the city when discounts on Orlando flights will be hard to find.
That really doesn't leave much time for you to avoid the crowds and get cheap flights to Orlando but the best time to visit is from mid-September to mid-November when most children are at school and the crowds have thinned out a little. You may lose a day or two to bad weather as this period falls within the hurricane season, but when compared with the jostling summer crowds, the alternative doesn't seem quite so bad! February may also be a good time to fly to Orlando as long as there are no holidays or long-weekends that occur within the month, in which case you'd best book airline tickets and hotel rooms well in advance.
Depending on whether your flight arrives at Orlando International Airport (MCO) or Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB), you will have the following Orlando ground transportation options:
Arriving at MCO
Public Transit: A single ride on the local bus service operated by Lynx will cost you $2 USD for most destinations within the city while trips to places like Walt Disney World will cost up to $4 USD. Discount tickets are available if you have a senior citizen or youth card. The bus stop is located at the main terminal on Level 1 between the lane spaces A38 and A41 and you can get buses on routes 11, 42, 51, 111, and 41 depending on your destination. The travel time to downtown Orlando is about 40 minutes, while it takes 60 minutes to International Drive, and 75 minutes to Walt Disney World.
Taxi: Metered cabs can be found at the A and B sides of the main terminal on Level 1. Average rates to International Drive and downtown Orlando are between $30-$40 USD, while you could pay as much as $105 USD for a trip to Port Canaveral.
Airport Shuttle: Mears Transportation operates shared-ride shuttles from the airport and fares are charged on a per-passenger basis. You can find the shuttles on both sides of the main terminal on Level 1. Average one-way trips range from $20-$22 USD and discounts are available for round-trips and children's tickets.
Hotel Shuttle: Nearly every major hotel in the Orlando area provides airport pick-up shuttles which can be found on Level 1 outside the baggage claim areas. If you've booked yourself into a smaller hotel, call ahead prior to your Orlando flights to check if the service is included with your booking, or if they can send a shuttle at a nominal charge. The Magical Express Service provided by Disney can be found on side B of the main terminal on Level 1.
Chauffeured Car Services: To have transport ready and waiting for you when your flight to Orlando arrives, hire a chauffeured car in advance. For a complete list of companies which offer these services, consult the airport's website. Limousines can also be rented from the airport and cost between $50-$90 USD per hour. Once you collect your luggage, follow the signs for the pick-up locations outside the baggage claim areas.
Car Rental: As the largest car rental market in the world, car-hires are relatively cheap and you'll have lots of options for rental firms to choose from including Alamo, Avis, Hertz, Dollar, Budget, and Thrifty. While some counters are located in Terminal A and B on Level 1, several companies like Ace Rent-A-Car, Payless, and New Frontier operate from their off-airport facilities. You can reach these by using the free shuttle bus provided. Simply follow the signs to the shuttle stop located outside the exit gates on Level 1.
Other: If your flight to Orlando is just the first leg of a long-distance journey, the Amtrak station is about 20 km away from the airport while the Greyhound bus station is about 21 km away. Both can be reached by bus or taxi. You can also check the airport's website for details regarding out-of-town shuttles to destinations such as Daytona Beach, Miami, Haines City, and Jacksonville.
Arriving at SFB
Shuttle Services: Shuttle services at SFB are provided by American Coach Shuttle and Orlando Carriers Inc, both of which take advance bookings online and via telephone. Average one-way fares offered by Orlando Carriers are between $30-35 USD to downtown destinations like International Drive. These rates apply from 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and increase to $45-$50 USD from 7:00 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. You could also get a travel quote by submitting an online form on American Coach Shuttle's website. For groups larger than four passengers, it may be more economical to hire a private van from either company.
There is also a free shuttle service provided for travel between the airport's parking lots and terminals.
Taxi: Mears is the provider of metred cab services at SFB. Average fares from the airport to the Disney Institute are approximately $48 USD while a one-way trip to Magic Kingdom can cost as much as $113 USD. You can book online before your Orlando flight, call the cab company from the airport, or simply go to the taxi stand at the curb.
Chauffeured Car Service: There are over 50 companies providing chauffeured car services to and from SFB. These include Quicksilver Tours, Priceless Transportation, and Florida Towncar Service. A complete list with contact information is available on the airport's website.
Car Rental: There are several car rental companies located inside the airport building including Alamo, Enterprise, and National. Booking in advance is ideal, especially if you want to rent a particular size, make or model of vehicle, and the best deals and discounts are often available online.