Orlando is served by three airports. Orlando International
(MCO) is the main international airport and is located in the southeast quadrant of the metro close to the theme parks and attractions. It’s also one of the country’s best designed. The spoke-and-hub concourses are connected by trams, which are accessed from the main terminal. Due to the heavy traffic—an average of 33 million passengers last year—waiting times at security can be excruciating during high-travel periods. The general aviation Executive Airport (ORL) is a few miles to the northeast. Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB) is located in Sanford, about 30 miles north of OIA. It hosts both commercial flights (Allegiant, Direct Air, Icelandair) and European charter operators (Monarch, Thomas Cook, Thomson). The facilities at OSIA are excellent with large terminals, U.S. Customs & Immigration and fixed base operators for private aircraft. The charter operators bus passengers from OSIA to the theme park area (about 40 minutes) and there are taxis and shuttles available as well. Some of Allegiant’s flights are scheduled to move from OSIA to OIA in fall 2010.
Orlando is an inland city. While steamboats once plied the St. Johns River from the ocean port at Jacksonville to Sanford, just north of Orlando, currently there’s no commercial passenger service on the St. Johns. The busy cruise ship terminal at Port Canaveral is 65 miles east of Walt Disney World and bus service from the cruise docks to Orlando is available through the cruise lines (Walt Disney World has its own buses). There are also private shuttle operators including Mears Transportation
and Ace Luxury Transportation
that provide roundtrip Orlando transportation services between the attractions, Port Canaveral, Kennedy Space Center and the two main airports (OIA and OSIA).
You can get to and around Orlando by bus. Greyhound
has a station on the southwest side of the metro that’s close to the attractions and travel time is similar to Amtrak (about 24 hours from New York City), though the fares tend to be lower. There are also intra-state buses from Miami and Ft. Lauderdale to Orlando, such as Florida Sunshine Shuttle
, that make the trip in 5-7 hours for $25 - $45. If you’re adding a cruise out of Port Everglades (Ft. Lauderdale) to the beginning or end of an Orlando stay, this is worth considering.
There are four Amtrak stations in the Orlando area, including the southern terminus for the AutoTrain service. The three passenger stations are Orlando (close to the theme park areas), Winter Park (north central) and Kissimmee (southeast, closest to Walt Disney World). All three are served by the Silver Meteor and the Silver Star trains originating in New York and travel time from New York City is about 24 hours. The AutoTrain was created so that visitors from the Mid-Atlantic could bring their cars with them to Florida to use for their Orlando transportation. The autos are loaded into a special carrier while passengers board attached coach cars. The service originates in Lorton, VA just outside of Washington, D.C. and ends at Sanford, just north of Orlando. Fares depend on which station you’re leaving from, age of passenger, time of day and so on. Check the website
or call 800.USA.RAIL for information and details.
Like Los Angeles and other post-World War II cities, Orlando is a car town. While it’s entirely possible to spend a week at the theme parks without needing a car, you might need one if you want to explore more of the area. All of the major car rental companies operate here, although not all of them have stations on the grounds at Orlando International Airport—ask before you book. Rental rates during non-peak weeks can be attractive. The metro is criss-crossed by limited access highways including Interstate 4, the Florida Turnpike, SR 417 (The Greeneway), SR 408 and SR 528 (The Beach Line). Except I-4, all of these are toll roads. Extreme congestion is the norm on I-4 during rush hour and during peak visitation weeks, bumper-to-bumper traffic can be encountered any time of the day or night around the Walt Disney World exits. St. Augustine (oldest European city in North America) is two hours away. Driving tips for around Orlando transportation: Tampa is an hour from Walt Disney World and smaller attractions like the Kennedy Space Center, Fantasy of Flight, airboat tours and beaches are a short drive away, so having a car might make your vacation slightly more hassle free.
With its mild winter weather and proximity to back roads and beaches, Central Florida is a Mecca for motorcyclists. The biggest events of the year are Daytona’s Bike Weeks (February) and Biketoberfest (October) which attract 125,000 visitors each. Riders trailer their Hogs and Hondas in from all over the country and it’s common to see columns of two or three dozen bikes at a time. There’s an established network of biker bars such as Black Hammock
in Oviedo, the Minneola Inn on Lake Minneola and Spotnicks Cabbage Patch
in Samsula. We recommend touring the area on a motorcycle (for experienced riders) to make the most of your Orlando transportation and experience the sites in a way you can't from a rental car. Popular rides include cruising up and down the east coast, from Orlando over to the beach and through the hilly rural roads of Lake County. If you don’t own a bike, you can rent one from Orlando Harley Davidson
Taxis are on-call but do not drive around looking for fares. If you need a taxi, you’ll need to call and have one dispatched. Mears Transportation
, 407-423-5556, and Diamond Cab, 407-523-3333, both offer a variety of services from single-fare cabs to town cars to shuttle buses. Fare from Orlando International Airport to International Drive will be about $30; to Walt Disney World, about $55.
The local Orlando transportation authority, LYNX
, provides bus service throughout the metro. For exploring International Drive, the I-Ride Trolley
service costs $1.25 per adult ($0.25 for seniors) and children 12 and under free with an accompanying adult. If you’re staying on International Drive, consider the unlimited pass ($4 for one day, $10 for seven days). If you’re staying at Walt Disney World, the park runs its own bus system to move visitors between the parks and the Walt Disney World hotels and resorts. Disney also operates boats and, of course, the monorail that moves people between and within the parks. If you want to take a side trip to Kennedy Space Center, the bus/shuttle companies that service Port Canaveral offer attractive deals, especially for small groups (see info at Boats). Currently, Orlando has no intra-city rail service, though a commuter rail line has been approved by voters and is scheduled to begin running north-south through the metro area in 2012.