Everybody loves a good vacation to Orlando. From museums and other cultural institutions to beaches and the Everglades National Park, there’s no end of things to do. In fact, whether you’re a theme park junkie or the type who loves to explore the great outdoors, Central Florida has you covered.
Of course, getting to Orlando is the first step in that amazing Florida vacation you’ve been planning. As a busy airport, Orlando (MCO) can be a bit challenging to navigate—especially for first-time visitors to the area and those traveling with little ones.
Check out our handy guide to Orlando International Airport, including tips for how to navigate the airport with kids and basic info on how to get around…
Orlando Airport Overview
Orlando Airport serves 39 different airlines with both domestic and international destinations. Depending upon your airline, you will fly in and out of one of two terminals, A or B. If you need to know which terminal you’ll be in, you can consult the official airport website. Your ticket should also have this information clearly indicated.
To help you navigate the airport and find your gate, we recommend consulting the terminal map. You will also need to use a monorail to get to your gate once you’re past security, but this can be a fun experience for the whole family—especially train-loving little kids!
Orlando Airport Main Hub & Shopping
There’s a main hub between the two terminals that can be a fruitful resource for gifts, toys, and a way to entertain antsy kids. There’s even an arcade (next to the kid magnet Natalie’s Candy Jar) that features both new and classic games. It can be a fun way for the kids to burn off steam, or for you all to play together.
There are plenty of places to shop if you have time to kill or souvenirs left to collect, including a SeaWorld store, two Kennedy Space Center stores, two Universal stores with loads of Harry Potter merchandise, and two different Disney stores that have everything you could want.
Disney’s Earport is located in the East Hall, and has a pin station where you can trade collectible Disney pins—a popular practice with Disney fanatics. The second store, Magic of Disney, is on the South Walk and boasts large themed screens that serve as great photo backdrops.
This is the main place for shopping, and comes before the security gates, so keep that in mind when arriving or departing. If you’re leaving on a departing flight, you’ll need to fit all of your purchases into your luggage before going through security and boarding your flight. However, feel free to load up on separate bags if you’re heading out the front doors!
Orlando Airport Security
Like all airports, MCO employs standard security procedures as implemented by the TSA. That means you’ll need to make sure you have the right size toiletries, bring no liquids through with you except for medicine or breast milk, and remove all large electronics from your bags. One less common thing the Orlando Airport also requires is that you remove all food items from your non-checked bags. You can bring them through, just make sure they are accessible to take out when going through the line.
If you are traveling with little ones, remember that the TSA does not require kids 12 and under to take off their shoes, light jackets, or hats. Babies must be taken out of their strollers and carried through the metal detector, although they can also be carried in a sling. For more information on getting through TSA screening procedures with your kids, check out their official guide to traveling with children.
As one of the busiest airports in the country, Orlando Airport also often has tremendously long security lines. Please arrive well in advance of your flight time to make sure that you have time to get through. It can also help to be aware of carry-on restrictions and other policies before you travel to make sure that your time through to the other side isn’t an age and a half.
Orlando Airport Dining Options
If you arrive early enough at the airport before your departure and need to work in a meal or snack, rest assured—dining options of all stripes abound at MCO. Looking for something fast and inexpensive in the main terminal? Moe’s Southwest Grill and McDonald’s are easy choices at the Main Terminal Food Court. There are three restaurants at the attached Hyatt Regency, as well as a delicious Macaroni Grill, all of which provide more options than fast food.
Sports fans may also want to check out the new City Pub, which features local beer and tasty food. It’s also an official supporting bar for the Orlando City Soccer Club, so it’s perfect for sports fans. Fortunately, City Pub is also a relaxed atmosphere that is suitable for kids.
The dining options are more diverse once you get past security, including a Chipotle, Cibo Express, Wendy’s, Nathan’s, and an Outback Steakhouse, among several others. There are also some fun adult-friendly options like the upscale Cask & Larder, which brings a farm-to-table sensibility to MCO.
If you’d like to review all of your dining options before your visit to see which would be the best for your family—especially those of you with any food allergies or specific diets—the Orlando Airport has conveniently provided a dining directory.
Orlando Car Rentals, Shuttles, and Ride Share
When arriving in Orlando and needing to find your way from the airport to your hotel or resort, you have multiple options. The most common option is to rent a car, especially if you are doing more than just Disney. Keep in mind that a high-traffic airport like Orlando will often run out of cars later in the day, so be sure to make your rental reservation in advance. Car rental companies are located on both A and B sides of the terminal on Level 1.
For those of you who are headed to Disney, the Disney Magical Express is a shuttle that escorts arriving guests to their Disney resort. You’ll need to have your MagicBands ready to be scanned, but the trip is other a pretty painless way to get to your resort or hotel in the Disney-verse.
If you’re looking for a taxi or ride share like Uber or Lyft, go to the Ground Transportation area on Level 1. Please note that there is a small fee charged for airport pick-ups that will be added onto your total bill. A good idea can be to look for coupons or deals before arriving to help you save, as the Orlando Airport isn’t very close to downtown and your fare could be quite high.
Orlando Airport Insider Tips
- The Orlando Airport has an official app—available for Android or Apple—that can be a smart choice for frequent flyers or anyone who likes the extra guidance.
- Don’t have a smartphone, or prefer not to download the app? There are plenty of interactive kiosks around the airport with the same helpful information.
- Arrive two to three hours before your flight departs to allow time to go through security and take advantage of the shopping and dining.
- If your flight arrives late and you have tired and grumpy kids, it may be easier and most cost-effective to stay at a hotel near or in the airport. The Hyatt Regency is an easy choice, as it’s located right in the center of the airport and offers good deals.
- Important: Once past security, you’ll need to choose one of the monorails to get you to your gate. If you pick the wrong one, you’ll have to take it back and go through security again, so be sure you know which one will head to your gate!
Save on Orlando Attraction Tickets
Once you’ve successfully made it through the Orlando Airport, it’s time to get down to exploring. If you’re interested in checking what Orlando has to offer beyond the major theme parks, a Go Orlando pass is a smart choice.
You can save up to 50% on combined admission to top attractions like LEGOLAND® Florida, Madame Tussauds, SEA LIFE Aquarium, and many I-Drive activities. It’s a convenient digital pass that you get instant access to upon purchase, so whether you plan ahead or opt-in last minute, you can enjoy big savings. Happy travels!