Orlando International Airport (MCO) can be more than a means to get your feet on or off the ground in Central Florida. The airport itself can be a memorable part of your vacation here. An award-winning restaurant on property, shopping and concierge services can make the part of traveling we usually dread, a lot more fun. If you happen to have a delay, we'll show you the way to make unexpected extra time in Orlando more enjoyable.
If you check your luggage and have room for a carry-on, the Orlando airport is a great place for one-stop souvenir shopping. All of Orlando’s major theme parks from Walt Disney World and SeaWorld to Universal Orlando have retail stores on Level 3. Disney’s EarPort is conveniently close to the security checkpoint for gates 60-129 and The Magic of Disney is near security for gates 1-59. Besides stocking up on slippers in the form of Mickey or Simba, tote bags and even rolling luggage with mouse ear motifs, you can pick up drawing pads and activity kits to keep the kids entertained for the slog home.
Superhero swag can be picked up at one of two Universal Orlando stores also on Level 3 in both Terminals A and B. Spider-Man T-shirts, Harry Potter wands and Hulk key chains make good last-minute gifts.
SeaWorld also has a store filled with plushies of favorite sea creatures, activity books, T-shirts and more. They will also ship your items home for you upon request.
For space fans, the two Kennedy Space Center stores, one in each terminal, has astronaut costumes, DVDs about space travel, NASA-themed mugs, posters with space shots by the Hubble telescope and more.
Beyond theme-park shopping, the airport has other gift options like jewelry stores, book and DVD stores and places to buy beach-themed apparel to bring home to family and friends who weren’t as lucky as you to go on a trip to warm, sunny Florida. You can actually sleep at the airport—in comfort—at the Hyatt Regency. Look up from the entrance to the security line and you will see rows of balconies that stretch to the ceiling, which are the hotel’s suites. Talk about a quick arrival to catch your plane.
The Hyatt has one of Orlando’s niftiest restaurants—a bit of a local’s secret. Hemisphere Steak and Seafood on the top floor of the hotel has panoramic views of the runways, and you can see planes take off and land.
The dinner menu offers dishes like heirloom tomato salads and main courses sourced with local produce and meats along with other artisan ingredients. It’s also a good place to get a nice glass of wine before departure: For the sixth year in a row, Wine Spectator magazine has given Hemisphere their prestigious Award of Excellence.
Some frequent international travelers may gain some time without the hassle of the usual customs rigmarole (MCO has over 30 direct international flights). Orlando’s airport was the first in the U.S. to allow passengers who have Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) to use biometric kiosks that speed up the arrival experience. The machines scan passports and complete customs forms though touch screens that recognize their fingerprints and facial images.
Orlando also has special service lines for passengers pre-approved to skip the security line or expedite the process through Clear, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
You won’t have to worry about using all your data on your phone: WiFi is free throughout the airport and it is simple to connect. Also, if you are a frequent traveler to Orlando, you may consider downloading the MCO mobile app, which will give you flight information to and from Orlando all over the world and currency exchange rates.
Artwork is incorporated in the design of the Orlando International Airport and visitors can take in sculpture, paintings and glass art throughout the terminals commissioned from regional, national and international renown. You can download a map here to see what pieces are closest to your gate.
Many of Orlando's properties, including official Walt Disney World hotels, offer free airport transportation. Be sure to ask before booking your reservation. Rental cars and taxis are plentiful, along with the SuperShuttle which provides a discount on round-trip transportation. Uber is not yet available for pick up at the Orlando International Airport, however you can certainly be dropped off at the airport by Uber from your hotel. The Orlando International Airport is about a 30-minute drive to the theme parks and to downtown Orlando.
Orlando International Airport (MCO) facts, courtesy of the Orlando Business Journal:
- Number of passengers carried from the Orlando International Airport from Nov. 2013 to Dec. 2014: 35,964,000
- Number of passengers per day: 98,533
- Top destinations for flights departing MCO (in order): Atlanta, New York (JFK), Newark, Philadelphia and Dallas
- On-time arrival to Orlando: 76.5%
- On-time arrival to all other U.S. destinations: 80.6%
- Busiest months with incoming travelers (in order): March, December and July
- Least busiest months with incoming travelers (in order): September, February and October