Advantages Good facilities & Small, neat size makes it easy to navigate.
Disadvantages Not as much shopping/entertainment as other airports.
|Value for Money|
|Ease of getting around|
N.B Please ignore some of the specific criteria on this review as they do not apply, e.g Nightlife and Sightseeing.
Orlando is one of the largest cities in the state of Florida, USA, attracting over 50 million tourists each year, thanks to the many tourist attractions and the array of theme parks and entertainment on offer. The city is served by two main airports with the largest being Orlando International Airport, which is also the best known of the two and seems to be fairly well served by public transport, offering a Lynx bus route to Downtown Orlando.The other main airport serving the city is Orlando Sanford International Airport, which is further away from the 'hub' of downtown Orlando, being a 30 - 40 minute drive away (I believe the approximate distance is 24 miles or 38 kilometres away, but this info was only given to me as a rough guide so please don't quote me..!)
There is information on how to get to the airport, along with some maps that can be found at the airport's website, found at www.orlandosanfordairport.com.
Sanford airport is used for both Domestic and International flights, with many chartered flights from the UK arriving in the airport every year. Well-known UK holiday companies such as Thomson and Thomas Cook use the airport for arrivals from all over the UK, including flights departing from Belfast, Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester and Birmingham, so if you are booked on a 'package' holiday to Orlando from the UK, the chances are your arrival and departure from the city will take place via Sanford Airport.This is how I recently travelled to Orlando, and so our transfer to and from the airport was included in our holiday package. This meant that a coach was awaiting our arrival from the UK, to take our party and about 6 other families and couples to their respective hotels around the International Drive area of Orlando.
If you are looking to hire a car when you arrive however, you won't be disappointed by the selection of car hire companies located within the airport. Well-known names such as Avis, Dollar and Hertz amongst others can all be found at Sanford, and although I don't have specific experience from dealing with car hire myself, I can confirm that there is ample parking provided within the airport, with a free shuttle serving some car parks which will transport you to the terminal. Also, whilst I was waiting to board our coach I noticed a small taxi rank adjacent to the main coach area, with a couple of yellow cabs waiting in line. A word of warning here though... I would highly recommend that you speak to your cab driver about your destination before you get in your cab. Enquire how much the fare will be, and agree your mutual price BEFORE you load your luggage into the cab, that way there will be no nasty surprises when you arrive at your destination. Oh, and remember that in the states you should tip your driver around 15% of the fare.... If he deserves it, of course.Ok, back to the airport itself. When we arrived from the UK, we had to wait in a long line to pass through the immigration checks. This line moved rather quickly however, as there were plenty of 'kiosks' open to serve our plane-load. When we reached the kiosks, we were called to the desk and had to hand over our passports and 'landing cards' which had been issued on the plane for our completion. We then had to answer a whole host of security questions about our travel within the US, our lives at home, as well as any suspect items we may have in our luggage. Our photographs were taken, alongside a scan of our hand and thumb print. All of this took a couple of minutes, and we were then ushered through to another desk. At this second desk, some people were being let through the doors to the main arrival terminal, whilst others were being ushered into a sort of 'side room' with glass walls and scanning machinery. Unfortunately, our party was selected (presumably at random) to have some further security checks carried out, and we were told to wait in the side room with our bags. After a couple of minutes, our bags were scanned and we were then free to go, with the security being satisfied. Our holiday rep was waiting in the arrival hall to greet us, and directed us to our coach from there. Simples!
At the end of our holiday, we were collected by coach at our hotel and after a few stop-offs to collect other guests at their assorted hotels, we were on our way to the airport, arriving around 30 minutes later at Sanford's Terminal A (For International Departures) for our flight home . There were plenty of luggage carts/trolleys available at the departure terminal, and these cost $4 to hire.Checking-in was fairly painless, with the large queue moving quickly enough to ensure that customers were only waiting for a couple of minutes. The check-in staff were extremely friendly and helpful, with our attendant even sharing a joke with my husband about the weight of our suitcase. After this process was complete, we went through security, which consisted of our boarding passes being checked by an officer at a desk who then ushered us into the line for the security checks. This process required the usual placing of bags onto a sort of conveyor belt to go through a scanning machine, with us walking under a detection device to ensure no metal or weapons (!) were contained on our person. After these simple checks, we were allowed to collect our belongings, and we proceeded up the stairs to the departure lounges.
Firstly, there are several restrooms, with a large one being located to the left hand side on the small ground floor where the check-in and security areas are. On the upper first floor, where the departure gates and shopping areas are located, there are at least two more large restrooms, although there may well have been a third that I didn't notice. Smokers too are catered for on the upper floor, with some sort of outdoor balcony area being provided for their comfort, although I didn't see this area myself. Ample seating is provided within the upper floor, with row upon row of soft seating columns being provided throughout. A pleasant change from the hard, plastic seats that are all too familiar within many of the UK airports that I have travelled from.A reasonably-sized duty free shop takes up most of the rear side of the upper floor, and although there were enough perfume and cosmetics on offer to satisfy my last-minute shopping requirements, I was a little disappointed that there were not more gift items on offer here. Likewise, my husband was slightly disappointed in the limited range of alcohol and liquor on offer, which didn't compare to the duty free departments in the larger US airports we have travelled through before. Taking the size and scale of Sanford airport into consideration however, allowances must be made, and on the whole I was not overly disappointed with the shopping on offer. There were a couple of other stores located on the upper level, one of which was called "Hudson News" which is a sort of newsagent-come-gift-shop that I have encountered in US airports before. Whilst convenient to buy some cold bottled water and perhaps a magazine or newspaper for the outbound flight home, the chain could never be described as being the best value for money, and any small gift items that I looked at in-store (to pass the time, more than anything) were vastly overpriced in my opinion.
There is a sort of 'game room' facility located at the rear of the upper floor in Sanford, which offers a small arcade with several gaming machines, as well as a pool table and slot machines. We didn't go into the arcade on this occasion, but I believe there may have been a charge on the door if we had wanted to use this facility, which I think was in the region of around $10. I'm unsure if this price included play on the machines or not.The front side of the upper floor contains a large food court eating area, which looked to be self-service and offered a range of snacks and meals, as well as a selection of hot and cold beverages. Whilst we didn't eat in the area ourselves (we had eaten a large breakfast before departing from our hotel!) I wouldn't have had a problem with doing so, as the whole area looked to be immaculately clean, and the food that I could see on offer looked to be quite delicious. To the right of this area, there looked to be a separate bar and a restaurant of sorts, although we didn't investigate either of these so I can't really comment on what they had to offer.
Overall, our departure experience was extremely comfortable, with all of our needs and requirements being met by the facilities provided. The size of the airport was just an added bonus for me personally as I find larger airports can be more difficult to navigate than smaller ones, and the convenience of a smaller airport is something that I am happy to sacrifice my last-minute shopping for. I would not hesitate to travel through Orlando Sanford International Airport again in the future, and would highly recommend it, alongside its helpful, friendly staff and reasonable facilities for travellers to Orlando. The laid-back nature, and easy navigation of the airport allowed for a relatively relaxing experience at the end of our holiday which was just what we had hoped for.
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