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8 Hours in Orlando International Airport

8 Hours in Orlando International Airport

An airport might be a weird place to gush about, but Orlando International Airport is almost a destination in itself. As someone who once spent eight hours there – with our autistic kids – I can tell you it sure beats being stuck at some other airports!

I once spent an entire day in a Japanese airport, and not on the interesting, exciting side of the gates, where all the strangeness lives and the whole place looks like a left over set from the film BladeRunner. (Well, that’s how I remember my first late-night wander through Tokyo airport). No, I spent an entire day in a white, tiled, sterile airport. It was a Sunday and apparently in Airport Land things actually close on a Sunday, so all I and my new bride could do was sit on hard (white, sterile) benches and wait for our connecting flight. It was my first trip overseas and perhaps there were other options, but no-one told me. It was too bright to sleep, too quiet to talk (we might disturb someone) and absolutely nothing open, other than the toilets. I did more walking that day than on our entire previous two weeks, exploring the cities of Paris and London.

From the outside Orlando International Airport looks pretty much like any other airport you have ever been to – it’s long, there’s a tower, and you’ll see aircraft heading off to all kinds of exotic destinations. But inside, (after checking your luggage and grabbing your boarding pass), it’s actually a bright and airy place that has an almost resort-like feel to it. I mean, look:

Orlando International Airport atrium

Orlando International Airport
Image source: Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0

I guess this is (at least in part) because there is actually a hotel here. The Hyatt Regency is actually in the airport – a fact I wish I had realised when organising our trip, because I would have booked a day room for a sleep and a shower!

Luckily, the airport is like a huge mall, filled with stores for all the places we had visited while in Florida, such as the Disney, SeaWorld and Kennedy Space Center stores. We took advantage of this by picking up some last minute souvenirs (yes, they saw us coming!) and some extra neck pillows. A good size food court, stand-alone restaurants and bars ensure there is something for every taste, though I am embarrassed to say all our kids ate was McDonalds!

Another bonus was there were enough comfortable seating areas spread about the main hub that we could grab an entire section with lounges and a big coffee table. The kids set themselves up with colouring books while Kirsty and I just laid back and waited for our increasingly delayed flight to arrive!

Spread out and relaxing during our long wait between flights.

If you have never been to Orlando International Airport, there’s a couple of other things I should point out. Like it has a monorail! The place is so big and spread out there is an actual monorail that takes you from the hub of the airport to the arrival and departure terminals. It’s fast and efficient and a bit of a novel way to get from A to B.

If you’re travelling with your family to Orlando there is a good chance that Disney World is on your list of destinations. If you are staying on site at Disney, then you will also be lucky enough to ride the Disney Magical Express, the Disney World bus service that takes you directly from the airport to your hotel. It was a fantastic way for us to start our adventure, with the fancy coach setting the mood with a looping video that described the resorts and parks and played classic cartoons.

As I said at the beginning, it seems weird to gush about an airport, but if you have to be stuck at one, you could do worse than Orlando International Airport!

What’s the best airport you have ever been to? What made it so good?

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