“Are we there yet?” The dreaded question every tired parent hears on repeat when vacationing with kids. Air travel with jetlag is a double combo of stress, but a bit of planning and preparation can go a long way in making life easier.
One of the very first steps to do when you land in Orlando is to find the best way to your hotel with everybody and everything intact and in place. The key to good transportation is speed, comfort and cost. At 5 AM, the last thing you want is to get stuck in overcrowded vehicles that slowly move through an endless number of stops. And with cranky kids too!
While there are many ways to get from the airport to your hotel, airport shuttles are safe, economical and great for large families. And booking an Orlando Airport shuttle to hotel service is guaranteed to involve less crying and screaming, so be sure to read on to find out more on the options available to you.
This article covers all you need to know about:
- Shuttles choices from Orlando (MCO)
- Mears Connect (the non Disney paid replacement for Magical Express)
- Uber/Lyft and taxis
- Car seat options and laws
- Information on other surrounding airports including Sanford, Melbourne, Tampa and Daytona
- And other tips too!
Orlando Airport to Disney World
Orlando International Airport (MCO)
Originally named McCoy Air Force Base, the Orlando International Airport is one of the busiest Floridian airports with scheduled flights as it’s the closest airport (20-30 minutes) to the Disney Parks. The airport has many restaurants and fast food places for getting a quick bite while waiting for your transportation. If you feel yourself getting antsy, you can take your family shopping at the park-themed shops for some novelty items.
Choose between a multitude of options to begin your adventures onwards to Disney World from the Orlando International Airport. Rental cars, shuttles, limousines, or cabs, the best one for your family depends entirely on your vacation plans, wallet and time. And it’s also the nearest airport to Universal Studios at just 10.2 miles.
Orlando International Airport Hotel Shuttles
One of the best ways to get about for bigger families without breaking the bank is to use the airport shuttles from the Orlando International Airport. Since it’s in the heart of Orlando, there are plenty of options to pick from too.
The SuperStar Shuttle offers a welcome service and transportation between MCO and the Universal Orlando Resort Hotels.
This round-trip service also includes check in at the Universal Hotel Transportation desk at the airport. But note that it does not come with car seats, so you are required to carry your own. (Read more about Florida car seat laws below.)
Disney’s Magical Express Service
The Disney’s Magical Express Service motorcoach, one of the best Orlando International airport hotel shuttles, was unfortunately discontinued December 31, 2021.
So if you are booked at the Disney Hotels before that date, save money on car rent and make good use of this service. Why? It’s free, allows luggage delivery to and from the airport and even offers resort check-in services at the airport itself.
Mears Connect – All You Need to Know
Replacing the Magical Express is Mears Connect – which starts service on January 1, 2022. Mears actually currently run the Magical Express so it should be an easy handover to the new system. It is a paid service (unlike the free Magical Express) that operates buses and vans to hotels and resorts in the Orlando area with reservations open now. Please note it is NOT affiliated with Disney in any way.
The resorts Mears Connect services will appear in the drop down menu when reserving. You can see a complete list when you scroll down on the pricing page. Please note, the hotel and resort list will expand in 2022. Here is the current list of hotels.
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- B Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort
- Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
- Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
- The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
- The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
- Disney’s Riviera Resort
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
- Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World® Resort
- Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center
- Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace – Disney Springs
- Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista – Disney Springs
- Holiday Inn Orlando – Disney Springs
- JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort
- Orlando World Center Marriott
- Shades of Green on Walt Disney World® Resort
- Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
- Waldorf Astoria Orlando
- Walt Disney World Dolphin
- Walt Disney World Swan
- Walt Disney World Swan Reserve
- Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek
- Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs
It’s a great shuttle option for transportation between Orlando Airport and Disney World hotels as well as other Orlando hotels, so make advanced reservations and head out to the pick-up area at the airport. You don’t have to be a guest at Disney to make a reservation. The signage at MCO is pretty clear and straightforward.
Mears is also exploring a luggage delivery service like the Disney Magical Express offered and will send an update to all interested and already reserved guests if and when it’s available.
While booking, remember there are two packages to choose from- the lower cost Standard (shared and monitored wait times), and the pricier Premium (lesser waiting time and direct service).
The introductory prices on offer are perhaps better value if you are traveling in Standard as a couple or with young children under 3. This is compared to taking an UberX – the standard Uber service that seats up to 4 passengers which will cost approximately $30-$38 + tip from Orlando Airport to the Disney area. In order to make your booking you must already have your flights reserved and know all the flight numbers and arrival/departure times and dates.
Mears Connect Standard Prices and Information
The Standard service is a shared ride service on the Mears Connect (bus, van or small vehicle) which includes all tolls and other surcharges. The Connection will make a limited number of stops and will have you on your way to your resort within 20 minutes of your check-in to the Mears Connect reception area.
Children rates are available on the standard service only for children ages 3-9 years. Children under 3 years ride free. Currently rates are $16 each way for adults, $13.50 each way for children. For a round trip the prices are double the single price.
Mears Connect Express Prices and Information
The Express service is direct service to your resort and back to the airport (guaranteed first stop), with limited to no wait time. The Express service may be provided in a bus, van or a small vehicle as well. This service includes all tolls and other surcharges. NOTE: Express service is not considered private service, it may be shared service.
The Express service does not have a child rate like the standard service does. Children of all ages should be included in the total guest count. A round trip for up to 4 passengers staying in the WDW resorts area is approximately $200 with the introductory price.
Where to find the Mears Connect at Orlando Airport.
You will board Mears Connect on level 1, ground transportation level, in terminal B, at Orlando International Airport. Look for the Mears Connect reception area. On your return trip, you will board Mears Connect at your resort, just ask the front desk personnel where Mears Connect picks up at your hotel.
The Mears Orlando Shuttle Service connects your hotel and the best Orlando theme parks and attractions including Disney Springs, Busch Gardens, SeaWorld, Disney Parks & Resorts and Universal Studios.
Are car seats provided on Mears Connect?
Car seats will not be offered with the Mears Connect service. Please note, Standard & Express service may be on a motor coach, shuttle van or small vehicle. If a guest has a personal car seat, they are welcome to use it.
Will toilets be available on the shuttle?
As the shuttles could be coach, van or small vehicle there may not be a bathroom available. You will be able verify the type you are on at the Mears Connect reception area.
Other fun stuff to know about Mears Connect for Kids
Expect digital and interactive entertainment for the whole family in the Mears Connect reception area. (Level 1, ground transportation level, in terminal B) and digital entertainment for the whole family aboard the Mears Connect coaches.
Things to Remember when traveling by Shuttle
There are going to be more stops en route for Standard, so be prepared for a longer wait time to get from the airport to your hotel. Mears state that for “Standard service, your return transportation will be scheduled to meet you, at your resort, up to three hours in advance of your domestic flight’s departure time or up to four hours of your international flight’s departure time. Your confirmation email and 24 hour notification will supply you with the time of pick up.
For Express service, your transportation will be scheduled to meet you, at your resort, two hours before your domestic flight or three hours before your international flight.”
Also remember that a 10-15% tip for the driver is customary.
Located in the South Terminal at MCO, This 125 mph intercity rail route service between Miami and West Palm Beach is set to open in 2022. There are plans in the making to spread its connectivity to Disney World and Disney Springs too! So keep an eye out for some super speedy travels in the coming years.
Orlando International Airport Public Transportation
The Lynx buses are part of Orlando’s public transport system and work out of the airport. They go to Walt Disney World and International Drive, but take way longer and have many stops on the way. So if you’re going to be traveling with family and lots of baggage, avoid the trouble and just give this one a miss.
Uber and Lyft
Orlando airport transportation to hotels via Uber and Lyft remains a popular choice among travelers despite its cost because it is afterall, just a click of a button. Far cheaper than a taxi, and with no stress that comes with renting a car, this remains one of the best ways to travel in Orlando.
As the price is for the ride and not per person, ride app pick ups look cheaper than either of the Mears Connect Services if you are traveling as a family of four. UberX – the standard Uber service that seats up to 4 passengers will cost approximately $30-$38 + tip from Orlando Airport to the Disney area.
A ride from Orlando Airport to Disney can cost about $30-38 on UberX each way and takes about 30 minutes. Getting to Universal takes around 20 minutes and costs around $30-$35.
UberXL seats larger groups of 6 passengers in an SUV or minivan and a guide price is approximately $42 – $53 from Orlando Airport to the Disney resorts area.
Uber and Lyft ride app pick up is located curbside #32 and #20 at Orlando Airport (MCO)
UberFamily was present in Orlando, but the official Uber website has removed all information regarding this service. However, from using Uber in Orando, it is easy to request one with a car seat.
Lyft also offers the Disney Minnie Van Service. With up to 3 complimentary child seats if needed, this whimsical iconic red and black car is perfect for traveling with little ones. This is a cute, albeit pricey way to get from the airport to the Disney World Resort.
Things to Remember when traveling by Uber and Lyft
Do not book your Lyft or Uber until you’ve passed through immigration, security and baggage claim, because not only will the car leave, but you’ll even be charged for the ride.
A system called “surge pricing” takes place during peak times when the prices of the rides go up. So keep an eye on the clock if you’re planning on this mode of transport.
If you’re traveling with more than 6 members, definitely consider a more comfy and spacious alternative like a shuttle instead.
Orlando International Airport Taxis
While they do run on a meter-based fare, cabs do tend to be pretty heavy on the pocket (read $70!). However, on the plus side, this service does provide vans for more than 9 passengers.
No solicitation of business is allowed within the airport and you must never accept offers from drivers who will try to convince you. It’s very likely in these situations that the company isn’t legitimate, the vehicle uninsured or the quoted price inaccurate. So just walk away and head over to the official taxi stand if you haven’t arranged for prior transportation.
Things to Remember when traveling by Airport Taxis
Always make sure the driver resets the taximeter and that it is actually running before leaving the airport. Also, tip your driver!
Orlando International Airport Limos
If you can splurge a bit, begin your vacay in style with a limo. Picture this: a uniformed chauffeur awaiting your arrival with a grand sign to welcome the tiny celebrities in your life, and lead them to a shiny luxury car. This is definitely a fun, memorable way to start a holiday and will make for some great stories in the future. Especially a much welcomed experience after an exhausting flight!
Orlando International Airport Rental Cars
For those who love their independence, there are onsite car rentals at the MCO to opt for. Renting a car in Orlando may cost as little as $20 to more than $50 a day based on the kind and size of the car you are looking at.
Things to Remember when traveling by Airport Rental Cars
Consult your own travel insurance and credit card company if they have free secondary coverage for rented cars. Remember to factor in parking costs at the hotel you are staying at. If you need a car seat or are thinking of bringing your own, read below!
Orlando Florida Car Seat Laws *
Regarding car seats, here’s a quick reminder for all families with toddlers and older kids; Florida law only requires children aged 5 and under to be seated in car seats or boosters. The statute outlines the minimum requirements to avoid getting a ticket. (Just because it is the minimum doesn’t mean you can’t use rear car seats and car seats/boosters for older children.)
Florida law requires children age 5 and under to be secured properly in a crash-tested, federally approved child restraint device. (This means that technically a UK, Canadian etc car seat is not legal to use as it is not US Federally approved- do check with your travel insurance provider before you bring your own to check for your circumstances)
Children should be in the rear seats until at least age 12, since deployed front seat air bags can be dangerous to children.
Key points from the Florida statute regarding car seat law:
- Infants and toddlers from birth through age three must be in a separate carrier device or a manufacturer’s integrated child seat.
- Children four years old through five years old to be in a separate carrier device, an integrated child’s seat, or a child’s booster seat.
- Children 6 years old and older have the option of continuing to use a booster seat or begin using a regular seat belt, however the state of Florida no longer requires them to travel in a child seat or booster seat.
Florida law does not dictate when to use a rear-facing car seat. However, when you follow the manufacturers recommendations for using your rear-facing car seat, you should be complying with the state of Florida car seat laws for rear-facing children. Do check the latest Florida car seat laws here before traveling – this post is for informational purposes only and official laws may have been updated since posting.
Experts agree that children should remain rear facing as long as possible for safety, even if they have reached the legal age/weight/height to when they can switch. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should continue to use their booster seat until they are 57 inches tall and can safely use adult seat belts. Most kids reach this milestone when they are about 12 years of age.This legal site has some compelling reasons why.
Booster Seat Requirements, Florida
Booster Seat Law Florida*: Florida law states that kids should use their booster seats until they turn six. From that point on, they only legally need to use a safety belt, although again the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends that children should continue to use their booster seat until they are 57 inches tall and can safely use adult seat belts.
IMPORTANT TO KNOW & CHECK BEFORE TRAVEL*
Shuttle vans in Orlando, taxis and ride share require you to carry your own car seats for kids under 6 years of age under Florida law. as the companies are not responsible for providing them, the parent/guardian is.
Buses/coaches are exempt and do not require a parent/guardian to provide a car seat for the journey.
It is not the transport providers responsibility to make sure that the car seat law is applied is correctly. Services like Uber and Lyft drivers can decline their services to parents who do not have proper seats if you do not comply.
The relevant point of the law is below which explains whose responsibility it is to obey the relevant requirements
(The bus exclusion for requiring the use of a child restraint device does not apply when a safety belt is used as required in s. 316.614(4)(a) and the term motor vehicle does not include buses as noted noted in section 316.613 2(b) ”A bus used for the transportation of persons for compensation, other than a bus regularly used to transport children to or from school, as defined in s. 316.615(1)(b), or in conjunction with school activities.”)
The child restraint requirements imposed by this section do not apply to a chauffeur-driven taxi, limousine, sedan, van, bus, motor coach, or other passenger vehicle if the operator and the motor vehicle are hired and used for the transportation of persons for compensation. It is the obligation and responsibility of the parent, guardian, or other person responsible for a child’s welfare as defined in s. 39.01 to comply with the requirements of this section..https://flsenate.gov/laws/statutes/2014/316.613
If lugging around a full-sized car seat isn’t an option, a seat belt adjuster or travel booster seat can be just as practical, safe and comfy an option to strap your kiddos in for the Orlando airport shuttle to hotel drive.
Uber offers the Uber Car Seat program in Orlando upon request when you select your car. Do note that it involves an additional surcharge on top of the travel fare.
Lyft on the other hand requires you to bring your own car seat for kiddos. So look into some foldable lightweight car seats to carry with you.
If you’re planning on using a taxi service, call in ahead to ensure you get the car seat you need. The same idea works for a private service, who may or may not charge you.
For rentals, enquire about car seats well in advance in case you need to make your own arrangements.
When packing your luggage, do remember that buses in Florida and California are exempted from the child safety seat laws. So you’re likely going to have to carry one yourself and hope that it fits.
*Disclosure: The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Information on this website may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. This website contains links to other third-party websites. Such links are only for the convenience of the reader, user or browser. All liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this site are hereby expressly disclaimed. The content on this posting is provided “as is;” no representations are made that the content is error-free.
Airports In And Around Orlando
Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB)
First thing you need to know? This airport isn’t in Orlando, but actually in the town of Sanford. While it is twice as far from Walt Disney as the Orlando International Airport, it is much closer to Daytona Beach. Being smaller and farther from Orlando’s attractions, it also has far less visitor traffic. Getting to your hotel ASAP or embarking on your journey to visit some unique family sights at the Central Florida Zoo or Lake Monroe, means you need a ride out of there.
Grab your bags and kids, cross the street to the Terminal B Baggage Claim and pick a shared ride van, or book a cab with Uber or Lyft. If you want reasonable alternative transportation to Orlando’s attractions and the hotels of Universal Studios, use the Attraction Express. And if you’re going to Disney World and Port Canaveral Cruise Terminals, the Airport Shuttle Service is an economical and comfortable choice. For a 24/7 shuttle from Orlando airport to Sanford airport, however, try the Cocoa Beach Shuttle.
Orlando Melbourne International Airport (MLB)
Located on the Space Coast of Central Florida, MLB is known for being the center of aerospace, defense, and manufacturers. The second coolest part is that all of Florida’s attractions are within an hour’s drive from this airport. It’s only 80 miles from Disney World and 2 hours off from Cocoa Beach, the dreamy port town where the soothing ocean breeze and smell of freshly cut lawns soaks the senses of families on vacation. Plus, even walking through the airport is made an adventure thanks to its “Art in Public Places” program and onsite airport museum with relics from World War II.
The Melbourne Airport Express offers door-to-door pickup and dropoff services, and there are rideshares offered right outside the baggage claim area. Check out MLB’s ground transportation options on their website to see their partners- Avis, National, Hertz and Budget. There’s even a Greyhound Lines’ Bus terminal and local bus service (Space Coast Area Transit) at the airport.
Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB)
Situated 70 miles outside of Orlando, this is clearly one for those who want to avoid the crowds. Just recently renovated, DAB now features some luxurious upgrades like fabulous new interior design, seats with built-in charging stations, a special room for mothers and infants, an improved business center, and plenty more.
There are taxi services, rideshare and shuttle services offered on their website. For transport in Volusia County, the Votran picks up at DAB hourly and half-hourly.
Tampa International Airport (TPA)
On the Gulf Coast, Tampa is an hour and a half drive away from Orlando. It is home to the Florida Aquarium, Zoo at Lowry Park, a Children’s Museum, and of course the popular Busch Gardens.
There are taxis, shuttles and rideshares available at the airport, along with public buses to get around town. It’s the perfect place to fly in if you wish to take a day to relax and take in the sights before you head out to Disney.