Arriving in Orlando (MCO)
First impressions of Sanford
Orlando Sanford International Airport is the second airport that serves Orlando with tourists from the USA and Europe. It is not as big or as busy as MCO and viewed by many as a much quicker experience getting through immigration and car hire pick up.
Getting through Immigration and Customs
Once you get off the plane you proceed down a series of corridors which leads to the immigration hall. At the moment Sanford doesn't have the self service machines that MCO has so you have just one queue waiting to see an Immigration Officer. Make sure you have all your relevant ravel documents at hand and that you stay as a group because you don't have to be related to go to an IO, just traveling together.
Once again, these people have an important job to do and may seem a little "Frosty" so now is not the time for smart answers etc. Generally they will be polite and wish you a nice vacation on completion. Just the same as MCO, you have a fingerprint taken and a photograph.
When you leave immigration you travel down some more corridors and arrive at the baggage claim and customs hall. Your flight will be identified by it's Flight Number, Airline and Origination Airport. Collect your luggage and head to through the customs they will ask if you have any foodstuffs, just be aware you are not allowed to bring anything like that in, you should be fine with Tea & Coffee. Once you leave this building you will head out into the Florida sunshine to be gin your well earned vacation.
If you are staying on site at Walt Disney World, unlike MCO, there are no "Magical Express" transfers from airport to hotel, so you need to have a car hire booked or arrange some other transportation.
If you do have car hire booked, you will be able to collect your car just across the road once you leave the building. All the main car rental companies are there.
Sanford International Airport to International Drive and Walt Disney World Resort - Via SR-417 (Toll Road) This is the route I would recommend if you haven't driven before in the USA. It avoids going through Downtown Orlando especially if it's rush hour.. Get onto E Airport Blvd for 1.9 mi Turn left onto the FL-417 S ramp Partial toll road 0.2 mi Merge onto Florida 417 Toll S Toll road 43.6 mi Take exit 6 for International Dr at the Southern end which will take you North to where you're staying. Slight left at World Center Dr 2.1 mi Continue onto Epcot Center Dr 1.1 mi
If you are staying in a villa on the 192 come off at Celebration or if the 27 stay on till it merges with the I-4.
There is a new system in place in the Immigration Hall, as now, instead of queuing up at a booth and taking a chance on which queue will be the quickest, there is one central queue, and when you reach the front of it you will be directed to the next available Immigration Officer or one of the new self service machines if you qualify. The self service machines can be used by anyone that has a machine readable passport and has visited the US in the last couple of years. Once you have finished with the machine, you then go to an immigration officer to get your passports stamped and your customs form. We think this is a great improvement, as there is no longer a lottery as to which line is the quickest. We can recall many times when we joined what we thought was the shortest queue, only to be held up behind a group, whilst the longer line beside us proved to be the speedier of the two.
You should find that the Immigration Officers are more welcoming. They have received training from Disney, to try to ensure that they are not too fearsome, but of course, they have a very important job to do, so this is one place where joking may be inappropriate. You must hand the Officer your passports and the Customs Form. He will then swipe each passport, one at a time, and ask each person to stand in front of the fingerprinting machine. The index finger of one of your hands is scanned, and if all is well you will then be asked to look into the camera for a photograph to be taken. This photograph is updated each time you enter the USA.
The Immigration Officer may ask you the reason for your stay, and, in our experience, they usually wish you an enjoyable vacation before waving you onwards.
Now it’s on to Baggage Claim and Customs. Soon you will be in the Florida sunshine!