Finding the best flights for your Disney World trip

by Shannon Albert · 12 comments · Like the Facebook page

Finding the best flights for your Disney World trip from WDWPrepSchool.com

(Article last updated: July 28, 2014)

Finding the best flights for your Disney World trip from WDWPrepSchool.comMillions of people book flights for their Disney World vacation every year but as flights have gotten more expensive overall, it’s gotten harder to find affordable and convenient airfare for trips to Disney World.

Here are the best tips and tricks for booking airfare for your Disney World trip.

The Airport(s)

The main airport that most visitors fly into is Orlando International Airport (MCO) which is located about 20 miles from Disney World. MCO is designed in a way that the gates are in 1 of 4 “satellite” buildings and visitors ride the tram to get to and from the main terminal.

Finding the best flights for your Disney World trip from WDWPrepSchool.com

On arrival, visitors take the tram/monorail from their arrival gate to the main terminal to get their luggage and to find their transportation.

People who are staying on-site at Disney World and using Magical Express to get to their hotels should go to the B side of the main building and go to the first level (there will be signs showing you the way as well). Be sure to set up your Magical Express transportation before your trip at DisneyMagicalExpress.com.

Finding the best flights for your Disney World trip from WDWPrepSchool.com

Another airport option is Orlando Sanford International (SFB) which just serves a few airlines (Allegiant, ArkeFly and SST Air). It is located about 35 miles from Disney World. Rental cars, taxis and limos are available to travel from Sanford to Disney World but Magical Express isn’t an option.

This map shows both airports as well as the most popular attractions in the Orlando area.

Finding the best flights for your Disney World trip from WDWPrepSchool.com

Researching flight prices

For price checking, I use the Matrix Airfare Search tool which is purely for research. Once you find a flight itinerary that you want, you book your flights directly with the airline.

Finding the best flights for your Disney World trip from WDWPrepSchool.com

There isn’t an airfare research tool that can search the low airfare airlines like Southwest or Allegiant so you need to research those separately. Go to those airlines’ websites to look up their pricing.

Note: The Matrix tool will combine different airlines on 1 itinerary sometimes. You have to book those itineraries on a site like Orbitz which will allow you to book multiple airlines. Otherwise, you would book directly with the airline.

You can also use this tool to look for flights a month at a time so you can see when fares increase and decrease from day to day.

Ways to save

Here are some ways to save on your airfare.

  • Try different airports. Not only do you have the option of using Orlando International and Sanford International but you can also try flying into Tampa’s airport. It’s about 80 miles between Tampa International Airport (TPA) and Disney World which might work out well if you have a rental car and can save a lot of money by switching airports.
  • Fly mid-week. Most people fly in one weekend and fly out the next. You can save a lot of money by starting and ending your trip on a Tuesday or Wednesday.
  • Use Priceline. You can get cheap airfare by using Priceline’s Airfare options. You won’t know the times for departure so you’ll have to be flexible but the savings might be worth it.

When to buy

To check when to buy your tickets, use Kayak’s flight search. This tool will tell you if you should wait or buy now based on the history of flight prices.

Finding the best flights for your Disney World trip from WDWPrepSchool.com

Get notified about sales

To be notified about sales, be sure to sign up on the email list for all airlines you might fly on.

If Southwest Airlines is an option for you, be sure to also sign up for Ding! which will randomly offer sales between cities.

Finding the best flights for your Disney World trip from WDWPrepSchool.com

I also follow the Airfare Watchdog on their website and Twitter to be notified about fare sales.

Airfare Watchdog’s fare alerts allowsyou to set up an alert to email you every time a fare changes for your arrival and destination cities. This is a great way to find out about sales very quickly.

Computing costs

As you’re looking at airfare, be sure to compute all costs. For instance, Southwest’s fare includes 2 free checked bags; other airlines charge for checked bags. Add up all the costs so you’re comparing apples to apples.

You can check Kayak’s chart of airline fees which includes fees for baggage, meals and seat assignments.

A note about Magical Express and airlines

There has been some confusion about which airlines Magical Express works with so I wanted to clarify here as you research your flights.

You can use Magical Express when arriving/departing on any airline at Orlando International Airport if you’re staying on-site at Disney World. However, only people on the following airlines can do remote check-in (which includes getting your boarding passes and checking your luggage right at your Disney hotel).

  • AirTran Airways
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Continental Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • JetBlue Airways
  • Northwest Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • US Airways

If you aren’t flying one of those airlines, you would just need to check your bags at the airport after you got there.

For more info on Magical Express, read my article on how Magical Express works.

Picking seats

If you’re flying on an airline that allows you to pick your seats, check out SeatGuru.com to see which seats are the best choices.

Finding the best flights for your Disney World trip from WDWPrepSchool.com

About flying with kids

As you’re planning your trip and thinking about flights, consider these things when flying with kids.

Finding the best flights for your Disney World trip from WDWPrepSchool.com

  • Reserve seats if you have the option. If you opt to not reserve seats for your family, there is a very good chance you will be seated away from each other, even small children.
  • When the airline calls for people with children to board early, consider if this is really the best idea for you. If you need the extra time to get set up, take advantage of the opportunity. However, if you don’t need the extra time, stay off the plane as long as you can to allow little ones to run around and not be confined for any longer than they need to be.
  • If you have kids that might nap during the flight, the back is often a great place to sit because the hum of the engine can lull them to sleep.
  • Book direct if at ALL possible. When you’re evaluating which flights to book, prioritize directness over cheapness if possible. This is good advice for everybody but especially important for people traveling with children. Getting stuck due to a missed layover can be really difficult with little ones.
  • Use the GateGuru app to help you locate amenities within the airport if you’ll have layovers. This will allow you to find where to buy things you might need, play areas, etc.

Finding the best flights for your Disney World trip from WDWPrepSchool.comFinding the best flights for your Disney World trip from WDWPrepSchool.comFinding the best flights for your Disney World trip from WDWPrepSchool.comFinding the best flights for your Disney World trip from WDWPrepSchool.com
Finding the best flights for your Disney World trip from WDWPrepSchool.com
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Danielle June 18, 2014 at 10:21 am

Just booked a trip for November! I’m starting to look into flights now and was wondering what time for arrival do you suggest with the 3pm check-in? If we arrive early is there things to do before our room is ready? I’d hate to arrive later than check-in and waste a day. thanks!

Kristen June 15, 2014 at 7:13 pm
Kelle February 5, 2014 at 9:38 pm

Love your site, planning my 1st trip for Oct 2014. As an international guest can we take advantage of the Disney magical express and not collect our bags from the terminal? We are flying in from Australia

Steve April 27, 2014 at 4:36 pm

From the Disney World Website for International Flights:

“You may take your luggage with you on the motorcoach to your Disney Resort hotel or, following U.S. Customs, you may elect to return your luggage to the carousel, where Disney’s Magical Express will reclaim your luggage and deliver it to your Resort hotel room. If you arrive before 5:00 AM or after 10:00 PM, please bring your luggage with you to the Disney’s Magical Express Welcome Center. Your luggage will travel with you on the motorcoach to your Disney Resort Hotel.”

Kari V January 13, 2014 at 4:18 pm

This is a weird question, and you may not know, but is it possible to not tell my kids they’re going to Disney World until we get to the place where the bus picks us up (we are staying at Animal Kingdom and will ride the Disney bus from the airport to the hotel). My husband says yes, but I am thinking that surely there’s just Disney stuff everywhere, and wouldn’t doubt that the flight attendants even talk about it. My kids will be almost 10, almost 7 and 3 when we go. I think that they’ll catch on and we won’t get that moment when they all of a sudden realize where they’re going, especially my oldest.

Shannon Albert January 13, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Yeah, there is Disney stuff everywhere and many flight attendants will mention it but you could tell your kids you’re going to Florida for something else maybe? I couldn’t have pulled it off w/my kids because they always wanted to know details. Maybe you could tell them at the airport when you’re departing your hometown?

Amy July 29, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Do you recommend a car seat for a 2 year old on an airplane? We’re traveling to Disney by Southwest in September and I can’t decide if it is worth it or not. Help!

Kara April 4, 2013 at 9:21 pm

After reading almost everything on your blog, I went ahead and booked our flight tonight! I love the tools you shared to gage whether or not you should book now or hold off based on price changes. Snagged a great nonstop flight that will allow us to get there midday and leave late afternoon. You have helped answer so many of my little details for our trip as I’m doing the last of my planning!

sandy March 12, 2013 at 7:59 pm

W0uld you recommend a connecting flight with a very short layover (to minimize downtime) or a very layover (to reduce risks of missing a connecting flight)???

Shannon Albert March 15, 2013 at 9:17 am

If we have to do a layover, I like 1 hour layovers for domestic flights (2 hours for international).

♥ Victoria ♥ February 24, 2013 at 2:46 am

Wow. I cannot believe how much information you provide in your blog. Most blogs that share Disney tips, deals, and information are pretty consistent all across the board. I hardly run into something I didn’t know, some blogs just include a little more information than others… your blog on the other hand goes above and beyond. THANK YOU for investing your time, energy, and vacation/free time to Disney. I appreciate all the information you share. I won’t comment on every post but I’m reading them. Flights have been the biggest reason that I don’t get moving with my WDW planning but you have now changed that. Again, THANK YOU!!!

Shannon Albert February 24, 2013 at 11:37 am

Thank you, Victoria! I appreciate you taking the time to say that. Comments like this are the fuel to keep churning out content for people who appreciate having good info.

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