Everything you need to know when thinking of flying to Florida
You can also view available flight routes on our North America flights map.
Here are our 10 tips for making the best of the Sunshine State.
- It starts with Orlando -- flights to Orlando are not just available from London, they are also widely available from numerous UK regional airports. Even if theme parks are not your thing, it may well be easier to start your trip to Florida here and then to move on.
- Remember that Orlando is served by two airports -- leisure airlines like Thomson, Thomas Cook and Monarch will usually use Orlando Sanford airport (SFB), whereas scheduled carriers like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic fly into Orlando International airport (MCO). If you are picking up a hire car (see below), it won't make that much difference which airport you use, but if you are transferring to a private villa from Sanford airport, remember to budget for a taxi or limousine transfer from the airport. The latter might well actually work out cheaper than just jumping into a taxi from the airport terminal. There are a lot more options for resort transfer buses from Orlando International, as it is by far the busier of the two Orlando airport, and it is much closer to the main resort hotels.
- Fly British -- our general experience is that the British scheduled carriers (British Airways and Virgin Atlantic) offer a vastly superior service when compared to their American rivals. When looking at flights to Orlando, the British airlines of the additional advantage that they will take you there direct, whereas if you fly with any American carrier, you will have to change planes on the way, and this can often mean a cumbersome drag, especially as you will have to pick up your bags, clear US Customs and then check them again on your way down to Orlando. If you are going to Miami, then you do have the option of direct flights from Heathrow with American Airlines as well as BA and Virgin.
- Dublin -- Remember that Aer Lingus also operate flights to Orlando International from Dublin airport, and that these flights are not subject to the exorbitant Air Passenger Duty (APD) paid by travellers departing from UK airports. You also have the advantage of clearing US immigration at Dublin airport, making your passage through the Orlando airport complex a great deal easier. However, to avoid the tax, you would have to make your own way to Dublin airport. If you simply book a through flight from a UK airport, then you will pay the same tax as everyone else. Sometimes, the prices of flights from Dublin can be notably cheaper than the prices of flights from the UK anyway, so it is always worth checking this option, but make sure you allow plenty of time to get to and from Dublin airport.
- Miami -- in my personal opinion, Miami is by far and away the most interesting city in Florida, and one of the best places to visit anywhere in the USA. Whereas Orlando offers a positively stage managed experience, Miami is a melting pot of American and numerous Latin cultures, with Miami Beach offering a genuine architectural paradise of 1930s art deco buildings, palm trees and sand. Miami also has an unapologetically modern skyscraper district in the city centre, and Miami is also gateway to the Florida Keys and the Everglades National Park. Miami also has that touch of glamour, courtesy of numerous films, and crime dramas like CSI Miami, Dexter, and of course Miami Vice. flights to Miami are currently only available from London, although connections are available from a wide range of UK regional airports, usually via New York Newark. Sometimes you can also add in a stop in New York on your way out or back. The Florida Keys are one of those must do drives, especially as the Overseas Highway offers an endless mix of islands and bridges.
- Tampa -- don't forget the British Airways offer direct flights to Tampa from Gatwick, although in our experience these tend to be notably more expensive than flights to Orlando. It might just be easier to pick up a hire car in either of Orlando's airports and to drive down to the Tampa Bay area. Depending on where you are heading, this shouldn't take more than a couple of hours or so.
- Other cities -- although the majority of tourists flying to Florida from Europe will head to Orlando, Miami or Tampa, Florida still has many other interesting cities, together with major population centres like Jacksonville and the state capital Tallahassee. There are numerous smaller airports that you can fly in to with one change of plane, often in Atlanta. Florida might have a compact central core around Orlando, but some other cities can be almost a full day's driving distance from here, so it is always worth checking prices of flights into the closest airport to where you're staying.
- Beaches -- bizarrely, Orlando is one of the world's most popular holiday destinations, yet it is nowhere near any beaches. Maybe that is because it offers so many man-made attractions, but you really wouldn't be doing Florida justice if you didn't spend at least one day on a beach. If you drive for a couple of hours either east or west from Orlando, you should have no problem finding some great beach locations. Naturally, if you have chosen to holiday in Miami instead, you just have to fall out of your hotel to hit the beach.
- Should you get a hire car? If you are fly into Orlando, this is a very good question, and we have spoken to numerous people who've visited Orlando, and who will either staunchly insist that a car is essential or who will be happy to say that they can get by without one. Read Carornocar's Orlando car hire advice for more suggestions. On the other hand, to get the best of Miami, we firmly believe that a hire car is a good idea, and more details can be found on Carornocar.com's Miami car hire advice page. Many online booking sites will also offer combined deals on flights and hotels and / or car hire , when booked together at the same time.
- Architecture -- finally, if you have an appreciation of architecture, then the chances are that you will gravitate towards Miami. However, Orlando is also notable for more conceptual reasons. Visitors to Epcot will probably know that it stands for Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow, but a real-life version of an idealised new town was built nearby at Celebration City, which is a pioneering example of the "New Urbanist" movement. To see this people friendly town concept exploited to the full, take a trip along the Panhandle to the resort community of Seaside, which was immortalised in the film "The Truman Show"