Why Orlando Should Be Your Next Winter Destination
As Canadians start planning future travels — and an escape from the impending winter weather — the process may seem a bit daunting. Many of us haven't flexed our vacation muscles in quite some time — and spending hours in transit, getting on multiple planes and waiting in airport lines (all while considering safety) might feel overwhelming.
That's why we are re-introducing you to Orlando. While the Florida city has always been a popular vacation spot for Canadian travellers — especially families — Orlando has some new (or new-to-you) appeal you may want to consider when booking your upcoming trip.
Convenience Is King
Orlando International Airport is the busiest in the state of Florida and one of the busiest in the whole country. Passengers from all over the world arrive at this bustling hub — but what if there were a smaller, less-crowded option just 30 minutes to the north?
Enter Orlando Sanford International Airport. While it still has all the necessary perks — shuttles, rental cars, duty-free shopping and eateries — it's far easier and faster to navigate. Only a handful of airlines utilize this oasis of aviation for very specific routes, so the foot traffic will be noticeably less and lines will be shorter. You'll be able to spend more time exploring Orlando, especially with the airport's Attraction Express shuttle — an affordable and easy way to get to the parks.
Even better, Canada’s ultra-low-cost airline Swoop calls this airport home and operates affordable nonstop flights to Orlando from Toronto, Hamilton, Winnipeg and Edmonton. You can also pair your flight to Orlando with a hotel through Swoop Getaways, where you can unlock exclusive discounts on hotels, resorts and even vacation rental properties.
Safety as a Priority
Regardless of the destination, if you’ve flown in recent months, you know that airlines and airports have enhanced their health protocols and take safety very seriously. Masks are a requirement pretty much door-to-door, and Orlando Sanford is no exception. Even though vaccinated travellers are now officially welcome in the U.S., we suggest you keep a close eye on entry requirements on both sides of the border, as they could change between when you book and board the plane.
Once you’ve arrived, safety will still be top of mind. One great thing about Orlando is that so much of your time can easily be spent outdoors. When you do decide to check out one of the top attractions, such as Walt Disney World, you'll likely stay outside in the fresh air for much of your visit. You’ll find that requirements are in place for anything indoors, such as hotel common areas, restaurants and enclosed transportation — much like you’d experience back at home in Canada.
Attendance at the larger attractions is usually managed by a reservation system to control capacity at any given time, so you’ll need to plan in advance. We suggest searching your app store for the attractions you want to visit. Having policies and booking portals at your fingertips via apps will help you plan your visit and understand all the safety protocols.
Attractions for All Ages
Orlando has always been a big draw for its family-oriented activities. All things Disney come to mind, as well as Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando and LEGOLAND Florida. Orlando isn’t only about theme parks, though — and there are plenty of activities for those who've left childhood behind.
Space buffs of all ages will certainly want to plan an outing to the Kennedy Space Center. About an hour from Orlando, it features exhibits you won’t find anywhere else on earth. Gatorland, a massive wildlife preserve (and yes, theme park), is home to many animal species — though its most thrilling attraction is the seven-story zip line. You’ll soar over alligators and crocodiles on this scream-inducing ride; it's not for the faint of heart! If you're then in need of a quiet respite, head over to the Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve for a shaded walk down well-groomed trails surrounded by calming forest and wetlands.
Jumping-Off Point for Exploration
While you may have been drawn to Florida solely for what Orlando has to offer, you will be missing out if you don’t take the opportunity to explore the surrounding area. The city is not known for beaches, yet white sands are only a short drive away — perfect for a day trip when you need a bit of relaxation.
Cocoa Beach is about 45 minutes away and offers four parks with beach access. While the amenities at each differ, you’ll have no problem finding a beach park with restrooms, showers, a playground or picnic areas. Alan Shepard Park offers easy access to souvenir shops if you're looking to take home a reminder of your beach day.
A little further away from Orlando (about an hour or so) is famous Daytona Beach. While it's well-known for spring break festivities, Daytona is largely subdued the rest of the year, with a lot of family appeal. All the usual beach activities abound, and there's a boardwalk and pier to explore packed with restaurants, shops and an arcade.