Never say never....aka, flying to Orlando

Yes, yes. I have stated here that I don’t fly.

But now, due to unexpected circumstances, I will likely be flying down to Orlando around July 3.

It isn’t a vacation. My parents are moving from Florida back to Michigan, and due to the rapidity they were able to sell their home, we are in a mad-dash to help them move. The target date will be for one of my brothers and me to fly down and then drive the UHaul back up here.

I found a cheap flight to Orlando on Spirit that arrives July 3, so that’s probably the way we’ll go.

Since the last time I’ve ever flown was in 1995 (to Orlando), I’m soliciting any advice for essentially a newbie. (My wife has already figured out what luggage will work for Spirit’s rules that don’t involve paying extra!)

Anything tricky to know about Orlando airport? We have a couple options after we arrive. My parents might pick us up. Or, we might need to grab an Uber/Lyft to a nearby UHaul truck rental place, depending on how things play out.

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Flying has changed just a little bit since '95.

  • Are you flying out of DTW? If so, I’d get there probably 1.5-2 hrs before your departure time because security lines can be painfully long. If you’re flying out of a smaller regional airport, an hour may suffice, but I tend to still play it safe with 1.5 hrs
  • TSA lines can be awful. I’d recommend TSA precheck or Clear, but if you’re never going to fly again, it’s not worth it.
  • If not using the precheck lines, you have to take your shoes off (wear socks) and sometimes your belt if it has a lot of metal in it. You can only bring a sandwich-sized ziplock bag of liquids that are in a 3 oz bottle or less in your carry-on. Laptops/ipads have to be removed from your bag and placed on the conveyor belt in a bin. Make sure you take everything out of your pockets so they don’t find the need to strip search you. Everyone not TSA-precheck has to go through the x-ray scanner thing unless you opt for a thorough pat down.

Spirit-specific stuff: Spirit is cheap on the surface, but they nickel-and-dime you for just about everything. The seat pitch is the smallest in the industry on some of their planes, meaning your knees will be in your chest, especially if you’re over about 5’8" like me.

  • Spirit FAs and gate agents can be surly, so just expect that.
  • Make sure you download the Spirit App beforehand and check-in online to get the mobile boarding pass. If you print it at the airport, you have to pay like $10.
  • If you’re going to take a bag (carry-on or checked) that is larger than a small backpack, make sure you pay for it beforehand as well. It’s less expensive if you do it before you get to the airport.
  • If you want to pick an assigned seat, make sure you do it beforehand. You have to pay for it. But personally, it’s worth it to me, especially if you’re traveling with someone else. Otherwise, they randomly assign seats at check-in and you may end up sitting far from your companion(s).
  • Buy a bottle of water and snacks in the airport after security if you want something to drink or eat. They charge a premium on board for that.


  • It’s not complicated. You’ll have to take a little monorail from the arrival gate to the main terminal, but it’s well-marked. Just follow the herds.
  • Nothing else I can think of that’s special about MCO.

Great tips above from Terp. I kinda think Spirit may not be the best option for you either. I haven’t flown Spirit, but i’ve flown similar (Allegiant) and while my experience was fine, it is a very bare-bones plane. You might be more interested in something like Delta… It might cost you a little more, but the planes tend to be newer and more comfortable in general. Delta usually has on-board entertainment too (a tv mounted on the back of the seat in front of you.) They also offer relatively cheap wi-fi, which could be a nice distraction if you’re at all nervous.


I did know that Spirit will be…uncomfortable. My son flew Spirit for their mission trip to Puerto Rico and said as much. We might not end up with them, but I’m just trying to keep costs down. It is only a 2 hr 40 minute flight.

Another brother has miles available through United we could use, but all the flights available the dates we are looking at have a layover in either D.C. or Chicago, making the 3 hrs travel time more like 8 hrs, so I’m just not sure about that.

I’ll check what Delta might have.

That’s kind of what I remember from our 1995 flight, but wasn’t sure if it was still the same. Detroit Metro Airport has changed dramatically since then by comparison.

Yes, I lived in Ann Arbor for 4 years and traveled through DTW quite often. It was a real dump before they constructed the new terminals, but it’s actually pretty nice now.

I’d definitely check Delta, because sometimes their fares are really competitive with Spirit and you’ll be treated a little less like cattle.

Delta appears to be about 2-3 times higher at this point.

Looking back at the United option, which involves a layover, now. I’m not sure how United is in terms of seats.

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If you’re flying United from DTW-IAD-MCO you’re likely to be on a regional jet on the DTW to IAD leg. The planes are tight-quarters, but every seat is a window or aisle.

The IAD-MCO leg on United is the one I always personally take to Orlando from my home in the DC area. That’s almost always on a newer 737 with decent seats. All the carriers have reduced legroom nowadays. I might be in the minority, but United is my go-to.

My wife works in the airline industry and recommends at least 1.5 hours prior to departure, even for a regional.

That looks to be the most likely path. Has the shortest layover, at least.

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Remember, when you get to security you have to strip down all the way to your underwear. The people who aren’t are just frequent flyers. If anyone tells you that it’s unnecessary, don’t listen, they’re just trying to get you in trouble.


Oh, good catch. I did forget to mention that most crucial point of the TSA process.

It’s okay. I’m smart. I won’t WEAR underwear that day.


just be careful on this one or you’ll wind up in an MDE line…

and…you…don’t…want that…(?)


I’m suddenly imagining myself like Dory.

P Sherman 42 Wallaby Way
P Sherman 42 Wallaby Way


oh, pro tip: get noise cancelling headphones(or ear plugs). Arrive at your destination feeling relaxed instead of half deaf.


Are you flying alone or is your brother going to be with you? Does your brother fly? If so, follow his lead.

You know, you’ll be fine. It’s not a long flight, at least and you’re used to being cramped up in the driver’s seat of a car for endless hours.

I don’t know much about their planes, but if you can get an aisle seat, you might be more comfortable, as you could stretch out your legs a bit when there’s no one in the aisle. Some people prefer a window seat so they can look out, or so they can lean up against the wall to sleep, but if the planes are smaller, the aisle is a better choice. It also means you’ll control getting off the plane first in your row.

Don’t count on above seat storage. It might be there, but unless you are boarding earlier, rather than later, above seat storage could be at a premium. Better to pay for a checked suitcase than to hope you can get a maxi-sized carry on under your seat. Also, whatever you put under your seat will be in the way of stretching out your feet.

Get to the airport early enough to find the gate and then look around. See where you’re going to line up to get on. Maybe even ask the agents how they call boarding, so you have an idea of where in the queue you’ll be. Then, when you start to see people moving “into position”, do the same. You know, they start standing around the line up areas, ready to move, maybe with a phone in their hands. Then one bold person moves out in front and stands in the start of the line, waiting for them to call for boarding and people just move in behind. Be one of those people. Especially if you are hoping to get that coveted overhead storage area.

Check here to see what your plane will be like:

Your itinerary should say what type of plane is scheduled for your trip, so click on that one to see the seat map and plane details.

Check in online as soon as you are able. That way, your seat is claimed and you don’t have to worry about it. Print off your boarding pass. Even if you’re just sending it to your phone, print it anyway, just in case.

Thanks, folks. I think you all scared me away from Spirit. Probably end up with United.

The brother who I am heading down with is not a flyer either so we will both figure it out together.

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Do you mean due to the sound of the plane engine?

Is fear of flying a problem?

I had a very bad flight in the mid 1990s that turned me from avid flyer to fearful flyer.

While ultimately it was an online therapy that got me through it, I refused to stop flying and coped with doing so by taking (prescribed) Valium.

Without Valium I would sit there thinking “we’re going to crash and die, oh God we’re going to crash and die” every time there was any turbulence at all.

With Valium I would sit there thinking “we’re going to crash and die — well, never mind!”

It’s been some years since I’ve needed to use Valium to fly. I’m not a lover of the experience but I can put up with it. The end justifies the means.

One thing that does help is booking premium seats, i.e. with more space. My last US internal flight was BOS to MCO. I flew Jet Blue and paid $50 extra to sit in the front row. Being close to the cabin crew and pilot was comforting, as was the additional leg room and proximity to the exit.


Yeah. It’s like holding your head out a car window for an hour straight. Noise cancelling headphones or earplugs will remove that.

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