Florida for Idiots: Summer 2010
Touchdown - Now What?

Sanford Airport

So your plane has successfully touched down, some of the people clapped and everyone felt a sense of relief -- even if they act all nonchalant and been-there-done-it-before.

Now what?
Before exiting the plane, leave behind any fruit, diary products (cheese, milk, yogurt) or meat (including sandwiches). This is important and you'll find out why later on.

Gather your belongings (you would not believe how many valuable items the cleaning staff find on a plane). Once you've got to the exit door of the plane and exclaimed at how hot it is (everyone says it) you make your way to the immigration control.

You will, of course, have had to electronically pre-register yourself via the immigration website before getting anywhere near your UK airport but you may also have had to still complete those pesky green immigration forms. This was the case in May 2009 but eventually they will dispense with those forms, surely?

If you had to fill one in (on the plane) then make sure you have no mistakes or crossings out as they won't be accepted and you'll have to fill out another one and go to the back of queue like a naughty school child. Despite what they threaten you with on the flight it's highly unlikely that you'll be sent to prison or fined for making a mess of the form. Let me know if I've got this wrong though!

Passport Control. Serious looking, isn't he?At the passport control counter (you will be directed to the next available desk, they have quite a few) be polite but don't start laughing and joking with the immigration officer. He's there to do a job and doesn't need yet another tourist with a funny accent trying to engage him in conversation.

You will be asked to place your fingers and then your thumb of each hand on a glass plate that takes their image and then look into a camera for a mug shot.

This all takes a few seconds and the whole passport checking thing might only take a minute or so. He'll probaby ask how long you will be staying for. Give a straight answer, no mucking about, this is serious stuff!

If you arrive at the same time as another flight then the queues for the desks will of course be longer but they are quite efficient and take no nonsense from anyone without their passports and visa waiver and customs forms at the ready - you have been warned!

Once you have made it passed this hurdle without experiencing any kind of rubber glove investigation the next step is to collect your luggage (pronounced BAGGAGE RECLAIM) from whichever conveyor belt is destined to have your cases going on a merry-go-round.

Tip: get a trolley here. They are easier to move about than suitacases (even if it has wheels) and you can dump your flight bags on them too. Trolleys are free when you arrive but on your return you will need four dollars to release one from their cage.

Just keep a beady eye on your trolley whilst you are checking for your next suitcase to come off the carousel. Best to keep your passport and money actually on you (or your travelling companion) whilst you do this. Better safe than sorry.

If you arrive in a downpour (it rains quite a lot in Florida during the summer) your suitcases may well be very wet, hence the need to pack them with plastic bags front, back and sides (see my earlier tip about packing your suitcase)..

Collect your cases and queue up for customs control who will ask you whether you have any FRUIT, MEAT or DAIRY PRODUCTS. You would be foolish to have any (they actually have sniffer dogs to detect these, nice cute little doggies that ensure your stay in Florida is the shortest one ever). Give him your customs forms (the white one) that declares you have no banned substances and the job is done, unless they ask you to open your cases. Pray they don't.

Getting your car and hotel documentsOnce you're past the customs control you exit into the main outdoor Sanford Aiport foyer where your tour operator will be waiting with a clipboard.

Register yourself and make sure they know whether you have a hire car or expect a coach transfer. You will then be directed accordingly.

You may be given your hotel vouchers right away or you might have to collect your hotel / villa documents from an office right next to the airport (actually connected to the airport, see picture above) and you will be able to understand how good their air conditioning is here as you walk from the very hot outside sunshine into the large hall to collect your bits of paper. Don't be fooled by lack of queues in the above picture, sometimes it can get very busy here so get a wriggle on!

Then make your way either to the coach transfer point or the car hire building (the latter is about 100 metres walk away if you're using Alamo. Dollar is right on the airport in the same building, see the picture above, you can just make out the Dollar car hire sign on the wall).

Just make sure you get on the right coach! You're going to International Drive remember!

I-Ride small map (main route plus stops and other information)

I-Ride full map (all route information including locations of shopping areas, eating places and hotels)

Lynx bus route no 50 (Magic Kingdom / Downtown Disney to Sea World where you can pick up the I-Ride back to your hotel)

Lynx main web site

Orlando Tourist Information Bureau.com (organised trips including to the Florida Mall)

Prime Outlets (north International Drive) website

Premium Outlets (south International Drive) website

Florida Mall information

Mall at Millenia web site

Pointe Orlando web site

Golden Corral buffet restaurant website

Ponderosa buffet restaurant website

TGI restaurant web site

Things to do along International Drive

Look guys, these are just links to other people's web sites. I'm not responsible for any content you may (or may not) find there. I just supply them in good faith to increase your holiday enjoyment!