Guide to Airports Near Disneyland
Airfare costs to Southern California are one hurdle to visiting Disneyland. However, what a lot of people don’t realize is that there are 5 airports within driving distance of Disneyland. This guide to Disneyland area airports offers the pros and cons of each, along with some recommendations.
Having lived in Southern California for a couple of years now, we’ve had the “pleasure” of flying into and out of every airport near Disneyland, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. These 5 airports are Los Angeles International Airport, John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, Long Beach Airport, LA/Ontario International Airport (in Ontario), and Bob Hope Airport in Burbank.
Most Disneyland guests are going to be familiar with Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and John Wayne Airport (SNA), the airports that are the largest and closest, respectively. No matter where we are going, we usually fly out of/into these airports. SNA is closest to where we live, but LAX typically has the best prices, more non-stop routes, and is the go-to choice for international flights.
To figure out which airport will be the cheapest option, we recommend using ITASoftware, typing in LAX, and selecting all nearby (LAX + SNA, LGB, ONT, and BUR) airports. Sometimes, this will have you flying into one airport and out of another, so be mindful of that. Note that we cover transit to/from the airport–including renting a car, using Uber, and the various airport shuttles–in our Disneyland Transportation Tips post, so we’re focusing solely on the pros & cons of each Disneyland area airport in this post.
With that said, let’s take a look at what each airport has to offer, along with its distance to Disneyland…
Disneyland is located in Orange County, California, and so is John Wayne Airport (it’s the only one in Orange County on this list). Located 14 miles southwest of Disneyland, this is by far the most convenient airport for Disneyland trips. Even in poor traffic, you can be at Disneyland in 30 minutes from John Wayne Airport, which is pretty good by California standards.
It also helps that John Wayne Airport is not nearly as chaotic as LAX–the Duke won’t stand for any of that unpatriotic nonsense. It’s easy to drive in and out of SNA (and there are actually on-site car rentals), and usually getting through security is a breeze. SNA is pretty much reflective of Orange County in its laid back vibe. (Whereas LAX is much like the city of Los Angeles.)
Often, SNA will be the cheapest airport for flights to/from Disneyland, but even if it is not, consider paying a slight premium for the convenience. There’s a good chance that surcharge will be offset in less time and headaches, as well as cheaper rental car, shuttle, or Uber costs.
(Pro tip: Don’t be duped into dining at Ruby’s Diner, thinking it’s some special SoCal thing. Ruby’s almost exclusively preys on tourists; I know literally 0 locals who eat at this restaurant. Ruby’s sucks.)
Located southwest of Los Angeles and northwest of Disneyland by about 34 miles, LAX is the airport people associate with Southern California. The major upsides to Los Angeles International Airport when it comes to visiting Disneyland are availability of flights (including non-stop flights into most other major airports in the United States) and, typically, pricing. Since LAX is a hub airport for virtually every major U.S. carrier, you have a lot of options when flying into and out of LAX. This results in more competitive pricing that, in our experience, can be about $100 cheaper per flight than alternatives in the Los Angeles and Orange County area.
The major downsides to LAX are Los Angeles traffic and the hustle and bustle of a major international hub airport. Walt Disney World regulars might equate this to the ‘bustle’ of MCO, but it’s not like that at all. Whereas MCO frequently has backups at security due to dealing with a deluge of inexperienced travelers, LAX is actually busy.
In fact, LAX is the #1 origin and destination airport in the world, and one of the busiest overall. It’s certainly the “craziest” airport in the world. The vibe of LAX is one that I’d describe as “organized chaos” and frequent/ongoing refurbishments mean you never quite know what random hallway you might be led down to go through security or to go to baggage claim.
If you’re renting a car, the traffic situation can be brutal, especially if you’re not used to aggressive L.A. driving. For starters, you have to deal with the outskirts of Los Angeles traffic just to get to the airport (you do not go through downtown). Then, you have to deal with airport traffic itself.
You know how some airports quiet down late at night? That does not happen at LAX. We’ve driven here at midnight before, and traffic was still backed up outside the airport. Other times, it’s totally fine in the middle of the day. If you’re not comfortable or experienced dealing with heavy traffic (and plan on renting a car), the stress of flying into LAX probably is not worth the money you’ll save on airfare.
LAX is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Nothing about the LAX experience is predictable, and I could see this being a really stressful place for families. We have grown to appreciate LAX for its utilitarian efficiency (given the traffic this airport sees, it’s actually a bit amazing the airport doesn’t collapse in total gridlock) and quirkiness (no one cares if you bring your dog into the airport; that’s our dog, Walter, the “official” ambassador of Los Angeles! 😉 ), but inexperienced travelers will likely feel differently about it.
(Pro tip: there’s an In-N-Out Burger on Sepulveda that is literally walking distance–I’ve done the walk many times–of Terminal 1.)
Long Beach Airport is often forgotten when people evaluate flight options, which is odd since it’s actually closer to Disneyland than LAX, and is only slightly farther than SNA at 22 miles away.
Like the other non-LAX airports on this list, Long Beach Airport is a quiet airport where security is usually fast and the terminals are quiet. If you’re traveling with small children, the advantage this offers cannot be emphasized enough. It seems like JetBlue tends to have deals out of here, but when that happens, it only tends to be for one way out of a roundtrip. (Problematic if you’re renting a car, but not an issue otherwise.)
I know design considerations are not pertinent for most people when determining where to fly, but I love the Art Deco style and ‘Golden Age of Aviation’ style of the terminals. Unlike LAX, which seems content sacrificing its Googie style as it modernizes, Long Beach Airport recently overhauled its terminal while preserving its history.
Located due east of Los Angeles and northeast of Disneyland, LA/Ontario International Airport is 33 miles away from Disneyland. Whenever I’m flying anywhere within the United States, I make a point of checking Ontario, as it is inexplicably the cheapest option about 20% of the time. I don’t know why since the airport is so small, but it’s true. (It seems to happen the most with Southwest and Delta, for what it’s worth.)
If given the choice between LAX and ONT, which are almost exactly the same distance from Disneyland, I’d recommend ONT every time. While traffic can be bad to either, LA/Ontario International Airport is a sleepy little airport that seldom has lines at security, and is incredibly easy to navigate. Its atmosphere is basically the polar opposite of LAX, and it’s a pleasant place to fly out of. Granted, you won’t be able to shop for a designer handbag in the terminal (so what’s the point of even flying?!) but it gets the job done.
At “only” 40 miles away, this might seem like a potentially appealing option. However, Burbank is north of Los Angeles and Anaheim is south of L.A., meaning that you have to drive through the heart of the storm to get between the two. On a bad day, that could mean 2 hours of traffic. On a good day, it’s still an hour worth.
Ultimately, though, the probability that flying into or out of Bob Hope Airport in Burbank will be the cheapest option is actually significantly lower than the probability that you’ll see a Kardashian while at this airport. (On any given day, you’re likely to see someone here.)
It’s a convenient option if you’re staying in or north of DTLA, but as far as Disneyland-centric options go, Bob Hope Airport is an unreasonable and unlikely choice.
So that’s that when it comes to airports near Disneyland. A good 80% of the time, your best options are going to be LAX or SNA, which are the well-known choices when visiting Disneyland. However, if this post is going to help even 20% of you find a better deal or more convenient option, than hopefully it’s a worthwhile resource.
Oh, and finally, a “bonus” 6th airport: Grand Central Air Terminal in Glendale. You can’t fly into this one, but it’s interesting as the terminal is now owned by Disney, and the company has restored the location and turned it into something of a museum. Pretty neat.
Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and tons of other places!
Do you have a favorite airport near Disneyland? Which, if any, of these airports have you used? Agree or disagree with our takes on each of them? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
Flew into LGB and out of SNA for a recent work/fun combo trip. I LOVED LGB and would have preferred to fly out of there. Lots of nice outdoor areas, including an outdoor restaurant. Great option and flat $45 cab fee to DL.
Tom, you’ve flown into/out of Atlanta (ATL), correct? How would you compare LAX to ATL? Having never flown to California, LAX admittedly has me nervous. But ATL, which just confounds people out here, is a breeze to me! Then again, I grew up in Atlanta, so maybe it’s just that I’m used to it.
I’ve never had any issues with ATL. The sprawling size can make connections a bit of a pain, but otherwise, it seems like a pretty efficient airport. Of course, I’ve only ever gone to the airport and through security there once–most of my experience has been connecting there.
We live on Vancouver Island and have done most of our Flying from YVR (Vancouver, Canada) into LAX and SNA on Westjet because direct is nicer than connecting flights and love flying into SNA, a nice little airport when you have 2 little ones in tow. Last trip down we went via SAN and rented a car to do drive from San Diego and dropped off the rental car at SNA ( way cheaper than hiring a driver or taking the train from San Diego to Anaheim. A few trips out of Sea-Tac we have flown into LAX and LBA. Flying into Long Beach was nice not as long of a ride from the airport to the hotel as LAX too. But our favourite is YVR to SNA!
That is useful – I didn’t know about a couple of these airports. (Luckily, the ITA software did!)
I’d also mention that for someone from the midwest/East Coast, San Diego airport might not be a horrible option. It’s under a 2-hour drive, so total travel time isn’t that different from flying into LA. Plus, San Diego is a great city and you can spend some time there as well.
The San Diego airport is pretty small too. Coming in was great. We walked off the plane, had our bags and we out the door in less than 15 minutes. Flying out, was a bit more chaotic. I don’t know if it’s just the day we were there but they changed gates for flights at least four times (one of them ours). San Diego is beautiful, though. LOVED it.
As a So Cal native, I’ve never found LAX to be that bad, but I’m sure it can be a shock for the uninitiated. They are in the middle of a huge upgrade so hopefully the end result will make things a little better. Long Beach is the hidden gem, that most people outside of LA don’t know about.
The biggest problems for any tourist coming into the LA area is the lack of public transportation options and how spread out everything is.
Just planned a trip to Disneyland for the beginning of January and I had an even better idea for an airport to fly in to. Las Vegas. The plan is to fly to Vegas, stay for the weekend, drive the rental car to Disneyland for 2 nights and 3 days at the parks midweek, then drive back to Vegas for the weekend and fly home. Not much more expensive than flying into a DLR area airport, and I get two destinations for one “low” price! Do they take casino chips at DLP or DCA?
Lol. That’s fun! We’ve driven from SLC (it’s 12 hours with kids who have to pee all the time). The point from Vegas to DL isn’t terrible, though you’ll hit some serious dead space for a while 🙂
Having made the drive to/from Vegas and LA many times, just be prepared for weekend traffic. It can make a 4 hour drive a 7+ hour drive and be bumper to bumper in the most lonely/deserted stretch of road you can imagine, depending on your timing. But it’s great to get a two for one!
I’ve flown into SNA once and LAX twice. SNA is a great airport-modern, attractive, and very quick. I was able to check my bag AND get through security in about 15 minutes.
LAX is a bit of a cluster, especially if you are renting a car, since none of the car rentals are on-site. You’ll find yourself waiting a fair amount of time for a shuttle, waiting in traffic to get out of the airport, and waiting again once you get to the rental car lot. You’ll hear horror stories but if you’re used to dealing with busy airports (I’m used to O’Hare) I don’t think it’s really that bad. I’d certainly take LAX over LaGuardia at any rate!
We’re in Phoenix so we normally drive, but on two of our Disneyland trips this year we had the chance to fly into SNA (Orange County) and it was an amazing little gem I never knew existed. Phoenix Sky Harbor doesn’t come close to the craziness of LAX, but PHX’s hustle and bustle and sheer size is still a stark contrast to SNA. I felt like I was flying into and out of a suburban mall. Flying in late at night, not checking any bags and using Uber also meant it only took about 30 minutes from the plane landing to standing in our hotel room across the street from Disneyland. Would highly recommend.
We got great fares on JetBlue from LGA to JFK on our Disneyland trip, but it was cheaper to fly in to LAX (from any NYC airport). We flew in to LAX, rented a car for a week, very cheap, to travel around southern California. At the end of the week, we returned the car to LAX, took a shuttle to Disneyland for a few days, then took a cab to LGA to go home. LGA was so easy, there were many 5 people in line for security.
ITA Software is the only way to figure out NY to LA trips with so many airports to choose from on both ends, too many possible combinations.
Always fly pdx to sna. Even if it may be a bit more the proximity and lack of traffic are worth it. Plus have no delay getting through security. Private car service is only $50. Arranged ahead of time and they meet us curbside. Hands down the quickest and easiest way into the park.
For those utilizing a shuttle, PrimeTime from/to LAX isn’t ridiculously more expensive or time-consuming than SuperShuttle from SNA, so if the LAX fare is significantly lower, it’s something to keep in mind. Disney now operates its own buses from both airports, and while a more pleasant conveyance, it’s pricier, and you can end up with a longer wait before embarking.
Thanks for delineating the pros and cons . . . I’m now keen to check non-rental transportation options for ONT, which we used regularly when our daughter was at APU, but haven’t frequented in years–I really liked that airport.
Ok off topic question where did you get the Disney tie for the dog?
Great review on flying to different airports for Disneyland.