So you’ve made the decision to take a trip to Disneyland Resort — but you don’t know much about traveling to Southern California.
Disneyland Resort is located in Anaheim, California where there are several different airport options to choose from, but the two major contenders are John Wayne Airport and Los Angeles International Airport. Both airports offer quite a few competing pros and cons and ultimately it comes down to a few major factors that depend on your preferences. Let’s go over everything we know to help you decide!
Although there are more airports in the area, the two airports we will be comparing are John Wayne Airport (SNA) located in Santa Ana, California, and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Availability of Flights
If you’re looking for the overall availability of flights, one airport definitely stands out. At John Wayne Airport, a noise ordinance prevents commercial flights from taking off between 10PM and 7AM (8AM on Sundays), and there are no arrivals between 11PM and 7AM from Mondays to Saturdays (8AM on Sundays). This can seriously limit your ability to find a flight that fits both your schedule and budget.
LAX, on the other hand, does not have a curfew, meaning you can find flights at all hours of the night and early morning. Want to book a redeye flight? No problem with LAX.
Availability of Airlines
Because LAX is a much larger and also international airport, it features quite a few more airline options than SNA, although SNA does offer flights to Mexico and Canada. LAX services over 60 airlines including all major airlines, and it’s also a hub for Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines. This can help you save money if you’re also flying out of one of those airport hubs.
Meanwhile, SNA offers only 11 different commercial airline options and combined with the curfew, you’re much more limited in airline availability when booking a flight.
Distance from Disneyland
John Wayne Airport is approximately 15 miles from Disneyland, which can mean about a 25-minute drive, depending on traffic. LAX, on the other hand, is about 35 miles from Disneyland, or a 40-minute drive with no traffic. That doesn’t sound like a huge difference, right? WRONG.
What’s the problem? There is RARELY no traffic from LAX. Does it happen? Sure, maybe, but you will almost certainly encounter some level of traffic coming from LAX, and if you’re traveling during rush hour — forget it. You’re looking at sitting in a parking lot on I-405, where it could take you anywhere from an hour or more to get to Disneyland.
Now, you can also encounter traffic when driving from SNA to Disneyland via I-5 — especially during rush hour — but with a distance of only 15 miles, it might not feel quite as frustrating. There are also a few other options for avoiding the 5 if you prefer to stick to backroads.
Flight costs can make a significant impact on your budget but there’s a reason why these two airports are still competitive in this area. When it comes right down to it, SNA does typically offer higher airfare options, while LAX offers more lower-cost options. But here’s why that’s not necessarily the end of the story.
Because SNA is so much closer to Disneyland, consider how much money your time is worth. If you rent a car or opt to book other transportation from the airport, it may cost more to travel from LAX to Disneyland due to the farther distance and traffic. Your rental car idling in 2-hour rush hour traffic is not exactly saving money (or time).
Also, if you’re renting a car, it’s far easier to grab your rental quickly at SNA versus at LAX. There are several on-site rental car locations for SNA, while at LAX you must take a shuttle to a separate area for car rentals. It’s worth considering whether the higher price of your SNA flight offsets the savings you may find in LAX.
If you have young kids, lugging all your suitcases and car seats through a huge airport is basically a nightmare of epic proportions, so sticking to a smaller airport is ideal. In this case, SNA only has three terminals, with 22 gates in total, which means you’re not walking a super far distance to your gate.
SNA also features a number of kid-friendly dining locations and they even have a play area known as the Wish Lounge, where kids can participate in artwork, reading, games, and more.
LAX also offers a children’s play area, as well as the Flight path Learning Center and Museum, but considering the size of the airport, you might have to take a “field trip” to visit these areas, depending on where your flight lands/departs, which isn’t necessarily ideal when traveling with young kids.
Your idea of convenience may come down to personal preferences, but most people probably agree that the faster you can get in and out of the airport, the better. If you’ve ever booked through LAX, you already know that it’s not that kind of airport. With LAX’s size and location in a major city, you generally need to plan on spending extra time in security and getting to your gate, as well as traveling to Disneyland. If you want to put it in perspective, LAX was recently ranked the fifth-busiest airport in the WORLD, according to CBS News.
So when you factor in time, location, and size, John Wayne Airport is generally ideal. Given its smaller size and fewer flights, lines for security are typically on the shorter side and you won’t find nearly as many crowds as you see in LAX. If you want to spend as little time as possible in an airport, SNA is on the preferred side, plus it’s a much shorter drive to Disneyland!
Really the choice is up to you and what is best for your family/what is important to your family. While you may end up paying a little more for your flight, that higher cost can offset many of the inconveniences that come with traveling through LAX. But if your flight budget is tight, LAX can definitely be a cheaper option! Just remember to consider both your time AND money when choosing your airport.
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Have you ever flown to Disneyland Resort? Tell us in the comments!