Disney Transportation or Rental Car

A question that always comes up when planning a Disney vacation is: do we need to get a rental car or could we rely solely on Disney transportation?  It’s a question that doesn’t have a right answer because every vacation is different.  You need to look at your vacation plans and decide for yourself whether or not you need a rental car or night.

One guest may need to rent a car during their vacation while another vacation may not.  It’s one of the fun things about vacations.  There are like snowflakes – it’s hard to find two that are the same.

Let’s take a look at all the travel possibilities available to travelers:

  • Relying solely on Disney transportation
  • Relying solely on a rental car
  • A mix of Disney transportation and a rental car

Relying Solely on Disney Transportation

Relying solely on Disney transportation begins before your airplane pulls away from the gate when your Disney’s Magical Express transfers and tags arrive in the mail.

photo courtesy of If I Was Imagineer
photo courtesy of If I Was Imagineer

This is best thing available to guests who arrive by plane.  Disney shuttles you and your luggage to and from the hotel.  After you check you luggage in at the airport, you don’t see them again until Disney’s Magical Express drops them at your room later that day.  It is best to pack a change of clothes in your carry-on luggage because problems do arise and no one wants to be caught without a change of clothes.

Once you arrive on Disney property, there is a wide variety of Disney transportation available to guests.  There is the iconic monorail, Disney Friendships, and buses to shuttle guests around the sprawling Disney complex.

photo courtesy of wdwinfo
photo courtesy of wdwinfo
photo courtesy of wdwinfo
photo courtesy of wdwinfo
photo courtesy of trip advisor
photo courtesy of trip advisor

Given your location, one piece of transportation will be faster than others or you may only have one piece of transportation available to you.

photo courtesy wdwfocus
photo courtesy wdwfocus
photo courtesy Kenny the Pirate
photo courtesy Kenny the Pirate

Above are two maps from two different sources laying out the different ways to get from location to location within the Walt Disney World complex.

If you don’t plan to leave the parks at all during your vacation, relying on Disney transportation is the best option because it’s readily available and, more importantly, it’s free (well, included in the price of your vacation).

Relying Solely on a Rental Car

photo courtesy of nerdwallet
photo courtesy of nerdwallet

Renting a car is the best option if you plan to spend a lot of time away from the Disney parks.  There are lots of things to see beyond the parks and having a rental car gives guests the best option to do this exploring.   Parking, for resort guests, is complementary at both Disney World resorts and theme parks.  If you are not a resort guest, parking is $17 at the parks and $20 at the resorts.  That can add up for a guest staying off property and driving to and from the resorts every day.  Yet another advantage to staying on property.

However, for some guests who make frequent visits but love to stay at the Disney resorts having a rental car could be something very important.  They want to get out an explore or they don’t want to be shuttled to and from the airport on Disney’s Magical Express schedule.

The only time I’ve been to Disney with just a rental car, that I can remember, is when I stayed at the Treehouse Villas before they were part of Saratoga Springs.  This was also before MGM/Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom were built.  A rental car, in this situation, was needed.  Yes, I was on Disney property but you felt so far away from the action that you needed the rental car just to get to the Magic Kingdom or EPCOT.

A mix of Disney Transportation and a Rental Car

There is also the possibility of doing a mix of Disney transportation and a rental car.  This situation is best for when a guest need to go off Disney property but only needs to go for just a day or two.  Disney has two rental car companies located on Disney property.  Alamo and National have locations at the AAA Car Care Center on Car Care Drive at Walt Disney World.

Shuttles are available from all the theme parks (including the water parks, Downtown Disney and Wide World of Sports) and every resort.  Upon returning the car, there is a shuttle to take you back to either the resorts or the theme parks.  However, if you return the car after hours, you will need to arrange your own transportation.  Both Alamo and National are open from 6 am to 8 pm (Monday-Friday) and 6 am to 6 pm (Saturday and Sunday).

For guests who are looking to get away from the parks and/or go to one of Orlando’s other theme parks, renting a car for just those days and using Disney transportation is probably the best option.  There are shuttle buses available from Disney to the other theme parks but those can cost just as much as a rental car and you are relying on their schedule to get you to and from the parks not your own schedule.

Hopefully, this article will help you figure out what your transportation needs are for your vacation.  Remember all vacations even Disney vacations are different and what works for you and your vacation may not work your neighbor or friend’s Disney vacation.

That said for all vacations that rely on Disney’s Magical Express, below is the saddest sight because it means that your vacation is coming to an end.

photo courtesy of mouse world travel
photo courtesy of mouse world travel

When I see this tag, I like to think that, “My vacation is coming to an end.  But all that means is I can start planning my next vacation.”

The Dad For Disney Facebook group is rapidly approaching 200 members.  It was just a couple of weeks ago that we welcomed our 100th member to the group.  This growth is possible by members recommending this group to their friends and family.  Keep the word of mouth going and let’s see how large we can grow together.

You can also follow me on twitter: @DadForDisney

Thanks for reading!

photo courtesy of BonnyL
photo courtesy of BonnyL

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