Should You Rent A Car If You’re Going To Walt Disney World?

It’s a question that’s been asked a bajillion times ever since Walt Disney World (WDW) opened nearly 50 years ago – should you rent a car while there, or no? The answer is as complicated now as it was in 1971 because there are lots of things to take into consideration. Let’s go through them and it might help you decide.

Where are you staying?

Some people stay on Disney property, at one of the Disney-run resort hotels. Other people stay off-site. Which one to do is its own huge decision, but we go over that in this post.

If you stay on site, you’ll have access to the Disney transportation system, in the form of buses, monorails, boats and, soon, gondolas to get you from your hotel to anywhere else in the World and back. They’re all free, but during busy times of the day, those modes of transportation are usually crowded and you may have to wait for an unpacked bus or stand for the whole ride.

If you stay off-site, you’ll need to get from your hotel to WDW and back, and your hotel may or may not have a shuttle. If it does have one, you’ll still have to go by the shuttle’s times, which may or may not work with your park plans of when you want to arrive and leave. If it doesn’t have one, you’re on your own in terms of getting to WDW and back.

What do you want to see & where do you want to go in Central FL?

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Some people are perfectly happy to go straight from the airport to their hotel on Disney property and never leave until it’s time to go back to the airport – many call it “staying in the Disney bubble.”

Others like to be more adventurous and experience places other than Disney…maybe other parks, shopping, restaurants, etc. When I lived in NY and visited Orlando, I used to enjoy driving around various neighborhoods, to get an idea of what it was like to live there :-).

What’s more important to you in terms of time, money, comfort, etc.?

Renting a car means paying more money for your vacation. However it also means saving time getting from one place to another, not being squished in and/or using your vacation time to visit places other than WDW.

The Pros and Cons of Each

Now that we’ve gone through the different factors that would affect your decision of whether or not to rent a car while visiting Central FL, let’s make it easy and just break down the pros and cons of each:

Renting a car – Pros

  • Speed. If you’re staying on WDW property, it’s usually faster than taking Disney-provided transportation.
  • Speed & price. If you’re staying off WDW property, it’s almost always faster than the hotel-provided shuttle bus and much faster than taxi/Uber/city bus. It might also cost less than the fees some hotels charge for shuttle bus usage.
  • Freedom. You have more freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want.
  • Comfort. Sitting in a car, with your stuff in the trunk, is more comfortable than potentially standing on a crowded bus, holding your kid, bags and “stuff.”

Renting a car – Cons

  • Cost. Granted you can sometimes find really cheap prices for a rental car and you can even time your flights to save money on your rental car. But you also have to take insurance, tolls, parking fees and gas info consideration.

Using Disney transportation or a shuttle – Pros

  • Cost. Disney transportation is free. Off-site hotel shuttles may be free or may cost less than a rental car (I know I said it could be more expensive above – it depends on the cost of the shuttle vs. whatever deal you can get on a rental car).
  • No confusion. If you have a lousy sense of direction, you’re letting someone else figure out how to get from Point A to Point B.
  • Distance: For most Disney parks, cars need to park in the parking lot and then guests take a tram to the park. For the Magic Kingdom, cars need to park at the Ticket & Transportation Center and then guests need to take a monorail or ferry to the park. Disney transportation drops you off much closer to the entrance of the parks.

Using Disney transportation or a shuttle – Cons

  • Speed. You have to wait for the next bus/monorail/boat/gondola, or for whatever time the shuttle is scheduled to come. During bad weather, boats and gondolas may be temporarily shut down.
  • Price. Off-site hotels may charge a per-person fee for use of their shuttle. Depending on what you’re paying for the rental car, a shuttle might be more expensive.
  • Freedom. With a shuttle, you can’t come and go as you please, and with either, you can’t go wherever in Central FL you want.
  • Comfort: You might have to stand and hold all your stuff on Disney/hotel transportation.

How to have the best of both worlds

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Some people plan their trip so they only use a rental car for a couple of days – say, to go to Universal one day, Sea World the next, the outlets another day and then they plan to use available transportation for the rest of their trip. If you ask me, it’s a good compromise and will cost less than renting a car for the entire trip, when there could be days when you could make do without a rental car.

Related reading

We’ve already written some articles about this subject that may help you decide. Check them out:

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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