Lots of people make the mistake and reserve a rental car for their trip to Disney World, thinking they need one, when they don’t!! Here’s a breakdown for why you don’t need that rental.
Here’s the short and sweet of it:
- Skip the rental car. Use Lyft/Uber or Magical Express to and from the airport.
- Transportation while staying on Disney Property is free. That’s right, FREE.
- That FREE Disney transport means whether you stay on Disney Property or not, and also whether you have park tickets, or not. Free. Free. Free.
- There’s lots of Disney transportation options: Bus, Skyliner, Monorail, or Boat! Check with your resort to see which options they have to transport you all over Walt Disney World.
If you want to dig a little deeper, keep reading to see a cost analysis between renting a car vs using Disney transportation!
I think the most common mistake I watch people make at Disney World is their use or non-use of Disney Transportation. Using Disney Transportation is such an important key to saving time, which in turn maximizes your dollars being spent. I wanted to go through some of the common assumptions people make, and also highlight some of the important things to know about Disney Transportation. Please note, these tips are for Walt Disney World (not Disneyland!) and for guests staying on Disney Property.
Let’s Address Rental Cars first…
Myth #1: Book a rental car because the travel to and from the airport is too expensive.
Myth Busted!! This is a terrible mistake to make!
For the last three times I have visited Disney, I have ubered to and from the airport. The most expensive trip (at prime time during weekday rush hour) cost us $42. So round trip, it’s about $70-80. Yes, that may seem like an expensive price, but consider the cost of booking a rental car for the length of your stay.
I put together a quick spreadsheet to crunch the numbers, and compare them side by side. Here are my findings:
I started with the simple price to Uber. If you stay in a Walt Disney World Resort, the bus system will run to all of the Disney Parks as well as Disney Springs. Busses usually start about an hour before the parks open, and run til about 90 minutes after the parks close. It’s all free of charge. Please note: if you’re headed to Hollywood Studios for Rise of the Resistance… UBER! There are Bus Depot’s at EVERY Disney hotel, and every Disney Park that are clearly marked with where you need to stand and which bus you need to wait for.
For Option B, I looked up the price for a standard car from Enterprise and pretended to book it for the length of my stay. I did not choose dates that are popular in the parks (like Spring Break, July 4th). I picked a Thursday to a Tuesday in May, about three months in advance. A standard car with Enterprise is listed as a “Volkswagen Jetta or similar”. I also used the “Moderate Resort” price to park, since that is right in the middle, at $20 per night. To find out parking rates for the resorts, check out Disney’s Parking Page. Keep in mind if you are not staying on property, you’ll be paying $25 a day to park your car at the theme parks. That charge is like the park hopper pass. You pay it once per day and can then go to any of the parks and not pay it again.
As you can see, paying $75 for an uber round trip (or even a bit more for an Uber XL for larger parties), you’re saving well over $500 by not renting a car. That $500 can go a very long way at Disney. Consider this: You could stay for 3 additional nights at some value resorts. You could go on a Disney tour and enhance your magical vacation. That could pay for some airfare. You could apply that money saved to all your meals for a family of four, and probably still have some leftover to spend!
Myth #2: Booking a rental car saves time.
Since I always preach that time is money when visiting Disney World, let’s take a quick look at a time calculator when comparing whether to rent or skip a rental car:
So, this seems like a LOT of time… but the truth is, it’s accurate. On my last trip to Disney, we made note of all of our transportation leave and arrival times. Unless you’re staying right next to a park, each trip is about 15 minutes here to there by any means of transport, so I used that as the given average. Things that could skew this average? The location of your Disney resort. This is why choosing a resort and sometimes spending those extra dollars for location can be important.
Another BIG time suck: If you do rent a car, you will park in the parking lots for the parks, which by the way, are about as BIG as the park itself. It’s unbelievable how big these parking lots are. The parking lot for each park will have a “shuttle” from your spot to the park, but you will have to wait for that shuttle, and you will have to squish in with everyone else. Magic Kingdom has a shuttle to a ferry boat. Then the ferry boat has to cross the Lagoon before you even get to the park, it’s just that big. This could mean a LOT of time wasted dealing with your rental car. See the map below.
Should you choose to use one any way, be absolutely sure to use this tip:
Take a picture of your parking area, and/or drop a pin when you get out of the car. Try to make this top of mind amidst all the excitement of arriving. The parking lots are massive, and many people have stories of walking around for an hour trying to find their car after a long, hot day in the parks.
Myth #3: Using Disney Transportation is expensive
One of the best perks of Walt Disney World is that all of their transportation systems are free. Just another reason visiting Disney is magical! Whether you are staying on Disney property or not, transport is free. If you have no tickets to visit any of the parks, transportation is free.
In 2019, Disney began rolling out new wrap jobs on their busses, with characters from classic movies. The busses are also wi-fi equipped. Another cool perk is that the busses are green! They run on R50 Biodiesel fuel, which is a 50% renewable diesel made from non-consumable food waste! Another great reason to use the bus system vs parking in the parking lots? You get dropped off right near the front of the park, which means a short walk until you’re through security check and scanning your magic band to get into the park.
Every resort has a “bus depot”, that has clear signage for which busses go where, and they also have a board that tells you the anticipated arrival time on each bus. The times on this board are also available in your hotel room, however, PLEASE NOTE: The time is not 100% accurate. Think of it as a window. If a bus is scheduled to arrive at 7:20, I would be there at least 6 minutes before that time, as that particular bus could arrive anytime before or after that 7:20. You would think in 2020 they would have this down to a science, like Uber or Lyft, but they don’t. I’m sure that’s in the works for some day.
The bus systems are the clunkiest of them all. Sometimes they run behind, they’re often overpacked, and when you’re running to catch one and just miss it, it’s a big bummer. However, if you pack your patience and slap a smile on, it’s worth it to save those dollars!
Myth #4: The only free transportation are the Disney busses.
I think what a lot of Disney newbies don’t realize is that busses aren’t your only option for free transportation. Almost every resort has multiple modes of transportation to get to different places. You can go by bus, monorail, boat, Skyliner, or just walk depending on the resort you’re staying at. Be sure to check your resort to see what options you have.
The Skyliner is my favorite transportation option. It’s the newest, but I love the ease of non-stop transportation. The lines (if there are any) to get on are quick and keep moving. While they had a few hiccups the first two weeks after they launched, they’ve been problem free since. I highly recommend them.
Another major favorite is the boats. Many of the resorts have boats that will take you to the different parks or Disney Springs. They don’t take too long to reach you, and being out on the water and seeing Disney from a totally different view is why I love taking the boats.
Another option you have is to simply Uber or Lyft. You don’t have to use the Minnie Van service, because Uber and Lyft are available all over Walt Disney World parks. If you don’t want to sit and wait for a bus, or don’t feel like being crammed into the bus with a ton of other people on the way to the parks, ride sharing is always an option. We also didn’t find it to be outrageously expensive either. One night, we got stuck waiting forever for a bus to Disney Springs. After waiting 15 minutes, we just decided to call an Uber. The ride from Port Orleans resort to Disney Springs was under $6, and we felt it was totally worth it to just use the Uber. Same on the return trip. We went to get in line for our bus after having dinner in Disney Springs, and found the line to be at least 100 people deep. Forget that, we walked to the ride share area and called an Uber. That trip at 9pm on a Thursday night cost us $6. Again, totally worth it.
Myth #5: Getting to the resorts and back to the airport is very expensive. Wrong! Use Disney’s Magical Express! It’s FREE!
One popular service that Disney offers is the Magical Express Bus. The service seems awesome, and I look forward to testing it out in April.
The Magical Express Bus is a free service that will pick your group up, and drop you off at Orlando International Airport. There’s a few cool perks to this service:
- It’s free. Who doesn’t love FREE at Disney?
- You don’t have to wait for your checked bags. They’ll grab them for you and drop them off at your hotel.
- You jump into the Disney bubble basically right after you get off the plane.
You can choose to use it, leave it, or both! You can use the Magical Express one way, and not the other, that is totally fine.
The downsides to the Magical Express Bus:
- The amount of time it takes: Now, I have yet to test this myself, so I will be updating the blog as soon as I test it in April. However, it’s reported that sometimes it does take significantly longer to get to your hotel then it does to just Uber from the airport. This is because they wait for the parties that are all arriving within a certain time frame, and then they take off (30 minute drive) and then they drop off each party at their respective hotel. Who knows if you’re going to be first or last on the drop offs.
- Your luggage will arrive straight to your room (a perk!). However, sometimes it won’t arrive to your room for 3 hours. The whole point of the Magical Express is that you can get to the hotel, check in, and head straight back out to hit the parks. So why wait around for your luggage? Just be mindful: pack what you need to hit the parks, and bring it in your carry ons with you!
- The time it takes on the return trip to the airport can be up to 3 hours before your flight. That’s a lot of time away from the parks, which is what you paid for!! However, you can always skip the return Magical Express and take an Uber or Lyft back to the airport.
Here’s how Disney’s Magical Express works:
- When you book your vacation, you can reserve your spot on the Magical Express for your party. You simply just enter your flight information, and the number of people in your party.
- Disney will ship you yellow colored baggage tags for your luggage (usually 1 bag tag each person) and you put that on your luggage with your regular flight tag. This way the airport knows that all of those yellow tagged bags are going to Disney, and they pull them to the side instead of sending them around the baggage carousel.
- Once you deplane, you head to the Magical Express area that is clearly marked at Orlando International Airport. Check in with Magical Express, and they’ll put you into a certain group. When your bus comes, get on board, and you’re on your way.
Lots more to come on Disney’s Magical Express after I try it out for myself! Be on the lookout for that post!
You survived one REALLY long post. Hey, that’s why I kept it short and sweet at the top and said you could skip the rest if you wanted. Thanks for reading, friends! Any questions? Shoot me a message and I’ll be happy to assist!