Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Why We (almost) Always Rent a Car at Disney World
- 1. Airport Flexibility
- 2. Time is Money
- 3. Kids and All Their Gear
- 4. Nap Time
- 5. Fun Outside the Theme Parks
- 6. Visit Resort Hotels
- 7. Rental Cars Allow You to Explore More of Florida
- 8. Grocery/Pharmacy Runs
- Car Rental Companies and Where to Rent a Car at Disney World
- Make the Best Choice for Your Family
With changes to Disney’s transportation system in 2022 (farewell Disney’s Magical Express service) renting a car is definitely becoming the right choice for some families. Here are all of our reasons why you might want to rent a car at Disney World, where to rent a car at Disney, and how to get the best deal.
Why We (almost) Always Rent a Car at Disney World
With countless busses, monorails, boats, the Skyliner, trams, Segways, and horses, the Walt Disney World resort area has an incredible internal transportation system for guests staying on property. (I’m sort of kidding about the Segways and horses. They have them, but you’re not really allowed to show up at the Disney parks on horseback. At least as far as I’m aware.)
But what if you’re not staying on property? With the demise of Disney’s Magical Express and the addition of parking fees at Disney resorts it has never been a better time to explore off-property Disney hotel options.
Or what if, like us, you just can’t stand to be on someone else’s timetable? Never fear, it’s easier (and probably cheaper) than you may think to rent a car at Disney World.
Here’s why we do it, even though we stay on property:
1. Airport Flexibility
Yes, we keep saying it but with Disney’s free Magical Express shuttle service gone in 2022 the motivation to fly into Orlando International Airport (MCO) isn’t as strong. Before most families flew into Orlando airport specifically for the option to get to the resort with no thought involved. We’ve rounded up a list of how to get from the Orlando airport to Disney World in 2022. If you have a larger family it may be more affordable to rent a minivan rather than pay for six seats on shuttle service. Families should look at surrounding airports near Disney to find the best prices on airfare if they plan to rent a car at Disney World.
Airports near Disney World include Orlando International Airport (MCO), Orlando Sanford (45 minutes), Tampa (1 hr 15 min), Daytona Beach (1 hr 15 min), St. Pete-Clearwater (1 hr 45 min), and Sarasota Bradenton (2 hrs). Opening yourself up to these options if you’re going to rent a car at Disney World allows you to explore some budget carriers like that don’t fly in and out of MCO.
2. Time is Money
If this were the only reason I could give, we’d still rent a car on our trips. Despite traveling to Disney theme parks frequently, I will be the first to admit I’m a total grouch when I have to wait on someone else to get me where I want to go. Disney buses “come frequently,” and although timing is available in the My Disney Experience app we haven’t always found it accurate. Bus timing and reliability was TravelingMom Nasreen Stump’s biggest issue with her recent All-Star Movies stay. Time spent waiting for Disney buses and other transportation is time that could be spent better in the theme parks.
Disney added on-property parking fees back in 2019 with the fee varying on the hotel level you’re staying at. One free space is included on campsites at Fort Wilderness resort. Value resorts are $15/night, moderate resorts charge $20/night, and deluxe resorts will cost you $25/night to park. While no one relishes in added fees it is nice to know that resort guests will not be charged when parking at the theme parks in addition to overnight parking fees. Please note that Shades of Green, Walt Disney World’s Swan and Dolphin, and the Swan Reserve have their own parking fees and free theme park parking may not apply.
3. Kids and All Their Gear
We are mostly out of the stroller phase, since my youngest turned four last year. But if you do have a stroller, it’s so much easier to throw it (and everything that has found its way into it) into the trunk of a car at the end of a long day, than to hold everything in your hands while trying to fold and unfold the stroller for the bus. And not lose the kids.
TravelingMom Tip: If you don’t have a car, please note that the monorail, some boats, and the Skyliner will allow you to roll your single stroller directly on without folding it. This is invaluable information when you have sleeping kids!
4. Nap Time
As mentioned above, sometimes the kids need to sleep – perhaps especially at Walt Disney World, right? Even if they don’t, one of our most valuable bits of advice is to head back to your hotel or resort to, at the very least, get a change of scenery mid-day. If your child is nearing meltdown status, you’ll want to make your getaway as quickly as possible.
5. Fun Outside the Theme Parks
Whether or not you’re staying on property, it’s worth noting that Walt Disney World is so, so much more than just four parks and a bunch of hotels. With two water parks, multiple golf courses (miniature and that other kind), Disney Springs, Disney’s Boardwalk, and much more, you should absolutely check out some of the things outside the parks. While there is generally transportation available to these locations one way or another, sometimes because they aren’t as high-traffic, the bus routes are combined and/or make multiple stops along the way.
6. Visit Resort Hotels
No matter what you call your home away from home on your Disney vacation, the restaurants, tours, decor (especially at Christmas!), and entertainment at each of the Disney resorts on property should be on your radar. Guests can visit other resorts using complimentary Disney transportation but it can be challenging. For example if you’re staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge and were heading to Riviera to eat at Toppolino’s you’d have to go from AKL to a theme park or Disney Springs then catch a bus or Skyliner to Riviera. Driving is much easier. To drive a vehicle onto a property other than the one you’re staying at you must have a dining or experience reservation.
7. Rental Cars Allow You to Explore More of Florida
While we’ve rarely left Walt Disney World property when we’re in Florida, we know a lot of folks like to take full advantage of their time in the sun. There is so much to do and see within a short drive of Walt Disney World including adding a beach day near Disney, exploring Tampa, or even adding on an additional adventure or theme parks.
8. Grocery/Pharmacy Runs
Walt Disney World is absolutely doable without wheels of your own. More than any other place I’ve ever been, you can get everything delivered to you – from groceries and baby gear to medication. There are even on-property urgent cares. That said, having a car for a pharmacy run (or seven, on our last trip) is nice. These types of errands always strike at inopportune times. Having a car makes it easier.
Car Rental Companies and Where to Rent a Car at Disney World
The majority of guests will use a car rental location at their arrival airport. You’ll step off the plane, head to the car rental counter to pick-up your rental vehicle, and then drop off back at the airport on your departure date. Orlando International Airport boasts a myriad of rental car companies. On airport options include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Payless, Sixt, and Thrifty. There are a whopping 28 off airport car rental options in the area. Personally we look to the larger companies where we know what to expect. If you decide to rent with an off airport option research policies and read reviews.
If you don’t need a rental vehicle for your entire Disney stay but are just looking to take a day trip be sure to look at the Walt Disney World Car Care Center (1000 West Car Care Drive Bay Lake, Florida 32830). Located near Magic Kingdom this is a convenient option that you can get to on Disney’s complimentary shuttle. Rental car companies available at the Car Care Center are Enterprise, Alamo Rent a Car, and National Car Rental. Past guests may remember that there was a car rental location at EPCOT area resorts the Swan and Dolphin hotels. This option has closed.
How to Save Money on a Disney World Rental Car
A few quick things we remind our friends about rental cars are:
Look at available discount codes when renting a car at Disney World.
You may get initial sticker shock with add-on fees. Many companies offer discounts based on age, profession, and military service. Look at all memberships you have. We’ve found AAA discounts, USAA discounts, discounts through Costco, and even AARP discounts. Did you know you don’t actually have to be a specific age to join AARP and get the discounts? Yup. Anyone is eligible. Promotions also exist based on the time of year for one way rentals and more.
Check the price repeatedly or use an app to do it for you.
Rental car prices fluctuate wildly. When you book your July rental in January they know you want it. The cost is higher. If in June they realize they actually have a lot of excess inventory they’ll slash those prices. They aren’t going to tell you that. Make calendar reminders to check the cost again or use AutoSlash’s track a rental function to watch for cheaper options automatically.
Don’t forget about tolls.
You’ve arrived into Orlando and in your bleary joy filled rush for Lake Buena Vista and all things Disney you jump on the toll road. The rental car company is now going to charge you for that toll and a daily fee for each day of your rental even if you only had tolls on two days. It’s a money maker for them. Either plan around tolls or sign up for a visitor toll pass ahead of time. Then decline your rental cars toll coverage and pick up your pass in the Orlando Airport using the app provided. Easy and saves you a ton!
Research ahead of time if you need to find a rental car that doesn’t require a credit card in Orlando.
We see this come up a lot in discussion. Most rental car companies require a credit card. I’ve seen renters picking up who were surprised by this fact, or thought their debit card would be enough. Always do your research. Some locations require a debit card with a Visa/Mastercard logo. Some put a hold on for the entire rental amount plus a several hundred dollar deposit. You may be required to show a return airline ticket. There may be a minimum age. Your drivers license address must match your current address. Above all else just because you were able to rent through a specific company without a credit card in another destination doesn’t mean the process is repeatable. Different locations may have different policies.
Make the Best Choice for Your Family
It’s certainly not a requirement to rent a car on a Walt Disney World vacation. You can use Uber, Lyft, or multiple available paid shuttle services to get to the Walt Disney World resort area from the airport.
A rental car may not be right for your family, but if any of our reasons resonate with you – especially the one about being particularly impatient (I know it can’t just be me!) – please at least don’t overlook the option. Whichever decision you make, you’ll be in the most magical place on Earth.
And even if I have to ride a bus, I’ll take that over being home almost any day.