Diswithkids Disney Blog

Disney Transportation vs renting a car

[fa icon="calendar"] Wed, Aug 07, 2013 @ 05:46 PM / by Sally Black

Sally Black

Disney transportation vs renting a car

To rent a car or not to rent a car for a Disney World Vacation?....that is the question.

It's one that we are asked all the time.

Honestly, there are two parts to this decision. The first has to do with basic transportation logistics - Which airport your family will be flying into and which hotel your family will be sleeping at.

The final part of this decision has a lot to do with individual family needs and preferences.

AIRPORT LOGISTICS - If your family will be flying into Orlando (MCO) airport AND Staying at a Walt Disney World resort, you are entitled to free magic express transportation buses. Simply head on down to the lower level of the airport (there are plenty of signs). Disney will collect your luggage for you. Just flash the castmember your travel documents and they will put you on the right bus to your Walt Disney World Resort. Basically the same thing happens in reverse for your ride home - Easy, Peasy!

If your family is flying into Orlando(MCO) airport and staying OUTSIDE of the park at another hotel, you will need to pay for your own transportation.  Typical ROUNDTRIP shuttle bus services cost approximately $40 per adults over 12, $27 for kids and toddlers under age 3 are free. Airport shuttle vans usually do not offer child safety seats so you many want to bring your own. Figure roundtrip total transportation cost for an average family of 4 is about $135 plus tip.

If your family found a great deal on flights to Orlando(SFB) Sanford airport you will need to find your own way to get to your hotel. This holds true for any Orlando hotel and Disney Resorts too.  Disney does NOT offer their magic express service from Sanford airport which is located about 50 miles away from Walt Disney World.  For families that do not want to rent a car, we find a car service is usually the most affordable and best option for airport transfers from Sanford airport.  The roundtrip cost for an average family of four is $300 plus tip.

The average cost to rent a compact car for a week from either Orlando airport is approximately $200 including taxes. This does not include gas, parking or other insurance charges.

HOTEL LOGISTICS -Guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort can use the free Walt Disney World transportation system to get around Walt Disney World (an area of approximately 50 square miles).  Motorcoach buses run from Disney hotels approximately every 20 minutes. There are specific buses to each of the 4 main parks. Connections can be made to Downtown Disney and the Waterparks too. Disney park transportation runs 1 hour prior to park opening times until 1 hour past final park closing. If your family are early birds or night owls then you may need to take a taxi. Typical taxi fares within Disney world run $18 each way plus tips.

If you are a guest staying at a Walt Disney World Resort with a car (rental or your own), you will be given a parking pass to leave in your dashboard.  This means you recieve free parking at any of the 4 theme parks and most on site Disney Resorts during your stay. 

Orlando Area hotels each have their own rules and ammenities. Do be sure to ask if they charge for parking. Some nearby hotels do offer complimentary shuttle bus transportation to area theme parks. Often these buses have very limited schedules so expect to spend the entire day in the park.

If your family is staying at a hotel OUTSIDE of Walt Disney World and you have elected to rent a car, it costs $15 per day to park at any of the parks. This adds at least an additional $100 in parking costs to your weekly vacation budget.


Renting a Car -Gives you complete flexibility and freedom to come and go when you please. It gives you privacy and comfort while giving you a trunk to store park necessities that your family may require (like a change of clothes, snacks etc)

The FLIP side to renting a car -Means you will need to drive while on vacation. If you are not familiar with Orlando roads you may find this a bit stressful, especially with local traffic. Gas and perhaps parking will be additional expenses.

FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT DECIDE - We appreciate that if this is your first vacation to Orlando or if you have never experienced Disney World before, it's often hard to make the best decisions for your family in advance.  The good news is if you arrive to Disney World or most Orlando area hotels and decide that you DO indeed need a rental car, there are plenty of rental car agencies in the immediate vicinity. You should call an make a reservation as soon as you make this decision to check availability. Obviously the pricing is better the longer you rent your car. Bear in mind, it usually cheaper to pick up and drop off from the same rental location.

OUR BOTTOM LINE ADVICE - There is no RIGHT answer when it comes to whether or not you should rent a car for your family Disney World Vacation.  If you were to ask each of our Vacationkids travel agents, chances are you would get several different personal opinions. That said, we all know the right answer about rental cars in Disney world is what is right and makes the most sense for your family's specific needs and wishes.

IMHO, Besides airport, hotel and personal reasons, a rental car in Disney World makes perfect sense when -

  •  You are traveling with very young children and your vacation budget won't stretch to include a stay at a Disney Deluxe resort with easy park access. Having a rental car will allow you faster access to your hotel for nap and rest breaks.
  • Your family plans on dining at some of the famed Disney hotel restaurant choices. Depending on your exact itinerary, Disney transportation does not offer direct service from one park hotel to another. You would need to transfer at the transportation center so you would need to figure at least 1 hour to get from your hotel to the hotel where you plan to dine. Having a car makes it much easier to get from one Disney Resort hotel to another.
  • You are planning on visiting other area theme parks. For example, Universal does offer a 1 day pass to both parks plus bus transportation from Disney hotels at a cost of $149. This could get pricey for families.
  • Food is pricey if you do not elect a Disney Vacation package that includes a dining plan. Having a car will give you the freedom to go food shopping or dine at other area restaurants.
  • If your family is planning a few days in the park AND a Disney cruise vacation, you may want to consider a rental car. Disney Express cruise transportation from a disney resort to port costs $140 per person.

As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts to planning a Disney World Family Vacation. This includes a lot of cost analysis and comparison shopping to insure you get the best deals. This is just part of the service we offer our clients. A win-win for us means we gave our clients the perfect Disney Vacation that exceeded their expectations while helping them save time and money.

I Need Help Planning A Disney Vacation

Topics: Affordable Family Vacations, Disney Vacations

Sally Black

Written by Sally Black

Sally is the Founder of Vacationkids.com Travel Agency and author of the book "Fearless Family Vacations". She is also the Director of Travel Agent Initiatives and Training at The Family Travel Association.