One question I get a lot is “Should I rent a car when I visit Walt Disney World?” If you’re not staying on property, the answer is pretty simple: Yes. There are no resorts within convenient walking distance of Walt Disney World, even the Downtown Disney resorts, and most resort shuttles are so inconvenient they’ll wreak havoc on your schedule. If you’re staying on property however, the answer is a little bit trickier.
First, no one staying on Disney property needs to rent a car since Magical Express, Disney’s free shuttle service that runs between Orlando International Airport and all resorts, runs 24 hours a day and is there to get you–and your luggage–to your destination safe and sound. Magical Express is great for Disney as well as for guests, since guests who use it won’t have a car and therefore will be spending all their tourist dollars on property.
Of course, that’s part of the problem. If you forget to pack something, you’re pretty much stuck shopping on property where everything, even toothpaste, is more expensive. If you have something more difficult to get, like a prescription refill, you’ll need to take a cab. And if you’re looking to travel over to one of the other parks or just explore downtown Orlando, you’re looking at a fairly expensive cab fare or a very involved bus ride.
Even so, most guests don’t need a car. If you plan on visiting Sea World, Universal, or Legoland, consider renting a car for one day or looking into special shuttles for visiting those parks. Universal, for example, offers a one-day park hopper and transportation to the front of Universal and back to your resort later that night for $139. You can rent a car from several locations on Disney property; these vendors will usually pick you up and drop you off when you’re done with your rental.
Finally, plan well and you’ll be a lot less likely to forget items, but worse case scenario, a cab rental from anyplace on property to the Target on Highway 192 is less than $25 one way. Best of all, since these cabbies are allowed to operate on Disney property, you can have confidence they’ve been fully vetted and will be fair.
I’m going to add one caveat here: Some Disney resorts are simply inconvenient. Both Ft. Wilderness and the Treehouse Villas have an internal bus system. This means that you’ll take one bus to a central location at the resort (or in the case of the villas, to Saratoga Springs) and then get on another bus to go to the parks. This can add a lot of travel time to your trip. While many guests staying at Ft. Wilderness rent golf carts to get around, the price is so high it’s actually cheaper to rent a car. If you’re staying at either of these resorts and time is important, consider renting a car.
I often rent a car because I like to go off property or because I tend to stay at multiple resorts during one trip, but bottom line, you really don’t need a car. There’s something to be said about getting on your Magical Express bus and letting someone else hassle with traffic for the next week or so. As an added bonus, you’re not out running “errands” when you could be in the park and you save money too.
What about you? Do you rent a car? What are the pros and cons of renting vs. relying entirely on Disney transportation?