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Do I Need to Rent a Car at Walt Disney World

For years when I would visit Walt Disney World, I would rent a car at the Orlando International airport and drive my family to our Disney resort. For the most part, the car would sit in the parking lot, though we would use it to drive to the grocery store or maybe Sea World. I then had several trips in a row when the car never left the parking lot. The only other real option at the time was to hire a town car service or use Mears airport transfers, but renting a car was pretty cheap, and it was nice to have the car in case of emergency.

When Disney launched the Magical Express in 2005, which offers free transportation for Walt Disney World Resort guests from MCO to Walt Disney World and back, it solved many of my problems. Free transportation to Disney that was a quick and easy process. I have only rented a car on one subsequent Disney World vacation.

But, the Magical Express is not for everyone. There are still situations where you may need to rent a car.

You should probably rent a car at Disney World if:

  • You are flying into any other airport than MCO. Some people opt to fly into Sanford airport, or even TPA in Tampa, and the Magical Express does not service those airports
  • You are planning on doing other area attractions in addition to Disney. While Universal, Sea World, Legoland and others are technically in the Orlando area, they are not very close to Disney. Getting back and forth can be expensive without a car. If you are doing maybe one day at Universal, consider a town car company for that trip, but multiple days, a rental car will be the most efficient for you. Remember to figure in the parking costs at the other parks when figuring out if a rental car works for you.
  • You are planning on visiting a far away attraction such as Cape Canaveral or one of the beaches.
  • You want the freedom from Disney transportation. Many people just want to drive their own cars to the parks, and don’t want to worry about lines for the Disney buses.

You should probably not rent a car at Disney World if:

  • You are just doing Disney World. Disney transportation is mostly efficient, and more importantly, free.
  • You want to save money.
  • You may want to go offsite for one or two days, and a town car company is cheaper than renting a car for the entire stay.

Things to remember:

  • Parking at all Walt Disney World resorts is not free. Walt Disney World now charges for parking at all of it’s resorts. Parking is current $13 at Value Resorts, $19 at Moderate Resorts and $24 at Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts per night of your stay
  • Currently, if you are staying at a Walt Disney World resort, parking at the Disney theme parks is free.
  • Most rental car locations are outside of MCO, requiring a bus ride just to get to their building to rent a car.
  • There are toll roads between MCO and Walt Disney World, as well as possibly between Walt Disney World and other attractions.
  • There is an Alamo rental car counter on Walt Disney World property, as well as rental car counters at many Downtown Disney hotels if you want to just rent a car for a day or two.

Do you rent a car while at Disney World?



Is the Disney World Quick-Service Dining Plan Worth It?

With the price increase of the Disney Dining plans yesterday, now is a good time to look at the Quick-Service dining plan, and whether it is worth it or not. Walt Disney World offers three different dining plans for guests who book a Magic Your Way package that includes your Disney resort and theme park passes. You can opt for no dining plan at all as well, though most people go with one of the three plans.

The Quick-Service dining plan is the least expensive of the three plans, and includes two quick-service meals plus one snack per person per night, plus a resort refillable mug for each person. Quick-service meals are typically akin to fast food, so hamburgers, sandwiches, salads, etc. You walk up to the counter to order your food and take it to a table to eat. A meal includes an entree, side, dessert and drink, and can be used for breakfast, lunch or dinner inside or outside of the theme parks.

Currently, the cost for the quick-service dining plan is $44.13 for adults and $19.04 for children (3 – 9 years old) per night of your stay. You must purchase a plan for your entire stay, and everyone in your party must purchase the same dining plan, or no plan at all.

Let’s look at an average day for one adult and one child. That would cost $63.17, and include two quick-service meals for each person plus 2 snacks. We will leave the refillable mug out of the equation, as that only amounts to a dollar or two per night, depending on how long you stay.

Our family is going to get lunch and dinner in the parks, plus an afternoon snack. Let’s say they are in Epcot and pick these meals:

  • Lunch at Tangierine Cafe – Morocco – Adult lunch of Chicken and Lamb Shawarma Platter ($14,99), dessert ($3.99) and bottled water ($2.75). Child lunch of chicken nuggets ($8.99).  With tax, you get a lunch total of about $32.75.
  • Snack – Two Mickey Ice Cream Bars ($4.25 each). With tax, a total price of about $9.00.
  • Dinner at The Electric Umbrella – Adult dinner of French Dip Burger ($10.99), a chocolate cupcake for dessert ($4.59) and Pineapple-Coconut Slushy for a drink ($3.99). Child dinner of Macaroni and Cheese ($5.99) and a brownie for dessert ($4.19). With tax, a total price of about $31.75.

So, for the two meals and a snack I get a rough total price of about $73,00. About $10 more than what they paid for the dining plan. But is the quick-service dining plan worth it?

Quick-Service Dining Plan PROS

  • With the example above, you do save money.
  • The biggest benefit I try to explain to my clients is that with all the dining plans, everything is prepaid and budgeted, so you just show up and eat, no need to worry about the cost of meals, how much money to bring or trying to order the cheapest thing on the menu just to save money. Just enjoy, that is the idea of going to Disney World, isn’t it?

Quick-Service Dining Plan CONS

  • While you do save money with the example, it really isn’t a ton of money.
  • While the example is accurate, you may not necessarily order like that if you don’t have the dining plan. Not everyone has a dessert with lunch or dinner, so you end up ordering things that you may not normally include in your meal, negating the savings.

So, is it worth it? My suggestion to all my clients who are considering the quick-service dining plan is: If you plan on dining this way at the parks, then yes, go for it. It may not save you a ton of money, but the peace of mind has value too. If you are planning on mixing a few table service meals in there as well, then this may not be the right plan for you.


Purple Magicbands!!! Squeeee!!!

I always find it interesting what tickles the fancy of the Disney universe. Announce a new ride or parade? Silence. Open a new restaurant in the Magic Kingdom themed after the ever popular Jungle Cruise? Ho hum. Release a purple Magicband? Fireworks!

purple magicbands

Magicbands have been available at Walt Disney World since 2013. If you remember the old Key to the World Cards, these are the 21st century version. The wristband is your room key, park pass, charge card, fast pass and just about everything else. Plus, there are new extras being added all the time. Visiting Anna and Elsa? Pretty soon, they will greet you and your child by name, all pulled from information on your Magicband.

For guests staying at a Walt Disney World resort with a Magic Your Way package that includes their Disney resort and park passes, they receive a Magicband for each person in their party 3 and older for free. Guests are allowed to “customize” the bands by choosing the color of the band as well as the name you want put on the band. However, you are limited in your color choices, and all the Magicbands are solid colors. The options are grey, red, yellow, green, blue, orange, pink, and as of yesterday, purple!

If you don’t think you can live with a boring plain colored Magicband, even one of the new purple ones, Disney also sells special edition Magicbands in the parks for about $23 each, including Haunted Mansion, Figment, Disney Princesses, Star Wars and plenty of other options if you are willing to shell out the extra money once at Disney. You can even purchase them online at the Disney Store too. The good news though, the bands are reusable, so you can always reuse your cherished Jack Skellington Magicband as many times as you want.

Don’t want to put out the extra dollars? Consider purchasing special Magicband stickers. I did this our last trip, and let everyone choose their own “character”. Our bands were unique and looked great our entire trip. We purchased our stickers from My Fantasy Bands, the quality was great, and they had plenty of options. There are a few other vendors too that sell similar bands, or feel free to check pinterest to see plenty of home made crafty ways to customize your bands.

Will you be getting a new purple magicband on your next Disney vacation?