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?