December 6, 2012

Should you rent a car at Walt Disney World?

Every time I have visited Walt Disney World I have relied on Disney transportation.  And I said I would never do anything else.  We always chose hotels based on their locations so we could at least walk (or take the Monorail) to one of the parks.  However, this last trip, my family and I decided to stay at the new Art of Animation resort which is a "buses only" resort.  So, we broke with tradition and rented a car.  I have to admit, it was fantastic!

(This would have been a great rental car!)

I do see plusses and minuses of renting a car and using Disney transportation.  Here are reasons for and against each option.

Arriving and Departing

There is something very nice about showing up in the Orlando airport and hopping onto the Magical Express buses to get to Walt Disney World.  Disney gets your bags for you, so all you have to do is hop on board and your bags show up at your room a few hours later.  There is no need to worry about directions or tolls.  My kids love the Disney video that they show on the buses as well.  It really feels like your vacation has begun as soon as you arrive at the airport.

That being said, there may be lines to wait in before you can get on a bus and you could be stopping at a number of different resorts before arriving at your home for your trip.  It's not necessarily the fastest way to get to Walt Disney World.

Renting a car certainly isn't as fun as the Magical Express.  You have to wait on line to get your car and then figure out how to actually get to Walt Disney World.  You do get to go right to your resort, however.  We found it much faster than taking the Magical Express.

On the way back to the airport, we were able to leave whenever we were ready.  The Magical Express is likely to pick you up three hours before your flight.  With our car, we left two hours early and had an extra hour to play in the parks.  This may not seem like a lot, but to me, it was huge to be able to stay in the parks longer.

Traveling around Walt Disney World

(photo courtesy of "Mouse"cation)
 
There are buses galore at Walt Disney World, ready to take you from your resort to the parks.  Bus stops are convenient and easy to find at each resort.  It's nice to climb on a bus and relax until you arrive at your destination.  I have to be honest - I also love talking to people on Disney buses.  I always find there is a different atmosphere at Disney and people love to chat with strangers about their trips.

Of course, there are issues with buses.
  • You never know when the next one will arrive, so I find that we always end up running to a bus stop so we don't miss a bus. 
  • Buses can be crowded and you may not get a seat.
  • Your bus may stop at other parks or resorts before getting to your stop, making a trip much longer.
  • Buses don't go everywhere!  You need to transfer from one bus to another if you're going from resort to resort.  (Again, this adds time)
  • When traveling with a stroller, a bus can be difficult.  Everyone and everything has to come out of the stroller and the stroller has to be folded before anyone can board.  That's fun with a sleeping child.
We had the complete opposite feeling with our car.  We didn't have to be on anyone else's schedule with our travels and we could go anywhere at any time.  I especially loved that we could leave the stroller and any items we wanted in the car overnight.  Sunglasses and sweatshirts stayed in the car until they were needed, which meant less schlepping at the resort.

With a car, you have to be prepared to walk further when exiting parks (and taking a monorail or ferry at the Magic Kingdom) to get to your car.  You also have to be prepared to figure out where in the "World" you are going, while you drive.  And, when you're totally exhausted at the end of the day, you need to wake up to drive.

The verdict

I wasn't sure how I would feel having a car at Walt Disney World.  I did miss the "Disney atmosphere" of the buses and excitement of the Magical Express, but I LOVED having a car.  I must have said it every time we got into the car.  I loved being on our own schedule and not having to bring everything into the hotel each night.  We had no problems finding our way around Walt Disney World, since everything was so well marked.

I will definitley be getting a car on our next trip.  What about you?  Do you prefer to rent a car at Walt Disney World?

Amy

11 comments:

  1. This past year we have been staying off property and one of the things we've learned is that we love having our car. It's easier to get the kids in and out of with the stroller, get the stroller in and out of, all our stuff (diaper bags, coolers, etc. As you said, we can leave stuff in the car if we need too.



    I tend to disagree about the roads being marked. I think its one of the most poorly marked places I've ever been. If you're only going to one of the parks, water parks, downtown, or resorts and you're okay following their route, you're fine. If you want to deviate, you're stuck. They have markings for one or two major highways and the interstate, but most of the roads are not marked with road names. If you look at a map, there are always quicker and easier ways to get from point A to point B than how Disney guides you. We use the map on our phone and as long as you're watching closely, it works great.



    While I always love riding the Mickey buses (as my son calls them), I will always have a car when we travel to WDW. A ride or two on WDW transportation always occur, for fun - but we vote car all the way!

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  2. We always rent a car if we fly and with always having a kid in a stroller I wouldn't do it any other way!! We always go the first night to target to buy necessities so we don't have to pack a case of diapers and wipes. we have our own schedule and can leave for an afternoon nap if needed. When u stay on property you get free parking at the parks and most often if you get there first thing in the morning you can walk to the entrance. I don't know if we will ever do the Disney transport even when all our girls are big. I love being able to do our won thing!

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  3. I have a quick question. Do you have to pay for parking at the different parks when you to the car, or because you are staying on site do you get to park for free? I too have never done anything but the transportation system.

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  4. If you stay at a Disney Resort.. parking is free

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  5. Jennifer is right - if you're staying at a Disney resort, they'll give you a parking pass to put on your dashboard. That pass will allow you to park for free at the 4 major theme parks, and all other Disney resorts (makes it a great way to resort hop.) Parking at the water parks is free for anyone (even off-site visitors). ~Terri of WDW Hints

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  6. We also rented a car and loved it. Also we stayed off resort. Although I missed the "Disney" atmosphere at the house I will definitely do that again. We had a pool right outside our door so no schlepping everything and everyone out to the pool. Also we had more room. Along with other perks. Definitely will be doing both again!!!

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  7. A map! I'll have to try that one! - Amy

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  8. I would never NOT rent a car at WDW.... yes the buses are nice, and free,
    but waiting in line (sometimes in excessive heat and a bus of full of
    weary travelers) isn't fun- unlike getting in your rent a car, opening
    the windows and popping on the A/C .... But renting a car in Orlando is
    also extremely inexpensive compared to other cities - and the
    convenience far out weighs the cost. If you don't rent a car you are
    also somewhat handcuffed if you want to go to Universal Studios,
    SeaWorld, or Busch Gardens, etc.. etc... as the Disney transportation
    will not bring you there lol.... to me, it's a no brainer

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  9. We drive to Disney from Virginia every time we go. I like having a car because it gives you both options when you are going to the parks or other resorts. You can ride or drive.

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  10. I can take it or leave it...Just being at Disney is enough for me and I'll get around any way you want!

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  11. Yeah, this. Having a car is a must. We didn't in 2007/2009 and it was so much better when we did in 2011, the holiday was so much more relaxed!

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