Disney World Planning Basics: Do I Need A Car?

One of the questions that I get asked most often by people while they are planning their vacation to Walt Disney World is if they will need a car while they are there. Here are a few things to consider when making the decision.

  • Cost Depending on what size car you need, you can get some great deals on rental cars at the Orlando International Airport. Even with a great deal, a car can cost a few hundred dollars for a week. Plus you will also need to pay for gasoline and tolls. Those expenses can really eat into your vacation budget.
  • Convenience Think about what is more convenient for you. Do you like the idea of getting into your own rental car and going to the parks on your schedule? On the flip side, do you feel like it is more convenient to just hop on the abundant Disney transportation and leave the driving to them?
  • Visiting Outside Attractions Are you planning to visit any other attractions besides Walt Disney World while you are in Orlando? If so, having your own rental car is very handy. Now, if you are traveling solo or as a couple, just catching a cab to Universal Studios on the day you want to visit is no big deal. But if you are a large family, especially one with small children that still require car seats, it’s not that simple.
  • Traveling Party Who are you traveling with? Do you need to take large strollers or wheelchairs to the park? This can certainly be done by using Disney World transportation, but sometimes the buses are full making it more difficult.
  • Where Are You Staying Are you staying on property at a Disney World resort hotel or are you staying off property? If you are staying off property, the hotel that you are staying at might say that they offer free transportation to the Disney World theme parks. Definitely get all of the details from your hotel about this. You will often find that it is a shuttle bus service that only runs certain times of the day. If that is the case, you will be forced to come and go by that bus schedule. That might work fine for some people, but others might need the flexibility that a rental car would offer.
  • Where Are You Going Inside Disney World Will you be visiting other resort hotels during your stay? If so, that can be very time-consuming to do without your own rental car. Disney’s official stance is to allow at least 90 minutes to travel between two resorts. That is because you will have to ride at least two forms of transportation to do it. So if you are staying at Pop Century and you are trying to get to your character meal at Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary, it can take a long time on Disney transportation!
  • Supplies Are you staying at one of the Disney World resort hotels that offers a kitchen in your room? Or are you traveling with an infant that requires a lot of supplies? In either of these cases, you might want your own rental car to be able to leave Disney World and do some grocery shopping. However, it is not always necessary. Every Disney World resort hotel that offers rooms with kitchens also has a shop where you can buy basic food items to cook in your room. Other people use grocery delivery services like Garden Grocer.

My Thoughts: This year I will be taking two trips to Walt Disney World. During one, we will be renting a car and during the other, we will be using Disney transportation exclusively. During our first trip this year, we will be renting a car, because my husband is coming with us and he prefers to drive. We will be staying at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa that features rooms with full size kitchens, so we’ll be going to the grocery store to get a few snacks and drinks to have in our room. We’ve also made some dining reservations at other Disney World resort hotels which would require us to take two modes of transportation to get to them if we didn’t have the car. During my second trip this year, I will be traveling with my parents and my kids and I’ll be staying at the Art of Animation resort. I prefer to leave the driving to Disney and I won’t have a kitchen in my room. When my kids were younger, I really loved having the rental car. It was so convenient not having to wait in line for a bus or to stand on a crowded bus holding a baby. Plus getting two kids, a huge double stroller and a backpack full of baby supplies on a crowded bus or monorail wasn’t always easy.

Whether you chose to rent a car of your own or to take Disney transportation, they both can work for you!

2 comments on “Disney World Planning Basics: Do I Need A Car?

  1. Hi Kristi,

    I wanted to follow up and ask you how your experience was. We are heading to SSR in October and were wondering if we should rent a car or not. Did you try to use WDW transportation? Was the rental worth it? Would you do it again?


    • Hi Matt – So we’ve done both rented a car and used Disney transportation. Personally I like the convenience and relaxation of having someone else do all of the driving, so I normally prefer using the transportation that Disney offers. However, if you have several dining reservations at resort hotels or are traveling with very young children, it is often helpful to have a rental car. If you would like to give me a few more details about who you’re traveling with and what you have planned, I would be glad to give you my opinion of whether I would go rental car or Disney transportation in your situation. I hope you have a wonderful trip in October! 🙂

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