People are often surprised when I tell them that I like to rent a car when we travel to Disney World.
After all, Disney resort guests receive complimentary ground transportation courtesy of Disney Magical Express, which takes you and from Orlando International Airport to your Disney Resort – you don’t even have to pick up your luggage, it gets delivered directly to your room!
Disney buses, monorails and boats provide free transportation between Disney resorts and Disney parks.
So why take on the expense of a rental car?
The first few times we went as a family, we had at least one child under 3 years old. Consequently, we were walking the line between having a content, well-behaved child on our hands and a cranky, overtired monster.
My husband Clayton and I both agreed that waiting at a bus stop for any length of time at the end of a long day was the last thing we wanted to do.
Plus, making the most of the short day – they had 7 PM bedtimes at that age – meant getting to the parks as quickly as possible in the morning.
If you do your research and keep an eye out for deals, you can often find some decent prices for car rentals in Florida.
The rental car option has consistently worked out perfectly for our family.
For us it meant control over our schedule with the bonus of having a quiet place to retreat to at the end of a long day. The kids often had an afternoon cat nap in the car (and sometimes me too!) which gave us all a break before dinner. The rental also gave us the flexibility to easily explore other Disney resorts, Orlando tourist spots, and outlet malls on non-park days.
For the type of parent who just needs a tad more control over the family’s schedule, doesn’t want to tolerate line ups or crowds more than necessary, and can handle the extra expense, renting a car is a great option.
Pros of Renting a Car at Disney World
- Parking at theme parks is free for those staying at Disney resort hotels and the Swan & Dolphin
- Freedom to go to other Orlando area attractions
- Easy to check out other Disney resorts (taking Disney buses between resorts is troublesome and inefficient)
- Good for squeezing in naps
- Makes for easy off site shopping and dining – grocery, outlet malls, Disney resort and non-Disney restaurants
- Avoid line ups and crowds for Disney buses, monorails and boats
- Don’t have to deal with trying to collapse strollers on the bus while wrangling kids (awake or asleep!)
Cons of Renting a Car at Disney World
- Cost of rental car & parking
- Inconvenient for visiting Magic Kingdom where you have to first park at the Disney World Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC)
- Cost of renting car seats or inconvenience of bringing them from home
- Extra steps of picking up and returning rental car before and after your visit
- Far distance to park from parking lot depending on when you arrive at the theme park
Parking at Disney Resort Hotels
Standard overnight parking fees for guests staying at a Disney Resort are now:
- Value Resorts: $15/night
- Moderate Resorts: $20/night
- Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts: $25/night (valet parking is available at these resorts for $33/night)
Note: Complimentary standard parking is available for hotel guests staying at the Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort.
Disney Vacation Club members will not be charged for these standard self-parking fees for DVC Deluxe Villa bookings. DVC members also enjoy complimentary standard overnight parking when using vacation points at any WDW resort hotel.
Day guests also get complimentary standard self-parking while enjoy activities at all Disney Resort hotels.
Guests with disability tags can park overnight at any WDW resort hotels for free and valet service at Deluxe level resorts is also complimentary.
Parking at Disney Theme Parks
Parking rates depend on vehicle type. Standard parking is $25/day for cars and $30/day for trailers or RVs. Preferred parking (which are spots closer to the park entrance) is $45 – $50/day.
Disney Resort hotel guests or visitors with a specific annual pass receive complimentary parking at all theme parks.
So is having a car a good idea for families visiting WDW? Deb weighs the pros and cons of renting a car for Disney World bound families.
Tips for Renting a Car at Disney World
- Smaller vehicles cost less so if you’re working with a small budget opt for a compact car or sedan instead of an SUV
- Join the club – check out AAA / CAA or car rental loyalty programs to save on rental fees
- Understand your insurance coverage
- There’s the Walt Disney World Car Care Center (located near Magic Kingdom) so if you change your mind about renting a car, you don’t have to head back to the airport to get one. Free shuttles are available for Disney resort hotel guests to get to and from the Walt Disney World Car Care Center
- Alamo and National have vehicle rental desks at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel
- There are several rental agencies for guests staying in the Downtown Disney area as well
Looking for more Walt Disney World tips? Check out these posts.