Thinking of staying off property when you visit Walt Disney World? The Blogorail is sharing tips and info to get you ready for vacation.
With countless busses, monorails, boats, trams, Segways, and horses, Walt Disney World has an incredible internal transportation system for guests staying on property. (I’m sort of kidding about the Segways and horses. They have them, but I don’t think you’re allowed rolling up to Epcot on horseback.)
But what if you’re not staying on property? Or what if, like us, you just can’t stand to be on someone else’s time table? Never fear, renting a car and getting around the Walt Disney World Resort is easier (and probably cheaper) than you may think!
Why we do it:
1. Time is Money. This is the first reason we have, and if it were the only one, we’d still rent a car. Despite traveling to Disney parks frequently, I will be the first to admit I’m a total grouch when I have to wait on someone else to get me where I want to go. Busses “come frequently” but even still, it is suggested to give yourself an hour trying to get just about anywhere – just in case. That’s an hour I’d like to be doing other things.
2. Kids and kid stuff. We are down to one kid in a stroller, and we told him he has until he’s four to ride in it – yes, even at WDW. To each their own with the whole stroller thing… but even with just one, it’s simply so much easier to throw your stroller (and everything that has found its way into the stroller) into the trunk of a car than to hold everything in your hands while trying to fold and unfold the stroller for the bus, and oh yeah, hold onto the kid(s), too. (Pro tip: If you don’t have a car, please note that the monorail at Walt Disney World and some of the boats will allow you to roll your stroller directly on without folding it. This is invaluable information when you have sleeping kids!)
3. Naps. As mentioned above, sometimes the kids need to sleep – perhaps especially at Walt Disney World, amiright? Even if they don’t, it’s one of our most longstanding bits of advice to head back to your hotel or resort to, at the very least, get a change of scenery mid-day. (If you’re not staying on property, there are still plenty of places you can visit and relax – here are some of our favorites!) If your child is nearing meltdown status, you’ll want to make your getaway as quickly as possible.
4. Fun outside the parks. Whether or not you’re staying on property, it’s worth noting that Walt Disney World is so, so much more than just four parks and a bunch of hotels. With two water parks, multiple golf courses (miniature and that boring kind), Disney Springs, Disney’s Boardwalk, and much more, you should absolutely check out some of the things outside the parks. While there is generally transportation available to these locations one way or another, sometimes because they aren’t as high-traffic, the bus routes are combined and/or make multiple stops along the way.
5. Hotels. No matter what you call your home away from home on your Disney vacation, the restaurants, tours, decor (especially at Christmas!), and entertainment at each of the Disney resorts on property should be on your radar. Anyone can visit the resorts – and with dozens of them to check out, I’m pretty sure you can find something everyone loves!
6. Side trips. We rarely actually leave Walt Disney World property when we’re in Florida, except maybe to go to Port Canaveral. But if you want to go to the Orlando Eye, Universal, the beach, or anywhere else outside the beautiful Walt Disney World gates, you’ll almost certainly need a car.
7. Grocery/pharmacy runs. Walt Disney World is absolutely doable without wheels of your own. More than any other place I’ve ever been, you can get everything delivered to you – from groceries and baby gear to medication. There are also on-property urgent cares, etc should something go south while you’re on vacation. That said, it’s been very nice for us when we’ve had to make a pharmacy run, which has been more than once, to have our own car. In addition to convenience, you’ll save money taking care of these errands on your own, especially if the need strikes in the middle of the night.
Does it cost a fortune? Is it hard (either to rent or get around the resort area)?
It’s true, car rental rates can be outrageous. This is especially true if, like our family, you require a large SUV or Minivan. Here are some tips for getting the most bang for your buck when renting a car at Walt Disney World. Some of these tips will work anywhere, and I’m not charging you an extra penny for them!
1. Book early – but check back until the last minute. Unlike airfare and many other travel expenses, rental cars can be canceled, changed, or rebooked up until – usually – 24 hours in advance of your reservation. (Of course, please check the fine print on your reservation before that time, so you’re not stuck with extra charges!). I usually book when I know our travel dates because occasionally you can benefit from booking early. More often, though, the price continues to drop as long as there are cars available. It is not uncommon for our total to drop by a few hundred dollars!
2. Check all the discounts. I’ll admit – I’m a nerd and look forward each trip to filling in an actual spreadsheet with every combination of Contract ID and Coupon Code for National, just to start. Not sure what those are or how you’d combine them? Check out this comprehensive page on Mouse Savers for instructions, as well as current codes and coupons for every rental agency at the Orlando Airport. This is another area you’ll want to check a few times, if possible, for updates. It takes some time, but these codes (especially for places like National where they can be “stacked”) are exactly how we save lots of money on every rental.
3. Know where your rental will be waiting. Currently, all of the agencies are accessible via each side of the Orlando International Airport, so it doesn’t matter where you land – but a few are actually located off-property. Take a minute before you arrive to know whether you’re looking for a shuttle, the agency’s counter, the lot, etc. It’s better to know in advance than to spend time wandering around MCO with kids (and grown-ups) who just want to be at Disney, already!
4. Know where you’re going once you’ve got the keys. Most smartphones are equipped with GPS and your choice of navigation apps, but be aware that once you’re getting close to (and especially inside of) Walt Disney World, most GPS systems are completely oblivious as to what roads may be Cast Member access roads, or otherwise closed to the public. Don’t ask me how I know this, just trust me that it might be very frustrating if you rely on your GPS too close to the resort. That said, the signage at Walt Disney World (and in the greater Orlando area as you get to all the good stuff) is quite good. If you pay attention to road signs, you should be able to get just about anywhere! If you still feel uncomfortable once you’re in the WDW gates, just ask a Cast Member.
5. Check your insurance policy before you leave. Chances are, you won’t need any extra “services” (read: fees) the rental company offers.
6. Don’t pay the rental car company a crazy amount for gas. You may be aware that they charge an exorbitant amount if you bring the car back less than full, but even their “prepaid” option that sounds halfway decent will leave you spending more than you need to. There are plenty of gas stations right on or near Walt Disney World property (if you want specifics, feel free to ask!), and if you drive directly from your location there to the airport return location, your tank will be full enough that you won’t incur a charge. This has been true for us in varying traffic conditions, from various resorts, with various companies. Fill up in Lake Buena Vista, Kissimee, etc and not at the airport!
7. Bring change for tolls. Mostly likely, driving from the Orlando International Airport to the Walt Disney World area, you will incur approximately $2.25 each direction in tolls (at the time of publication). At least one toll may be unmanned, so you’ll want to have coins instead of big bills when possible.
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!
Here is the map of our Blogorail Special Edition | Tips for Staying Off Property at Walt Disney World Loop:
- 1st Stop – Adventures with Toddlers & Preschoolers | Get More Space for the Money
- 2nd Stop – The Delightful Life | Renting a Car on a Budget
- 3rd Stop – Disney Mamas | Grocery Delivery
- 4th Stop – Rolling with the Magic | Parking at Walt Disney World
- 5th Stop – Mommy to All Girls | General Tips for Staying Off Property