A lot of planning goes into what you’ll be doing while you’re at Walt Disney World, but you don’t always put quite as much brainpower to how you’ll get there.
And if you’re considering driving to Disney World you might be thinking — do you really need the flexibility of a car? Does it cost extra to bring your car? SHOULD you bring a car? We’re covering it all so you can decide what will work best for you on your next Disney trip!
Disney World Resort Parking
First, let’s cover the basics. If you’re planning to stay at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel and you drive your car, it’s going to cost you a bit more on top of your nightly rate. Disney used to let you park your car for free at the hotels, but that changed back in 2018. Now, the price you’ll pay depends on where you’re staying. And, the nicer the place, the higher the price with Disney Value Resort parking costing $15 per night, Disney Moderate Resort parking costing $20 per night, and Disney Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts costing $25 per night.
Disney Deluxe and Deluxe Villas offer an additional parking option — Valet Parking. But, it’ll cost you a bit more per night — $33 to be exact. Keep in mind valet has not been available since reopening and is just starting to reappear. Guests with a disability requiring assistance and a valid disability parking permit are permitted to valet park though.
There are two exceptions to the parking fee though! Those staying at the Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort receive one parking space so you’ll get complimentary standard parking if you’re willing to stay in a more “rustic” setting.
Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members also receive complimentary overnight parking when staying in any Walt Disney World Resort hotel using reservation points. And, DVC members don’t even have to use vacation points to get free overnight parking when staying at a Disney Vacation Club Deluxe Villa. So, there are still a few (specific) ways to bypass that overnight fee! Otherwise, you gotta pay!
Disney World Theme Park Parking
What about parking at the Disney World theme parks? Well, it depends! Disney hotel guests, Disney Vacation Club members staying at a Disney hotel, and Club 33 members receive complimentary theme park parking for the duration of their stay. Disney World Annual Passholders can also get in on the free parking depending on what type of pass you purchase.
If you’re not part of any of the groups that receive complimentary theme park parking, the daily parking rate for all four theme parks is $25. And, if you’re hoping for a parking spot that is close to the park entrance, you can pay $45 or $50 (depending on if you’re visiting during peak times) for Preferred Parking. This will cut down on the walking you have to do between your car and the park. Keep in mind that the parking rate is per day, not per park. So, you pay once and can park hop, and park in other parking lots, just keep your receipt!
We’ve got some exemptions to this rule too! The Disney World Water Parks do NOT charge for standard parking and the Preferred Parking rate is a bit lower at $20 per day.
Pros of Bringing a Car
So, now that we laid out the costs, let’s dig into whether you should — or shouldn’t — bring your car to Disney World. There’s a reason that a lot of people do! First, the BIG reason — if you’ve got a car with you, you don’t have to rely on Disney transportation. And, as much as we love Disney buses, the Skyliner, monorail, and boats, there’s no doubt that relying on Disney transportation can be time-consuming. Not only do you have to wait in lines to get on the transportation options, but sometimes Disney buses stop at multiple hotels on their way to and from the parks. Having a car will eliminate the waiting time and might even get you to the parks faster.
You’ll also have the freedom to travel anywhere — even outside of Disney World. There is a McDonald’s on Disney property if you’re looking for a more affordable meal option. Plus, there are lots of different shopping and dining (like Portillo’s coming soon and White Castle) within a short drive.
AND, on top of all that, having a car is super useful if you’re planning to make your vacation more than just a Disney trip. You’ll be able to go to the other Orlando theme parks, attractions, beaches, and more!
Cons of Bringing a Car
We covered the good — what about the bad? Let’s loop back to theme park parking — it’s located quite a bit further from the park entrance than the Disney transportation stops. Bus stops, boat drop-offs, monorail stations, and the Skyliner stations are located within a short walk of the entrance, whereas parking is on a first-come, first-serve basis so you can end up having to walk pretty far.
Especially for a park like Magic Kingdom, where you have to walk allll the way to the Transportation and Ticket Center in order to still have to hop on a form of transportation to get to the park itself, this can mean a long time (and a lot of steps!). Normally, this isn’t all that big of a deal because Disney trams will give you a ride to the entrance. But, they are currently suspended due to the ongoing health crisis.
On top of having to make the long walk back to the car (and having to remember which row you were in), daily parking costs can really add up. Parking at Disney World is a pretty hefty extra charge, especially if you’re just taking it to and from the airport and parking it at the resort. For instance, if you’re staying at a moderate resort for 5 nights, that’s an additional $100 to account for in your budget.
And, you’ll have to deal with the Florida traffic. Even if you’re used to driving in high-trafficked cities, it can be an added stressor to your vacation. The main interstates to and from Disney World are often hit with tolls that can surprise you if you weren’t planning for them. Many rental car companies will automatically charge you toll fees automatically that you incur while renting. You can also choose to purchase a SunPass if you frequent Florida often, allowing you to easily and most cost-effectively handle tolls. Either way, if you plan to be in a car, it’s worth planning on tolls.
Speaking of added stressors to your vacation, some people just like to shut off and be on vacation when they’re visiting Disney World. If you bring a car, you can get bogged down in directions and figuring out how to get from here to there. That said, navigating Disney World is pretty simple, by most standards. The signage is big and clear and easy to get from A to B. Without a car, Disney will do the work for you and some are willing to trade the waiting time for not having to deal with the hassle of remembering where you parked and navigating the roads.
What If You Don’t Bring Your Car?
If you choose not to bring a car, there are still a lot of options for getting between the parks and hotels. Disney has an entire transportation system set up and the best part is that it’s entirely free! Depending on which Disney resort hotel you’re staying at (and which park you’re headed to), you’ll have access to Disney buses, the monorail, the Skyliner, and boat transportation.
And, if you’re looking for a faster option to get around and don’t mind paying a bit extra, Disney (prior to the closures) offered a Minnie Van Service. It’s Disney’s version of a taxi, Uber, or Lyft, but 100% cuter because the cars are literally decorated like Minnie Mouse. Before the closures, you could use a Minnie Van to get around Disney World for $15 plus about $2.75 per mile. Plus, it will also take you to and from Orlando International Airport (MCO) for a one-way price of $155. Minnie Vans have yet to return to Disney World at the time of writing, but Ubers, Lyfts, and other rideshares are available around Disney World.
Speaking of traveling between Disney World and the Orlando International Airport, Disney offers complimentary bus transportation aboard the Disney Magical Express. The only catch here is that Disney announced that this service will end in 2022, but there will still be other options for getting between the two locations — it’ll just involve a little more planning.
AND, still set to arrive in 2023 is the Brightline train between the airport and Disney World (Disney Springs, to be exact!). So, if you’re not opting to bring a car to Disney World, you should still have little to no trouble getting around even once Magical Express is gone!
Well, we’ve covered it all — the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to deciding whether to bring a car to Disney World. The decision to bring a car to Disney is absolutely a personal choice and depends on what you’re planning to do and how much you’re willing to pay! Really, no matter what you choose, there is no right or wrong answer here, so go with what works best for you and your family!
Join the DFB Newsletter to get all the breaking news right in your inbox! Click here to Subscribe!
Have you ever brought your car to Disney World? Let us know in the comments!