I’m often asked, “What’s the best way to get around Walt Disney World?”
Although there are many methods of transportation at Walt Disney World, including Uber, taxis, Minnie Vans, etc., I’d like to focus on the two main choices of transportation: Using the WDW Transportation System or Driving Myself.
This decision really begins at the airport, assuming you’ve flown in of course. But, even if you’ve driven to Walt Disney World from your home town, you still have these two options to choose from.
If you’ve flown into Orlando International Airport (MCO) you can either: 1) Use Disney’s Magical Express bus system or 2) Rent a vehicle and drive yourself to WDW. This first option is available to guests staying on WDW resort property at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel (e.g., Disney’s All-Star Music or Disney’s Contemporary Resort)
If you use Disney’s Magical Express bus system to get from the airport to the Walt Disney World Resort, you will continue to use the WDW transportation system while on resort property to get from your resort hotel to the Disney theme parks, Disney Springs, and Disney water parks.
If you rent your vehicle to drive to resort property, it would be a waste of money to just park it all week. It defeats the purpose of renting a vehicle at all. If you intend to use the WDW transportation system while on property, just use the Magical Express to get onto property and back to the airport.
I’d like to list what I think are the pros and cons of each of these two options to assist you in making an informed decision. That being said, I would highly recommend that you do not drive yourself around property and do use the Walt Disney World Transportation system on your first trip to WDW. The last thing you want to be doing on your first Walt Disney World vacation is fumbling around with a GPS and trying to navigate around the 43 square miles of resort property that you’ve never been to before. Plus, it might take away of bit of the magic on that first trip.
- Free to use
- Easy to use
- No-brainer, no navigation, jump-on/jump-off service
- Let Disney take care of the details of how to get where you’re going
- Dropped off near the front gate of each park
- Keeps you in the magic
- Entertaining (depending on the bus driver, usually at least a Magical Disney video playing on small monitors)
- Boats offer peaceful rides across lagoons and lakes, sometimes in a nostalgic fashion
- Monorails! Need I say more? They’re just so freaking cool! But you’d need to stay at a Disney monorail resort (Contemporary, Polynesian Village, or Grand Floridan). Otherwise, you’d have to go out of your way to ride them as the remaining resorts bus you straight to the front gate, bypassing the monorails.
- Not on your schedule
- Often waiting 20+ mins for some modes of WDW transportation (can you say sore feet?)
- Crowded…very crowded. Can often feel like cattle herding onto and off
- Screaming babies or young children. (I love my kids and grand-kids, but crammed into a bus or monorail with screaming children after a long day at the parks…you get the idea.)
- Park-to-Park transfers are very difficult, parking hopping is tedious (an exception is between Magic Kingdom and Epcot)
- Resort hopping is very difficult (exception resorts on the monorail loop)
- Bus stops are sometimes a long walk from your resort hotel room
- Multiple bus stops at your resort — making a long day longer if your room is near the last stop
- Going off-property requires you to hire an Uber (includes waiting for driver to pick you up both directions)
Choice #2: Drive yourself around WDW
- On your schedule – drive somewhere when you want
- No waiting in line at bus stops at the parks for 20+ minutes for buses (which often fill up requiring you to wait even longer). Just tram out to your vehicle and drive back to your resort.
- Not crowded — just you and your crew. No cattle
- No screaming kids — unless you provide your own of course
- Park hopping is much easier as you can drive from one park to the other without having to first transfer at Disney Springs or your resort hotel bus stop (more waiting)
- Park close to your WDW resort hotel room instead of walking a longer distance from a Disney bus stop
- No multiple bus stops before going back to your room — just drive yourself straight there
- Going off-property (which sometimes is required or desired) where you want, when you want
- Not free (unless you drove your own vehicle to Walt Disney World)
- Not as easy as using the WDW transportation system
- Planning, navigating yourself, learning the system of self-navigation while on property (different for each park)
- Parking — it’s just not fun. Rain, heat (esp when you get back in your vehicle), potential long walks to the tram, waiting for a tram, waiting for another tram if the first one is full, waiting for people to stop approaching the tram so you can actually start moving
- Leaving the Disney Magic Bubble (unless you supply your own Disney movies or music on your drive to the parks)
I hope this list will assist you with making a decision on how to get around the Walt Disney World Resort on your next vacation! Obviously each method has its own benefits and drawbacks. Neither one is better than the other. You’ll have to choose which one works best for you and your traveling party based on your needs, schedule, and desire for flexibility.