Great news– you have booked your vacation package to visit the Orlando theme parks! Following your package booking, you then begin the process of deciding if you are driving or flying (depending on your geography and cost, of course).
Specifically for visits to Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando, it typically isn’t necessary to have a car on-site for your entire length of stay. This article is breaking down my personal experiences and what you should consider when deciding on your transportation logistics.
During my most recent trip to Walt Disney World, my family utilized private car transfer to/from Orlando International Airport. On this particular trip, we were traveling with a party of 9, my family and my brother’s family. Even though we were a fairly large group and were staying at different Walt Disney World Resorts, our family was able to be accommodated by one private transport van. This made it very convenient for our arrival and departure experience as we didn’t have to split up and wonder when each was going to get to the resort or airport and be trying to connect upon arrival. We were already together.
What are your priorities?
Knowing your budget, goals, expectations and priorities play a key role and what route you may elect for transportation.
For my family, we are willing to pay more to be somewhere quicker and easier. Having younger kids with less patience and knowing how demanding theme park vacations can be, make paying extra for something like private transfers feel like a no-brainer.
What are your plans?
Specifically speaking in regard to Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World destinations, once you are on property, it isn’t necessary to have your own vehicle. If you are planning to do resort specific things, there are buses and other modes of transportation that are available to get you around. If you do need a car to get somewhere, it’s often more economical to hire a ride share service in lieu of having your car on-site the entire time. When you have a car on property you are certainly free to drive it anywhere you wish around the resorts; however, you will be charged a nightly parking fee at your resort.
If you are considering splitting your vacation with other sight-seeing activities off-property or going for some beach days, then having a car on-site for some or all of your trip may be worth the additional per-night parking costs. This is something you have to consider when budgeting and planning out your itinerary for each vacation day. Walt Disney World has an on-site Car Rental Center where you can rent a car from select rental car companies. Those companies even will arrange a shuttle to pick you up from your resort and take you to pick up your rental at the rental site.
If you are traveling to/from an airport other than Orlando International (MCO) you may have less options available to you for your transportation to/from your destination. Airports such as Sanford, are smaller and are located further from the main tourist destinations. While flying into an airport like Sanford can yield great deals on airline tickets, your cost to travel from the airport to your destination may be significantly more. If you arrive later in the day or early in the morning, the car rental locations may be closed, ride share options may be limited and private car transportation may cost more to book because of the distance to the airport and your arrival/departure times. Most ride share or private car companies will cut times for pick-up or drop-off times as they have less available drivers available to accommodate those times and may charge a fee for the time being outside of normal business hours.
Travel party type, size and personality matters…
A family with teens or a group of adults traveling may be totally fine by using a shared service or a shuttle. If you have the time and the patience for a shared experience or last minute arrangement, then going that route may suite your needs just fine.
I highly encourage prearranged private car transportation for families who are seeking convenience and speed of service. It is very hard to predict the availability of an Uber or Lfyt, especially if you have children who need car seats/boosters and the pricing varies on time of day and seasonal demand. Additionally, there are options for shared bus/shuttle type transportation; however, this type of transportation will not be the quickest way to get to/from the airport/resorts. If you are seeking a way to save yourself time and stress of getting to and from, I highly encourage my clients to consider paying the additional cost of setting up private transportation. If economy is more important than time and convenience, then a shuttle service, prearranged would be my suggestion.
Supply and demand are a real thing in travel. You see it when it comes to rental car availability, airline pricing, resort pricing, tickets, etc., you get the picture. Thus, if you are traveling during a very busy holiday or break season, I highly encourage planning as much logistics as possible and pack your patience! In Orlando, the “spooky season” aka Fall/Halloween season begins as early as mid-August and spans up through Halloween. During that time you also have holidays like Labor Day, Columbus Day and many school districts have a fall break. These all drive up costs and availability of nearly everything in the travel world.
Cruising transfers can really be it’s own blog post but let’s briefly address the subject. Depending on the cruiseline you are sailing on will honestly depend on the best options for your transfers to and from the port. I will highly recommend that you arrive to the Orlando area at least one day before your sailing date so that you don’t risk a delayed or cancelled flight and missing your vacation entirely. Also, whenever you can book your transfers and possibly even your hotel with the cruise line you are sailing on, this will help you to ensure you will have little to no hiccups on getting to the port and getting on your ship.
For Disney Cruiseline, you can certainly fly in and stay near the port and use hotel shuttle or Uber/Lfyt to the port but you also can fly in and stay at the MCO airport and get a Disney Cruiseline transfer directly to the port on the morning of your sailing. You can also stay at any of the Florida Disney resorts and be transferred to the port. I personally prefer staying and using Disney’s own transfer services as it guarantees that you will arrive on time to the port and get on the board efficiently. It means Disney is aware of your logistics and is responsible for getting you to the port. If you were to do your own logistics and you are late and miss your port arrival time, etc., Disney has no way to know where you are and could leave you behind! Not that this is something that happens often but it can totally happen.
This can be the case with most any cruiseline so it’s important to have all your transfers and hotels secured and convenient to the port. Port Canaveral is a little different than other ports as the Orlando area is tied so much to theme park tourism and many folks tag on a theme park vacation with their cruises.
As a vacation planner, I am always looking for the best, most reliable modes of transportation for my clients. Having someone to advocate and do the research for you is a leg-up on making decisions like transportation logistics. What could seem like an easy decision ” How to get to xyz” can really become a Pandora’s Box when you start to look into the pricing and options available at your destination. This is one of the many reasons why having an travel advisor as your advocate is priceless!