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Getting Around Walt Disney World: WDW Transportation or Car?

On your Walt Disney World vacation, whether you keep hearing “What’s taking so long?” or “This is so cool!” depends upon one vital decision that should be made before your arrival.

One of the primary vacation decisions that a guest needs to make is how to get around Walt Disney World property since it is over 30,000 acres, twice the size of Manhattan Island. Just getting from one theme park to another area can sometimes take up to a half hour so pre-planning is important, especially to make the most effective use of time.

Basically, a visitor has two options: use Walt Disney World transportation or use a car. The final choice will depend upon several factors including finances and personality.

Walt Disney World Transportation

Most guests make use of some form of Walt Disney World transportation for some if not all of their trip since it is so convenient.

Throughout Walt Disney World Resort complimentary transportation daily assists visitors to and from Disney Theme Parks, Disney Water Parks, and Disney Resorts. Complimentary transportation is available one hour prior to Disney Theme Park opening times and up to one hour after Disney Theme Park closing times.

The primary form of transportation is a fleet of buses that criss-cross the vast property but some of the routes may require transfer from one bus to another or a lengthy non-direct route. Bus boarding locations are well marked but there may be a wait until the bus arrives and during peak season, a wait for a second bus to arrive when the first bus is full. On average, the Disney buses run every twenty minutes. Each bus has an electric marquee in the front that displays the buses’ destination.

Water launches help connect four of the Magic Kingdom resorts (Ft. Wilderness, Wilderness Lodge, Grand Floridian, Polynesian) with the Magic Kingdom. A different set of boats connect five other resorts (Yacht Club, Beach Club, Swan, Dolphin, and Boardwalk) with Epcot and Disney Hollywood Studios. Yet another set of watercraft connect four hotels (Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter, Old Key West, Saratoga Springs) with the Downtown Disney shopping and dining area.

The legendary and much beloved monorail connects three Disney resorts (Contemporary, Polynesian and Grand Floridian) with the Magic Kingdom as well as providing transportation to Epcot.

Advantages: Free. Easily accessible. No parking fees. No rental or gas costs. No worries about getting to the right destination. Scenic routes. Disney provides a free Walt Disney World Transportation Guide to help understand the system.

Disadvantages: Possibly time consuming, especially stops at other locations before your final destination. While Walt Disney World transportation works smoothly for most guests, there are the possibilities of transportation challenges from literally missing the boat or bus or boarding a vehicle that is having mechanical difficulties. It is often suggested that if using WDW transportation, to allow at least an hour to get to your destination if you have a reservation (“priority seating”) to compensate for any of these challenges.

If you are traveling on a budget, are not in a rush, don’t mind sharing space with other people and are flexible, then relying on Walt Disney World transportation may be a good option.

Using a Car

Most non-Disney operated hotels provide a shuttle service to various areas on Walt Disney World property but your movement will be restricted by those limited shuttle schedules. Check with your hotel about schedules, routes and any fees as well. Using a taxi may cost twenty dollars plus tip to get to the location you need which is one of the reasons that some visitors prefer having their own car.

Parking is abundant at all the Disney theme parks and resorts. Once you park at a theme park, you either walk or take a tram to the entrance. At the Magic Kingdom, a monorail or a ferry boat take guests to the main entrance.

If you decide to rely on Walt Disney World transportation and then decide you wish you had a car, National/Alamo has a rental office on property near the Magic Kingdom and at the Walt Disney World Dolphin.

There are three Hess gas stations on WDW property: by the exit of the Magic Kingdom, across the street from Disney Hollywood Studios and across the street from Downtown Disney.

Advantages: Freedom and flexibility. May get to locations quicker than using WDW transportation options. Ability to visit locations off of Walt Disney World property.

Disadvantages: Parking fees. Navigating unfamiliar Walt Disney World property with its twisting roads and sometimes unclear signage. Additional cost for rental and gas.

If you hate to wait or like the security and flexibility of having your own transportation, then definitely use a car.