Article and photos by Florida Diva, unless otherwise noted
Deciding whether or not you’ll need a car for your WDW vacation is really dependent on what the rest of your trip entails. Disney World itself, offers many different options to cover your transportation needs, including a lift from the airport and back again if you’re staying on property. And while most hotels in the immediate area have shuttle buses to and from the parks, you may find it more convenient to have your own vehicle so it’s easier to run on your own schedule if you’re booked somewhere else. But ultimately,it boils down to what does your entire vacation plan look like?
It will come as no surprise to most, that those that stay on Disney property are less likely to include other activities in their vacation plans; and Disney has set things up to encourage just that. If you’re booked at one of the resort hotels, there is actually zero need for you to leave Disney property for the length of your stay. They have assured that any guest will want for nothing, and this is a nod to their superiority in unparalleled service. It should also be obvious to everyone, that if they can entertain you, feed you, and cater to your every need 24/7, you’ll have no reason, and hopefully no desire to leave. Which, if that’s the goal of your vacation, then you shouldn’t need a rental. And, brilliantly, one of the most successful strategies Disney could have put in to place to make sure you want to do a total Disney vacation, was the intricate transportation system.
What a lot of Disney travelers don’t realize is that when you visit Disney, especially the one in Florida, it’s like heading to an island. It’s completely self-contained. They manage their own water and electricity, have their own currency and even have a shopping district. If you book your stay on property, they pick you up in an air conditioned coach bus, drop you at your hotel and when you venture out to any of the parks they offer you further transportation via bus, monorail, boat and even pedi-carts to get from one resort to another if you like. The benefit to this is that there’s no need for you to pay for parking, you save on car rental and fuel costs and you can spend your vacation totally immersed in the magic of Disney.
There are those though, who may have reasons for wanting part of their vacation to be off Disney grounds. People that travel from other countries, families with varied interests, or vacations that are planned for 2 weeks or more; may all want to explore other things and attractions in the area. Some people even prefer or may need to be able to run on their own schedule, so a car rental will provide that convenience. In all honesty, I have never, even when I stayed on property, failed to rent a car and the reasons are varied.
My trip in 2007 was a 2 ½ week trip, and my boys’ first to Florida. My 2 youngest had never seen the ocean, and so, we had to include plenty of beach time in our trip. We spent the first week in Kissimmee, visiting Disney World and then hit the road for a 10 day road trip. It was amazing, and to this day, still the best vacation I’ve ever had.
In 2010, I went on my first solo trip ever to take some exams. I choose the Orlando test center and added 6 extra days to my trip. After my 2 days of exams, I spent one day at Animal Kingdom and then decided to challenge myself by touring the Gulf Coast solo. It was a very relaxing holiday and a liberating experience.
Last year, I went to stay on property for the first time ever, but would only have 2 days at the park so it was imperative that I be able to go where I wanted, when I wanted, as quickly as possible. Not to mention, when you stay on property, you don’t pay for parking at the parks.
So what else is there to see if you’re going on an extended vacation and would warrant renting a car? Well, Florida has some of the best beaches in the world, some of the most diverse ecosystems teaming with some animals that are only found there. History and culture abounds from one end of the state to the other, and there are plenty of heart pounding activities for adrenaline junkies. California also offers many things to see and do that are only possible to experience if you’ve rented a car. There’s Hollywood and all it’s glamour, Beverly Hills for a cruise down Rodeo Drive and star sightings, major sporting events, eclectic beaches with everything from t-shirt vendors to body builders to seals and whale sightings.
Photo courtesy of Jen Steindorf
So, while you won’t necessarily need to rent a car for your trip to Disney, a well thought out plan and defining your expectations ahead of time will help you answer that question for yourself.