“Walt Disney World without a car? Surely that would be madness? Plus, I want to visit all the parks, including Universal Orlando. Surely you must have a car?”
Well, actually, in my opinion, you don’t need a car to visit Walt Disney World. On our last few trips to Orlando, we managed without a car just fine. We explore this common Orlando Myth and why hiring a car is often unnecessary when visiting Walt Disney World. Our guide has been updated with all the latest information for 2023.
Walt Disney World Transportation System
Even if you have a car, you can leave it parked when at Walt Disney World. It is easy to get around Disney World using the resort’s own transportation system. Disney has a complimentary network of buses, cable cars, boats, and monorails that can transport you between Disney Resort hotels, theme parks, water parks, and Disney Springs.
The Walt Disney World Transportation System is usually reliable, comfortable, and convenient. Occasionally, you might encounter a crowded bus or have to change transport, but overall it is much more relaxing than driving.
Can everyone visit Orlando without a car?
Walt Disney World without a car is not practical in all situations, e.g., if you are staying in a local villa or a local hotel without shuttle transportation. In these situations, the cost of hiring a car is justified. While you might be able to manage a day or two by getting taxis, it probably isn’t really a viable option for longer vacations.
However, you will be fine if you are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort or a nearby hotel that provides park shuttles. Even if you plan to visit Sea World, Universal, or other Orlando Attractions, you will still manage without a car.
The more complex your itinerary, and the longer you intend to visit attractions other than Walt Disney World or Universal, the stronger the argument for hiring a car becomes.
Recent changes at Walt Disney World
During our last update of this guide, we mentioned that Disney Resort Guests now had to pay for parking at their Disney Resorts. This unnecessary expense did add further arguments as to why you didn’t need a car at Walt Disney World. However, free parking has now returned for all guests staying at a Disney World Resort.
Unfortunately, there is no longer the free Magical Express Service from Orlando International Airport for guests without a car. This added transportation cost and the free resort parking might sway some guests that it is now easier to hire a car.
Airports to Walt Disney World Without a Car
Guests no longer benefit from complimentary transportation from Orlando International through Disney’s Magical Express. Private companies have set up a number of shuttle options as a replacement. The services are not cheap; occasionally, a taxi might even work out cheaper.
The main two options are currently Mears Connect and the Sunshine Flyer. Both options get reasonably good write-ups, and everyone seems to have their favorite. We used Mears Connect and found it was good, but we recommend looking around before deciding on an option.
It is also worth costing up an Uber or Lyft as if you can maximize the capacity in the taxi; it will often work out cheaper.
Airports to Universal Resort Orlando Without a Car
There is no free transportation between Orlando’s airports and Universal Orlando. However, guests who have purchased a Universal Vacation Package can use Universal’s SuperStar Shuttle. This service is not free, but it is convenient.
Alternatively, for guests who do not wish to hire a car, there are several other shuttles/limo services you can book in advance. However, Taxis are the most obvious choice for most guests. Remember, children five and under need a car seat in Florida, and you might wait longer for a taxi if you need this.
Getting Around Walt Disney World Without a Car
Getting around Disney World without a car is easy. Disney has its own fantastic internal travel network. From buses, the Skyliner monorails, and ferries, you will be transported across Disney World for free from your resort.
Complimentary transportation is available from all resorts approximately 45 minutes before Disney Theme Park opening time up to one hour after Disney Theme Park closing time. Additionally, buses run until one hour after Disney Springs closes. However, don’t worry if you have a delayed dining reservation; Disney will get you back to your resort!
Services are regular and reliable. However, it does take a little longer than driving, so remember to leave in plenty of time if you have made dining reservations, etc. You can get route information from the My Disney Experience App.
It is also worth remembering that direct routes are unavailable to all locations. To travel to most other resorts, you must change either at a Park or Disney Springs.
Orlando without a Car
It is possible to manage without a car and not stay at a Walt Disney World Resort. However, many guests will find a car easier. However, this does not mean visiting Orlando without a car is impossible.
The majority of hotels in Orlando offer transportation to Walt Disney World. Sometimes there is a fee for this service, or it is included in a compulsory Resort Charge.
These buses vary in quality and may be shared with other hotels, but looking at hotel review sites will provide plenty of information. At most parks, you will not be dropped off as close as you will be with Disney Transportation. Buses might also stop at more than one park.
Many shuttles stop at a more distant bus stop or at the Transportation & Ticket Center. You might need to use Disney Transportation to reach your final destination. Navigating additional transportation can easily add an extra hour to your journey.
If you are staying in an Orlando Villa, having a car is the only option. While you might manage using taxis for a couple of days, they will soon add up to a very expensive option for longer stays.
However, remember you must pay for parking at the theme parks. At Disney World, depending on your chosen option, this currently costs between $25-$50.
Disney World to Universal Resort Orlando or Elsewhere
Disney World and Universal do not run transport to each other’s parks. However, it is not difficult to get between Universal and Disney.
Your options really depend on how many of you there are. The easiest option is to get a taxi from outside your hotel.
Perhaps not quite as easy, but cheaper is catching an Uber or Lyft. Uber & Lyft are both cashless taxi services. You order your taxi from an App, and your payment is taken from a pre-registered card. Before your driver arrives, you will receive details of the driver, previous reviews, the car being driven, and the expected cost of your journey.
We have never waited longer than a few minutes for an Uber. Both these services, in our opinion, are game changers for guests who do not wish to hire a car. Both Uber and Lyft work out far cheaper than regular taxis. With a full audit trail, it also feels a lot safer. The only negative is you must have access to 3G/4G or WiFi to order a taxi.
An alternative option to get between Universal and Disney is a shared bus. Mears provide a service which we have used before. Depending on how helpful they are, hotel staff will arrange this for you.
From our experience, if there are more than 3 of you, getting a taxi or Uber works out cheaper than the Mears shuttle. However, for couples, it is an option worth considering. Your bus will also make multiple stops for pickups and drop-offs, so it will take longer to reach your destination than a taxi.
Why Not Stay in More than 1 Hotel?
If you plan to spend more than one day at Universal or Seaworld, it is worth considering staying in more than one hotel. Often it will work out cheaper to move to another hotel than pay for multiple transfers.
Walt Disney World & Universal Orlando Resorts are not cheap; visiting other attractions means losing some of the home resort benefits.
Minnie Van Service
Minnie Van is now running again at Walt Disney World. Guests can be transported in a dedicated Minnie Van anywhere within Walt Disney World, but the service is not cheap. You can also be transported to and from Orlando International only if staying in Club Level.
Disney had spotted the opportunities in the Uber/Lyft market and created their own competitor. Actually, Disney is running this service with Lyft, and you need access to the Lyft App.
Any Cast Member at your Resort Front Desk will help you get started. Up to 6 guests can travel in 1 car, and two junior car seats are available for all vehicles. There are options for Wheelchairs and Scooters, but you may wait longer. The availability of accessible vehicles is a big positive and possibly the only reason I can think of for not using a regular Uber or Lyft.
One advantage the Minnie Van Service has over Uber, Lyft, and traditional taxis is drop-off and pick-up points. The Minnie Van Service has much nearer points to the entrance at all theme parks. Other services must drop off at the Ticket & Transportation Center for the Magic Kingdom, but we recommend getting a taxi to the Contemporary and walking.
While not hiring a car is not an option for everyone, we think it is feasible to do Orlando without a car. If you are planning to only visit Walt Disney World and stay on-site, we can’t see any reasons to hire a car.
However, if you plan to visit multiple parks, the pros and cons must be considered more carefully.
Visit our Guide To Disney World Transport to learn more about traveling within Walt Disney World.
Visit our guide Walt Disney World for Beginners, for more essential tips.