If you’re planning a Walt Disney World trip soon, you may be considering the option to drive to Disney World instead of fly.
From lower cost to more space to pack and the ability to expand your trip to destinations beyond Disney and Orlando, a Disney road trip may be your best choice.
My family of four has always chosen to drive to Disney World. We live 625 miles away in North Carolina so the route is less than a day’s drive south and the benefits of driving to Disney World outweigh a little time we might save by flying. Here are the 6 reasons we choose to drive to Disney World.
1. Feel Free to Overpack!
When you drive yourself, there’s no need to squeeze all of your vacation necessities into airline-approved bags. There’s ample space in the trunk!
If the Orlando weather forecast looks unpredictable (as it usually is!), you’ll have plenty of room for extra clothing so you’ll be prepared for heat, cooler mornings, rain, and extra shoes in case you get doused by a famous Florida thunderstorm.
Planning on doing just a little shopping? Your vehicle can handle all of your purchases so there’s no need to leave space in your luggage to bring home souvenirs from the trip!
We call this our “car-cuterie” lunch of cold cuts, cheese, and snacks!
2. Bring Your Own Food
The additional space provided by your vehicle is also handy for bringing food from home or stopping at a grocery store along the way.
When in Florida, grocery shopping means Publix and there are plenty of them within a radius of just a few miles all around Walt Disney World Resort so one is sure to be convenient no matter what direction you arrive from. Pick up some milk, snacks, and fresh fruit just before entering the high-priced “Disney bubble” where a single banana will cost you more than $2!
Each morning of our Disney trips, we like to hit the parks early and always pack our own breakfast food so we can enjoy a quick, economical meal before leaving our hotel room for the day. Having our own car and shopping ahead of time or quickly stopping in Publix when we roll into town are standard Disney trip occurrences.
3. Don’t Rely on Disney Transportation
When you have your own vehicle, you don’t need to wait for Disney transportation to take you to and from your hotel and the parks every day of your trip. Just hop in your car and be on your way! No waiting for buses or boats at your Disney hotel.
At the end of the day, just walk to your car in the parking lot and you’re reading to drive back to the hotel. No need to wait for a bus after a long day of waiting in attraction lines!
Not staying at a Disney hotel? Having your own vehicle is even more convenient rather than relying on ride share services or paying for a rental car.
However, always remember that you don’t need to use your vehicle exclusively and can still use Disney transportation. You just won’t be stuck solely using Disney transportation every day if it’s not the best choice for every day’s itinerary! Even though we always have our car with us at Disney World, we still usually rely on Disney transportation on Magic Kingdom days. Unlike the other three parks, Magic Kingdom’s parking lot is not adjacent to the park entrance. You must park at the Ticket and Transportation Center (the “TTC”) and then board a monorail or ferry boat to the entrance. Disney buses, however, may take a more direct route and drive right up to the park entrance so you skip this additional monorail/ferry boat step.
4. Get Outside the Disney Bubble
When we go to Orlando, Disney World usually is our only destination. However, by having your own vehicle, you’re free to leave the property to visit other theme parks in the area, dine elsewhere in Orlando, or even take a beach day. Cocoa Beach to the east and Clearwater to the west make great beach day trips.
We highly recommend taking a day away to visit the Kennedy Space Center. If you’ve never been, it’s an absolutely “must visit” day trip from Orlando to see the space shuttle Atlantis on display and the grounds where American’s manned space program began and continues today. We’ve left our Disney hotel first thing in the morning, toured the space center all day, and were still back for a Disney dinner and evening in the parks.
5. Be In Control
When you drive to Disney World, you won’t be affected by flight changes or cancellations.
There are no long TSA security lines.
You won’t need to wait for your Disney’s Magical Express motorcoach to arrive to take you from the airport to your hotel.
Leave for your trip when you want, unrestricted by flight schedules. Make last-minute tweaks to your plans without any penalty.
In your own vehicle, you literally control the very air you breathe. No face coverings are needed in your own personal travel cabin!
While you can certainly encounter an accident or traffic tie-up that is out of your control when driving on the interstate, these situations can usually be avoided by using traffic apps like Waze.
6. Save Money
The main reason to drive to Disney world is that it simply costs less than flying – especially for families. And the savings increases with the number of people you can squeeze into a single vehicle!
When determining the cost of flying to Disney World, be sure to consider these factors:
- Airline tickets
- Transportation to home airport or airport parking fees
- Transportation from MCO to Disney-area hotel or rental car fees (if not staying at a Disney World resort hotel and using Disney’s Magical Express)
I don’t want to mislead you by suggesting that flying is always more expensive than driving. Consider all your options and figure these factors when determining the cost of driving to Disney World:
- Vehicle preparation – at least an oil change and new windshield wiper blades to prepare for Florida rains are always a good idea
- Tolls – these should be minimal, but necessary if your route includes the Florida Turnpike or 429 Orlando bypass
- Mid-route hotel stays if your travel time requires more than one day
- Disney parking fees
It’s no longer possible to avoid parking fees of some kind on Disney World property, so these have the potential to significantly increase your total driving cost.
Add $25 per day for theme park parking if you’re not staying at a Disney resort hotel.
If you are, parking fees are waived at the theme parks, but overnight Disney resort parking is no longer free. The nightly fees depend on your resort category:
- Value resort: $15/night
- Moderate resort: $20/night
- Deluxe resort: $25/night
Our family of four still comes out ahead when driving to Disney World from North Carolina compared to the cost of flying. However, as a family that always stays on-site at a Disney World hotel, the hotel parking fees now make the cost comparison closer than expected.
Do you fly or drive to Disney World? What’s the greatest benefit of your chosen mode of transportation?