Solo Disney World, Part Four: Disney World Transportation

by Gray Cargill on October 22, 2008

This is part four of my series on traveling solo to Walt Disney World. In part three, I discussed when to go to Disney World from a solo perspective.  In part four, I cover the transportation needs of the solo traveler.


Friendship boat at Disney

Friendship boat at Disney

How to get to Disney World and get around

With the many transportation options available to you at Disney and in the vicinity, your travel options can be customized to your own comfort level.

If you drive, you have the benefit of having your own car to get around in and can easily venture off property. Whether or not you want to drive depends on how far away you live and how much you like to drive by yourself in strange places, but it is a convenience once you are there and you can save money on airfare and and by bringing your own food.  If you don’t have and can’t afford GPS, just get a good map (and try not to read it too much while you’re driving–the downside of driving alone is not having someone else to read the map!).  Once you’re in the general vicinity, you can’t miss Disney World–there are purple highway signs directing you to where you need to go.

Disney bus

Disney's on-site bus system is efficient

If you fly, you can get a car hire in Orlando once you get there, take Disney’s free Magical Express bus (if you are staying at a Disney resort) or hire a limo/towncar to take you to your resort. The easiest and cheapest choice is the Express, of course. But there are a couple of reasons you might choose to hire a private towncar to take you to Disney. First, you can save time, since you won’t have to wait for a bus to fill up. Also if you’re worn out from a long day of flying, you might just want some peace and quiet and privacy to put you in the proper mood for your vacation while someone else deals with traffic.  Finally, you can arrange for the driver to stop on the way for grocery supplies.  (Disney has plenty of restaurants on-site, but if you’re trying to save money or have special dietary needs, you might want to stock up on your own food.)  Just be sure to tell the company ahead of time you will want a stop.

If you’re inclined to get a private ride to Disney, I recommend Murray Hill Transportation. This is a family operation with very professional service.  I used them for my trip, and couldn’t have been happier.  They sent me a woman driver, which wasn’t necessary, but a nice gesture for a woman traveling alone.  Karina, my driver, was waiting for me at the luggage carousel when I arrived; she was also very prompt for the return ride to the airport.  She was courteous to the point of offering to carry my enormous suitcase for me, even though she wasn’t any bigger than I was, and was a terrific tour guide, telling me about what I was seeing during the drive to Disney.

If you are staying on property in one of Disney’s resorts, you really don’t need to rent a car. However, if you can squeeze it into your budget, you might want to consider it.  For one thing, if you plan to visit other Orlando attractions, the car will be a necessity.  But even if you don’t plan to go off-property, it can still be a time-saver, per Betsy from WDWForGrownUps.com“It’s much easier to save time in WDW when you have a car,” she explains.  “It also allows for a more spontaneous trip (i.e. don’t have to plan hours to get from here to there).” Of course, if you are staying off-property or at one of the Downtown Disney hotels, you really should rent a car. Even though many off-site hotels have shuttle service to Disney’s parks, you are completely hostage to their schedule.  A car of your own gives you greater freedom to come and go as you please.

Rocknrollercoaster

Go ahead and drive--just don't drive upside down

That said, once I was on-site, I relied completely on Disney’s internal transportation system of buses, boats, and monorail.  I didn’t feel confident driving myself around a new area without a trusty human navigator by my side, and with only four days of vacation, I had no interest in leaving the property.  Disney’s transportation system is clean and efficient and runs very regularly. It was not usually crowded when I went, although there may have been one or two trips that were standing room only.  If you plan to rely on Disney’s transportation system, be sure to build plenty of travel time into your schedule–especially if you are traveling resort-to-resort (for a dinner reservation, for instance).  There are no buses that go from resort to resort, so you will have to transfer buses at either a park or Downtown Disney. The plus of traveling solo and using buses, monorails, airplanes and such is that you only need to find one empty seat, not several seats together.

(Note:  If you do take advantage of Disney’s transportation system, please practice good bus and train etiquette:  If you are in good health, and someone older than you, disabled, pregnant, or carrying an infant boards and there are no seats, please offer yours to them. Mickey would approve.)

Finally, we come to taxis.  They are available, both to and from the airport and around Disney property.  I can think of almost no reason why you might prefer to take a cab to and from Disney and the airport, when there are better and less expensive options available, but your mileage may vary.  (No pun intended.)  However, taking a taxi between resorts can sometimes be a real time and money saver over renting a car or using the bus system.  Do your homework to decide if it makes sense for you.  According to Mousesavers.com, taxi fare to get from one end of Disney World to the other should not exceed $20 plus tip; shorter distances will be less.  Mary Waring, who runs Mousesavers, advises that you only use the Yellow Cabs at Disney; other cab companies may charge outrageous fares.

Next up:  Where to stay when you’re traveling solo to Disney World.

admin October 26, 2008 at 1:47 am

You’re right, Brad, it is definitely a dilemma–be social on public transportation or save time with a car? But it’s all about personal vacation style, too. Maybe for some people, the more they go, the less they feel the need to see and do everything, so they can take their time getting where they want to go (thus, no need for a car)? Ah, the beauty of having choices.

admin October 25, 2008 at 8:47 pm

You’re right, Brad, it is definitely a dilemma–be social on public transportation or save time with a car? But it’s all about personal vacation style, too. Maybe for some people, the more they go, the less they feel the need to see and do everything, so they can take their time getting where they want to go (thus, no need for a car)? Ah, the beauty of having choices.

Brad October 25, 2008 at 1:52 pm

Ahh the legendary debate: To rent a car or not to rent a car?

I think both the arguments are completely valid. It definitely impact the “immersion factor” to have access to a car. Using their transport makes it feel like you’re in a park all time time. Additionally if you’re a solo, buses and boats can be a great place to strike up conversations.

All that being said, as you go there more and more, the desire to be “efficient” can overwhelm your desire for “immersion.” We always rent a car, simply because we don’t want our plans dictated by transport. There is certainly a trade-off, but I think as the novelty wears off, you become more and more interested in efficiency.

Brad October 25, 2008 at 6:52 pm

Ahh the legendary debate: To rent a car or not to rent a car?

I think both the arguments are completely valid. It definitely impact the “immersion factor” to have access to a car. Using their transport makes it feel like you’re in a park all time time. Additionally if you’re a solo, buses and boats can be a great place to strike up conversations.

All that being said, as you go there more and more, the desire to be “efficient” can overwhelm your desire for “immersion.” We always rent a car, simply because we don’t want our plans dictated by transport. There is certainly a trade-off, but I think as the novelty wears off, you become more and more interested in efficiency.

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