By Carol Garcia
When staying at Walt Disney World, it’s quite easy to stay on-property for an entire trip and live in the “Disney bubble.” Unlike Disneyland, which is surrounded by reality on all sides, Disney World is just apart from the real world enough to make it easily avoided on a vacation.
But central Florida is full of tourist attractions. What happens when a Disney guest wants to (gasp!) leave Disney property? How do you go about getting to the other locations?
Let’s start by agreeing on one thing: Disney does not make it easy to leave property during your stay. Many of us who arrive via Orlando International Airport happily walk from the plane straight to our Magical Express bus. We are transported to our resort and our luggage meets us there. We get from park to park via monorails, buses, boats, and on foot. It is most convenient to just stay on property using Disney transportation and have everything taken care of for us. Don’t think that Disney doesn’t do this by design. Disney wants to keep you (and your wallet) on their turf! And to their credit, this can be a nice thing; visitors don’t need to worry about transportation since it is taken care of — and free!
For those who drive to central Florida, it’s not an issue to hop over to SeaWorld or Universal for the day. Just jump in the car, and in a matter of minutes, you’re there. Some of us also have discovered the renting a car is worth the extra expense. My family owns DVC points, so we stay in a villa with a kitchen (or kitchenette, depending on the room type). So having a car to run over to the grocery store or grab dinner at a local restaurant is much easier. Having a car for the entire trip makes it feel much more like our villa is our home for the week and we go about our business a little more like we would at home. Sans work and school.
The expense of renting a car for an entire week may not be appealing (or feasible) for everyone, though. Why pay for a car for an entire trip if you do have the option of free transportation? One solution to getting off property without the expense is a one-day car rental. There are two Alamo/National car rental locations on property. Alamo is the official rental car company of Walt Disney World, and therefore works well with Disney guests.
If you are staying at a Disney resort, renting from the Car Care Center is easy. There is a free shuttle that will pick you up at your resort and drive you to the rental location. You can get a ride back to the resort after returning your car as well. There is also a location at the Dolphin Hotel. This hotel, near Epcot, is a good option if you’re staying in that area, or plan on being at Epcot before your rental. A one-day or two-day rental is often the most cost-effective way to see other sites. If you’re staying in the Downtown Disney area, or want to take a bus to Downtown Disney and walk a bit, there are other car rental companies at various Downtown Disney hotels as well.
Not ready to drive around Orlando yet? There are some other options.
Public Transportation. The least expensive (and probably the one to use if you have lots of time) is the Lynx buses (http://golynx.com/). You can catch a bus from the Ticket and Transportation Center near the Magic Kingdom, and go from there. This is definitely not a spur-of-the-moment option, but with a sense of adventure, a ride is just $2 each way for an adult.
Taxis. Taxis are a good option for not only getting around to your day away from Disney, but also for getting around Disney property. For example, if you’re staying at Port Orleans Riverside, and want to have dinner at Boma in Animal Kingdom lodge, usually you would have to take a bus from your resort to Animal Kingdom (or another theme park). Then hop on a second bus to the Lodge. On the way back, you have to do it in reverse. And that’s assuming that a theme park is still open. If not, you have to go via the Downtown Disney busses instead. An easier option is to hop in a taxi and go straight there. Most on-property trips should be $10-$20 with a tip.
Mears Transportation offers taxi transportation from Disney resorts. They have a fare estimator online so you can get an idea of how much a taxi over to Universal Studios or Gatorland might cost. In order to avoid trouble, use only yellow cabs or vans with a meter, and you can ask for an estimated price before you leave. Bell services can call a cab for you from your resort.
Towncars. Towncars and other private transportation may be an option. Some towncar companies will want you to have used their services to and from the airport, first. A towncar option from Disney to Universal, for example, can run about $70-$80. While not the cheapest option, it will provide door-to-door service. You will, however, have to have established a time to leave your destination and stick to it. Mears Transportation also offers this service on a priced per-person basis. Again, you are going to loose some flexibility, and probably won’t save money over car rental.
So, with a little planning, leaving Disney for the day can be done. Choose the option the appeals most to you and do your homework before you arrive in central Florida. A little time researching (and making reservations if applicable) will save you a lot of confusion on your next trip to Walt Disney World.