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Everything you need to know about driving your personal vehicle around Disney World

Everything you need to know about driving your personal vehicle around Disney World

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Many people prefer to never get behind the wheel of a car on their vacation. But, for others, it offers a great amount of control! Here is everything you need to know about driving your personal vehicle around Disney World – including driving to the parks and when it makes sense (and when it doesn’t) to use your own car.

Driving to the theme parks

Credit: Maggie

Driving to the theme parks are incredibly easy, but there are a few things you need to know to ensure you have a smooth experience. First, know that if you are staying onsite or you have an Annual Pass, standard parking at the theme parks is free. You can pay the difference ($20-$25) to upgrade to preferred parking. Preferred parking is located closer to the entrance.

Offsite guests will need to pay to park. Standard parking is $25, and preferred parking is $40-$45. If you are park hopping, you will only need to pay the parking fee once a day! Disney will not charge you to park at multiple parks on the same day.

Credit: Monica

Second, just know it is incredibly easy to park. It is a little farther of a walk compared to Disney transportation, but Disney offers trams to save you some steps. Disney will open the lots approximately one hour before the park opens for the day. If it is very important that you are first in line, taking your personal vehicle probably isn’t the best idea. But, for most scenarios, one hour before park opening is plenty of time.

If you have handicap tags, make sure to use them (and don’t pay for preferred parking)! At both Epcot and Hollywood Studios, these are located almost right at the entrance. It is a very short walk. Parking lots at Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom (more on Magic Kingdom in just a second) are a bit farther away.

When should you NOT drive to the theme parks?

Credit: KtP

It never makes sense to drive your personal vehicle to Magic Kingdom if you are staying onsite. That is because parking for the Magic Kingdom is actually at the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC). Instead of parking in a lot right in front of the park, you have to park at the TTC and either take the ferry or monorail to the entrance of Magic Kingdom.

We recommend just using your resort’s transportation to get to this park. Buses will drop you off right in front of security. Or, you could make a dining reservation at one of the monorail resorts and use ride share to get there. Then, when you are done eating you can hop on the monorail, take a boat, or walk to the Magic Kingdom.

Of course, if you are staying offsite and have no other way to get to Magic Kingdom, you will need to park at TTC.

Credit: Monica

It also does not make sense to drive to a theme park if there is a quicker transportation option available. For example, if you are staying at Riviera Resort and heading to Epcot, it would be more efficient to take the Skyliner to the International Gateway. Or, if you are staying at a monorail resort, it will be much quicker to just hop on the monorail than park at TTC…and get on the monorail anyway.

In short, I am saying do your research on the resort you are staying at and its transportation options!

Using Car Locator

Screenshot: MDE

Car Locator is a rather new feature Disney installed in My Disney Experience to help you keep track of where you parked. Here is how to use it.

First, you will either receive a push notification asking if you want to enter your car details in the app when Disney sees you are in one of their lots. This will only occur if you allow the app to track your location and if you allow push notifications. Alternatively, you can manually open the app and scroll all the way to the bottom. You will see a “Car Locator” section.

From there, you can click the “Save Vehicle Location” button or you can manually enter it. If you let Disney use your location and have your Bluetooth on, it will enter in the park you are at and then you select the lot or garage. You can find giant signs in the parking lot that show which section you are in.

Once you have location and lot set, then you select the row your vehicle is parked in. It will look like this once you have set everything:

Screenshot: MDE

You can refer back to this section of the app when you are ready to leave! If you are heading to another park, simply update your location once you are parked. The great part about this feature is that this is complimentary. It comes in very handy at the end of the day when you are tired!

Driving to resorts

Credit: Monica

Parking at the resort you are staying at is free. The free parking change occurred in January 2023. If you have a dining reservation, spa appointment, or some other activity at a resort you are not staying at, driving to another of Disney World’s resorts is incredibly easy. Disney allows you to park your car at the resort for 3 hours if you have a reservation. Parking is free.

For most resorts you will park in the main parking lot because the restaurants and amenities are right there in the main resort area. And, for some resorts, you may have to park and use the internal bus system to get to your desired location. For example, Fort Wilderness is very spread out. Many of the activities are located at the opposite end of the resort where parking is. So, you will need to park and take the internal bus to Pioneer Hall.

Credit: Susan

The Swan, Dolphin, and Swan Reserve charges $34/night plus tax. Parking is validated for Guests who are not staying at these three hotels, but are visiting the following locations:

Driving to the water parks and Disney Springs

Credit: Susan

Parking is free at Disney’s two water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. These lots are quite small and are really close to the main entrances. It’s also worth noting there is no direct bus to the water parks. You will need to take a bus to Disney Springs and then transfer. No one likes sitting in wet clothes on a bus, so if you have your car with you we definitely recommend driving it to the water parks.

Parking at Disney Springs is easy as well. Self parking is free, and you should know Disney recently did away with valet parking here. There are five garages/lots, all named after fruit: Grapefruit, Lime (both near Town Center), Orange, Strawberry, and Watermelon (all on the West Side of Disney Springs).

If you have a reservation at Disney Springs, we recommend you plan to arrive 60-90 minutes ahead of time if you are visiting on the weekend. This will allow you to find parking, which can be hard to do during busier times. It will also be helpful to look at the map ahead of time to see where you need to go and which garage/lot is closest.

Best resorts to stay at if you are driving your own car

Photo Credit: Heather

Some resorts are better than others when you will be using your personal vehicle. This is because at some resorts you can park very close to your building – and sometimes even closer!

The absolute best resort for personal vehicles is Fort Wilderness. Regardless of whether you stay at a campsite or in a cabin, you will always be just a few feet from your vehicle. Each campsite and cabin has its own dedicated parking. Now, you still need a golf cart or bikes to get around because you won’t find vehicle parking at recreation areas.

I also really like Old Key West and Saratoga Springs. You can usually find parking spaces right outside your building. Most of the other resorts have parking lots all throughout the resort, but may be a bit farther of a walk depending on which building you are in.

Final Considerations

Credit: Monica

There are so many reasons why you should bring a vehicle to Disney World. It will get you around Disney World property easily, and if you want to drive offsite for other Orlando-area attractions you will be able to do so efficiently. If you are staying onsite, you won’t have to pay to park at your resort or at the parks.

On the flip side, there are a few reasons why you should not bring a vehicle to Disney World. If you are staying at a resort where you cannot get to and from your car easily, that could add more stress. Renting a car will also add more expenses to your trip. If you are staying offsite and considering renting a car to save money, be sure to add those costs in and compare that to staying onsite where you have free transportation. The difference may not be as drastic once you factor that in.

Credit: Monica

Lastly, just know that driving around Disney World is very easy. You can use GPS, but following Disney’s blue signs is a sure-fire way to get where you need to go. It is not stressful as you think it may be! My best recommendation is to plan your trip out thoroughly and do your research on the hotel you are staying at, the parks you want to visit, and the best ways to get to and from each.

Do you take your personal vehicle to Disney? What problems have you run into? Anything we missed here? Let us know in the comments below and share this post with a friend who is planning to drive around Disney.

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