You you are planning a trip to Disney World on a budget, you”ll have to decide whether you’ll stay “on-property” at a Disney-owned resort, or stay at one of the hundreds of hotels that are nearby but not run by Disney.
But if you are flying into Orlando, you’ll need to factor in the cost of getting to/from the airport as well as getting yourself to the parks each day.
In this post we’ll compare how much ground transportation costs when taking Disney transportation versus renting a car and staying off-property.
The results may surprise you AND strongly influence your decision about where to stay on vacation!
Off-Property Ground Transportation Costs
First I’ve tallied up the ground transportation expenses incurred by a family staying at an off-property hotel on a average trip to Disney World.
I figure an average trip is five nights. My total includes the cost of a rental car, gas, parking fees and tolls. Here is a chart with the total ground transportation costs:
As you can see, the total ground transportation costs for the trip are $529 for a five night vacation. This breaks down to $105 per night of the trip for ground transportation when you stay at an off-property hotel and rent a car to get around.
I’ll explain how I arrived at each charge before we compare this to costs when staying at a Disney-owned resort.
Rental Car Costs
I used Orbitz to find an estimate for a rental car for 6 days in Orlando. I looked for rentals 4-6 weeks out from the current date and found the best rates with Alamo and Thrifty.
A standard car rental will cost around $225 for 6 days, with taxes bringing the total up to $291. I’m sure this fluctuates depending on time of year, but around $50/day total for a rental car seemed about right for Orlando.
Hotel Parking Fee
Many hotels in the Orlando area charge their guests an additional parking fee. This has become common practice, even among budget chains such as Best Western and Baymont.
Disney-owned resorts now charge a nightly parking fee. Get the details plus my tips for how to avoid the Disney resort parking fee in this post.
These fees run from $8 to $30, so be sure and research additional fees before you book a hotel in the Disney area. To be on the conservative side I’m going to budget $15 per day for parking fees, though keep in mind some can be much higher!
Gas & Tolls
Orlando International Airport is roughly 20 miles from Disney World and getting there involves passing through several toll booths. How many tolls you pay depends on where exactly you are staying, but an average round trip from the airport to Disney will cost around $8 in tolls.
Since you will be driving to and from the airport and around Disney World every day, I figured for about a tank of gas for the 6 days. I tallied $30 for gas which is likely on the low side.
Theme Park Parking
And last, Disney charges off-site visitors for parking each day they visit a Disney theme park.
The fees are currently $25 for a cars. I assume a family will visit the parks for 5 days, so the total parking fees for the trip would be $125. Learn everything you need to know about parking at Disney World in this post.
Now one alternative to renting a car and paying these fees is to use rideshares Uber and Lyft to get around. Learn about the pros and cons of using Uber at Disney World as well as the cost involved in this post.
Next let’s compare the costs of staying off-property to how much extra you’ll pay for ground transportation at a Disney-owned resort.
Disney Transportation Costs
First, let’s distinguish on-property Disney-owned resorts from the other hotels found within the bounds of Walt Disney World.
Here is a list of the Disney-owned and operated resorts:
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge & Villas
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort & Villas
- Disney’s BoardWalk Inn & Villas
- Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort Cabins & Campsites
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort & Bay Lake Tower Villas
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Villas
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort & Villas
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge & Villas
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
These are not to be confused with other hotels found within Walt Disney World that are NOT owned by Disney, such as:
- Disney World Swan & Dolphin (owned by Marriott)
- The Bonnet Creek hotels (owned by Wyndham and Hilton)
- Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista – Disney Springs (owned by Hilton)
- Any other Disney Springs hotels
While these hotels do offer some perks such as access to Extra Magic Hours and an advance Fastpass booking window, they do NOT offer the same complimentary transportation as the Disney-owned resorts.
Disney Transportation: Magical Express
One of the features of staying at a Disney-owned hotel is that you are provided complimentary transportation to and from the airport in the form of Disney’s Magical Express motor coaches.
This perk is available to anyone with a Disney resort reservation, regardless of how you booked. Get all of the details on how the Disney Magical Express works in this post.
So even if you book a heavily discounted room using Orbitz (learn how I use Orbitz promo codes to save on Disney hotels here) or even a last-minute Disney bargain on Hotwire, you get the Magical Express service included.
I’ve never had a bad experience on the Magical Express and have found it takes about 60-90 minutes to arrive at your hotel after your plane arrives.
You’ll also get free luggage transfers with the Magical Express, meaning they pick up our checked bags for you and bring them straight to your hotel room a few hours later.
Disney Transportation: Buses, Monorail, Skyliner, & Boats
Guests at Disney resort hotels are also provided with complimentary transportation within Disney World in the form of buses, boats, the Skyliner gondola system, and the monorails.
All hotels are served by buses that constantly run back and forth to the theme parks and other destinations. Some resorts also have access to the monorail, Skyliner, and boats.
I initially thought that riding a bus around during vacation was a bit weird, but now it is one of my favorite aspects of a Disney vacation. I love not having to drive, or worry about directions, or try to find where I parked my car at the end of the day.
In my experience the average wait for the bus service is 5-10 minutes. I also like getting the chance to talk to other guests on the buses and meet people from all over the world.
If you take advantage of Disney Transportation you’ll also avoid additional parking fees at your hotel. While you do have to pay to park a car at a Disney resort, you don’t have to pay anything to park at the theme parks if you are staying at a Disney-owned resort.
Now of course I realize that Disney provides you with all of this wonderful transportation in an effort to keep you (and your dollars!) at Disney World for the entire length of your trip.
But for me, the convenience factor and money saved on ground transportation are a worthwhile trade for staying within the Disney bubble for my whole trip. You can always take an Uber or even rent a car within Disney World if you want to venture out.
So the total cost of ground transportation when staying at a Disney-owned resort adds up to zero dollars. That’s right – no parking fees, gas, rental car costs, or tolls.
Disney Transportation Summary
To summarize, you’ll save over $100/night by staying at an on-property resort with Disney Transportation compared to staying off-property and renting a car.
This makes that bargain hotel just outside the parks seem like not such a good deal anymore, right? So before you decide where you are going to stay on your Disney World vacation I first encourage you to think about how you are going to get around.
To get help planning your Disney vacation, get a free quote from my travel agent partner Siera with Destinations in Florida here.
What have your experiences been with Disney transportation? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion in The Budget Mouse Facebook group!