Should you rent a car for your trip to Disney World?

Should you rent a car for your trip to Disney World?

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It depends on where you’re staying and where you’re going during your vacation in Florida

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When someone says they’re going on vacation, we tend to think that entails some form of relaxation. If you’ve travelled with children, then you’re aware that’s not quite the case, and you’ll likely be needing a vacation from your vacation, because relaxing on a family vacation is next to impossible — especially if that vacation involves Walt Disney World. And my most recent vacation was all the above. 

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After stressing and planning just about every possible detail, it should come as no surprise that the things you can’t plan for — such as a kid getting sick — can and probably will go wrong. And that’s precisely why you’ll want everything else to work in your favour. Things you can plan include hotel bookings, buying park tickets in advance (especially if you’re going for special holiday events), some form of meal prepping, and possibly renting a car, if needed.

Do you need to rent a car to go to Disney World?

Well, assuming you aren’t driving to Florida, although many families do choose that route, your vacay planning might involve figuring out how to get from the airport to wherever you plan on staying. Sure, you could get a taxi, or possibly convince family or friends in the Orlando area to chauffeur you around during your stay, or maybe you enjoy a magic carpet ride. Or maybe you want to rent a car.

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Whether you need to rent a car for your Florida vacation will depend on numerous things, such as where you’re staying, where you’re going, and how long you’ll be in the area. Add a couple kids into the mix, and now the vehicle type and size matters, as well, but we’ll get back to that in a bit. But let’s say you’re flying to Florida from somewhere in Ontario and you plan on being there for roughly a week (and you don’t have any Floridian family or friends who will lend you their car). You may find yourself in one of the below scenarios.

Scenario one

You’ve splurged and you’re staying at a Disney resort because this trip is all about Disney and the only reason you’re leaving your hotel room is to go back and forth to the different parks at Walt Disney World. You don’t need to rent a car for your trip because there are shuttles and monorails that transport you back and forth throughout the day. You just need to figure out how to get from the airport to your resort, but that’s the least of your worries, since there are shuttles that can take you directly to your Disney resort.

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Scenario two

You’re staying at a hotel close to Disney World, but not at a Disney resort. Despite not sleeping beside Mickey, you’re still fairly close to the most magical place on earth, and more than likely, your hotel will offer some sort of shuttle to the parks. If your main goal is still Disney-everything, then you may not need to rent a car for your trip.

However, staying off-site means you’re more likely to want to make a few other stops, especially if you don’t want to be eating expensive meals and snacks at Disney World. Of course, there’s Uber Eats, and buses, and fast food within walking distance of many hotels, but if you’re wanting to venture out a bit further, then you might want to consider renting a car.

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While you can rent a car from the airport — which makes dropping it off at the end of your trip a whole lot easier — you can also rent it from somewhere else if you don’t think you’ll need the car for the full week. Don’t spend money on renting a car for the full week if it’ll just be sitting in a parking spot for a couple days.

Scenario three

You’re staying somewhat close to the action, but Disney isn’t your only destination for this trip because there’s just so much to do in Florida! Maybe you also have tickets for SeaWorld, Legoland, and Universal, because why not? Once again, many hotels will have options to shuttle you to the bigger attractions, but if renting a car is not an option, then you’ll really have to plan out your transportation in advance — the Hogwarts Express can only take you so far.

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Hoswarts Express at Universal
Hoswarts Express at Universal Photo by Renita Naraine

For reference, the hotel we stayed at had a shuttle — only one pickup and one drop-off time — to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, as well as SeaWorld and Universal, but not to Disney’s Magical Kingdom, which is where we were headed for two days, and therefore we needed alternative transportation for those days. 

We also had Legoland and Peppa Pig Theme Park plans, as well as a two-hour trip out of the area to see my family, and, therefore, we most definitely needed a vehicle, and so rented one for the entire week. Having access to the vehicle may have also saved a few dollars; our hotel had a full kitchen, so we were able to make a few meals instead of buying every meal from restaurants for seven days.

How much is it to rent a car in Orlando, Florida?

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Well, let’s put it this way: renting a car for a week can be cheaper than buying tickets for one day at Disney World, at least it is if it’s a family of five. Nevertheless, renting a car can get pretty pricey, especially when you consider the size of the car, which does make a difference in the base price. Note that some car-rental companies offer discounts through workplace “perk” websites; this would be a great time to take advantage of that. 

Using Budget Car Rental’s website, accessed through Perkopolis, I set the parameters for pickup and drop-off at the Orlando airport and set the dates for one week in December. Then you’re given a bunch of vehicle options that include premium or standard vehicles, as well as vehicle size — each of which will change the price. Budget also gives the option to pay later or pay now; paying now provides a slight discount to the total price, so I’d go with that option since I know I won’t be saving any money when it comes to size.

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sign with arrow point to rent a car service at the airport

Before adding insurance fees, and possibly extra drivers, a minivan (“Chrysler Pacifica or similar”) will run about $540, while the average SUV (“Toyota RAV4 or similar”) will cost $390, but interestingly, a midsize or full size pickup is only $5 more than the SUV. A premium crossover (“Lexus RX 350 or similar”) costs $575 and a premium full-size SUV (“Chevrolet Suburban or similar”) bumps the price up to $925. If you’re looking for something smaller, you can get a “Toyota Corolla or similar” for under $370, but if you want a convertible, it’s a whopping $965. The most affordable option on the Budget website is the Mystery Car, which can be either a gas, hybrid, or EV for $355, which is an amazing price for a rental car for a week.

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What’s the best type of car to rent for a Disney vacation?

Minivan. But if you’ve ever read anything I’ve written on Driving, then you knew that would be my answer. A minivan may not be the most affordable option, but it’ll give you the most practical space, especially for bigger families. 

We rented a three-row SUV during our stay (because I didn’t want to wait the extra half-hour for the minivan to be cleaned) and while it got the job done, it could’ve been done a bit better. Our week in Florida included hauling around myself, my husband, our three kids, and my sister. With two captain’s chairs in the second row, the third row was in use at all times, making for extremely limited cargo space. Thankfully, the 60-40 third-row split made it possible to access a bit more much-needed space while still using two seats back there.

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Some good three-row options, if you have the privilege of choosing, are the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride, and many Driving contributors have picked them as overall family-vehicle winners. If you want something a bit bigger, there’s the Chevrolet Tahoe, or, for something more upscale, the Jeep Grand Wagoneer. Keep in mind, none of these are hybrids, and gas is expensive everywhere you go. 

If you aren’t travelling with a large group, then you don’t need something quite as large. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean something small will be adequate, especially if you’re travelling with several large suitcases. Budget has a little icon that shows how many suitcases can fit into the chosen vehicle, so take note of how many people and suitcases you’ll have, and choose your rental accordingly.

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If you’ve recently travelled to Florida, did you rent a car? If yes, do you think it was worth the extra expense? If not, do you wish you had? Let us know in the comments!

Disney's Magic Kingdom
Disney’s Magic Kingdom Photo by Renita Naraine

Should you rent an electric car?

Not in the near future. I wasn’t driving an electric vehicle during my stay in Florida, so I can’t say I was paying close attention to EV charging stations on my routes. However, I don’t recall seeing a charging station at the hotel I stayed at, unless it just wasn’t close to our closest entrance, which would be super inconvenient. And looking for EV charging stations is not what I would want to be concerned with during my vacation.

I drove to Disney, and as soon as we entered the parking lot, we were guided to a section that had available parking — I didn’t see EV chargers in the surrounding area. That said, Attractions Magazine confirms there are very limited EV charging stations at Disney World (only five spaces at Magic Kingdom) that “operate on a first-come, first-served basis” and visitors can ask cast members for directions upon arrival. Also note, “guests will need to pay the usual theme park parking rates in addition to these electrical charging fees.”

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I wonder if Disney will let you charge for free if you roll up in a Disney-themed EV.

Have you seen the Hyundai Ioniq 5 Disney100 Platinum Edition?

A brand can only hope to have as much success and longevity as Disney. This year, Disney celebrates “100 years of stories, magic, and memories” but of course, it has changed and grown over the decades, shifting to fit modern times. While Hyundai isn’t quite as old as Disney, it seems to be on the right track with its shifts toward modernity, but in this case, it’s in the form of electrification, mixed together with a little pixie dust. 

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The Hyundai Ioniq 5 has quickly become a popular EV choice for those looking to jump into the world of electrification, but Disney fans will soon have the option to be a little more extra than usual. As a sponsor of the Disney100 Celebration, Hyundai recently revealed its Disney-themed Ioniq 5, a 1,000-unit limited edition coming in early 2024. 

What makes the Disney-themed Ioniq 5 different from the original EV? The Ioniq 5 Disney100 Platinum Edition comes in a Gravity Gold Matte exterior paint colour with Disney-inspired wheel styles and exterior badging. The Disney100 logo is on the front seat headrests, centre console, and floor mats. But that’s not all. When the EV is turned on, there’s a Disney-themed intro that features Disney music while the screen lights up with yet another Disney logo, and some pixie dust for good measure.

If Hyundai throws in a set of free Disney tickets with the purchase of this limited Disney-themed EV (or any EV), I’m sold. Back to Florida we go.

Renita Naraine picture

Renita Naraine

Soon after joining the Driving.ca team in 2021 as an online editor, Renita also began writing car reviews under the Millennial Mom title. When she isn’t overwhelmed by her three kids, you’ll likely find her writing about them throughout her reviews of family vehicles – her favourites being anything within the minivan segment. Whenever she gets the chance, Renita also likes to spin some pop culture into her reviews.

Summary

Current online editor at Driving.ca Specializes in car reviews with a lifestyle approach, focusing on family aspects, such as whether you can fit three car seats side-by-side in a car Millennial mom

Experience

While many of her colleagues have been in the auto industry for numerous years, Renita is new to the field – having dabbled in a variety of areas throughout her career. Soon after graduating from Durham College, she worked as an editor and writer with Tribute Entertainment Media Group (the magazines that used to be in movie theatres). Other interesting experiences Renita has had throughout the last 15 years include – but are definitely not limited to – working in a portrait studio, taking a TESL (teaching English as a second language) course, as well as receiving a medical office administration diploma that led her to work some eye-opening night shifts in the ER. More recently, she graduated from Seneca’s PR and Communications program where she was encouraged to start a parenting blog.

Education

Renita graduated from the Journalism program at Durham College, where she studied both print and broadcast. She also received a post-graduate Certificate in Public Relations and Internal Communications from Seneca College.

Contact info

Email: [email protected]

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