The Value of Disney Transportation

Posted in Disney World
on January 26, 2016

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One of the major expenses of a vacation is transportation, of course. Not only do you need to get to your destination, but you need to be able to get around once you arrive.

If you are flying to Orlando for a Walt Disney World vacation, you’ll need to make plans for getting yourself to/from the airport and back and forth from the parks.

In this post, I’ll explore the options for ground transportation if you arrive in Orlando by plane. When folks are planning to visit Disney World on a budget, I’m guessing that most decide on their accommodations first, then figure out how to get to and from their hotel second.

Folks decide either to 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.

I would argue that you should first take a close look at how much ground transportation would cost both staying at a Disney-owned resort and staying off-property. The results may surprise you AND strongly influence your decision about where to stay on vacation!


Seven Seas Lagoon Sunset – Walt Disney World, FL

First I decided to tally 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 5 nights, 6 days. My total includes the cost of a rental car, gas, parking fees and tolls.

I used Orbitz to find an estimate for a rental car for 6 days in Orlando. I looked for rentals 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.

Many hotels in the Orlando area charge their guests an additional parking and/or resort fee. This has become common practice, even among budget chains such as Best Western and Baymont. These fees run from $8 to over $40, 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 $10 per day for parking and resort fees, though keep in mind some can be much higher!

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.

And last, Disney charges off-site visitors for parking each day they visit a Disney theme park. The fees are currently $17 for a cars. I assume a family will visit the parks for 5 days, so the total parking fees for the trip would be $85.

Here is a chart with the total ground transportation costs:

2016-02-14 07_09_33-Microsoft Excel Starter - budget Tax records

As you can see, the total ground transportation costs for the trip are $464 for a five night vacation. This breaks down to $93 per night of the trip for ground transportation when you stay at an off-property hotel. 

Now let’s compare this to how much extra you’ll pay for ground transportation at a Disney-owned resort.


Disney’s Magical Express Motorcoach

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. So even if you book a heavily discounted room using Orbitz (which I always suggest doing – ready why here), you get the Magical Express service included.


My daughter and I enjoying our ride on the Magical Express

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.

Bus service at the Art of Animation Resort

Bus service at the Art of Animation Resort

Guests at Disney resort hotels are also provided with complimentary transportation within Disney World in the form of buses, boats, and the monorails. All hotels are served by buses that constantly run back and forth to the theme parks and other destinations. 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 about 5 minutes. I also like getting the chance to talk to other guests on the buses and meet people from all over the world.


Mr. Frugal South enjoying a Disney bus totally to ourselves!

You’ll also avoid additional parking fees at your hotel (Disney doesn’t charge for parking anyway) and the hefty parking fees at the theme parks.

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 a taxi 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. So right off the bat, you’ll save $93/night by staying at an on-property resort compared to staying off-property. 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!

What have your experiences been with getting around the “World”? Please leave a comment below!


  • Jan Lunceford

    What about airport transportation? There is mears travel…….$90.00 bucks? We are staying at the Swan resort? We are are not eligible for the Magic Express.
    What do you suggest for going to Univetsal Studios, Mears travel?

    Also……how many rides can you book at one time for a day when usually fast passes.
    Since we are at Swan, do we get the credit card to rides, etc?
    We are hooked into My Disney Experienc app.

    September 19, 2017 at 5:00 pm Reply
    • Leah

      Hi Jan! I’d suggest using Uber or Lyft to get to/from the airport and to Universal. Here’s my recent post all about it:

      Since you are staying at the Swan you will be able to book your FastPasses 60 days before you check-in. You can book three per day at one park. After you use those three you can book additional FastPasses (one at a time). You do all of this in the MDE app.

      You won’t get MagicBands when staying at the Swan but if you have some from a previous trip you can use those. Or you can purchase them there, but unless you want them as a souvenir or are spending MANY days at the parks I’d say they probably aren’t worth the cost.

      September 20, 2017 at 6:15 am Reply
  • Lori

    We too have done Disney all different ways. And the absolute best way is to stay on property. I love the buses. They are clean, and offer some down time. This was our time to discuss our favorite things of that day. Much better than dealing with crazy traffic. I feel spoiled by the buses, they allow me to have wine with dinner.

    March 20, 2017 at 7:28 pm Reply
    • Leah

      I totally agree, Lori. No traffic, time for reflection, and I can have a drink without worry. I’m spoiled, too! šŸ™‚

      March 21, 2017 at 5:28 am Reply
  • Trip Report: 5 Nights at Disney World this spring for $33 - The Frugal South

    […] we stayed at a Disney Resort, we took advantage of free Disney ground transportation to and from the airport, as well as buses that run to and from the parks. We did use a taxi to get […]

    June 23, 2016 at 5:44 pm Reply
  • LauraB

    We’ve done Orlando all three ways – driving, rental car, and Disney transportation. I think the value of letting someone else do the driving in Disney World always wins out. I love not having to worry about driving. It goes a long way to adding to the relaxation and the bubble factor of Disney World.:)

    April 9, 2015 at 11:39 pm Reply
    • Leah

      Thanks Laura! I agree and I didn’t think about the “bubble factor” when I wrote this but you are totally right. Keep me inside the magical bubble of Disney World when I am there, please!

      April 10, 2015 at 9:59 am Reply

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