Need to rent a car in Orlando? This is undoubtedly a problem people face when planning a trip to Florida’s theme parks for the first time. The answer depends on many different factors, but in this post I have tried to analyze the pros and cons of renting a car for your trip to Orlando.
This ticket is part of a mini guide to Disney and Orlando passes. To figure out if you need a car in Orlando, it’s helpful to have an idea of what you want to do during your trip. If you’re out of ideas and need inspiration, head back to the Ultimate Disney Trip Planner. Or click here to see an example of a two-week trip to Orlando.
(Cover: Konkavo wheels. This section contains affiliate links)
DO YOU NEED A CAR IN ORLANDO?
You want to drive through Florida? Image: passport-stamps.uk)
In my opinion, renting a car in Orlando will greatly enhance your visit. If you can’t or don’t want to drive, there are other options (some of which are described below). But exploring Orlando and making the most of your time there will be much harder without your own car. Shuttle buses from theme parks and resorts are great for getting around the resorts, but if you’re staying at the Disney Hotel and z. For example, if you want to go to Universal Orlando, it takes 25 minutes by car (or taxi), or even longer by public transport or shuttle bus. The same goes for excursions to other attractions outside the resort, such as the Florida Mall, Premium Outlets or I-Drive. Of course, everything is possible in Orlando, as in most parts of America, life is more convenient if you have a car.
If you’re not sure how to drive in the US (six-lane highways and life on the other side of the road) or want to learn more about how rental cars and insurance work, read my experience for helpful tips.
Car rental in Orlando: What are your plans for the trip?
Experience only at Disney
Some people want the full Disney experience when they come to Orlando. To do this, they arrive in Florida, take the Disney Magic Express* or Brightline light rail directly to Walt Disney World Resort and stay in the Disney bubble until they need to fly home. Guests on such a trip don’t need a car, because once at the Disney Resort, they can use Disney’s transportation systems (bus, monorail, boat and cable car) for free.
Disney has a well-developed transport network (Image: Flickr)
Not having a car in Orlando is perfectly acceptable if you just want to visit Disney (it’s even better because you can avoid the rental and parking fees at your hotel). However, there are drawbacks to using Disney Resort transportation. Sometimes you have to wait in a queue during rush hour or you cannot get on the first bus. The walk can be long, depending on the station you are staying at, as the buses stop at different hotels. You often have to go through Disney Springs or one of the resorts and change buses to get where you want to go, so it’s not always an easy plan. All means of transportation to the resort are available, but Florida state law requires you to stow your stroller on the bus. You should take your baby out and put him or her in the car seat or on your lap.
Transportation restrictions at the resorts are that you may only leave the Disney Resort grounds on a limited basis. If you don’t have your own car, you’ll need to take a taxi or pre-booked shuttle to other theme parks like Universal Orlando and SeaWorld, as well as to attractions outside the theme parks in the Orlando area. Taxis in Orlando are relatively cheap (if you use Uber/Lyft), but every trip adds up, and they’re not as convenient or stress-free as owning a car.
*Disney announced that Disney’s Magic Express will cease operations in 2022.
Children’s car seats
Car Seats Car seats are a complicated subject for parents to photograph: Helen Wright)
One of the big advantages of not renting a car in Orlando for families is that public transportation (station transportation) does not require child seats. Traveling abroad with a car seat can be stressful, especially if you have multiple children. However, baby items, including car seats, can be carried on most airlines.
If this is your first time on a long trip with young children, check out our section on air travel with babies and children, where you can learn all about seating, baggage, tickets and experience requirements. I also cover the international requirements for car seats and give good advice on driving in the United States in this post.
Orlando experiment completed
I’m certainly not someone who likes to spend the whole trip in a station. I love the variety of visits to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resorts, and Orlando is a fantastic place to visit even if you don’t go to theme parks at all! Moreover, staying at an amusement park is not the only option when it comes to staying in Orlando. If you plan to stay in a villa or outside a resort hotel, a car will also make getting around Orlando and the theme parks much quicker and easier.
My two-week sample itinerary to Orlando will give you a very good idea of what to do in Orlando, including Disney and Universal, and may help you decide whether to rent a car in Orlando.
Walking on Orlando Beach… 1Б9
Besides the variety of attractions, restaurants and nightlife options in Orlando itself, it’s important to remember that Orlando is in the heart of Florida. If you want to sunbathe on the beach, you should include a short car ride in your itinerary. We really enjoyed Tampa and I highly recommend going there and staying a few nights if you can. There’s so much to do here – check out our list of 19 great things to do in Tampa! For a day trip, we also love Daytona Beach and of course the beautiful white sand beaches of St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Cocoa Beach, Fort Lauderdale and the Florida Keys are also a short drive away.
What to expect when you decide to rent a car in Orlando
If you decide to rent a car in Orlando, I highly recommend making reservations before you leave. We almost always use Hertz.co.uk and Hertz.co.uk to get the best and cheapest deals for UK drivers. Feel free to search for better rates on car rentals in Orlando, but we’re caught off guard with hidden fees, unreliable agents, and long wait times. Hertz and holidaze (which gives a coupon, usually for Hertz or a dollar) are the most consistent, competitive and reliable in our years of experience.
It’s so easy to pick up your car at Orlando International Airport. You go to the ground transportation area of your terminal and from there you go directly to the car rental company of your choice. Once the initial paperwork is completed, cross the street to the parking lot, go to the numbered space for your vehicle and exit through the exit ramp where a staff member will check for damage and confirm your information. Returning the vehicle is even easier, just get in and leave the vehicle at the designated location. An agent will check your mileage and any damage, and then you can go straight to the terminal for your flight!
I always take pictures of the car, including the license plate and mileage, because you never know if you’ll ever need these details (for example, if the car is stolen or if you’ve had an accident).
Which car to rent and the cost of the rental
For two adults and two kids, plus luggage, we usually drive a mid-sized SUV. When we arrived with five adults, we moved to a large SUV. If you are traveling with other adults (or even teenagers with legs) or if you have a wheelchair, stroller or extra luggage, I would choose a larger car.
The average cost of a medium-sized 4×4 with basic insurance for seven days is £250. Please note that additional services such as child seats, GPS and young driver premiums must be paid locally (not in advance) and are added to the rental price. For more information on car insurance, see our article on car rental in America. Fuel is very cheap in the United States (compared to Europe), so you won’t spend that much on fuel – even if you’re traveling back and forth between Florida and the Keys! Car rental companies charge an extra fee if you return the car empty, so we always choose the option of returning with a full tank. There are several gas stations between the tourist area and the airport.
What to do with child seats
Child car seats cost $10 per day per child, which is high enough for a two-week trip. We have our own US approved car seats (for more information on using European car seats in the US see our Baby Post trip) which we bring with us from the UK.
We bought our car seats at Walmart and they cost about $65 each. The nearest Walmart to Orlando International Airport is 4.4 miles away (Walmart Supercenter, 5991 S Goldenrod Rd, Orlando, FL 32822). It’s important to buy tickets early and book on the day of landing by clicking and collecting, as stores don’t always stock them. Walmart doesn’t always accept international credit cards, but you can pay with PayPal.
Logistically, you have two choices: A driver can rent a car at Walmart to take a car seat and return to the airport to pick up the family and children. MCO (Orlando International) offers a wide selection of restaurants, shops and lounges, so you’ll have plenty to do while you wait. Or you could decide to go to Walmart together. Obviously, your children are not legally bound for this trip, so I can’t officially recommend it. Sometimes, when we travel, I put my baby in the Ergobaby carrier, facing me, and sit in the back seat with the seat belt (under the buttocks, not across the back) for short trips, like short taxi rides, and we secure our baby with the normal seat belt. Of course, you can choose the best option if you are comfortable with it, but remember that in the state of Florida it is illegal for children to travel without appropriate restrictions.
Buying a car seat may be too complicated for a single trip, but if you plan multiple trips to the United States during the years that your children have to travel in seats, you can save hundreds of pounds. Moreover, as long as the chairs are not damaged, you can even share the cost with friends who also go on holiday with children.
Keep an eye on parking costs at your hotel
When booking your hotel, please note that there is a charge for parking at the resort. Most Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and Disney Partners hotels charge for parking, so make sure you factor this into your budget. For your information, parking at the Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel (deluxe) is $25 per night and at the Art of Animation (paid) is $16 per night. Guests of Disney Resort hotels can park for free at Disney theme parks.
TOP TIP: Some UK packages with Virgin Holidays, Universal Orlando Resort (preferred and best hotels) include hotel parking.
Let’s go! We hope you have a better idea whether you should rent a car in Orlando or not.
Still in planning mode? See some of our articles about Orlando and Disney:
Plan your trip with our Disney Travel Planner
Where to find the best tickets for Orlando Theme Park.
Save on your trip to Disney by purchasing your official Disney merchandise in advance – find out how here.
What you need to pack: Follow our guide on what to wear to theme parks.
How much does a trip to Disney REALLY cost? We break it all down for you, step by step.
Best hiker for Disney
What is the cheapest way to book a holiday in Orlando?
Do you think you’ll like Disney? Try our REALLY HARD Disney quiz.
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