This falls into two categories. Those that want to drive and those that don’t. Don’t let anybody tell you that Orlando can’t be done without a car. It is absolutely possible to do Orlando without driving, it just takes a bit more planning and preparation.
Car hire in America is cheap and convenient, but the insurance not so cheap. Make sure you know what you are covered and not covered for before you leave the car hire desk. You should expect to be asked to upgrade your level of cover for an extra charge payable locally.
You made sure you could get from your hotel to the parks but what about the airport? Only one of Orlando’s two main hubs has public transport available. Make sure you fly to Orlando International (MCO) not Orlando Sanford International (SFB)
Orlando International or Orlando Sanford International? The 2 Airports Of Orlando Explained.
Most airlines now only use the larger Orlando International (MCO) because of it’s convenience. In the summer months you may find yourself in Sanford (SFB) a far cry from the bright lights of Downtown Orlando if you fly with one major operator.
15-20 minutes east of the main tourism corridor of International Drive, Orlando International Airport is by far the most popular choice of airlines. 47.7 million people passed through the vast halls of the airport in 2018 making it the busiest airport in Florida. If you want to make your way around Orlando without a car make sure you fly here. Short distances and great connection options make Orlando International Airport the only true gateway to Orlando.
Orlando Sanford International
Situated 45 minutes northeast of Orlando, Sanford’s popularity has waned from UK airlines in recent years. Sanford is still home to TUI flights from the UK during our summer months. With no direct links to Orlando, you need to be hiring a car if you fly here or it is a very expensive taxi or shuttle ride to your hotel.
Pick Up Your Car
Car hire desks are located after baggage reclaim near the exits of either airports. Depending on the operator you will either walk straight to your car or it will be a short bus ride away. Click here to find out who has onsite car hire facilities at Orlando International Airport.
Drive To Your Hotel
Orlando International is only 15 minutes from International Drive and roughly 40 minutes from Kissimmee. Sanford is 45 minutes northwest. The quickest way to get from Sanford to Orlando is using Highway 417 with is a toll road otherwise use the Interstate 4 highway.
Drive To The Parks
You are free to come and go as you please. Remember though, that all parks will charge for parking for the day so don’t forget to factor this into your budget. Remember to fill up the petrol tank before returning the car or risk paying an exorbitant refuelling fee.
Keep Scrolling For Daily $ Parking Charges
The daily parking charge at any of the theme parks. You will only be charged once per day so make sure you keep your ticket if you want to drive to other Disney parks on the same day. Using Disney transport to get from park to park is free. Expect a park to park transfer to take roughly an hour.
If you stay in a Disney owned hotel you will receive free parking until December 2019. After this the daily cost of parking will be added to your bill on checkout.
Universal regularly copy Disney when they up their parking charges. With Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opening later this year in Disney and a new Harry Potter attraction opening in Universal you can expect these charges to rise before this summer.
Unlike Disney, Universal do offer FREE parking after 6pm if you want to visit the bars and restaurants in Citywalk.
It is home to some of the biggest rides in the Orlando area as well as one of the best waterparks but Seaworld always undercuts the 2 main players on both theme park entry and parking charges.
You can expect an annual increase in the parking charge though. Get the right ticket and Seaworld offers unlimited free parking here or at Busch Gardens in Tampa.
Now owned by Seaworld Parks And Entertainment, Busch Gardens parking charges fall in line with its sister park.
It may be over an hour outside Orlando on Florida’s west coast in Tampa but if you want some of the best rollercoasters in the world, this is the park you need to visit.
You can also book a free space on the Busch Gardens Shuttle that leaves every morning from the Seaworld car park.
Legoland has been investing heavily into it’s Florida property. The new water park has already been extended and 2019 sees the largest expansion of the resort since it opened. Lego Movie World takes over from the World Of Chima section.
With the waterpark and its largest ever expansion, Legoland Florida is aiming to be a multi-day destination for young families despite being an hour south of Orlando in Winterhaven.
If you’re wanting to go it alone you will need to research your accommodation carefully. Make sure free transfers are included to some or all of the parks, preferably the furthest from where you are staying to cut down on Uber/taxi costs.
The cheapest option is to fly to
Pick up a shuttle schedule from the reception on arrival so you know the time that the free shuttles run to the parks. For parks that aren’t included, Uber/Lyft or a taxi is the most convenient option.
Next: How Shuttle Transfers Work
The shuttles are operated independently from the hotels they pick up from. Drivers work long and unsociable hours. Please bear that in mind if they are late or full.
The companies that run the shuttles are operating on very tight budgets so drivers are usually on the minimum wage. Please don’t forget to leave a small tip to show your appreciation because the return driver may not necessarily be the same person that picked you up.
They operate a very tight time schedule and will not wait for you if you are late. Always make sure you arrive 10 minutes before the scheduled departure. Places are first come first served and if the shuttle is full you will have to wait for the next timeslot. There are usually 3 seperate times each for going and picking up.
Drop Off Points
Each park chain has 1 drop off point. Universal Orlando drops off at the taxi/coach pick up point, the first escalator on the right heading away from the park. Seaworld is in the drop off point in the car park while Disney is always at EPCOT. Use the free Disney transport to get around to other Disney World properties.
Bush Gardens Shuttle
If you want to visit Busch Gardens but would rather not drive there is a shuttle that operates daily from the Seaworld Car Park. Places are free if you hold a valid BG ticket but need to be reserved. Call 18002211339 or click to be taken to Mears Transport that operates the service where you can book your place online. The service usually leaves around 0830 or 9am and leaves the park around 5pm.
Legoland now also operates a shuttle service that also needs to be pre-booked. It isn’t free but the $5 per person charge is much cheaper than a return taxi. The service departs and returns from I-360 in International Drive where you can leave your car for free. Unlike BG Express which will take on-the-day arrivals if there is space, you MUST have a reservation to use the service. It leaves at 9am prompt daily. Click for more info.
IRIDE Trolley Service
The IRIDE Trolley service operates daily from 8am to 1030pm in a circuitous loop around International Drive’s most popular attractions. A single fare is currently $2 adults, $1 children (aged 3-9 with an adult). You must have exact change or you can book consecutive days passes from $5 for one day to $18 for two weeks. Departures are every 20-30 minutes. Click for more info.
IRIDE Trolley Map
The IRIDE team also have put together a handy PDF that you can download or save to a mobile phone so you won’t get lost exploring everything International Drive has to offer. Data Warning: This is a 10MB file. You may want to wait for wifi.
Disney Transport Map
The very talented Arthur De Wolf has put together an underground style map of the entire Disneyworld Transport System. View online, download a low-res copy or purchase a hi-res version on his website www.wdwfocus.com.