If you want to drive to Disney World rather than board a plane, there are a lot of factors to consider. So let’s examine pros and cons of driving to Disney World so that you are fully knowledgeable about the advantages and disadvantages of traveling by car to Disney!
How Long Does It Take to Drive to Disney World?
Driving can take a long time, depending on where you live in the country. Below is a list of the ten most populated U.S. cities, and specifically how many miles they are away from Disney World (and how long it would take to drive to Disney, as well).
- Driving from New York to Disney World: 1,087.4 miles (16 hours)
- Driving from Chicago to Disney World: 1,160 miles (17 hours)
- Driving from Philadelphia to Disney World: 1,001 miles (14 hours)
- Driving from Houston to Disney World: 966 miles (14 hours)
- Driving from San Antonio to Disney World: 1,161 miles (17 hours)
- Driving from Phoenix to Disney World: 2,142 miles (31 hours)
- Driving from San Diego to Disney World: 2,434 miles (35 hours)
- Driving from Los Angeles to Disney World: 2,514 miles (36 hours)
As you can see, driving to Disney World is a fairly sizable time commitment. Given the fact that you’ll need to rest, as well as stop for bathroom or food breaks, it can quite easily take at least a couple of days to drive to Disney. This can not only eat up a duration of your vacation time, but can create additional headaches you maybe hadn’t accounted for.
So if you have a limited amount of vacation days saved up at your job, you may want to consider booking a flight instead. In addition, there are also unpleasant factors like maniac drivers, traffic, and car sickness.
But trust me, it’s not all bad. Driving to Disney can have its benefits too. You can take your time and make the journey as long as you want, which means stopping at unique roadside attractions or stores. You also do not have to worry about luggage fees, waiting in lines (except for traffic), or squeezing into an airplane seat. You can also pack whatever you need to entertain yourself for the long trip, whether it’s a movie or a game the children can play together.
So, let’s quickly recap the pros and cons here.
- Pros: You can take as much time as you need.
- Pros: You can bring as many items as possible you want for your vacation! No need to rely on an airline’s in-flight entertainment.
- Cons: Driving can take time and shorten your vacation.
- Cons: You must navigate around traffic, busy metro areas, and crazy drivers.
- Cons: Little ones may get fidgety over time, so you may need to stop more.
How Much Does It Cost to Drive to Disney World?
We live in expensive times. Factors like gas, restaurants, pit stops, and hotels can affect your vacation budget. So let’s dig into the real cost of driving to Disney.
Rental Car vs Personal Vehicle
Deciding to drive your own car or rent one is tricky, and here’s why. First, you have the general cost of renting a car for a week (or potentially longer). Renting a car can run anywhere between $450 to $700 per week.
However, there are potential mechanical costs if you own take your car. Long-distance travel can place additional wear and tear on your vehicle (which might already be old), which could add up long after your trip has ended. Nobody wants to come home from an expensive trip to Disney World only to have to shell out a ton of money to fix your car in the auto body shop.
- You May Want to Read: Disney on a Budget
The national average gas price (as of publishing this article) is $3.272 per gallon. Considering an average gas tank distance of 300 miles at a 14-gallon capacity, it is easy to see that longer drives can get costly. So let’s revisit the aforementioned most populated cities and see how much you can expect a round trip to Disney World will cost in terms of money you’ll have to spend on gas.
- New York to Disney World to New York: 1,087.4 miles; Total Gas Cost: $332
- Los Angeles to Disney World to Los Angeles: 2,514 miles; Total Gas Cost: $768
- Chicago to Disney World to Chicago: 1,160 miles; Total Gas Cost: $354
- Houston to Disney World to Houston: 966 miles; Total Gas Cost: $295
- Phoenix to Disney World to Phoenix: 2,142 miles; Total Gas Cost: $654
- Philadelphia to Disney World to Philadelphia: 1,001 miles; Total Gas Cost: $305
- San Antonio to Disney World to San Antonio: 1,161 miles; Total Gas Cost: $355
- San Diego to Disney World to San Diego: 2,434 miles; Total Gas Cost: $643
In some cases, the round-trip gas cost is better than on some flights. But is it worth the added cost when you factor in driving time? That’s up to you to decide.
Cost of Snacks and Restaurants During the Trip
Everyone gets hungry. Even if you make snacks ahead of time, you still need to buy items at the grocery store. Or, you risk paying restaurant and gas station prices every time you need to stop. There’s no easy way to estimate how much you’ll have to pay for food when you choose to drive to Disney.
But, consider the cost of everything from snacks and drinks to fast food to hotel or motel breakfast to even the occasional dinner at a diner or restaurant. It can definitely add up—especially if you’re traveling with kids.
Unless you plan on driving straight through to Disney World with no stops (which I wouldn’t recommend), you will likely need at least one night of rest. The average nightly room rate is nearly $150 a night. Of course, this largely depends on which cities you spend the night. On top of that, if you are traveling with a larger group, you may need more than one room.
So once again, let’s recap all of the pros and cons we’ve discussed in the section.
- Pros: Gas cost can be cheaper than flying.
- Pros: No need to spend on pricey snacks and meals in an airport terminal.
- Cons: Costs can quickly add up with gas, snacks, hotels, and a rental car.
- Cons: Driving your car can add wear to your vehicle, which could lead to future repairs.
Below, check out a video uploaded to YouTube by a woman that’s sharing her personal experience driving to Disney World with her family:
Driving to Disney World with Kids
Let’s face it, long car rides are tough on both kids and parents. Thankfully, there are some ways to keep them entertained and content along the way.
Planning your trip ahead of time can save the hassle of figuring out where to stop, what to eat, and how to entertain your children. We suggest planning out your driving route ahead of time and noting your stopping points. Having snacks ready to go is also important, so they are not relying solely on gas station food which could upset their stomach.
Audio and visual entertainment, in addition to backup entertainment like books and activity sets, also helps prevent last-minute tech disasters. If you have multiple kids, having individual travel bags that fit each child’s interests can help keep your gear organized, as well. That way, each child has their own personal play time without trying to steal the other’s activity.
In addition, bringing a first aid kit along with prescriptions, sleep aids, motion sickness medications, sanitizer, sunscreen, and a hat can all help with unfortunate sickness or medical issues. If your children get restless, bringing audiobooks or playing a Disney-related game to remind them of where they’re going can help.
- Pros: You can take you children on unique destinations beyond the airport.
- Cons: Without proper planning, children can get upset, making it a very unpleasant experience for everyone.
- Cons: You may need to pay for entertainment and activities, which could factor into your vacation budget.
Driving Around Disney World
So after a lengthy drive, you’ve finally made it to Disney World! Now what do you do? How best should you get around? Well, let’s discuss it.
Did you know you never need to drive your car at Disney World? It’s true! In fact, by the end of one of our vacations, we wondered why we even paid for a rental car.
Each hotel has its transportation, whether a bus, monorail, boat, or Skyliner. You can reach every theme park, water park, and Disney Springs this way. You can also pay for rideshare services like Uber or Lyft if you want to avoid driving.
But, driving your vehicle can be a quicker way to access the parks and surrounding areas. Waiting for a bus at the start or end of the day can add at least an hour to your transportation time. Disney World recommends leaving at least an hour early for any dining reservations. Wouldn’t it be nice to go when you want instead of waiting in line for a bus?
Navigating Disney World
Thankfully, Disney knows how many people visit their Orlando resort. Many areas of the property are easy to navigate and are accessible through your phone’s map app.
However, there are restricted areas to be aware of, even if your phone tells you to follow that route. One time we got stopped by Disney Security as we accidentally took a wrong turn at ESPN Wide World of Sports. They were quick to point us in the right direction!
There can also be heavy construction at Disney World. This construction can cause navigation issues during your trip. Another consideration is dealing with other drivers, who may be clueless about where to go. Being vigilant to changes in roadways and other drivers is critical to surviving these roads!
Parking at Disney World Theme Parks & Surrounding Areas
If you stay at a Disney Resort hotel, you can enjoy complimentary parking to any theme park, water park, and Disney Springs. This convenience gives you standard parking, but you can upgrade to closer parking for an additional $20 to $25. Cast Members will direct you where to park depending on your chosen parking location.
You must pay a daily parking fee if you are not staying on Disney World property. The good news is you do not have to pay at each park. Should you want to hop between theme parks, your pass is good all day. Standard parking for a car or motorcycle is $25, preferred parking is $45 to $50, and oversized vehicles are $30 per day.
Driving an electric or hybrid vehicle is more accessible now, as Disney has created charging stations in the theme parks and Disney Springs lots. This service is through ChargePoint and is, unfortunately, not free. You will pay $0.35 per kilowatt hour, with a minimum charge of $1.50. To pay, fill a ChargePoint card or use your credit card. The charging station will also notify you when your vehicle is done.
If visiting Disney Springs, you can park in either the Watermelon surface parking lot, Orange Garage, Lime Garage, or Grapefruit Garage. You can also pay a Valet to park your car at a flat $20 per day. A tip is not included in the valet price, so you should factor that into your cost if using the service!
Parking at Disney Springs can be tricky, especially on the weekends. It is a destination for tourists and locals alike with its shopping, dining, and shows. If the parking garages are full, consider one of the surface lots. We always find a spot in the Watermelon lot. It is a further walk from the central area of Disney Springs, but it saves what could have been an enormous headache.
Parking at Disney World Resort Hotels
Starting in early 2023, guests no longer need to pay a nightly rate to park. This change is a HUGE win for guests, as the nightly rate was steep and could add another $100 to $200 to your Disney vacation.
You can pay for valet parking at Deluxe, Deluxe Villa, and Coronado Springs hotels. It is $33 per night and can be arranged at the Security Host kiosk for information.
Select hotels also have ChargePoint stations to recharge your electric car. You can fill up at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, Disney’s Riviera Resort, and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.
- Pros: There is plenty of parking available.
- Pros: Free parking for Disney Resort hotel guests!
- Pros: Areas are starting to have charging stations to bring your electric or hybrid vehicle.
- Pros: Roadways are generally easy to navigate.
- Pros: You can rely on something other than Disney transportation, which can be a long wait.
- Cons: Construction is almost always happening, which can cause delays.
- Cons: You must deal with other drivers who may be reckless or unaware of their surroundings.
- Cons: You must pay for theme park parking if you are not staying at a Disney World Resort hotel.
Pros and Cons of Driving to Disney: Decision Time
Having gone over the pros and cons of driving to Disney World, would we recommend you go this route? Well, not really actually. When adding up the flying prices against the expenses of driving, the additional costs of gas, rental cars, food, hotels, and parking make flying more cost effective. At the end of the day, we like having extra money for the parks!
So unless you just enjoy being in the car more than being on a plane, it might be best to simply book a flight to Orlando.
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