Road Trip: Driving to Disney World

Everything you Need to Know about Driving to Walt Disney World

Automobiles driving under entrance sign to Walt disnye World.
••• Cars entering the Happiest Place on Earth... Disney World. © Getty Images/Bloomberg

Why travel to Disney by car: Taking your car to Disney can save you a lot of money on travel expenses, particularly if you are vacationing with a large group. While an airplane may get you to Orlando more quickly, the cost may be prohibitive.

Depending on where you live, it may be feasible to drive to Disney World — thousands of people make the journey by car every day, and the area is well equipped to handle plenty of vehicles.

Once you arrive, you will have the option of bypassing the Disney transportation system and using your own vehicle instead.

Prepare for the Drive

Before you leave home, make sure you car is ready to travel. Check your tires, get any maintenance done, and remove any non-essential items from the trunk and passenger areas. Consider adding the following to your car before your trip, just in case:

  • Road Atlas or GPS
  • Fix-a-Flat
  • Jumper Cables
  • Hand Sanitizer (highway restrooms are not always clean)
  • First Aid Kit

What to Bring

Once you are prepared for emergencies, pack some additional items to make the trip comfortable. Bring some snacks and bottled water, wear comfortable clothing and shoes, and pack a small project for each passenger or an audio book to help pass the time.

You will also need to bring information specific to your Disney vacation, including:

  • Resort or package information
  • Disney guide book if you need one
  • List of ADRs (Advanced Dining Reservations)
  • Identification for each adult member of your group

Stops Along the Way

If you are traveling to Disney from the North — on Interstates 75 or 95 — make sure you stop at the Florida Welcome Center. Not only will you have a chance to stretch your legs, you can enjoy a complimentary glass of Florida orange or grapefruit juice and pick up plenty of literature about the Disney parks and attractions.

If you are traveling in either direction — north or south — on the Florida Turnpike, look for service plazas along the route if you need a chance to stretch your legs.

Once you hit Florida, you will still have several hours of driving. Keep an eye out for Cracker Barrel restaurants at various highway and interstate exits. They offer clean restrooms, coffee, drinks and snacks to go, complimentary road maps and are located in safe areas.

Tip: Be sure to bring change for tolls if you are taking the Florida Turnpike or roll through the tolls and pay with a SunPass.

Traveling with Kids

Make your road trip an event, not a chore by planning ahead with kid's activities and fun travel games. Include the kids in the planning by making a countdown chain or calendar, and pack a tote full of fun things to do in the car. Consider including the following:

  • Disney Autograph Book kit: Include a blank journal, marker, stickers and embellishments so each child can make a customized book for autographs.
  • Disney coloring and activity books.
  • Disney travel guide for kids.
  • Disney vacation planning DVD.
  • Disney themed books for kids of all ages, from board books to the "Keys to the Kingdom" young adults series.
  • A new video game for a handheld system...with a Disney theme, of course!
  • Play Disney music in the car.
  • Download Disney radio or podcasts to listen to on the way.

What to Do When You Arrive at Disney

Disney World exits are located along I-4. If you're coming from the east, once you pass Sea World and Universal Studios, start watching for your exit. If you already know the number, simply take the exit. If you don't, watch the signs for a listing of Disney World resorts and theme parks and select the exit that is closest to your preferred destination.

Follow the signs to your resort, and then give your name to the gate guard. You may need to provide identification. Park as directed, or use the valet, and proceed to check in. You will not need to pay to park unless you choose to use the valet parking service. If you are staying in a monorail resort, you may not need to use your car again for the duration of your trip.

If you prefer to drive, brush up on Disney parking basics, and learn more about getting around the Disney parks.

Edited by Dawn Henthorn, Florida Travel Expert since June, 2000.