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. Taking your car to Disney can save you a lot of money on travel expenses, particularly if you are vacationing with a large group. Although an airplane may get you to Orlando more quickly, the cost may be prohibitive.
When you arrive, you will have the option of bypassing the Disney transportation system and using your own vehicle to travel between parks.
Prepare for the Drive
Before you leave home, make sure your 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
After 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 audiobook to help pass the time.
You will also need to bring information specific to your Disney vacation, including:
- Resort or package information
- Disney guidebook if you need one
- List of advanced dining reservations (ADRs)
- 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—stop at the Florida Welcome Center when you enter the state. Not only will you have a chance to stretch your legs, but you also can enjoy a complimentary glass of Florida orange or grapefruit juice and pick up plenty of literature about the Disney parks and attractions.
After you've 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.
If you are traveling in either direction on the Florida Turnpike (state roads 91 and 821), look for service plazas along the route if you need a chance to stretch your legs. Don't forget to bring lots of change for tolls if you are taking the Turnpike, or you can roll through the tolls by paying with a SunPass.
Traveling With Kids
Make your road trip an event, not a chore, by planning ahead with kids' 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
- Disney music
- Disney radio or Disney-related 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, after 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.
If You Are Staying at Disney
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 at 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.