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  1. #1

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    Question Max Fun/Min Hassle -- Strategies for WDW w/out a car?

    As a west coaster, I've been to Disneyland several times. But I've only been to WDW once, many, many years ago. Someone else did the planning, rented a car, figured out where we'd stay, etc. We stayed off-site, had 4 days (not enough!), I think, skipped AK all together (it was pre-Everest), hit a water park, and split the rest of the time between the other parks.

    I've been dying to make another trip, and I'm just in the beginning stages of planning...How long to to stay, where to stay, where to eat, and what's top-of-the-list.

    Last time we had a rental car, and it seemed like a fair distance between parks -- though we had the advantage of not having to deal with waiting for shuttles or anything when we wanted to get out.

    I don't drive, so I'll have to depend on alternate modes of transportation. I'm curious to know: A) If not having a vehicle is going to be a real hassle, and B) If people have advice about favorite properties that also make transportation from park-to-park easiest/convenient/most entertaining, and/or have developed transportation strategies that a first-timer wouldn't think of.

    Appreciate any advice!

  2. #2

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    Re: Max Fun/Min Hassle -- Strategies for WDW w/out a car?

    Visiting WDW without a car is definitely doable - it's very common in fact. Some people love and prefer to visit the parks that way because they don't have to worry about driving. Others hate the time it takes to get around. It's definitely faster and more convenient to have a car if you don't mind driving, but some people just don't want to vacation that way.

    Wait times for buses or other forms of transportation can range from no wait to 45+ minutes. Buses tend to have the most variation in wait time so they're generally considered the slowest and most frustrating form of transportation, but lately monorails may be giving them a run for their money. The monorails have been breaking down fairly often due to the advanced age of the current fleet and poor maintenance. (WDW currently has the oldest monorail fleet to ever operate in any Disney resort ever.)

    Staying on property will generally save you a ton of time. Think of it this way - if you're staying on property, getting around WDW w/o a car is like relying on public transportation in a major city. Staying off property w/o a car is like relying on transportation to get into, and then around, a major city. Most resorts that offer transportation off property will either just have one stop at the Transportation & Ticket Center (TTC) and make you connect, or do a loop around all four parks. Your transportation will be much more direct if you're staying on property.

    Staying on property, it may be beneficial to choose a resort that is not totally dependent on bus transportation. Here are your options:
    • Contemporary
      • Short walk to MK
      • Monorail resort*
      • Boat to Fort Wilderness/Wilderness Lodge
      • Buses for DHS or DAK (shared with Polynesian & Grand Floridian)

    • Polynesian
      • Boat to MK
      • Monorail resort*
      • Buses for DHS or DAK (shared with Contemporary & Grand Floridian)
      • Short walk to TTC for ferry to MK or direct bus service to DAK or DHS

    • Grand Floridian
      • Boat to MK
      • Monorail resort*
      • Buses for DHS or DAK (shared with Contemporary & Polynesian)
      • Long walk to TTC for ferry to MK or direct bus service to DAK or DHS

    • Fort Wilderness/Wilderness Lodge
      • Boat to MK and the Contemporary Resort

    • Yacht Club/Beach Club
      • Short walk or boat to Epcot
      • Long walk or boat to DHS
      • Buses to MK or DAK (shared w/ each other)

    • Boardwalk
      • Short walk or boat to Epcot
      • Long walk or boat to DHS
      • Buses to MK or DAK (shared with Swan & Dolphin)

    • Swan/Dolphin
      • Medium walk or boat to Epcot
      • Medium walk or boat to DHS
      • Buses to MK or DAK (shared with each other & Boardwalk)

    • Saratoga Springs
      • Medium walk to Downtown Disney

    • Saratoga Springs/Old Key West/Port Orleans
      • Boat to Downtown Disney


    *The monorail resorts offer monorail transportation to/from MK and Epcot. Here is the route, starting at the Magic Kingdom:
    Magic Kingdom -> Contemporary -> Transportation & Ticket Center (where you can get off and transfer to Epcot line) -> Polynesian -> Grand Floridian -> back to Magic Kingdom

    Any resorts not mentioned above rely on bus service for all of their transportation.

    Among Disney's value resorts, Pop Century and Art of Animation are highly recommended over the All Stars. This is because the three All Star resorts share bus service among themselves whereas Pop Century and Art of Animation each have their own bus service to/from each destination.

    Hope this helps! Let us know if you have any other questions.
    I knew if this business was ever to get anywhere, if this business was ever to grow, it could never do it by having to answer to someone unsympathetic to its possibilities, by having to answer to someone with only one thought or interest, namely profits. For my idea of how to make profits has differed greatly from those who generally control businesses such as ours. I have blind faith in the policy that quality, tempered with good judgment and showmanship, will win against all odds.
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  3. #3

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    Re: Max Fun/Min Hassle -- Strategies for WDW w/out a car?

    Oh my gosh! You're the best! Thank you so SO much!
    I'm not usually so prone to exclamation points, but this is exactly what I needed, and more than I could have reasonably hoped for. I am beyond grateful for your thoughtful response, and breathing a sigh of relief that there are indeed good options for getting around. It's been so long since my one trip to WDW that I have only the vaguest idea what those distances are really like.

    This is an example of MiceChat at its very best!

  4. #4

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    Re: Max Fun/Min Hassle -- Strategies for WDW w/out a car?

    i've gone multiple times to the WDW resort and have never rented a car. I always rely on Disney transportation. And the best part that I hated about Disneyland is the idea that the buses will run until every last person has left the park. If for some odd reason you're still leaving the park 1 hour and 30 minutes after park closing, maybe shopping for an hour and walking slowly due to being worn out... there will be someone there to call a bus for you to your resort. Unlike Disneyland where I found out that if you miss the ART buses that you're stuck to going with cabs to get back to your surrounding hotels. I've only stayed once at a DL hotel, Grand Californian hotel and the walking was great from park to hotel.

    WDW is a whole 'nother beast. I will say my trips are usually 6-8 days long. At least one full day per park and then use the other days for repeats and other options aka Downtown Disney or Universal Studios. My longest trip is 9 days and I still didn't get to see and do everything the parks offer. But the idea of a longer 6plus day trip is the stress of doing as much as you can has been lifted off your shoulders. You have days to relax, stroll through the park.

    Do know that depending which resort you stay at some parks will be further away and will take longer to get to. The only downside with a bus ride after a long walking tired day is that you may sometimes have to stand in the bus since all the seats are taken. This is of course mostly for those staying at the Value resorts, maybe moderate resorts.

    I've had my share of standing the 20 plus minutes on the bus back to my hotel from the MK to Pop Century. But this usually only happens after the park closes and usually after the MK day parade is over, that's when loads of people head back to the hotel to change, shower, pool, eat, etc. Grabbing a bus just before the parade hits is a good less crowded bus back to your hotel midday.

    And since I, you, will rely on Disney transportation on your upcoming trip then I would highly suggest hotel hopping using the monorails, buses and boats. I always do that with the people I go with. A sort of sampling of the hotels for future trips. A walkthrough of the lobbys, shops, transportation areas, asking the front desk questions, grabbing hotel maps for scrapbooks, maybe grabbing a last minute dining reservation at a restaurant at the hotel.
    Micoofy Duck
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  5. #5

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    Re: Max Fun/Min Hassle -- Strategies for WDW w/out a car?

    If you are OK with being "in the bubble" you don't need a car. Indeed, given the hassle factors of getting one, driving to the resort, parking, hot florida sun etc. etc. you will be happy you don't have one.. What I WOULD encourage you to do is budget a fraction of money that you WOULD have spent on a rental car for cab fares. Yes, the bus will get you to everywhere you want to go. But as pointed out, it can be slow, crowded and after a long day of waiting in lines do you REALLY want to wait some more? Plus, if you are going moderate or value you have the prospects of multiple stops between you and that comfy hotel bed.

    Spending $100 to 150 of "budgeted" money for Park gate to hotel front door seems a smart investment to ensure maximum "bliss" in what will be an expensive holiday.

  6. #6

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    Re: Max Fun/Min Hassle -- Strategies for WDW w/out a car?

    After my first trip where we rented a car, I was all too happy to never rent again, and take the busses, monorails and boats. Yes, you do have to plan on travel time. You may have a bit of a schlep to your room after the bus drops you off at the end of the day. Just think how good it will feel when you finally get to your bed. It'll keep you going.
    Many people do talk about problems with the busses, but honestly, I've never really had a problem with them.
    If money isn't an object, I'd probably stay at the Polynesian, since I think it has the most transportation options. You can walk to the TTC, Monorail to Magic Kingdom, boat to Magic Kingdom. If you need to save money, remember, they want you to get to all the parts of the resort, and they have pretty reasonable ways for you to do it. You just have to give yourself time.
    As I remember from my first trip where we rented a car, the Disneyworld area was not great about marking streets and such, so we had a hard time finding our way. (Yes, this was before GPS, so maybe it's better now.)
    I know that I won't plan on renting a car for WDW any time soon.

  7. #7

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    Re: Max Fun/Min Hassle -- Strategies for WDW w/out a car?

    I personally would recommend not getting a car. We go to Disney World the week between Christmas and New Years every year, which is typically the busiest week, and have never had major problems with the Disney transportation. I outlined below our experience with each hotel we stayed at:

    1. Contemporary- this is probably the best resort for having a variety of ways to get everywhere. As PSUMark said above, you can take a short walk to the Magic Kingdom, ride the monorail to the TTC and transfer to the monorail to Epcot, or walk to Magic Kingdom and grab a bus to any other resort. We found a couple advantages to these options. First, at the end of a long day at Magic Kingdom, you can either hop in the very short Resort Monorail line to get back or take the quick walk back- both much shorter options than waiting in the TTC Monorail line or waiting in line for a bus. Secondly, there were fewer steps involved in park hopping. Basically, if we were going out in the morning, we didn't have to pack our bags for the entire day. Contemporary was just a short walk or monorail ride away if we wanted to grab jackets for the nighttime. Lastly, we found that one of the more scenic ways to get to Hollywood Studios was to take the monorail to Epcot, walk to the back International Gate Exit, and walk or take the boat from there. It's not too far of a walk, and you're not spending all your time on a bus.

    2. Beach Club- this was my personal favourite simply because of the short walk to Epcot. Yacht and Beach Club are located right next to the International Gate entrance to Epcot, which is a much more relaxing way to enter the park. We could also take a boat ride to Hollywood Studios (or walk, as mentioned above). To get to Magic Kingdom, we almost always went into Epcot and took the monorail. The only kind of annoying part of this is that the Magic Kingdom and Epcot monorails let off on opposite sides of the tracks at the TTC, which requires you to walk all the way down the ramp and back up to transfer.

    3. Polynesian- This had the short walk to the TTC to get to both Magic Kingdom and Epcot. We found that we had longer bus waits here than at any of the other resorts, but it could have been that that year was just a little busier than we were used to. Staying at one of the Magic Kingdom resorts is always a huge advantage at the end of a night there or Epcot simply because your hotel is a short monorail ride away.

    4. Coronado Springs- We had the worst experience with transportation here. We were staying in the Cabanas, but we did not realize that the Cabanas have three separate bus stops- and we were the last one. This meant that in the morning, the buses that showed up at our stop were already too full, and at night we had to ride to all the other stops before our own. This is also a huge resort that we were staying near the back of, so it was easily a 15 minute walk to the main building for breakfast every morning. When we stayed here, we had a car for 2 of the seven days, and we found it easier to drive to the main building for breakfast and then drive to the park we wanted rather than deal with the buses. This is probably the only resort we've stayed at that I would recommend getting a car rather than deal with the buses.

    5. Pop Century- We've stayed here twice and have found the bus system one of the best. First off, we stayed there before Art of Animation opened, so I'm not sure of how the buses are being shared. When we stayed there, though, the buses only stopped at Pop Century rather than sharing with another value resort. Magic Kingdom is a little bit of a longer bus ride, but the longest we ever had to wait for a bus (at the resort or any park) was 10 minutes. Disney knows that this is a very popular resort, especially during the most expensive time of the year, and they normally run extra buses to accommodate the crowds.

    Overall, I think that the transportation system at Disney is very advanced but very easy to understand and use. They know when extra buses are needed and will send for more, so you should never run into waits of more than 10 or 15 minutes. The Magical Express is a great deal for getting you from the airport to the resort, and the most we've ever had to wait there is about 30 minutes. If you do decide to bring a car, a helpful tip is that it is not normally necessary to ride the parking trams from your car to the front of the park. I hope this helps a little bit, and let us know if you have more questions!

  8. #8

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    Re: Max Fun/Min Hassle -- Strategies for WDW w/out a car?

    If you can afford to stay on Disney property, to me it would seem insane to rent a car. Why deal with driving and navigating? Why wait for a tram to get to and from the parking lot when you can just wait for a bus and cut out the driving?

    As far as the resorts go, I would like to speak up in defense of the All-Star Resorts. Having stayed at Pop Century, a moderate resort, and an All-Star resort in recent years, I must say that out of the three, I was most satisfied with the All-Star bus service for the following reasons:

    1. All-Stars don't ALWAYS share a bus. I stayed at All-Star Sports in October, and we only ever shared a bus with the other All-Star Resorts at the end of the day, and even then, All-Star Sports gets dropped off first. It may change depending on what time of year you go, but when I went, our resort had its own bus 80% of the time.

    2. The All-Star resorts are smaller and less crowded, so if you get your own bus (like we did the majority of the time), there is a better chance of getting a seat.

    3. Smaller resort = less walking from the bus to the room at the end of the day. When I stayed at Pop Century, I was in the 90s section, and the walk from the bus to my room felt like walking from the main gate of Magic Kingdom all the way to Fantasyland all over again. NOT pleasant at the end of a long day on your feet! The All-Star Resorts are smaller and more manageable.

    4. All the moderate resorts EXCEPT French Quarter are HUGE, and it is very possible that you will have to take a bus within the resort just to get to the main bus stops, not to mention the schlep you'll have to make just to get from your room to the food court for breakfast.

    So those who can't afford a Deluxe resort shouldn't dismiss the All-Stars! I had a great experience with the transportation system there.

  9. #9

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    Re: Max Fun/Min Hassle -- Strategies for WDW w/out a car?

    You guys are awesome!!

    Seriously, I can't thank you enough. I think you've just turned what was an idle "what if..." kind of contemplation into an actual plan to make this trip happen!! I was really sweating the logistics, but you've all made it seem totally reasonable, with the proper planning.

    This is better info than any of the guide books...and has the added advantage that it comes from regular people who actually travel to WDW...not professional travelers.

    I really appreciate your help. If I'm honest, it kind of made my day.

  10. #10

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    Re: Max Fun/Min Hassle -- Strategies for WDW w/out a car?

    Based on emwhysee's OP, it appears that they have no choice but to rely on Disney transport, and I'm sure they'll have a great time if they follow the great tips in this thread. It's absolutely possible to have an awesome WDW trip without a car.

    For the benefit of others who may see this thread and are trying to choose between renting and not renting a car, I will repeat what I always tell people - if it's in the budget, I emphatically recommend renting a car.

    I look at a car rental as an investment in the overall value of the trip. Yes, it costs extra. But it makes all the other money I'm spending worth more because it allows me to extract greater utility from the entire trip. I'm spending more time doing what I want to do and less time waiting for a bus, so I get more fun for the money I'm spending on park tickets, airfare, hotel stays, etc. If you think about the time you spend - waiting for a bus to arrive, waiting for it to make other stops, waiting for people in wheelchairs to get on and off, getting off and transferring to another bus if necessary - in both directions to/from every destination, that's easily hours per day that a rental car can save you if you plan to park hop frequently and/or visit other resorts. Not to mention, if you're renting a car you don't have to wait for Magical Express at the airport, and don't have to leave WDW 3+ hours before your flight because that's when Disney says your Magical Express reservation is. It also makes visits to WWoHP a lot easier

    And a car rental doesn't have to break the bank if you shop around for good deals. The past two years I've been to WDW around Memorial Day weekend and was able to get a week-long midsize rental from Alamo for about $125. Yes, I have to pay for gas and maybe tolls too, but considering the cost of everything else associated with a trip to WDW, and how much extra time/flexibility having a rental car affords me, it's totally worth it.

    Like I said, you can obviously still have a great time at WDW w/ no car, and all the stories in this thread are a testament to that. But, if it's an option for you, I highly, highly recommend it.

    ---------- Post added 09-05-2012 at 03:17 AM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by Imagineer Meg View Post
    5. Pop Century- We've stayed here twice and have found the bus system one of the best. First off, we stayed there before Art of Animation opened, so I'm not sure of how the buses are being shared. When we stayed there, though, the buses only stopped at Pop Century rather than sharing with another value resort.
    To the surprise of many people (myself included) Pop Century has continued to run its buses independently even now that AoA is open - the two resorts do not share buses.
    Last edited by PSUMark; 09-05-2012 at 08:58 AM.
    I knew if this business was ever to get anywhere, if this business was ever to grow, it could never do it by having to answer to someone unsympathetic to its possibilities, by having to answer to someone with only one thought or interest, namely profits. For my idea of how to make profits has differed greatly from those who generally control businesses such as ours. I have blind faith in the policy that quality, tempered with good judgment and showmanship, will win against all odds.
    -Walt Disney



  11. #11

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    Re: Max Fun/Min Hassle -- Strategies for WDW w/out a car?

    Quote Originally Posted by PSUMark View Post
    To the surprise of many people (myself included) Pop Century has continued to run its buses independently even now that AoA is open - the two resorts do not share buses.
    That's great to know for future planning, thank you!

    And yes, I agree with PSUMark completely. I think what I was trying to emphasize was that, if renting a car is in the budget, there are many pros and cons to consider. If renting isn't in the budget, though, there is absolutely no need to worry because Disney transportation is extremely reliable.

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    Re: Max Fun/Min Hassle -- Strategies for WDW w/out a car?

    It's valuable to know the pros and cons of both options. Renting a car isn't absolutely off the table -- you're right, I've discovered there seem to be plenty of deals out there, so budget-wise, it doesn't seem to tip the scales in either direction very definitively. The question of how much of a time-sucker the buses and boats and monorails can be was certainly on my mind.

    Not owning a car in my "real" life, I've come to think of cars as a source of bother more than convenience (tho' I know most people think living without a car would be hopelessly inconvenient). In this case, however, there seems to be some advantages.

    We'll see who ends up joining me on this eventual Magical Disney World Tour and evaluate all the various perspectives.

    At the risk of sounding redundant...thanks for the continuing discussion. Informative AND inspiring!

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    Re: Max Fun/Min Hassle -- Strategies for WDW w/out a car?

    Being new, and only one trip to WDW in the last 20 Years, I apologize if I speak out of turn.

    The only things I could add from my August trip was that a rental car may be worth it if going off site; or looking for flexibility. We took cabs to Universal, Seaworld and paid dearly for it. Had I planned better, I would've gotten a rental car for the days we went. I also would have liked to visit a Reedy Creek Fire Station or two. But Disney Transport doesn't go to those LOL.

    When we were there, it seemed Disney Transport would go to/from each All-Star resort to/from each park individually in the morning and at night. But mid-day, they would run a bus to all the parks together. They also packed those busses like sardines when/if they needed to. But they put every available bus (including Magic Express & Cruise Lines) to work at closing time.

    Personally, the fact that I pulled into a parking spot at the airport in New Hampshire and never touched a steering wheel again until I drove away from the airport in New Hampshire was awesome (except the cab fare). Disney Magic Express and Disney Transport were great.

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