Having a hire car (a ‘rental’ as they call them in the U.S.) is the best option for getting around Florida, and it is pretty much essential if you are staying at a vacation home or private villa, as transportation is limited to taxis and hired shuttles outside the main tourist areas.
But if you are in relatively close proximity to the theme parks your public transport options increase. A car can be an expensive item once you add in all the necessary insurance extras and taxes, and there are cheaper alternatives if you don’t mind doing a bit of research toward your holiday. Very possibly the best compromise in terms of your holiday transportation is to book a hire car for only part of your holiday.
It is usually possible to take advantage of the cheap or free options (such as Disney’s onsite bus system) for at least half the time, which cuts your hire car costs down by almost half. Many people overlook this possibility, but there are numerous car hire offices around Orlando that can provide a car at virtually no notice.
Car Hire Company: A good hire company is Affordable Car Hire. Although a car is the easiest way to get around, the theme parks charge quite a bit for parking (at least $17 per day), so you will need to take this into account when budgeting for transportation.
Route Planner: It’s always a good idea to plan your routes in advance using Mapquest or Google Maps.
Boot size: Economy cars tend to have smaller boots (or ‘trunks’ as they call them), so make sure you pre-book the correct size vehicle for your suitcase needs as upgrading on arrival can be expensive.
If you are considering not hiring a car, you should definitely think about staying at a Disney or Universal resort, particularly if you plan to spend most of your time at their parks. Staying at an onsite resort entitles you to free transport to all their parks via buses, boat or if you're staying at a Disney Resort hotel- the Monorail. However, if you plan to visit the other parks (e.g. Universal if you’re staying at Disney, or vice versa), you would have to arrange your own travel, which will incur extra cost. A two-centre holiday with a week at a Disney hotel and a week at Universal or on International Drive could give you the best of both worlds.
Shuttles and I-Ride Transport
International Drive is a great base for access to Universal and SeaWorld as it is easy to travel up and down, either by the cheap-to-use I-Ride Trolley or with the free shuttles that many hotels offer. When choosing your hotel it is worth looking to see if they provide a free shuttle to the nearest parks; many do and, while there are only a handful that provide free transport to all the parks, these make for exceptional value as you can consider not hiring a car at all. The Nickelodeon Hotel & Suites in Lake Buena Vista offers a particularly effective service of this kind.
Alternatively, work out which of the parks will demand most of your time, choose your hotel in that area (e.g. Lake Buena Vista for Disney, I-Drive for SeaWorld and Universal), and use one of the paid-for shuttle services to the other parks, like Mears Transportation, who charge a set fee per person for a round-trip.
Planning to shop ‘til you drop? The I-Ride Trolley (www.iridetrolley.com) visits all the International Drive outlet centres, plus a few attractions, and it is extremely reasonable for a 7 or 14 day pass.
General Public Transport
The Lynx bus system (www.golynx.com) covers some of the main tourist areas (notably I-Drive to Walt Disney World on Link 50, while Links 37 and 111 go from different parts of I-Drive to the Florida Mall) but it can be slow going. Of the other transport services, Mears offers the most comprehensive array, both for airport transfers and for getting to and from the theme parks. Quick Transportation also provide some excellent and well-priced regular and tailor-made services. From hotels in the Highway 192 area of Kissimmee, you can also try Maingate Transportation, who are competitively priced for Disney, Universal and SeaWorld shuttles.
Additionally, several shopping malls have their own shuttle or pick-up service. Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores collects guests free on a daily basis from more than 40 hotels in the Orlando and Kissimmee areas (check your hotel for details, or call 407 238 9301). Orlando Premium Outlets – Vineland Ave also offers free round-trip transport from various Lake Buena Vista Hotels (call 407 858 3008 to reserve) or from further afield with Maingate Transportation.
The new Megabus(www.megabus.com) service covers large parts of Florida, and, from Orlando, you can catch their bus to Jacksonville, Tampa and Miami, as well as Tallahassee and even New Orleans!