How to Get To
The Walt Disney World Resort
So, you're headed for a Walt Disney World vacation. Great! But whether you're a day visitor to a single theme
park or a resort guest spending the week you've still got to get there first. All roads used to lead to Rome
-- now it seems they all lead to the Walt Disney World Resort. A myriad of tour, package, and transportation options are
available, so be sure to shop around and find the one best suited to your particular situation, because your
options are nearly endless.
Nearly every major airline serves
Orlando International Airport. Here's
where the competition can help you get a great deal -- if you shop around. Look for packages,
get a good travel agent to do the legwork, or shop multiple online booking sites for the best deals.
Once at the airport, if your hotel offers airport transportation you're all set. Follow the signs from baggage claim to ground transportation outside. Disney now offers Disney's Magical Express service to their resort guests -- regular bus service runs from the Airport to the various Disney resorts to carry you and your luggage (which they'll pick up and drop off directly from many domestic airlines so you can avoid baggage claim hassles -- it will be delivered straight to your room). Book the bus at the same time you reserve your resort room or vacation package -- you'll be issued the special luggage tags and vouchers you'll need as well as directions on what to do.
Numerous car rental companies also serve the airport, as does a veritable fleet of taxis and limo services.
The Mears Shuttle will
get you to your hotel for a flat rate, but you'll be stopping for other passengers hotels, too. Mears also offers town car service -- be sure to make a reservation in advance.
If you're driving from the airport and you're staying at Walt Disney World or in Kissimmee or Celebration, use the South Exit from the airport and take the Central Florida Greenway (417) west. Exit on Vineland Road to get to Lake Buena Vista or Kissimmee, on Osceola Parkway to go straight into Walt Disney World, or at Celebration Avenue for the Main Gate area on 192 West of Walt Disney World.
If staying on North International Drive or in another Orlando area (such as near Universal Studios, use the Airport's north exit, then head West to I-4 via the Beachline (528) and exit at International Drive or I-4. These are toll roads both ways, North and South, so have some cash ready.
Amtrak offers regularly scheduled service to Orlando -- for which you'll need a
reservation at peak times. Their Auto Train will carry your car down with you from Lorton, VA to Sanford, FL,
just north of Orlando. If you're going to be renting a car on arrival, check with the rental
company first to be sure they service the Train Station. Note: if you'll be taking a taxi, don't get off in
Orlando -- the Kissimmee Station is actually closer to the Walt Disney World Resort (but offers fewer car rental options).
Access to Florida is served by three Interstate Highways: I-10, I-75, and
I-95, with I-4 connecting I-75 and I-4 in the middle of the state.
From I-10: travel East to the intersection with I-75, follow I-75 South.
From I-75: Follow I-75 South to the Florida Turnpike (toll). To get to the Walt Disney World Resort, Kissimmee, I-4 West, or the Main Gate areas, you can now take a new highway, Florida 429 (also a toll road) that meets the Turnpike just North of Orlando and heads South, down the West side of Walt Disney World, to I-4, with exits for Walt Disney World and US 192.
To get to the Universal, Sea World, or International Drive areas, take the Turnpike South, past FL 429, to the
I-4 Exit, then I-4 West to the exit for your hotel.
You can avoid the
tolls by taking US 27 South from I-75 instead of the Florida Turnpike, but this route is
longer, slower, and not as convenient.
From I-95: Follow I-95 south to I-4, then take I-4 West. To avoid the heavy downtown Orlando traffic
get off of I-4 in Sanford, just north of Orlando, and
take the Central Florida Greenway (also toll) South and then West (see directions above for taking the Greenway on from the Airport exit, or take the Greenway to the Beachline and follow the other set.)
To see maps of the area try Visit Florida for a printed map (also available free at Florida Welcome Centers on most major highways at the state line), or use the Florida Department of Transportation or Google Maps for maps online. Traffic information is available through the Florida Highway Patrol.
Once you've reached the Walt Disney World property, simply follow the signs to your destination park (or resort,
if you're staying here. Depending on the resort or park, on-property guests may find themselves
making use of monorails, boats, or busses to get to park gates.)
Disney has gotten parking huge numbers of cars down to a science -- once you've paid your
parking fee you'll be directed smoothly into an available space by the attendants. Close in
handicapped parking is also available.
The parking lots are divided into both numbered rows and named sections -- the row numbers are
painted on the pavement at the end of the row, section names ("Goofy," "Energy," "Comedy," etc.)
are on signs. Write your section name and row number down and take it with you!
This is the only way you will possibly be able to find your car among the thousands of others in
the parking lot at the end of the day -- especially if it's dark by then.
Just beyond the end of the rows trams are available to give you a ride in from the lot. If you decide
you're close enough in to walk it, stay on the parking side of the posts marking the tram corridor and
out of the tram's way -- those things are faster than they look.
Take your pet with you. A hot Florida day can quickly turn the inside of your car into an oven -- leaving an
animal out there is not only dangerous and heartless, it's called animal cruelty and against the law. While pets
aren't allowed into the parks, there are pet care facilities provided at the entrances. They're primarily dog kennels,
but they can accommodate just about anything that comes in its own container.
At Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, or Disney's Animal Kingdom the parking lots are directly adjacent to the parks
themselves and are serviced by trams. At the Magic Kingdom, however, there's one more step between you and the turnstiles --
For anyone not staying in an on-property resort (and therefore able to
use direct alternate transportation) your first stop on the way to the Magic Kingdom will be the Transportation
and Ticket Center (TTC). Here's where you'll find ticket booths, the Pet
Care facility, a gift shop, and transportation to the Magic Kingdom's gates. The
monorail to Epcot also begins here, although Epcot has its own parking lot.
Tip: get your ticket or passport before you get here and avoid the lines. They're
available through AAA (with a member's discount on some multi-day passports),
on-line through Disney.com, as part of your Disney Resort package, or at many local hotels and booths. Some off site
sources will sell you a voucher rather than the actual ticket -- you'll need to exchange it
here at the appropriate window.
Walt Disney was disappointed at the ring of commercial clutter which
shortly surrounded Disneyland in California so he made sure this park
was set off in isolation. From here you'll need to take either the monorail
around or ferry across Bay Lake to get there, passing Disney's
Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and Contemporary Resorts (the monorail actually goes through the Contemporary Hotel's lobby).
Most people automatically head for the monorail, since the station is
directly in front of the TTC's gates, and, besides, it just looks like a cool way to travel. The
current fleet of monorails can even handle wheelchairs and strollers of
average size (although it's a steep push up that ramp.) Unfortunately, it can develop
long lines at peak hours -- slowing you down just when you're the most eager
to get to the park.
When the monorail is crowded your best bet is to hang a left after you
enter and head for the ferry boats with their huge, crowd swallowing capacity. They
looks slow, but they beat standing in line and can actually get you there
faster when lines are long.
Everyone's step quickens here as they pass the Mickey made of flowers on the embankment
in front of the train station and hear the unmistakable sound of the
train's live steam whistle as it leaves for another trip around the park. Now, there's just
one more obstacle to get through -- the turnstiles.
In an admirable attempt to get people through the gates faster with the current jumble of
admissions media, Disney uses a new generation turnstile that not only
checks your ticket, but can ID you as well.
You'll see a slot on the front of the device with an arrow pointing to it -- simply
slip your ticket in here, and the gadget will automatically read the magnetic stripe on
the ticket and unlock the turnstile, spitting the ticket out on the other side so you can
pick it up as you pass through.
Walt Disney World now uses fingerprint identification to prevent multiple people from using the same pass -- after you put your ticket in the slot, place your index finger on the sensor on top of the turnstile and it will now associate you with that pass. You no longer need a hand stamp for readmission (but you will need your finger) -- just keep your ticket and use it the same way to get back in if you decide to leave the park and then return later.
You Made It!
Congratulations -- you're inside the park and ready to have fun. So, what do you do now?
Well, r-e-l-a-x, for one. Smell the popcorn and listen to the band. Leave your problems
outside, loosen up, and enjoy. And, oh, yeah, -- smile.
For More Information
See our Orlando Theme Parks Guide coverage of the Walt Disney World Resort for more Walt Disney World information and resources.