All the travel companies here in the UK seem to promote 'free hire car rental' included with the package price...what they fail to mention is the few hundred dollars that you'll need to spend on insurance to drive the car!
Our first few visits to Orlando involved us staying around the International Drive area and were all about us exploring what Orlando and the surrounding area had to offer and a hire car was almost essential. Yes, we could have used local bus services or taxis but the cost of those would only have been equivalent to the insurance we had to pay for the hire car anyway, so it seemed that the logical thing to do to was to have a hire car. We were able to visit all that we wanted and at the convenience of going when we wanted. Yes, driving in the US is different to the UK but as Simon had driven in the US before on work trips it was easy for me - I simply sat back and allowed myself to be chauffeured about :)
But when it came to our first visit staying at a Disney hotel in 1996 we thought long and hard about whether a car was a necessity or not, especially as this was our first time staying 'on-site' and therefore having had no real experience of WDW transportation.
We had chosen to stay at Port Orleans (as it was known then, it is now Port Orleans French Quarter) and there was just Simon and I going (the days before children!). We knew that our main focus for our holiday was going to be Disney and all that it had to offer and that our time 'off-site' would be limited. So we decided that all of our non-Disney needs could be met through taxis or organised trips through our travel company of choice at a cost less than that of the insurance for the hire car.
So I dutifully read up as much as I could about the transportation on offer - buses, boats and monorail. From Port Orleans we had bus transportation as well as a boat link to then Disney Village Marketplace. We knew that wait times for buses could be lengthy and even journey times between parks and hotels would not be as quick as driving ourselves, but we decided to take a chance and opt for the 'no-car' option.
Well something must have worked out right for us on this trip because since then every time we have visited WDW, and stayed at a Disney hotel, we have always opted for the 'no-car' option. We have always found the buses to be clean, with extremely friendly drivers and whilst we did have to wait for our transport we never had any waits that were too long, in fact I would say that we never waited more than 10 minutes for a bus to come along. The boat link to the then Disney Village Marketplace was a lovely alternative to the bus and often overlooked by other hotel guests.
|Port Orleans Resort map - check out the 'hidden mickey' drawn by the cast member on registration that shows where the boat left for D.V (Disney Village) and P.I (Pleasure Island)!!|
|The slightly confusing transportation guide - 1996|
Thankfully Disney's approach to transportation and the information they give you has greatly improved and is now a whole lot simpler, plus having stayed 'on-site' a few more times since means that our own knowledge and appreciation has improved.
My own personal recommendation would be that if you are going to visit WDW and stay at a Disney Resort and not venture much further than its 43 square miles then don't bother with the hire car, use the transportation that's freely available. And if you do venture outside Disney then there are taxis aplenty or simply rent a car just for the few days that you may need it (there are car rental offices within the Disney complex). I know some will like the freedom that a car can give you but for us being 'car-less' for two weeks means we can sit back, relax and let someone else take the strain.