Transportation – WDW On The Cheap

Air Transportation

Now that you know your general travel dates, go to Bing and take a look at what is currently available.

Also check each airline’s private website to see if there are any lower priced options or discounts being offered.

Use Bing’s Price Predictor to see if you should purchase now, or wait.

Generally, ticket prices go down Monday – Thursday, and are higher over the weekend. Watch your flight dates for a few weeks at least and see how the prices go up and down. There is usually a discernible pattern.

The experts used to say Tuesday at 3pm Eastern is the best time to buy airline tickets – now it’s any time you see a deal.

The cheapest day to actually fly is Wednesday. The most expensive days to fly are Friday and Sunday. You can save plenty if your travel days are flexible.

You can see ticket prices for all the major airlines on Bing, but you’ll need to go direct to Southwest’s website to view their prices. If Southwest is available in your area, you definitely want to check them out as they are usually among the least expensive.

Most airline’s websites have an option to view fares by month – so you can see exactly what flight dates are least expensive.

If you’re not as worried about what time of the day you will travel, or what airline, you can use Priceline Name Your Own Price, or Hotwire. Keep in mind you will be locked into whatever flight you’re offered, no exchange or refunds.

Save money when flying by bringing empty water bottles and powdered drink mix through security, then fill and add mix on the other side.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines usually has their best deals show up at about 3 months prior to flight date, then sometimes 1 month prior.

There are three ways to keep up with fares on Southwest, I use all three.

1. choose ‘book a flight’.  Type in your dates and airports and see what’s available.

2.  On the Southwest main page, click ‘special offers’, and sign up for email ‘click and save’ (upper right-hand corner).

3.  Download Ding! Be sure to select your home airport, then choose any other cities you’re interested in (like, say, Orlando?)

Hints – Southwest Airlines:

1.  Book any flight (even non-refundable), and if the price drops later, you can easily request a travel voucher for the difference (select ‘View or Change your Flight” on the main page).  Vouchers are good for another flight and must be used within a year.  Be sure to save the email with your voucher numbers.

2. Check in online 24 hours before your flight.  Southwest doesn’t do assigned seating, just assigned boarding (A group, B group, etc).  The closer you are to that 24-hour mark, the better your seat choice will be.

3. What about your return flight?  Go to the front desk at your Disney resort (or Guest Services in any park) 24 hours before your return flight time and ask them to check in online for you (don’t forget to bring your confirmation number!).

4. If you’d rather not hassle with online check-in, you can pay an additional $10 per person and use Early Bird Check In. This may be worth the extra money for your return flight.

Ground Transportation

Getting to Walt Disney World

Once you’ve landed in Orlando, you’ve still got to get to Disney World, which is about 20 miles away. You have a few options here. We’ll cover them from least to most expensive.

Disney’s Magical Express

Guests who are staying at a Disney Resort and flying in to Orlando International Airport get free bus transportation to and from their resort via Disney’s Magical Express. Luggage service is also included if you choose to use it. Disney will pick up your luggage from the airport and deliver it to your resort within 3 hours of your arrival.

Car Rentals

Typically when planning a vacation that includes airline travel, the next thing you do is rent a car. Disney is definitely different in that even though the “World” is huge and the airport is 20 minutes away, renting a car is not necessary because of the excellent Disney transportation network. If you are staying at a Disney resort, you can spend your entire vacation without ever sitting behind the wheel of a car. Disney will pick you up at the airport, provide free bus transportation around Disney World, and return you to the airport.

Because we are talking specifically about doing Disney as cheaply as possible, we absolutely do not recommend renting a car if you are staying on site. If you hate public transportation, feel like you need to get away from all that Disney magic for a little while every day, or are planning on visiting other Theme Parks, then you least expensive option will probably be to stay off site and rent a car.

If a grocery stop is the only reason you feel the need of a car, there are other options which may be less expensive (see Dining chapter).

If you are staying off site (not on Disney property), you will need a rental car. Some off site hotels boast a Disney World shuttle service – these are not reliable and will waste too much of your valuable park time.

Bring change with you for toll booths, all the toll freeways you will encounter on the way to/from WDW and the airport have manned booths so you do not need a Sunpass. Some rental agents will try and talk you into the $10/day automatic Sunpass, but unless you are traveling to Key West or other routes outside the core Orlando area, you won’t encounter any unmanned booths.

Bring your own GPS unit instead of paying $10 a day for one.


Determine the smallest car your family and your luggage will fit into, don’t automatically rent a van simply because that is what you drive at home. Minivans are usually the most expensive rentals to obtain, switching to a midsize or compact can save you hundreds in rental fees.

Check car rental prices through Travelocity or Expedia first to get an overview of current retail pricing, then check the following: to check for discounts. has deals specific to the Orlando area.

Corporate Discounts (if a family member’s office has any), AAA discounts, Costco discounts.

Priceline and Hotwire.

Car Rental companies usually allow you to reserve a car without entering credit card information, this is a great tool and will allow you to “lock in” good rates without worrying about hidden charges. Keep a written record of prices, dates, and what you’ve reserved.

Limo Services

If you need groceries, you have a few options: Rent a car, use a grocery delivery service (see Dining chapter) or use a limo service. Most limo services in Orlando include a 1/2 hour grocery stop. Price for the ride is typically in the $70 range one-way, with two-way service around $120 not including tip.

Two services that are highly recommended are Southern Elegance ( and Happy Limo (

In-Park Transportation

This excellent subway-style map is courtesy of

Disney’s in-park transportation system is free for anyone to use (even off-site visitors). It is massive, and can be confusing at times. It is usually very efficient, however just like your morning commute, things might happen that create unexpected delays.

Prior to their first visit, most people have a difficult time getting their head around the fact that Disney World is about the size of a city and has a daily population of at least 70,000 visitors. Transportation from Disneyland to California Adventure means walking out the front gates of Disneyland, walking across a courtyard and walking in to California Adventure – a trip of maybe 5 minutes if you take your time. Transportation from Epcot to Animal Kingdom will require a long walk from the Epcot turnstiles to a bus stop, waiting for a bus, riding the bus and getting off at Animal Kingdom, then another long walk to the actual turnstiles -the whole trip usually takes at least 30 to 45 minutes.

Bus System

Getting to the parks and back using Disney buses is extremely simple.  At the Value resorts the bus stops are segregated by park, along with another bus stop that serves Downtown Disney, the Waterparks, and ESPN Sports Complex. The Moderate and Deluxe resorts will not have designated lines for each park, you’ll just watch the front of each bus that pulls up and jump on the correct bus.

When you get to the parks, in most cases where the bus dropped you off is where they will pick you up to return to your resort.  Each resort has its own queue at each park, find the right queue again and you’re off.

Disney recently installed information systems at all the resort bus stops that show when the next bus is expected.


There are three monorail lines at Disney World, they do not connect to each other, but all meet at the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC).

The Resort Monorail runs clockwise and stops at Magic Kingdom, Contemporary Resort, Transportation and Ticket Center, Polynesian Resort, and Grand Floridian Resort, in that order.

The Express Monorail runs the same loop as the Resort Monorail, but runs counter-clockwise and only stops at the Transportation and Ticket Center and Magic Kingdom.
The Epcot line runs clockwise between the Transportation and Ticket Center and Epcot.


At Magic Kingdom there are Boats from Magic Kingdom to/from the Transportation and Ticket Center, and to/from The Grand Floridian and Polynesian. Two other boats travel to/from The Wilderness Lodge and Ft. Wilderness.

At the EPCOT International gate you will find a boat to Hollywood Studios and back with stops at The Boardwalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Dolphin and Swan Resorts.  This is a slow leisurely tour, and walking can be faster, but it’s fun and relaxing anyway.

Moderate resorts Port Orleans, Saratoga Springs, and Old Key West have boat transportation to/from Downtown Disney.

General Disney Transportation Information

You are welcome and encouraged to check out the other Disney Resorts.  However, there are no resort-to-resort buses.  Take a bus to a park, then a bus (or monorail, or boat) to the resort.  Return by taking a bus (or monorail, or boat) to a park or to Downtown Disney, then back to your home resort.

There is no transportation directly to or from the parks and Downtown Disney. There is bus service to and from all resorts and Downtown Disney.

Traveling from a Disney resort or another park is the ONLY way to get transportation directly to the Magic Kingdom.  If you drive yourself, or use off-site transportation, you will park at the Ticket and Transportation Center, where you will then take the Monorail or a boat over to Magic Kingdom – Walt wanted it to look and feel like Magic Kingdom was on an island, and so your ‘regular’ approach looks just like it is!

If you want to travel to/from a resort to another resort, one of the easiest transfers is to stop at the Contemporary, from there it is a short walk to the Magic Kingdom resort bus stops (follow the pathway to Magic Kingdom).

Have I completely confused you?  Our Laughing Place has a transportation wizard to help you figure out how to get from point A to point B


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