Should You Fly or Drive for Your Next Walt Disney World Vacation?

Getting ready for your next Walt Disney World Vacation? Whether you have been to Disney World numerous times or are planning your first trip, one part of your travel to Central Florida is sure to be a major part of your planning, and that is whether you should opt to fly or drive.

Between higher gas prices, flight cancellations, parking fees, and the end of Disney’s Magical Express, there is a lot to consider when deciding how exactly you should arrive in Orlando. In this post, we’re covering the pros and cons of each option and sharing tips to consider as you plan your trip.


Credit: Disney

Flying to Orlando International Airport

As far as air travel goes, it doesn’t get much better than flying into Orlando International Airport. The closest airport to Walt Disney World is clean, easy to navigate, and packed with shopping, dining, and amenities to make your trip to Orlando a breeze.

With Disney’s Magical Express no longer an option for Guests at Walt Disney World Resort hotels to take advantag of free ground transportation, a number of replacement services are now available. The “official” replacement, Mears Connect, operates very similarly to Disney’s Magic Express just at an added per person cost, and the Sunshine Flyer offers a similar service in a motorcoach themed to an early 20th century steamtrain.

Unfortunately, one con that must be considered or at least planned for when flying anywhere at the moment is the very real possibility of flight cancellations and delays. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, air travel has become more challenging than usual with staffing difficulties leading to numerous cancelled or delayed flights.

Terminal C, Orlando International Airport

Credit: MCO, Photo © Matt Good

Of course, we would not advise avoiding going to Walt Disney World because of this, but we would caution you to consider a backup plan for if flights are delayed and cancelled, and to maybe leave the first day of your trip fairly flexible in case you arrive later than originally planned.

As for pros and cons, flying to Orlando is generally quicker for Guests coming from most areas, and where you do not need a car to get around the Walt Disney World Resort, many Guests find it easier to leave the car at home. Cons are that air travel is often more expensive than driving as every family member needs their own ticket, and you will likely need to pay for bags on top of tickets.

Rental Car Orlando International Airport

Credit: Orlando International Airport

Driving to Orlando

Another post-COVID change the entre travel industry has experienced is that more visitors are opting to drive than fly compared to other years in recent history. Even with rising gas prices, many travelers (especially those traveling as a family) are finding it more economical to drive to their destination rather than to pay for separate airfares for each person all the while risking cancellations or delays.

The first points to consider when deciding whether or not to drive is if you are close enough to do so, and if you have the time for longer travel days given school and work schedules.

If you said yes so far, you will then need to consider parking fees (potentially for both your Resort and for Disney Parks if you are not staying on Disney property) as well as gas, and the cost of a rental car if you are not driving your own car.


Credit: Disney

Pros and cons? Many Guests love having the ability to drive themselves around Walt Disney World without relying on Disney’s transportation, and having your own vehicle can be especially helpful if you plan to visit other theme parks or do some grocery shopping outside of Disney property. The most pressing con at present is the gas prices, and the time vs. money issue that should be worked out to determine if taking the extra time to drive makes the most sense for your family.

However you choose to arrive in Orlando, remember to plan your trip early so you can make your advanced dining reservations and theme park reservations. And, have a magical trip!

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany is a New England-based writer focused on the history of the Walt Disney World Resort. She is the author of "Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Reality of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort," and "Brittany Earns Her Ears."