Rental car or Magical Express? Convince a first timer

We keep going back and forth on whether to take the Magical Express or rent a car. We have reservations for each and see definite pros and cons for each. My family consists of my wife and I and 4 kids ranging in age from 2(almost) to 16.


  • We can leave if we want

  • Can get to ADRs before busses are running

  • Rope drop?

  • Save money on food outside of Disney World

  • More time in a park on our last day


  • Cost (Rental + parking)

  • Will we really have much desire/energy to leave property?

  • One more thing to worry about

What am I not thinking of? What suggestions do you have for us?

Where are you staying? Time is money at Disney but not sure rental car saves you a lot of time. We had a lot of success with Minnie van service (not functioning right now) and Uber. I’d recommend any form of transportation that saves you time. For what you are paying for park tix, that incremental expense is worth it.

1 Like

I think your pros and cons are pretty complete. It just depends on how much you want/need to get off property. If it’s a one-time thing, a Lyft XL will be much cheaper than renting a car that whole time. Also, you can compromise and take ME one way and have a car on the other end of the trip and either pick up or return at the Car Care Center if Alamo/National if it’s really needed. Rope drops can be accomplished without cars, especially if staying in the Epcot Resort area and using one Lyft ride to Contempo for MK if you really want to beat that crowd. Good luck. There are definitely advantages to both.

1 Like

I have a similar family size as you and I am renting a car on my next trip. The reason is that while Disney bus systems work great for families most of the time, it doesn’t work in the following situations:

  • Need to leave the bubble (UOR, Sea World, grocery store, etc.)
  • Last minute need to get somewhere quickly
  • Any time you would normally take an Uber (not enough car seats, too expensive, logistical issues)
  • Need to go somewhere where Disney transport is not running at the moment (e.g., HS 1hr before opening)

If you do go with Disney transport only, you will do fine, but will just have to accept the risk of one or more of these items coming up.

Art of Animation. I’m hesitant to use Uber with the 2-year-old specifically - but I’m willing to look into it.

I looked into renting a car for a few days in the middle of the trip (still have a reservation I need to cancel) and it will cost as much as my week-long rental to do.

1 Like

For me, not having to drive makes it a real vacation. But I don’t have to deal with car seats. That’s a game changer. Without them, I would say use Disney transportation and uber/lyft as needed.


I am a little concerned with a larger group and the buses?

Traditionally…If you have more time than money, Disney transport. If you have more money than time, rental.

However, since there is rarely a reason to use a car to get to MK, plus, with the omni moving Skyliner to two other parks from AoA, Disney transport is as fast, or faster to 3 out of 4 parks.

1 Like

We have three kids ages 7-12 and usually stay off property, but we stayed on property for our last trip. I thought we might regret having a rental car (although we didn’t have a lot of choice because we drove down, I thought it would be just sitting in a parking space eating into our budget.) but we used it a lot more than we had thought we would. We used Disney Transportation to get to Magic Kingdom one day, but during our mid day break we drove back to the TTC. This let us stay in the MK a lot later after close instead of funneling out with the huge crowd, and also let us grab a late dinner at Captain Cooks before heading back to our room. We could have taken the bus to DHS, but when I saw the line I was glad we could drive (and it also gave us the option to have my husband drop us off where I could walk with the kids to get in early and let them ride their must do rides while he parked.) We also ended up needign to go to CVS, and we got fast food (Arby’s) a couple nights too just to stick to our budget a bit. I liked having a car even when staying on property. Ideally we would never have to leave “the bubble” but I guess not having an easy way to do so made me feel trapped. I thought it was much less stressful to just get the kids in the car than it was to wait for the bus and hope they had room for all of us, and it gave us a lot of flexibility as to when to leave the park and what we did when we weren’t in the parks.

I can see merits both ways, so I think it just depends on which things you want to deal with


I can see the benefits of both and have done both. But I tend to rent a car and here’s why…you can explore the resorts with more ease. If you plan to hit the water parks or DisneySprings, also easier by car and will save you tons of time on these destinations. If you are staying at a hotel further away or with worse bus service like Saratoga Springs or Coronado Springs. Then I’d definitely get a car hands down. If you’re just going to the four main parks, staying somewhere with one bus stop, and preferably some place in the middle (like the Epcot area) or the MK area where at least some of the parks you can take a boat, monorail, skyliner or walk to then you don’t need it so much.


…and as you mention you can get to/from the parks/hotel easier so if you have a midday flight coming in or an afternoon/evening flight going out it means you can actually visit a park that day too. Count on 3-4 hours early pickup with Magical Express and 3 hours to get to your resort on arrival day.

1 Like

The three hours before your flight pick-up is what we experienced. But coming in, we did not take anywhere close to 3 hours to get to the resort. This is during COVID however. My friend was due to flyin at 5:30, the flight was a little early, and she was at OKW by 6:00. There were only maybe 3 groups on the bus however.


I did use the service pre-covid and it was about 2 hours compared but I was the last resort to get dropped off or maybe one after me…it was WL… but to a 30 min drive with my walk up National Car Rental membership.

I hate to drive more than I hate to wait, I guess. :laughing:


Hubby does most of the driving so same ole for me…either way. Ha ha

1 Like

If I wasn’t planning to go to UOR, I would probably forego the rental car. So that’s probably the biggest factor for me. I hate the Mears-type shuttle services and getting an Uber for my family means getting two Ubers with car seats.

We had a group of 9 in 2016, 2018 at CSR, ASM (respectively) w/o any bus issues. Those flying in took magical express. And one night the kids rode redneck style in the truck bed of our crew cab as we drove to whispering canyons for dinner.

We sorta did this with 9 people and a Suburban squeezing four people into the back row. But we rented this Suburban and stayed in the Treehouse so I’m glad we had the car. I was able to drive people to the marathon and drive myself and brother to the half marathon. I will say much preferred when you have to get up 2 or 3am to be able to drive and then sleep in your rental car. But this won’t be an issue during covid with races.

1 Like

This right here is why we tend to rent a car. I don’t like being tied to someone else’s schedule (ie Disney’s transportation schedule). We don’t tend to leave the bubble often, but I love the ease of getting around WDW with a car. Having a car makes getting to resort ADRs so easy.