I have been living in Oviedo, FL (which is part of the Orlando, FL metro area) for over fourteen years. Orlando has a lot of toll roads; so make sure tourists you have quarters + dollar bills on hand or for us locals we have E-Pass.
Our toll roads go by several names 417 is known as The Greenway,
408 is the East-West Expressway, 429 is known as the Wekiva Expressway and 528 is known as the Beachline. Locals also have several abbreviations for some roads too: 436 is known as Semoran Boulevard, 441 is known as OBT (Orange Blossom Trail) and 434 is known as Forest City Road. There are other names too for our local roads so tourits just pay attention and enjoy your visit to The City Beautiful.
When you go to re-fuel your hire car the procedure is different to the UK and Europe. If you are paying by cash or credit/debit card you have to go into the gas station first and pre pay for the fuel. You estimate the quantity and pay by cash or credit card, if you do not use up what you have pay you go back in and obtain a refund. You can then use the fuel pump and put the amount you paid for into the tank. This certainly stops drive offs (the bad guys then rob the gas station instead). If you intend to use a credit/debit card you can try and pay at the pump but you need to put in a US post code attached to the card billing address, I have heard that you can use 00000 but never tried it.
You really have to hire a car for your trip here, as everything is so far apart. Before we left the UK, we thought the Theme Parks were a bit closer together than they turned out to be, and if we hadn't booked a car before we left, we would have been in trouble.
As a great tip, book a car that you feel will be just big enough for yourselves and your baggage, without being really cramped in. Then when you arrive to pick up your keys with the hire company, start to go through the motions with the booking, and if it looks like the hire company is just going to let you continue with your booking, suggest to him/her that you would have got a bigger car but couldn't really justify the extra cost. If he/she bites, you can start haggling.
If he/she still doesn't get talking about a cheap upgrade, then you must ask if there are any upgrades available. If there are, then you can start haggling for a price your happy with.
On our trip to Orlando, we had booked a standard saloon car, but after haggling an upgrade, we managed to get a Chrysler 300C Hemi V8 for only $200 more for the 2 weeks. What a bargain, and we loved it. My teenage daughters loved it too and said it was like a gangster car :)
When you query car rental agencies in Orlando, FL Payless will show as one of the rental companies that offers some of the lowest rates.
Some of the reasons for this are that it is the only car rental company not located in the airport terminal; they don’t even have a customer service desk on site at the airport. To get to the rental facility you must first find a courtesy phone that has no large signs and contact their dispatch center. You then must wait for a shuttle bus that drives you 15 minutes to their location.
Once at the location the counter agents try to sell you an upgrade, a GPS rental and of course the insurance that they pressure you that you have to have. If you decide not to get the insurance they pull out several waiver forms and tell you that “you really need this insurance”. If you still decide against the insurance they bill your credit card for a “deposit” of $350.00 or more in addition to your “inexpensive rate”. This in effect ties up your credit line and gives the rental company “free use” of your credit.
When you complete the paperwork and are ready to leave the agent tells you to check the vehicle but they don’t give you a form to make any notes on damages the vehicle has. The key here is that you have to go back and talk to the agent to make your comments, who tells you that they are not concerned about any scratches or minor damages.
Now when you return the vehicle there are no signs at the airport to find the Payless location. When you arrive at the facility they check it for scratches as well as any and all damages. If you indicate the rental agent said they were not worried about scratches of minor “dings” no one knows what you are talking about.
I would recommend that you stay away from this location and the company in general as their business practices and customer service is the worst I have ever seen.
Driving from New York to Florida was an adventure. Yes, it would have been easier at least for us to fly but travelling with Bob and Marie this way was easier. Fortunately with a large car the driving isn't too bad. I felt like My Father asking people if they needed a bathroom break and who was hungry. We managed to make it to Florida with only one overnight stop in the Carolinas.
I stopped at the first station north of the airport to refill the rental car. Suncoast Energy on route 436 (Semoran Blvd) next to Cracker Barrel doesn't have a sign with their gas price for a reason. I paid $4.67. Keep driving north about a mile to a 7-11.
If traffic on I-4 West going to Disney is terrible, an alternative, parallel route to that part of I-4 West that you can explore is taking Turkey Lake Road which becomes Palm Parkway as you get closer to Lake Buena Vista.
When Palm Parkway ends at the Rt 435 & 535 intersection, you can then take Buena Vista Drive (via Rt 435 & Hotel Plaza Road; or Rt 535) to get to the Disney attractions.
There are a lot of toll roads in Florida. If you use a GPS be careful, the one we rented almost always put us on on a toll road and when I cross checked it with a map there was almost always an alternate route available that wasn't much slower.
We also had a problem with our unit the first night because someone(I'm sure a rental employee) thought it would be funny to shut off the unit locator in the setup menu. This ment that it would not give us exact directions because it didn't know where we were and we wasted almost an hour trying to figure out why it wouldn't work right. Be sure to test the rental unit before you start driving and don't make the same mistake we did.
One other annoying thing that I have only seen in Orlando is that most of the maps will list the streets by thier highway numbers, but when you are on the road they will be posted by thier street names.
Example=Hwy 192,on the maps, will be Vine St. on the street signs.
Renting a car in Orlando is a ripoff !!!!! Almost anywhere else in the U.S. you can rent a compact car for $15-$25 a day, but not in Orlando. Orlando is the number one rental place in the world, so ALL of them rip you off accordingly. That $15 compact, in Orlando, is going to set you back anywhere from $50- to $80 per day here. And if you are not good at online searching it will be closer to $65-80 per day !!!! Insurance here was also double the cost of any other city I have rented a car in, so be sure to check if your personal insurance will cover a rental and save yourself the added expense.
Having your own car is a good idea if you plan on leaving the Disney property. CAr rentals in Florida are relatively cheap and give you the freedom of dining and visiting other areas outside of Disney.
We always use airline-network to book our car as we get discounted car hire that way. Normally the car is with dollar and the queue is horrendous. We have found that to save time, when you get to MCO (Orlando International Airport), it is best to split up, one of you wait at the baggage carousel to pick up the luggage, with your trolley. The other go down a floor and get in the Dollar Car queue. Don't forget to take any ID, car hire print outs, wallet, etc with you. Then by the time your bags are out and found, you can meet up downstairs and hopefully you will have avoided the queue for cars - everyone drives there.
Sorry not sure about the cruise info :0)
Warning! We rented a car from Thrifty in Orlando. We couldn't get our cell phone chargers or our portable GPS to work when we plugged them into the lighter socket. Turns out the rental car company REMOVES THE FUSES to the lighter/accessory sockets. They claim it is to keep people from smoking...but they had also already removed the lighter itself. SO CHECK with the rental car company before you rent a car and expect to use your car phone charger or your GPS unit.
For those of you who don't know the Orlando area very well and plan on renting a car from the Orlando Airport and driving yourself, the 528 (also called the Bee Line) that takes you from the airport to the theme parks or the beaches is a toll road, so have quarters or dollars ready for that.
If you are taking the 528 to the convention center or theme parks, you will pass through 2 sets of tollbooths, both cost 75 cents. If you have the exact change ready, you can go through the lane labeled with a blue sign that says "Exact Change". If you don't have exact change you will go through the lanes labeled with green signs that say something like "Change Provided".
If you accidentally run a toll without paying a photo will be taken of your license plate and it is possible that the expressway authority will send you a ticket for toll violation, but most of the time they let it go unless you have run the tolls multiple times in a short period of time.
Other toll roads in the area are highway 417 (aka the Greenway), the Florida Turnpike, highway 408 (aka East-West Expressway), highway 429. The toll prices differ depending which toll booth you are going through and how long you have been on the road.
with all the shuttles available (free or otherwise) maybe a car is not essential, but it certainly gives you that extra flexibility & independence; we picked up the car from Avis in town after we arrived - I didn't fancy negotiating my way out of the airport and then finding my way to the hotel on strange roads after a long flight
When flying into Orlando the best car/limo service is Happy Limo. They are very customer friendly and handle their business well. However, we advise those wanting transportation around Orlando to stay away from Quicksilver. They are not customer friendly and their prices are not all that great for what you get. They do not handle their reservations in a professional manner and when making mistakes it is the customer at fault not them. Even if you have to pay a few extra dollars make your vacation more relaxing by starting out with a customer friendly car service like Happy Limo.