Although most attractions are located near each other (e.g., Disney), you still need a vehicle to get around town. Plus, we ventured out to St. Augustine, Kennedy Space Center and Miami, so the car came in very handy.
driving at night is a nightmare if your from england as we are not used to the massive suvs and trucks that they have. because of thier size the headlights are so high that when they are behind you you cant see anything at all. next time ill hire one of those big jeeps. daytime no problems at all, its very easy to get around. dont let this put you off it is a fantastic place to go and we cant wait to get back.
It might be a hassle and you might spend more time driving than in a bus, however to see everything the Orlando area has to offer you definitely need a car. Most hotels/motels/ offer shuttlebuses to the theme parks but you will be operating on their time schedule-not your own. and probably spend more time waiting around for the buses than necessary especially if you are visiting in the summer time during the height of heat and rain. Anywhere in Florida is not the place to be without a car as you are in a definite disadvantage.
If you don't have a vehicle and don't want to spend a lot of money on taxis, you might want to consider renting a car. We stayed in the Orlando area for a week, so my parents rented a car that we used for getting to and from the hotel and the places that the resort shuttle didn't go to (shopping, etc). Dad rented it in advance and we picked up the car when we arrived at the airport.
You will find that when you go to any of the theme parks in a car, that the car parks are immense. It is always best to take a note (preferably written) of where you parked your car.
All of the lanes are named and numbered, so it is easy to remember where you parked.
At the disney parks they have small road trains to transport you to and from the car park, and will drop you off close to your parking zone.
In addition to this if you have any trouble either finding your car, or have trouble starting it, then there are mobile attendants who will always assist you.
I found that it is really necessary to have a car here.
Although it can seem quite expensive to hire one after all the different insurance bits and pieces have been included, the benefits certainly outway the costs.
Around the Lake Buena Vista/Kissimee area there are few side walksand there is little transport apart from taxis and this can get quite expensive. plus with the car you have a lot more flexibility on times of travel and destinations.
A lot of hotels have courtesy transport to and from the theme parks but the timing of these is a little restrictive, plus if you want to go outside to the space centre or across to the other coast then a car is a must.
While there have been some horror stories of people with cars, I think that if you follow the guidelines given by all of the hire companies then you wont go far wrong.
We have been 5 times now with no unpleasant after effects.
The one thing that did surprise me was that the drivers over there seemed to be more courteous and patient than in the uk. If you get in the wrong lane, put your indicator on and someone will always let you in. In England forget it. i really feel that it was easier to drive there than at home, but then again it aint New York.
One thing to remember is to have plenty of change for the toll booths, its quicker.
The best thing we did was ride the free WDW park buses between the different hotels and visit the Grand Floridian and Wilderness Campgrounds, among other places. Without that shuttle we never would have seen the petting zoo, found out about the hayrides, seen the wedding pavillion, etc. We also rode the boats between the hotels on the main lake - lots of fun and free!
Now we know way more about the hotels than a guidebook or webpage could tell us, and we know where things on WDW property are - without having to drive around ourselves.
OK so you have got your car, your off on your first visit to one of the parks ie WDW. You will find the car parks are huge, so big that there is transport from the end of the line of where you parked your car to the Ticket Centre, make a note of the section you parked in (ie Mickey 23). On your return transport will take you back to the section. If you have problems locating your car, try walking down the line and press the trunk/boot button on the key ring/fob and when you see the lid go up, Bingo you found it. If this does not work, there are allways plenty of staff around to help you.
Anyone planning a visit to the Sunshine State, one of the essentials will be Car Hire, if you are intending to go FlyDrive you will find that the vehicle will be supplied by one of the big national company's such as Dollar, Alamo, Avis etc. You will be assured that the vehicle will be suitable for your vacation. If you intend booking the car yourself, steer clear of the company's that claim to offer cheap rates, you can end up paying more.
Some major airlines offer discounted rates with the major Hire Company's.
Thanks to the discussion forums here on VT, I got the recommendation that I'd really want a rental car in Orlando. Thank you everyone - you were right! The ONLY reason I can imagine why you WOULDN'T want a rental car would be if you got a room at a hotel within the Disney or Universal complexes and didn't plan on doing anything but taking the free shuttle within your complex and eating in your hotel.
Otherwise, if you have any desire to see things outside your hotel or resort, you've got to get a car.
Through www.priceline.com, I got a compact rental car from Alamo for $20/day. It was a very basic car, but I really didn't care. When I picked up the car, they said I could have a convertible for $10/day more, but it was supposed to rain the next day, so who needed a convertible? Besides, I have a convertible at home, in California. And I'm cheap.
Most of the freeways, from what we experienced, are toll roads. This means you have to stop every now and then and pay money to keep going. Usually there are "cash only" lanes and you can get through faster if you go through the "exact change" lane and can just toss your coins in to the basket. There are ezpass lanes (for locals that have transponders in their car) and lanes for those that don't have exact change.
It cost about $3 in tolls to get from the airport to our hotel.
Orlando is a extremely spread-out city, and it takes ages to get from one place to another. I cannot imagine how people could get around without a car. If you don't have one, renting one is essential.
There are so many attractions that this is one city where it is usually best to rent a car.
BUT if you ONLY want to go to the main attractions many of the hotels have a free shuttle (see my Holiday Inn tip)
by rental car---especially when Budget upgrades you from a compact to an Explorer Sport!!! If you're a Fastbreak member with Budget, they will most likely ask you if you want a free upgrade--not just here, but in many of the big cities. Fastbreak is free to join and comes in very handy in a busy airport like Orlando's! There's a fastbreak counter in the garage across from the airport. No need to stand in lines at the rental counters---go directly to the Fastbreak counter in the garage and they're ready for you.
I probably shouldn't tell you this---now everyone will join and I'll have to wait at the Fastbreak counter next time!
The Universal garage coast $7 per day, parking is free if you arrive after 6pm.
Citywalk Party Pass around $10 unlimited admittance to each venue for one flat fee.
See picture from Disneyland Electrical Parade.