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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
Plane,Boat,Balloon or hitchhike (not recommended) :)
Orlando has one of the worst traffic jams in the nation espically summer season! However, if you're staying downtown and no young kidds with you, biking might be the way to go! Orlando have a wide network of bike trails. Just remember to have your helmet on!
If you have to drive try to avoid rush hour which
6:30-9am and evening 4-6:30pm! Road rage is becoming fashionable these days so watch out!
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
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.
The first time we flew to Orlando International Airport.The second time we flew to Sandford Airport,Which i think is used more now. We picked up the car and a map to our appartment and made our way there.When we got to the appartment we found that the garage wasnt long enough for the car!!But it was very wide.Cant go in sideways though!
You will most definately need a car.Even the car parks in the theme parks are miles long.You would be worn out crossing it before you even get in!!!