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Using Your Own Vehicle Too Get Around WDW

Having been here almost 2 months now, and countless trips to WDW before moving here, I thought I would give some insight into driving your own vehicle around WDW Property.  Unless I am blogging about the Disney Bus System, I am always using my own car to get to WDW to and from home.  Trust me, if I can handle it, YOU can handle it. So buckle up, because we are driving to Disney World!

Let’s starts with the basics, which is first learning about where everything lies on WDW Property.  Everything is grouped basically around a certain Park- so you will have your Magic Kingdom area, Epcot area, Animal Kingdom area, and finally the Downtown Disney area.  The Disney Resorts that are closest to one of the parks will be in that area- example is Caribbean Beach Resort is in the Epcot area.  How does this help you driving? Simple- if you are seeing nothing but signs for the four major Parks or DTD, you can follow the road to the Park which will more than likely lead you to your designated Resort.

Once you arrive at WDW, under that famous Disney arch we all have come to know and love, you are officially on Property. Signs will be PURPLE now and, for the most part, will tell you which way to head for what you are looking for.  Then there are certain ways you figure out how to get around simply by trial and error, which I would like to share with you so you don’t do what I did.

  1. If you are heading to a MK Resort- upon entering the Magic Kingdom gate where you pay to park, you have to be all the way to the RIGHT- right next to the bus lane.  After everyone leaves that gate, there is ONE LANE, and ONE LANE ONLY, that takes you to the Contemp, Bay Lake Towers, Fort Wilderness, Wilderness Lodge, the Polynesian, and Shades of Green.  When it is busy, it is nearly impossible to get all the way over into that lane if you are on the far left through the gate, so line yourself up on the far right before ever entering and you will have prime position for a smooth lane change to the road that will lead you to the Resorts area. The same lane also is needed for drop-off and pick-up of guests, so keep that in mind as well.
  2. Most Resorts have either a traffic light or stop sign when entering and leaving them- especially ones on the busy roads.
  3. Upon entering any of the WDW Parks, there will always be several lanes to use at the Main Gate, for parking, and for generally driving into it.  Inside the parking lots the speed limit is 25 mph.  There is no need to race anyone or try to beat the car next to you- everyone has equal share of parking, and you will most likely be in the same lot that the guy who is in from and in back of you- so no reason to race.
  4. Some Resorts are grouped together, so when looking for a certain one, you may have to look for the named road more than the signs. The All-Stars are grouped together, one after another- so easy to remember and they are in the AK Area- AK=All-Stars.  Then you have Swan and Dolphin grouped in together with the Boardwalk and the Yacht and Beach Club- and so on.
  5. If you are driving around Property and you find yourself upon an exit that reads “To All Guest Areas” – this means it will take you back onto WDW Property- if you drive past it, you have probably left WDW.  I saw this sign for the first time last month, and I took it as “Guest Areas” to be Resort referenced, not actually WDW as a whole. I was wrong, it means it leads you back to WDW.
  6. Coming down Highway 192 West, there is an Exit before you ever get on the WDW exit, and all it says is “Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios.” If I am a new person to the WDW area, I wouldn’t bother taking that exit for AK or Epcot- but here is the catch- AFTER you take the exit, THEN it shows you the different directions to get to all FOUR Parks. It is a VERY misleading exit, and even though I have been on the WDW exits many times now, I still messed up and didn’t take it because I needed to head to AK today.  Heads up on that!
  7. All of the Disney Park exits that you will see from Interstate 4 don’t ever actually go straight to the parks, but take you to the road or roads to get to your desired Park.  If you miss your WDW exit, more than likely the next one you come upon will get you back to where you need to go.
  8. The traffic is usually high at Park opening, closing, and when there is bad weather. Keep that in mind when using your own vehicle so you can get to any dining reservations or anywhere else on Property on time.
  9. When you are using your own vehicle after having relied on Disney busses to get to and from the Parks, you can sometimes forget that you have to remember where you parked. We either take a picture of the end of our row, text the info to ourselves, or put it in our note pad on our phones. The only problem with that is if your battery dies and the info is all on your phone- so you can always do it old school and keep a note pad in your car during your vacation to jot down the parking info.
  10. If all else fails on driving around WDW, GPS it.  I guarantee it you will catch on sooner than you think after having to return and leave your Resort over, and over, and over again.
  11. Feel free to ask Cast Members at the gates for any directions you may need- most of the time they are more than happy to help.

I hope the personal experiences I have had will help you in the future with driving your own vehicle in the Disney area.  Drive on my friends!

6 Comments »

  1. I will say this as someone who’s foolishly decided to GPS the van around the parks because I didn’t want to take the bus, make sure the GPS is up to date, especially the TomTom brand. I drove to Disney Hollywood Studios and used the GPS to do so. We ended up on one of the service entrances getting boxed in between two delivery trucks. So frustrating.

    Now, a couple of years later, I enjoy taking the busses. So if you are driving, keep the GPS up to date.

  2. Look out for all the signs and do not get upset when you get lost or get mad at someone who may be driving too slowly, they are probably lost and trying to find their bearings.
    Another great post! Love reading all of your adventures down here in Orlando! 😀

  3. Great info. I haven’t driven around the World in 20 years. I always stay on property and use Disney’s transportation. I did download The MouseSavers POI File for my Tom Tom just in case my wife can talk me into driving to WDW instead of flying. So far I haven’t gotten a chance to use it. 🙂

  4. “Don’t forget where you parked.” Very, *VERY* sage advice! True story: On break from college, my brother and I drove from our parents’ house in the Ft. Lauderdale area to WDW for the day. We arrived at rope drop and stayed until after the fireworks. By the end, we had been awake for about 17 hours, having woken up at around 3 in the morning to make the trip and it was now 10pm. We had parked at one park but had hopped once or twice during the day, as well. On the bus back (maybe from Epcot to MGM?) to the lot, we were the only people on the bus. The driver asked which lot section we had parked in, as she offered to drop up off at our car. And, just like that, my mind completely blanked. Then she asked when we arrived. She conferred with someone via radio to find out which lot was filling at that time and drove us around that by-then mostly-empty lot with my clicking the panic button on the keyfob over and over until we found the car.

    What do we learn from this story? 1) Cast members really do go out of their way to make the guests’ experience the best in the world. 2) And, I can’t emphasize this one enough, *DO*NOT*FORGET*WHERE*YOU*PARKED*!!! 🙂

  5. Eeeek and shudder! Brings back memories of being a teenager in the back of the family car watching my dad trying to drive around Orlando! At least being a local you can get the hang of it!!
    I’ll stick to my lovely Disney buses for now 😉

  6. We love driving! Granted, that means we’ve either driven the 17 hours to get there or had to pay for a rental car. After just a couple of visits we’ve got the Disney roads down and can find our way quite easily. And I love those red and purple signs. They make me smile.