Transportation is a critical component in planning a successful trip, and Orlando has all the options you would expect from the top vacation destination in the United States. From taxis, towncars, limos, and shuttles to, even, trolleys, we will break down all of your options for getting around Orlando during your stay.
What’s the best option?
For many visitors who need to get from the airport to their resort destination, ride sharing is the way to go. Uber and Lyft provide services throughout the Orlando area, and are easy to use once you’ve downloaded their respective app. This will also guarantee that you don’t have to worry about tolls or navigating the sometimes trafficked roads.
Do your due diligence before you arrive to cost-compare rates with both Lyft and Uber, keeping in mind that the rideshare apps might have promotions that you can take advantage of. Also be aware that they’re both subject to surge pricing, depending on where you’re going and the time of day; for example, if you’re trying to book a Lyft out of Magic Kingdom right as the fireworks end for the night, you might find significantly higher prices than if you’d tried to leave the park at 2:00 pm.
Universal, in particular, has made a commitment to working with the rideshare companies, to create a safer, more comfortable pick-up spot, which is currently located on the top level of the parking complex. Any Uber rides that pick up from Universal will automatically add a $4 surcharge, so be sure to price-check against other options.
What are my other options when arriving from Orlando International Airport (MCO)?
How you’ll get to your resort destination all depends on where you’re going. Although we recommend that guests always cost-compare with a private transfer, there are other options available:
Walt Disney World
For guests staying on-site at Walt Disney World Resort, Disney offers complimentary transportation to and from Orlando International Airport (MCO) by way of its Magical Express. Operated by Mears, these buses pick up on the ground level at the airport, where you will be asked to check in and be grouped with a number of other Disney guests heading to the various hotels. One of the main benefits of Magical Express is the baggage service, where you can tag your checked luggage to be picked up by Disney and taken directly to your hotel room – no need to wait at baggage claim. (However, if you’re arriving at MCO later in the evening, you will need to grab your own luggage or it will not be transferred until the morning.)
Universal Orlando guests who have booked a vacation package will be offered the opportunity to schedule a transfer with the company’s SuperStar Shuttle for approximately $39 per adult (round trip) and $29 for children ages three to nine. Please keep in mind that these are large vans that may be picking up or dropping off at multiple locations.
Busch Gardens Tampa
While Busch Gardens Tampa does not have a transfer option directly from MCO, it does offer a free bus service from various stops around Orlando (including Universal Orlando Resort, ICON Park, SeaWorld, Maingate Lakeside Resort in Kissimmee, and the Publix on Vineland Ave) that will take you to and from the theme park in Tampa. The ride takes about one-and-a-half to two hours, depending on the number of stops.
Like Busch Gardens, LEGOLAND Florida in Winter Haven does not offer an airport transfer, but it does have a shuttle that leaves daily at 9:00 am from ICON Park on International Drive (home of The Wheel, the attraction formerly known as the Orlando Eye). LEGO fans should be aware that the shuttle only leaves and returns once each day and must be booked in advance. On the plus side, though, the ride only costs $5, plus tax.
What’s the best way to get around Orlando?
In addition to the transportation methods that are unique to the resorts, there are several options for visitors who want to explore all that Orlando has to offer as a city in its own right, particularly if they’re not staying on theme-park property.
One of the most economical options in and around Orlando, the I-RIDE Trolley is a very inexpensive way to get around International Drive. At $2 per ride ($1 for kids aged three to nine travelling with a paying adult), the trolley will take you as far north as the Orlando International Premium Outlets and the hotels across from Universal Orlando Resort, and all the way down to the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets across the highway from the Disney Springs area. I-RIDE also sells a variety of day passes, ranging from $5 for a one-day ticket up to $18 for a 14-day pass, giving tourists a modestly priced travel option around International Drive.
Shuttle and bus services
An affordable way to travel around Orlando outside of the I-Drive area is by shared shuttle service, which is an excellent way to visit local attractions and also get to some of the further-out spots, like Cocoa Beach, the Tampa area, or the Kennedy Space Center. Before you pay for a shuttle, always check with your hotel to see if they offer a complimentary shuttle service, as many offer free rides to popular locations, including the theme parks and outlet malls. Keep in mind that resort shuttles are limited as far as departure times from the hotels and the parks go, so plan accordingly. If you want the flexibility of coming and going as you please, a paid option is more likely to fit your plans.
Gray Line of Orlando is one service that receives very good reviews. Starting at $119, you’ll get round-trip transportation, tickets, and more for your visit to the Kennedy Space Center. They also offer tours and transportation to Clearwater, St. Augustine, Miami, and more. Florida Dolphin Tours, meanwhile, operates comparable tours with similar rates to that of Gray Line for the Kennedy Space Center, as well as shuttles around Orlando that will take you between the theme parks for about $14.
What about taxis?
Another transportation option that is largely operated by Mears (under various cab-company names), taxis can be pricey, but at least you won’t have to share the route with other passengers who may be going to alternate destinations. Taxis are still very convenient for many overseas guests who might not have data plans available in the US, but who can ask their hotel concierge to ring for a taxi (or use the phone in their accommodations).
As a note of caution regarding taxis, we recommend travelers use only metered ones when at all possible (all of the Mears options – Yellow Cab Company, Checker Cab Company, and City Cab Company – are of this variety). If you have to use a non-metered cab that is not one of the reputable ones listed previously, you run the risk of being overcharged – and speaking of being overcharged, bear in mind that taxis will charge extra for stops and “caught in traffic” time, so if you do get stuck in a traffic jam, the fare increase can add up very quickly.
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