FAQ Orlando

Parking a car at Disney World

Disney parking lot near the Contemporary Resort and monorail

Even Disney has trouble making a parking lot look pretty

Don’t be afraid. If you head to the beach, take a wrong turn, and find yourself bumper-to-bumper in a no-turn lane at Epcot’s main entrance, it’s okay. Tell the Disney attendant what happened. He (she) won’t charge a parking fee and will kindly tell you to follow a colored line on the road to get out. The number of “tourists who don’t know what they’re doing” exceeds the number of alligators in Central Florida.

If driving, the Walt Disney World Resort is easy to navigate. Since Disney specializes in “tourists who don’t know what they’re doing,” multiple signs point to all major hotels and attractions – but with all the options, it’s wise to assign reading to a non-driver.

Parking specifics

The theme parks
Each of Disney’s four theme parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom – has a massive parking lot, and all offer free tram rides to their main entrance. (At Magic Kingdom, trams drop guests at the Transportation and Ticket Center, where you pick up a ferry or monorail to the main entrance.) Parking is $14 per day, $15 for campers and $18 for busses. Yeah, that’s high.

On the upside, parking is eerily efficient and easy to figure out even for first-timers – in Japan, one man visits just to watch them wave cars into spaces. If you discover a dead battery or flat tire at the end of the day, Disney’s mechanics do what they must to get you going. And that single $14 fee covers all parks for a day. Flash the dated parking receipt to an attendant if visiting more than one.

The resorts
Parking is free at all Disney resorts. For security reasons, however, all Disney resorts have guard stations and gates. Day visitors must show their driver’s license, and returning hotel guests bypass a human being using their room key. Most resorts also offer valet parking.

Don’t let the guards throw you off. They don’t collect a parking fee, and they don’t chase away non-hotel guests. Disney does track visitors based on driver’s license info, but mainly to deter theft and visitors trying to beat the system. It doesn’t take great analytic skills to figure that A) parking is free at the resorts, and B) Disney offers free transportation from resorts to all parks, so C) I can park free at a resort and avoid the $14 fee. Tourists know it; more importantly, Disney knows it, and picking up a towed car costs a tad more than $14, not to mention the inconvenience after 12 hours hiking on hot theme park asphalt. You might get away with it. You might not.

Confusion notes

  • Five resorts – The Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, and Shades of Green – sit beyond the main toll gate for the Magic Kingdom. Resort guests and visitors must pass through the gate but don’t have to pay the $14. If approaching the Magic Kingdom gates, keep to the right and tell the attendant where you’re going. He or she will give you directions and not charge the $14.
  • Resorts with convention facilities generally have separate sections for convention guests versus resort guests. For simplicity, avoid “convention parking” signs unless actually attending a convention.

Non-Disney resorts on Disney property
Rules vary for each one, though many charge some type of parking fee. Call first.

Downtown Disney
Parking is free in a monstrously huge lot. Since Downtown Disney circles a lake – it’s not compact – it also demands a fair amount of walking.

Best bet: If you plan to shop the entire complex, park at Disney’s Westside where you see Cirque du Soleil and DisneyQuest from the main road. The parking lot is big here, and you can start at this end of Downtown Disney and work your way to the other side. Once finished, take the boat taxi that crosses the lake, depositing you once again on the Westside. Alternately, Disney busses make three stops at Downtown Disney, and you can pick up a bus on one end and disembark at the other. Since the busses also eventually go to a resort, confirm with the bus driver before getting on. (But take the water taxi. It’s more fun.)

The water parks
Free parking.

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