It appears that a lot of people want to avoid paying Disney’s $14 per day parking fee. In an earlier post, I suggested it was easy to do – simply park at a resort and hop a free shuttle bus (or boat or monorail or whatever). I also suggested that Disney could, possibly, tow your car.
It seems, however, that Disney does not tow; at least I’ve heard no stories. It seems, in fact, that guests park free all the time. In a recent CNN article listing 10 recommendations for your Orlando trip, the author, Nicholas DeRenzo, even slipped “Don’t even think about paying for parking” into the No. 2 position.
Pragmatically, Disney doesn’t want to you to spend $400 on tickets and meals only to find your car missing at the end of the day. The company probably decided to suck up the $14 loss of parking fees as a tradeoff to keep guests happy – guests who might choose to spend tomorrow’s $400 at Universal Studios.
Consider the following if interested in the free parking:
1. In your budget, how important is $14? Parking free and commuting will eat up 15 to 30 extra minutes at the beginning and again at the end of your day – perhaps more if one parking lot is full or you can’t fit on the first bus that arrived at a resort. Consider it a convenience fee and make a personal choice.
2. Most – but not all – commutes involve a connection. All resorts have at least bus service directly to each theme park, but other venues – miniature golf courses, Downtown Disney, water parks, etc. – do not. For the latter, you must ride to one of the resorts and connect to other transportation. (Parking lots at miniature golf courses are really too small, anyway.)
3. Remember that all resorts have a security gate and a guard, who asks for, and checks, a driver’s license. Water parks and Downtown Disney do not.
4. Convention hotels generally have more parking, and most of Disney’s bigger resorts host conventions, as well as Coronado Springs. However, a large convention that’s in town could eat up all parking, so have a backup plan in case you get turned away “without a badge.”
5. Swan, Dolphin, Yacht & Beach Club, and Boardwalk have direct access to Hollywood Studios and Epcot by boat. For Epcot, however, guests unload toward the back in World Showcase rather than the main entrance. DeRenzo, in fact, recommends parking at the Boardwalk Resort in an annex parking located across the street.
6. Wilderness Lodge has boat access to the Magic Kingdom, and the nearby hotels – Grand Floridian, Contemporary, and Polynesian – have monorail access. However, you must pass through the Magic Kingdom parking lot toll booths to get to these, and to avoid paying for parking, you have to actually lie to the attendant and say you’re visiting a resort rather than visiting a theme park. If Disney ever does tow a car or make a fuss, I would expect it to be at one of these resorts. (And should a six-year-old in the backseat hear daddy lie?)
7. The Fort Wilderness campground also has a large parking lot by the entrance, and busses connect to the central hub, where a boat then connects to the Magic Kingdom.
8. This “free parking at Disney” could change at any time. CNN published an article explaining how to do it. This article explains how to do it. If enough people play the system, Disney may regroup. The company won’t like the financial hit, and if free-parkers eat up too many resort spaces and bump hotel guests, Disney would have to take action.