Orlando is one of those popular family holiday spots where car rent is a natural addition to the flight purchase. So, is it possible to enjoy a week or so in Orlando without renting a car?
Reasons why you need to rent a car in Orlando
- Obvious isn’t it? This is the USA, and doesn’t everyone drive?
- This isn’t just about Orlando. There are so many places that are within range of an easy day trip from Orlando, including Cape Canaveral, the Tampa Bay area, or even Miami at a push, although Miami is best done as an overnight trip at least.
- Cost: Petrol is cheap, buses are nothing like as good as they are in Europe, and taxis can be expensive, especially as Orlando is a large sprawling city. Simples?
- Competition: Orlando is one of the world’s largest car rent markets, so plenty of cheap car rental options are available – although prices go up a great deal in summer, it’s never difficult to get a rent car in Orlando, at either of the city’s main airports or near your resort.
- Rail travel is virtually non-existent. For example, the train between Orlando and Miami is infrequent and takes forever. (Florida is one of the places in the USA which has been earmarked for high-speed rail. They are still talking. Chances are that by the time you return to Florida for the 10th time, they will still be talking).
- Beaches – Orlando shares with Las Vegas the curious distinction of being one of the world’s major inland sunshine resort destinations. A car is best if you want to actually spend some time on a beach proper.
Visiting Orlando without a car – and seeing more of Florida too!
- Pointless parking: A car might be fine for travelling around different places, but if you’re planning on spending most of your time visiting theme parks, why bother? The car will just sit on tarmac all-day, and these days you’ll pay for that too. It would be much easier to use local shuttle buses to get to and from the major theme parks.
- Hotels: For the full Disney experience, stay on-site at one of the Disney hotels — they might cost a little more, but not hiring a car would help make up part of the difference.
- Selective Shopping: A rent car should be a natural advantage for getting the best out of the outlet mall bargains that are available in this part of the world, but the easy temptation is to end up buying far more than your suitcases can hold, and then having to pay extortionate excess luggage charges. Using the readily available buses that ply up-and-down International Drive to get to and from the main outlet malls will make it much easier to keep your holiday purchases in check.
- Resorts: The large resort hotels offer numerous activities on-site, so you will never run out of things to do whether or not you have a car.
- Boring driving: This part of the USA is relatively flat and quite densely populated, so it is crisscrossed with concrete freeways adorned with the usual suburban sprawl chain outlets and advertising boards. So whilst the roads will take you where you want to go to, the experience is not particularly pleasant, and unlike Miami, where we do recommend getting a rent car, there are no particularly outstanding driving routes.
- Bus travel – If you do intend to travel between Orlando and Miami, regular coach services are available, but you can also fly. Miami to Orlando flights are very frequent and incredibly cheap.
- What would Walt do? Remember that Disney himself envisaged futuristic cities where the car was relegated to the edges. Not only are Disney theme Parks traffic free, but part of the Disneyworld resort experience is the monorail that connects them all together.
- Safety: Even for locals, road accident rates in the USA are at least twice that of the UK. Getting off a long haul flight and straight into a rent car where road conditions take some getting used to is an additional challenge. International drive (I192) has a particularly poor reputation for accidents, as it has a wide road with so many turnings on and off
Most people visiting Orlando will pick up a rental car for their trip, and it will make life easier. Whether or not it is essential will depend on where you are staying — rent a villa in suburban Kissimmee and you will be hard pushed to go anywhere without a car, whereas you are unlikely to miss having a car if you’re staying at one of the big resort hotels.
Do you need a car in Orlando? We’re not here to advise on whether or not a car is needed, as holidays are about dreams and desires, not need. The question is whether or not a car will significantly enhance your holiday? We think the answer to that question is no. If you beg to differ, comment below.
VERDICT : NO