You probably already know that Disney World offers lots of free transportation options to help you get around. But did you also know that they make it just as easy (and sometimes even easier!) to drive?
Yep. It’s true.
And they make parking at Disney World just as simple.
If you plan on driving (or are even thinking about driving) on your next Disney World vacation, we have some Disney World parking tips and suggestions to make navigating around Disney World property easy.
Let’s get started…
Should you be driving right now?
As Disney reopens, one way many guests (including us!) are limiting time in enclosed spaces with others is by driving.
Not only does it feel safer, on most days driving got us to the front of the parks a lot faster than Disney transportation did because the parking lots were consistently opening up before the buses began running.
If you are planning to visit Disney during the upcoming year, we do recommend that you consider driving to the parks.
How much does parking at Disney World cost?
Onsite guests Resort Parking Fees
Although parking at Disney World resorts used to be free, Disney started charging for it with bookings made March 21, 2018, and beyond.
Walt Disney World Resort Hotel parking fees:
- Value resorts – $15/night
- Moderate resorts – $20/night
- Deluxe and DVC resorts – $25/night
Paper Parking Passes
If you are used to receiving a paper parking pass that you displayed in your car, don’t be surprised if you don’t now.
Be prepared to have those ready at both your resort and the parks.
How will they know I have a car?
With online check-in being the primary system for guests arriving to the resorts, you may be wondering how Disney will know if you have a car or not. That information comes from the security guard at the front gate.
Tip: If you are being dropped off at the resort, make sure to double check your bill during your stay to ensure you aren’t being charged for parking as some guests have reported being mistakenly identified as having a car when in reality they arrived via a private town car service.
Do guests staying onsite at Disney World have to pay for parking at the theme parks?
No they do not.
Even though you have to pay to park at your resort, you will not have to pay to park at any of the theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom) or at the 2 water parks (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon).
Not staying on Disney property?
Unless you are an Annual Passholder you’ll be paying for parking at the 4 Disney World parks.
Make sure you factor that cost into your total when you compare staying offsite to the benefits of staying on Disney property.
Parking Costs for Walt Disney World
4 main parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
- Free for Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests
- Offsite guests $25/day
- Passholders – Free with Passholder card and photo ID
- Preferred Parking – $50/day (peak season) & $45/day (regular season)
- Oversized Vehicle Parking (things like RVs, buses, etc.) – $30/day
Resorts (for guests visiting for dining reservations/tours, etc.)
- If you are visiting for dining reservations or to tour, etc., you can park up to 3 hours for free
- Valet $33/day (free for guests with a handicap placard)
Water Parks & Disney Springs
- Free for self-parking
- Valet parking for $20/day is available at Disney Springs (free for guests with a handicap placard)
What to expect when parking
The 4 main parks will have booths at the entrance to the lots where you stop to pay (if you are staying offsite) or show/scan your MagicBand or phone (if staying onsite).
Nearly all the booths will be open on both sides so you can pick whichever lane is the shortest.
The booths take both cash and credit/debit cards.
If you plan to use your Annual Pass for free parking, you may be asked to show your drivers license, too.
If using an Annual Pass, we’ve always found it fastest to show the Cast Member the back of our Annual Pass card (where your name is located) and drivers license at the same time. Doing it that way makes it easy for them to match up both names quickly so we can be on our way!
What time should you arrive?
If your goal is to be there for park opening, for the smoothest morning we recommend you try to be one of the first people into the parking lot.
Right now, the parking plazas have been opening at roughly the schedule below:
- Magic Kingdom – 1 hour before park opening
- Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom – about 45 to 60 minutes before the park opens
Try to time your arrival to the parking lots to match those times. If you are a little bit early, they’ll likely hold you for a bit before they start letting people into the parking lots.
Once you have paid, parking at all 4 parks is self-explanatory, and there are tons of Cast Members working in the parking lots to help you find your way.
All parking lots are well labeled with cute, themed names to help you remember where you parked.
For guest safety and to promote physical distancing, Disney is currently parking guests in every-other-spot. This makes it so much easier to get out of your car and unload your stuff, all while staying at least 6 feet away from the car next to you.
Then, later after guests have cleared out the Cast Members will go back and fill in the empty spots.
We really love this new method for parking and we hope it is something that Disney continues after things return to “normal”.
Take a picture of your parking space and the nearest lot sign each time you park! This makes finding your car at the end of a long day much easier.
The road leading into the lot will have color-coded stripes to help direct guests to special parking spaces.
If you need special parking (such as handicapped parking) be sure to ask at the booth where to go and the Cast Members will tell you which color you should follow.
Disney has charging stations for electric vehicles available on a first-come, first-served basis. To use the charging stations you’ll need a ChargePoint card and you’ll pay $0.35 per kilowatt hour.
You can find charging stations in these locations:
- Coronado Springs Resort: 6 stations in general parking near ADA spaces
- Wilderness Lodge: 2 stations in general parking near ADA spaces
- Magic Kingdom: 1 station at the front of the Medical Parking Lot and 4 stations at the front of the Zurg Parking Lot
- Epcot: 4 stations at the front of the Journey Parking Lot
- Animal Kingdom: 4 stations in the Medical Parking Lot
- Hollywood Studios: 4 stations at the front of the Mickey Parking Lot
- Disney Springs: 3 stations on the 5th floor of the Orange Garage, 3 of the 5th floor of the Grapefruit Garage, and 3 stations on the 5th floor of the Lime Garage
Avoiding a long walk (Parking lot trams are returning!)
When Disney World first reopened, they did so without the parking lot trams. And, in fact, they did so for over a year.
But, the busier the parks got, the longer the walks became from the parking lots.
However, it appears as if we are going to slowly start to see those popular Walt Disney World parking lot trams return!
First to come back online will be the trams for Magic Kingdom (which are at the Transportation and Ticket Center). That will happen sometime in December 2021.
As for the trams at Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot, these will come back throughout 2022.
When the trams are operating, if you park too far away to walk to the front gates, the parking lots have trams that run all day on a very regular schedule (5-10 minutes apart).
These trams are generally quick, efficient, and can significantly cut down on your walk if you find yourself parking further back than you’d like.
Using a stroller
Traveling with a stroller at Disney World?
As with the buses, you will have to fold your stroller before boarding the tram, so keep that in mind as you unload your car.
It might be easier to fully unpack/prepare your stroller for the day after you exit the tram at the park gate.
At the close of business, thousands of people will be heading out of the park.
What does that mean for you?
If the trams are running, lines will form for them just like those for the buses.
However, the tram lines move very fast and it shouldn’t take too long before you are being dropped off near the end of the aisle where you parked.
At the end of a long day, everything can start to blur. When heading out to the lots the tram drivers will tell you both the lot name (for example, “YETI”) and the row numbers (i.e. “rows 50-59”).
While you wait to board the tram is an excellent time to double check the picture you took that morning of your parking space. That way you won’t be scrambling and you’ll know exactly when to hop off the tram.
Since many people rent a car at Disney World and since many rental cars are the same color, consider tying a brightly colored ribbon to an antenna to make it easier to spot your car. If you don’t have an antenna, as long as you are close enough to make it work, you can use your car’s key fob to blink the lights or honk the horn.
If you are leaving at park closing (along with thousands of other people), don’t be surprised at how quickly and efficiently the parking lots empty.
If you’ve ever attended a large sporting event or concert where there are thousands of people all trying to leave at once, you may have experienced long lines of cars with nobody moving, people getting angry, and general chaos.
Not so in the Disney parking lots.
You’ll be happy to find things to be amazingly easy and simple when leaving. No non-moving bumper to bumper lines of cars or chaos to be found.
The exit signs in the parking lots are well labeled. It is as easy to find your way out of the lot as it is to find your way in.
Parking at each Disney World park
Parking for Epcot is located straight out in front of the park. Guests that are parking roughly 45 minutes before the park opens can expect to have an easy walk to the gates. In many instances, guests parking that early will not even need to use the tram.
Note: Epcot will be under massive amounts of construction for the next several years. Use this map as a guide but double check locations when you arrive as they will be temporarily shifting things as the work progresses.
The Animal Kingdom parking booths are notorious for not always opening as early as the other parks. In the past, guests might find the booths closed when arriving before 8:00 am. and this would make it difficult to get to 8 a.m. breakfast reservations without having to really hustle.
But with Pandora now drawing larger crowds, that seems to not be as common of an occurrence anymore.
The Animal Kingdom lot also frequently has early morning guests parking further back than you might find at other parks.
Some days arriving 45 minutes early might get you within an easy walk to the front and other days you might need to hop on a tram.
Driving and parking at Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios is usually just as fast (if not faster) than using Disney bus transportation. With these 3 parks you park your car in lots directly outside of the gates.
Because the parking lot for Magic Kingdom is actually about a mile away at the Transportation and Ticket Center, it is usually faster to use Disney’s transportation.
Guests that drive and park must first hop on the monorail or ferry in order to get to the front gates of Magic Kingdom.
However, if you utilize Disney bus transportation, you are dropped off right outside the gates – no monorail or ferry needed. The other Disney transportation options (boat & monorail) from applicable resorts are also usually faster than driving.
If you decide to drive to Magic Kingdom, we recommend you add on an additional 30 minutes to your transportation time.
That additional time allows you time to park, walk or take the tram to the Transportation and Ticket Center, and then time to ride the monorail or ferry over to the front gates.
Driving around Disney World
Disney is an expert at wayfinding signs.
Even people that get lost going to their local grocery store should have no problem navigating Walt Disney World.
Major directional signs are bright purple, which makes them easy to recognize.
As you approach the Walt Disney World Resort, the signs for the resort hotels will start off more general.
And the hotels will all be grouped by areas such as “Epcot Resort Area”, “Magic Kingdom Resort Area”, “Animal Kingdom Resort Area,” etc.
As you get closer to your destination you will begin to see specific signs (which will be blue) for your resort.
To make it easier to get where you are going, make sure to know within which area your resort is located. This is especially true if you are planning to visit another resort hotel for a meal, etc.
The signs for the 4 main parks, 2 water parks, and Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) are self-explanatory and plentiful.
You can’t miss them!
There are usually multiple ways to get to and from different locations. If you miss a turn or an exit, don’t panic; just keep following the signs.
Map apps works well on Disney property so be sure to have one ready to use for your trip.
Locating the Disney World entrance sign(s)
Did you know that there is more than 1 of the big “Welcome to Walt Disney World” gateway signs?
All of the main entrances to Walt Disney World have the giant signs.
Don’t get confused (and argue with your spouse that you are going in circles) if you feel like you keep going through them. You’ve probably just made a loop and are going back into or out of the Walt Disney World Resort on a different road.
Here’s where you can find those iconic entrance archway signs you see in all the photos:
Entrances with archways:
- Osceola Parkway
- Western Way
- World Center Drive / Epcot Center Drive
- World Drive
It is important to note that stopping to photograph the signs is not allowed. If you want a picture make sure to have your phone or camera out and ready.
Use burst mode on your phone to snap a rapid series of pictures so you will have several to choose from.
What to expect on the toll roads
Venturing off Disney property with a car?
Florida is full of toll roads. Many of the direct routes to Walt Disney World require you to pay a small fee.
The toll roads around Disney World use the SunPass system.
Unless you have your own SunPass transponder (which allows you to use the special Express Lanes), you will want to be prepared with change to pay your tolls (for the booths that accept cash; not all will).
If you are driving your own car and you have a transponder for the turnpike system in your area, make sure you check to see if your local toll system works with SunPass.
Toll booths may be unmanned. Having exact change (a baggie full of $8-$10 dollars worth of quarters would be sufficient for the drive to and from the airport) is absolutely necessary if you will be going down any toll roads.
Renting a car?
Most of the rental car agencies offer a “deal” in which they will let you use their SunPass transponder for a daily fee.
Be careful with this offer.
You will be charged the daily fee every day of your rental in addition to the cost of the tolls.
The fees vary from $3.95 per day all the way up to $10.49 per day. Considering the cost of the tolls is around $3.00 to $4.00 each way, you can see that their “deal” could wind up being a huge expense for you.
To compare the fees that each agency charges you can visit the SunPass website.
Parking and driving FAQs
Can I get a discount for parking?
Annual Passholders can park for free but there aren’t any discounts for parking.
What about Tables in Wonderland card holders? Can they park for free?
Yes! If you are dining in the parks and you have a Tables in Wonderland card you can park for free.
- If you park before 5 p.m. you will need to pay to park and then take your receipts to Guest Relations to be reimbursed.
- If you arrive after 5 p.m. you will just need to show your Tables in Wonderland card at the parking booth.
Is Disney parking free after 6 p.m. (or 7 p.m. or 5 p.m., etc.)?
No, unfortunately. We will say that if you are heading into the lots near closing you will often find the booths closed up or Cast Members will just wave you in, but there is no specific time when parking is “free” so you should always plan to pay.
If I leave and come back do I have to pay again?
Nope! Just save your receipt!
What if I Park Hop? Will I need to pay at both parks?
Nope! Save your receipt from the first park and show it when you park at the 2nd park.
Is Preferred Parking a good deal?
We don’t think so. If you plan to arrive early (like our touring plans suggest) you’ll likely be parking in the rows directly behind the preferred parking. The $25 you’d save per day on just using regular parking will buy lots of Mickey ice cream bars, and that is probably money better spent.
Is there valet parking?
Yes, but only at the Deluxe Resorts, some DVC resorts (like Riviera), Coronado Springs, and at Disney Springs.
Note: Since the reopening, Valet Service had temporarily suspended. However, Disney has been slowly bringing Valet Services back and we expect it to return to the remaining Deluxe resorts soon.
Valet parking costs $33/day but guests with a Tables in Wonderland card or ones that qualify for handicapped parking can valet park for free.
Renting a car at Disney World
Want to drive during your trip but won’t have your own car? Check out our guide to Disney World car rental for info on how that works.
If you have been thinking about driving but were worried it would be too confusing – don’t. Like many other things Disney does, they made navigating the Walt Disney Resort simple enough that even the most directionally challenged could do it.
If you aren’t sure that driving is for you and you’d like to see what Disney has to offer for transportation, you can read about how to navigate using Disney World transportation.
Have you tried parking at Disney World before or still have questions? Tell us about it in the comments below.
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