How Disney World Changed My Travel Style via @TravelLatte.net

How Disney World Changed My Travel Style

When you visit Walt Disney World, you probably don’t expect it to change the way you travel. But that’s exactly how I ended up being a more eco-friendly traveler.

We’re going to Disney!

My parents are refugees from California. Before I was born, they escaped the traffic of the big city, and settled down far away enough to be isolated, yet close enough to “get home” in a day. Every summer, for most of my young life, we did just that. I will never forget the long hours of pitch black, crossing the Mojave Desert in the back seat of a Buick Special listening to CBS Radio Mystery Theater on AM radio.

How Disney World Changed My Travel Style via @TravelLatte.net

We’re not ready to give up the road trips, but we’ve surrendered the keys for many trips.

While my parents made the annual pilgrimage to catch up with family and friends, any visit to Los Angeles had only one purpose for me and my sister: Disneyland! The “grown-ups,” however, were never so keen to visit. After all, dad had just driven all night long to get to LA; the last thing he wanted to do was drive IN the city. Then there’s the whole parking situation, the long walk between the parking lot and the entry gates, and the hours queueing to get out. From the grown-up perspective, Disneyland was anything but an enchanted kingdom.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and I’m the grown-up taking my clan to Disney World for the first time. We lived several states away, so a road trip was not our chosen option. We bit the bullet and went full-on Disney, flying to Orlando and staying on property. This, I discovered, is the way to go. It was a different experience from other family vacations, not just because it was Disney World, but because “the grown-ups” got to relax and enjoy. And come to terms with being the grown-ups at Disney. (Honestly, we’re still grappling with that concept.)

Our Travel Life…without wheels!

This trip was different from the moment we landed. Instead of our usual trek from baggage claim to the rental car counter, we headed straight for a waiting area in Orlando International Airport, where we were greeted by ever-cheerful Disney cast members. We decided to take advantage of Mickey’s Magical Express, meaning that our luggage went straight from the airplane to our hotel (Disney’s Polynesian Resort) while we enjoyed a comfortable motorcoach ride.

How Disney World Changed My Travel Style via @TravelLatte.net

No car means no parking, but also no driving off to wherever, whenever. At Disney World, that’s not an issue thanks to the fleets of buses and boats, and the futuristic monorail. We traveled freely between parks and hotels to take advantage of everything Disney World offers, from brunch at the Grand Floridian to shopping in Downtown Disney, and Extra Hours at each park. (Another great perk of staying on property!) Taxis (and later, Uber) took us on trips off property, quickly and affordably, and that comfy motorcoach dropped us, sadly, back at the airport. In the end, we had a great family vacation with no wheels of our own. We talked about this while riding the Monorail to dinner at the Contemporary, and wondered why “real life” cities weren’t like this.

Then we realized, they are. Minus the Mickey ears.

Our next trip was to Philadelphia and Washington, DC, where we relied on trains, subways, and Uber. Atlanta. Miami Beach. Paris. San Francisco. Barcelona. Rome. Our list of car-free city trips was growing. In fact, the only recent trips that included a car were specifically road trips. Driving down the Pacific Coast Highway or up in the mountains of New Hampshire just doesn’t happen without private wheels.

How Disney World Changed My Travel Style via @TravelLatte.net

The Pros of Public Transport

  • In a way, it’s liberating. No car to weigh you down!
  • Getting in and out of ports is quicker.
  • No parking hassles or costs.
  • Being car-less encourages (or requires) a little exercise, since the bus stop or subway station never seems to be exactly where you were going.
  • I have always saved over renting a car, but your mileage may vary. (See what I did there?)

The Cons of Being Carless

  • You do have to plan a bit more carefully when relying on public transport.
  • You may have occasional wait time, so allow more than just ‘drive time’.
  • Particularly on busses, fares often require exact change in the local currency. Buy a transport card when available to make this easier.
  • Yes, public transportation can be crowded / smelly / yucky. (It can also be sleek, modern, and sparkly clean!)
  • Local regulations may restrict access to ride-share (and sometimes even taxi) services in some places.
  • Public transportation, by nature, generally only gets you close to where you’re going. You may have to (gasp) walk a little bit. (See related Pro.)
How Disney World Changed My Travel Style via @TravelLatte.net

Another Pro to parking the car: You experience the local way of locomotion, including iconic metro stations!

Tree Huggers!

It’s true, I tend to be a bit hippie sometimes. I would love to say that we decided to travel without a car to reduce our carbon footprint, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, or lessen the impact of a billion automobiles. None of that actually came to mind. It was simply more convenient. Though, to be sure, I appreciate all of the altruistic benefits.

So, what took me so long? For many, public transportation and ride sharing (including taxis) are a simple way of life. Having grown up in a largely rural area, walking anywhere was just not practical for the younger me. Living now in a city known as one of the largest metropolitan areas without regional transportation, driving is still a necessity. By default, that extended to my vacation mindset as well. It seemed like the most convenient answer, but Disney’s seamless simplicity helped me realize a better way to go.

For many Americans, going car-free is a challenge. I get that, but it is one of the best changes we have made to our travel style. We walk more, we spend less, and the time spent waiting for a pick-up versus sitting in traffic is, at least, more enjoyable.

What about you? Have you – or would you – ditch the car? Let us know your thoughts and experiences with a Comment!

How Disney World Changed My Travel Style via @TravelLatte.net

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53 comments on “How Disney World Changed My Travel Style

  1. Love this post. My husband and I contemplate about selling my car, esp since I work from home and we live in Denver. We can easily just have one car and I will agree that being carless is a newer concept to Americans but I think it’s catching on (we’ve had a few other friends sell their cars here too :)) Great post!

    • Thanks Chloe! We’ve been having the same debate about becoming a one car family. I don’t think we’ll ever go car-less; at least, not living where we do. It has been nice being able to skip the car rental on some of our trips, though.

    • Right? There is a lot at Disney that we think the “real world” could use. Magic Bands, Chip & Dale appearances, monorails, and that Dole Whip! 🙂 Thanks for reading, Cheryl!

  2. I was born and raised in Tokyo so I know good transportation and can appreciate it, for sure! I’m headed to Disney next weekend for my Bachelorette so you got me super excited! Thanks for joining Fly Away Friday – we love having you! xo

    • Hi Kana, thanks for your comment. First things first: Congratulations to you and your lucky guy! A Bachelorette party in Disney World? That’s pretty awesome. 🙂 I would love it if we had Tokyo-style transit where I live. Actually, I’d be happy with a city bus to get me to the train station, but nooooo… We can dream, and one day the world will catch up! I hope. :/

  3. As someone who used to drive every day, whether it was to work or not, I understand the need to have that control. That said, it’s been 2 years since I last drove!!! Travelling around now, I’m all about walking and taking public transport and only occasionally feel frustrated that I don’t have a car. It definitely helps you get a feel for the local experience and i do think you see more when driving is taken out of your hands. Great post Rob.

    • Hi David – Two years?!? That’s amazing. I have noticed that you get around a lot by bus. Beyond city transit buses, they seem to be looked down on in the U.S. for some reason. We do have a few companies that provide a good service, but I think the network of Greyhound stations – the biggest bus company here – could do with improving its image and policing its stations to make it a more attractive option, especially for families. You should add up how much you’ve saved on cars and parking someday. I’d bet it’s a nice wad o’ cash! 😉

  4. We very rarely drive anywhere in holiday and generally use public transport- in Canada/USA/Europe etc we have found it quite easy (though so tend to be in cities. We love train travel so need no excuse to do that! (Travelling to Copenhagen by train as I type this!)

  5. I visited Disney World a few times as a kid but haven’t been there for a while. I still love big rides so would love to go back there one day – possibly with my kids.

  6. There are definitely pros and cons when it comes to public transportation versus driving your own vehicle. Not all cities in the US have well laid out public transportation when you compare it to places like Europe and Hong Kong. For example, here in South Florida we don’t have metros between cities and I wouldn’t say our bus system is up to par either. When we were traveling we took public transportation or walked about 90% of the time. I wish every place was as easy as Disney makes it!

    • Hi guys! You’re right – not every city has the infrastructure, and it definitely seems to be more lacking in the States. At least, when compared to much of Europe. When we can, we take advantage of public transportation in the hope that more use will mean more development. Thanks for your comment!

  7. Growing up in SoCal it is was so easy to hop on a bus or ride a bike for public transportation. When I travel overseas we always try to use public transportation such as buses, trains & taxis as much as possible. That way we make less of a carbon footprint and have more fun interacting with the locals as much as possible. I like how your trip to DisneyWorld changed your travel style. Great photos! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Hi Stephanie – I have many fond memories of bikes and buses taking us up and down the Beach Cities, from Redondo to Santa Monica. Good times! We’re having good times now bringing that youthful style of travel into our “grown up” lives, along with the benefits we didn’t even think about as kids. Thanks for your comment!

  8. We grew up in South Florida and spent many summers at Disney World as children. We loved taking advantage of the monorail and free shuttles between parks. As much as we love road trips and relied on our cars to get around Florida, we now love the freedom of not owning a car. We live in the city now in Portland, and we walk, take public transit, and uber consistently. It has been one of the best lifestyle changes we’ve ever made. I completely agree with you that traveling places and walking more is an amazing, healthy way to live. Amazing post.

    • I have to admit, we still love a good road trip, but boy we’re enjoying the trips we can make without a car. We’re seeing more, interacting more (which has carried over into all of our travels), and saving a little bit at the same time! Thanks for you comment, and the kind words.

    • Eileen, you’re a daredevil! Watching people on scooters darting around buses and pedestrians and all the other scooters…in some places, it’s sheer madness. Of course, that’s part of the fun! Thanks for your comment.

  9. Yes, Disney is great place to stay and not need a car. I have done it many times just leave my car at the hotel and don’t get in it again until I leave. I do that at other places too, just leave the car and wander around by foot or public transportation. Most areas in the US you definitely have to have a vehicle to explore off the beaten path.

    • Hi Lisa – Getting off the beaten path is where public transport definitely falls short. And, with few options in some places, a car is still the only way to go sometimes. It’s a mix – I don’t think we could ever go completely car-free. Thanks for your comment!

  10. If all public transportation was as well run as Disney’s, I might use it more often. Austin’s rail system is so inconvenient that even when we’ve been tempted to take it downtown, we eventually decide it’s easier to drive. Visiting cities with good subway systems always feels like a treat. We like the Polynesian Resort the best in regards to convenient transportation. It’s on the MK monorail line, and it’s within walking distance to the TTC to catch the EPCOT monorail. Thanks for linking up with #WkendTravelInspiration

    • That is so true, Michelle! If only the world was run by Disney… 😉 Austin could really use a better train system (especially around UT sometimes!) but the buses seem pretty good. We seem to walk a lot when we’re there, too. Totally with you on the Polynesian – great location. Thanks for reading!

  11. I know that going car-less is easier in some countries than others. Some parts of the world don’t have well-developed infrastructure and public transport systems. I always prefer to use public transport and practically never drive a car on my travels!

    • Hi Lexx – That’s true; you can’t get away from a car – or some form of private transportation – everywhere, but it’s great when you can! Going without a car on some trips has also gotten us to use our feet and bikes more, too. The growth of bike-shares has really helped. So simple to pick one up and go! Thanks for your comment, Lexx.

  12. I cannot decide between the two, I like them both. There are cons and pros for each of them, we usually use public transportation during our travels but for short escapes we use the car as well. Nice to hear that Disney was the one that changed you life. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

    • Hi Oana – There are definitely times when we love having a car! That experience at Disney made us realize we love NOT having a car sometimes, too. Thanks so much for your comment!

  13. We love the opportunity to ditch the car when traveling! The key is having the infrastructure to allow you to easily get around without needing your own wheels. The growth of Uber is also helping to ditch the car when traveling as well.

    • Hi Brian – That’s true; not every city/country has the infrastructure needed. But it sure is great when you can take advantage of it! Thanks for your comment!

  14. The cost of a rental car, the cost of parking a car overnight at some hotels, the stress of trying to find parking in an unfamiliar city, and, of course, traffic are the reasons why I often prefer to travel without a car. I love road trips, but if I don’t need a car to get around, I prefer to use Uber, cabs, and public transit. The Disney motorcoaches are a great option for visiting Disney World. I’ll have to do that next time I visit. #WeekendWanderlust

    • Hi Erin! The cost of parking at hotels has been getting crazy! Definitely good motivation to leave the car behind. Can’t say enough about transport at Disney. As with most things, they know how to make things easy for guests. Love that! Thanks for reading!

  15. I can understand the need for a car in America, but you’re right it’s liberating without one, we never both with a car when we visit cities, as most cities will have a good underground and that’s always worked for us in the past. Good to hear you got to relax at Disney, it’s great being an adult there!

    • Hi Garth! Thankfully, even in America, it’s getting easier to go car-free. Now, if only we could get that cool monorail all over the place! 🙂 Thanks for reading, guys!

  16. I have never been to any of the Disney parks but it sounds interesting how they changed the way you travel. We use a lot of public transit (we live in Europe) but I love road trips and we often use a car in the U.S. as public transit is so much more limited outside of larger cities.

    • Hi Jessica – I think our experience at Disney really opened our eyes. We had become so used to renting a car everywhere, that we didn’t stop to explore public transport. It’s definitely easier to get around in most of Europe than in the US, but hopefully we can drive demand up. Thanks for your comment!

  17. We try and use local transport or walk as much as we can, when it is possible. We think it gives a real feel of the area and we have found places we would of not found otherwise. Thanks for sharing. #feetdotravel

    • Hi guys – We are hooked on walking more. It’s such a basic thing, and we hardly noticed that we drove so many places we easily could walk to. The best part of deciding to ditch the car has been the intended consequence of using our feet more. 🙂 As you noted, you find much more fun that way! Thanks for your comment!

    • Hi Paula – In some cities, you could definitely go car-free, or at least mostly. However, some places are just to spread out to make it work. For the longer distances, the U.S. just doesn’t have a good rail system in place, either. Thanks for reading – glad you enjoyed it!

  18. I hear you. I love using public transpiration, but really only in cities. I love my car for the back roads. It’s tough. Great article.

    Thanks for linking up with #wkendtravelinspiration! We’ll see you next week!

    • Hi Corinne! Glad you enjoyed the article. We have come to enjoy public transportation. Sometimes it’s still a pain – but I sure have not missed having to find and pay for parking! Especially when more and more hotels are charging a fortune for parking. Ugh… Thanks for reading!

  19. Very interesting post! I am more of a car person as I cannot stand waiting for public transportation and I enjoy being at my own pace. That being said, there are drawbacks with cost, parking, upkeep etc.! I can totally see how a trip to Disney can give you insight on both ways to get there 🙂 #flyawayfriday

    • Hi Janine – Thanks for reading! There are definitely times when we hate waiting but, on balance, it’s been a good trade off for us when we’re traveling. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  20. Since I now live in NYC, I live carless and I love it. Growing up in Texas, I thought it would be really difficult giving up my car, but it hasn’t been. I much preferring walking or taking public transportation to driving. So if possible when I travel I do try to go carless when possible. But like you I do love a good roadtrip. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    • Hi Anisa – I know what you mean. “Just down the street” can be a long trip in Texas! 😉 We are definitely up for some urban hiking to see the sights, though. Thanks for reading!

  21. We try and go carless when we can. It’s hard sometimes when traveling with the little ones- sometimes it’s just easier to have our own car and not have to deal with strollers and busses. But we try to skip the car when we can. #weekendwanderlust

    • Hi Allison – I think it is easier having your own car with little ones. Now that Uber Family is available is some places, though, those drivers have car seats to make things a bit easier for families. Thanks for your comment!

  22. We are huge fans of public transport when we travel. It usually takes so much stress out of the travel and cheaper than a taxi. On buses or trains we chat to locals who offer their advise on more attractions and actvities we should explore.

    • Hi Sally! That’s true – trains and buses are great places to chat with locals. We also like chatting with Uber drivers about their towns. Great way to get inside info! Thanks for the comment, and for reading!

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