Planning Walt Disney World vacations require lots of decisions: Do you choose an off-property or on-site hotel? Do you park hop til you drop or save cash on tickets? Do you really need Memory Maker? And there are many more. One decision you have to make when traveling to Disney with kids is whether you need a car seat for your trip. If you are driving to Disney, the answer is pretty darn obvious – yes! But if you are flying, however, the answer is not so clear.
As with all decisions you have to make on a Disney vacation, the right answer is that “it depends.” In my experience, whether you need a car seat for Walt Disney World depends on two major factors:
- What transportation are you are planning to use to get from the Orlando Airport to Disney; and
- What transportation do you realistically need once you are on-site at Disney?
Whether you will ultimately bring a car seat to Disney may also depend on whether you feel you need one for use during the air travel portion of your trip. You can find all your air travel with car seats questions answered in my three part guide to car seats on airplanes. My personal take? While car seats are great for the infant years if you are buying your child an extra seat on the plane, I’m less of a fan of them for toddler travel. I personally prefer the CARES harness instead. Of course, every traveling parent has different preferences so do what is best for your family.
Airport to Disney Transportation Options
To get from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to Walt Disney World, you basically have three major options: 1) riding Disney’s Magical Express bus, 2) renting a car, and 3) taking a taxi (or other kind of shuttle or private car service). Note that there is also local bus service, but I wouldn’t recommend that unless you are a glutton for punishment. For fans of Uber, also be aware that Uber cannot legally pick up at MCO. You’d have to walk off-site to be picked up, making it a very inconvenient option for family travelers.
Disney’s Magical Express: If you are planning to take Disney’s free bus service, you do not need a car seat. In fact, you won’t even be allowed to use it on board. Instead, you’ll need to put it under the bus in luggage storage to transport it to your resort. Consider whether the extra bulk (and the extra space it will take up in your room) is worth it before you bring a car seat along for the Magical Express.
Renting a Car: If you rent a car, you will need a car seat. Florida law as of 2015 requires children 3 and under riding in cars to be in car seats. Children 4 and 5 years of age must be in either a car seat or booster (and of course, older children are safer in a child restraint too). While you can always bring along your car seat from back home, you can also rent a seat from your car rental company. I have had good luck renting from Hertz and using my AAA benefits that entitle renters to one free car seat per rental. With rental fees from most companies as high as $8-12 per day, these savings really add up. Renting a car seat does involve some risk as you won’t know the history of the seat, so some parents prefer to bring their own. Again, it’s up to you. For older kids who are ready for boosters, I recommend bringing the BubbleBum inflatable booster. It’s so compact that it really isn’t a burden to bring along.
Taking a Taxi, Shuttle or Other Car Service: As with rental cars, you’ll need a car seat (or booster) at least for kids up through age 5 years old and probably much longer depending on your personal practice. Some taxis in Orlando will have car seats available and some private car services do as well, but you must call ahead to get them. This usually takes away the time savings of taking a cab in the first place. If you expect to use one of these options to get to and from the airport, you’re likely better off bringing your own from home.
On-Site Disney Transportation Options
So you’ve made it from the airport to Walt Disney World! But might you need a car seat while on-site? Perhaps. It all depends on how you plan to get around. Again, Disney transit, your own rented car, or a taxi service are your major choices.
Disney Transportation: While you are at Disney, your choices for getting around using Disney’s free transit system include Disney’s bus, boat, and monorail options. Car seats are not needed and not allowed on the Disney resort transit. The bottom line? Don’t bring a car seat if you plan to use Disney transit exclusively.
Taxis: If you want to take a taxi, however, you need a car seat for the safest transportation and to abide by Florida law, just as you would to and from the airport. The problem is that if you bring your own seat with you in a taxi, you have nowhere to store it on the other end of your trip. It’s not exactly like you can lug around a car seat in a Disney park all day! The next best option if you must take a taxi is to call a cab that can bring one for you to borrow for the trip. It will take more time, so consider pre-booking a cab with a car seat in advance with your resort’s valet if you know you need to travel by taxi.
Leaving Disney Property: If you plan to stay on Disney property during most of your visit, then you can absolutely go without a car seat during your Disney vacation. Use Disney transportation and even borrow a car seat for the occasional one-off cab ride. But if you plan to go to other destinations in and around Orlando (what I call the “Universal factor”) then having your own rental car and car seat is much more convenient. Otherwise, you’re stuck using borrowed car seats from taxi companies or taking buses, making your trip logistically much more difficult. In short, a car seat likely isn’t needed if you plan to stay within the Disney bubble but you’ll want it for adventures further afield.
Do you bring a car seat to Disney World? Leave your thoughts in the comments.