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 Orlando with kids is whether you need a car seat for your Disney World trip.
If you are driving your own car to Disney World with kids, the answer is probably obvious – yes! If you are flying, however, the answer to whether you need a car seat for Disney is not so clear.
As with all decisions you have to make on a Disney vacation, the right answer to the question 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 World; 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 to Orlando. 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 on planes if you are buying your child an extra sea, I’m less of a fan of them for toddler travel. Yes, they are safest but they add a lot of bulk and hassle. I personally prefer the CARES harness instead. Of course, every traveling parent has different preferences so do what is best for your family.
Do I Need a Car Seat for Airport to Disney World Transfers?
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, Uber/Lyft, or some other kind of shuttle or car service. (Note that there is also local bus service, but I wouldn’t recommend that unless you are truly a glutton for travel punishment.)
Let’s discuss whether and when you’ll need a car seat for each of these airport transfer choices to Disney.
Disney’s Magical Express: If you are staying in a Disney-owned hotel and are planning to take Disney’s free Magical Express bus service, you do not need a car seat for your child. 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 at Orlando International Airport, you will need a car seat. Florida law as of 2018 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. Of course, older children are safer in a child restraint too (my home state of California requires a car seat or booster until kids turn 8 and most car seat experts recommend a booster long beyond even that).
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 car seat rental fees from most companies as high as $8-12 per day, these savings really add up. Note that renting a car seat from a rental car company does involve some risk as you won’t know the history of the seat. Many parents and safety experts prefer to bring their own from home to use in a rental car. 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 and you’ll know its safety history. (See my full BubbleBum review here.)
Taking a Taxi, Uber/Lyft, 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. Occasionally, 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.
Uber and Lyft are now finally permitted at Orlando International Airport and that opens up one other ground transportation option that offers a car set – the Uber Car Seat service. These are regular UberX and XL cars that carry a safety seat. They can be requested in the Uber app for a small additional fee. These car seats are not always appropriate for infants or larger children, but if you have a 2-5 year old, the service may be a good fit. See my full guide to Uber Car Seat in Orlando for the full details.
Do I Need a Car Seat for 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 or ridesharing service are your major choices.
Disney Transportation (Bus, Boat & Monorail): 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 on these kinds of trips, you have nowhere to store it when you get to your destination. 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, assuming you can find one. It will take more time, so consider pre-booking a cab or car service with a car seat in advance with your resort’s valet if you know you need to travel by car.
Uber/Lyft: Ridesharing services like Uber & Lyft offer the same challenges as taxis for transportation on-site at Disney. You can bring your own seat but where do you store it while you are in a theme park all day? Uber Car Seat is really the only viable option for ridesharing with kids.
Minnie Vans: Luckily, a fairly new service has finally arrived at the Walt Disney World resort that really solves this car seat conundrum for most families wanting quicker private transport. Disney’s Minnie Vans service runs on the Lyft app and offers private transfers anywhere on Disney World property for a flat fee of $25. Minnie Vans come with two car seats that work for infants, toddlers, and even older children in highback booster mode. Even though the price is a bit high, for families who want the certainty of a safer borrowed car seat or who have more than one child of car seat age, Minnie Vans are game changing. (Look out for my full review of Minnie Vans coming soon!)
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 or Minnie Vans and you’ll be all set.
But if you plan to go to other destinations in and around Orlando (Universal, off-property hotels, etc.), 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 Uber 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 probably want it for adventures farther afield in greater Orlando.
Do you bring a car seat to Disney World? Leave your thoughts in the comments.