Planning a Walt Disney World vacation requires a lot 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 upsells like Disney Genie+ or 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 of car seat age, the answer is probably obvious – yes! If you are flying, however, the answer to whether you need a car seat for Disney World is not so clear.
As with many 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 is influenced by three major factors:
- Whether you feel it’s important to have your child in a car seat on the plane ride to Disney World;
- 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 and elsewhere in Orlando?
Let’s dive into these three considerations to help decide whether your family would benefit to bringing along car seats on your next Walt Disney World trip.
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Do I Need a Car Seat on My Flight to Disney World?
Whether you should ultimately bring a car seat to Disney depends for some families 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 along with lots of gear recommendations in my three part guide to car seats on airplanes.
My personal quick take? While car seats are great for the infant years on planes if you are buying your child an extra seat, I’m less of a fan of them for toddler travel. Yes, they are safest but they add a lot of bulk and hassle, particularly if you have more than one child of car seat age.
I personally prefer the CARES harness instead for toddlers on airplanes (see my review of the CARES harness for more details). And once your child is old enough to be trusted to stay seated on command (somewhere around age 2.5-4 depending on your child’s personality), then the regular airplane seat belt works just fine.
Of course, every traveling parent has different preferences so do what is best for your family. If you are taking a longer flight where your little one needs to nap on the plane, many parents find a car seat is best to provide a familiar place for their child to snooze. And having a car seat to help restrain a particularly active child (especially if you are juggling more than one kiddo) is sometimes essential.
Do I Need a Car Seat to Travel Between the Airport and Disney World?
The next step is to determine whether you might need a car seat for your ground transportation from the airport to your Orlando hotel. To get from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to Walt Disney World, you basically have three major options:
- riding one of the independent bus services that replaced Disney’s Magical Express,
- renting a car, or
- 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 World.
Motorcoach Transfers from MCO (Magical Express Replacements)
Sadly Disney’s included Magical Express bus service was retired in the beginning of 2022. But a couple of independent companies have popped up to provide similar motorcoach transfers. Those include Mears Connect and The Sunshine Flyer.
If you plan to use one of these bus services, you do not need a car seat for your child as motorcoaches do not legally require them. The Sunshine Flyer will allow you to install a car seat on board if you prefer as their bus seats are equipped with seat belts, but it’s certainly not required.
If you plan to use a motorcoach transfer, 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. In fact, most guests with kids of car seat ages choose this form of transportation expressly to avoid bringing car seats. These buses certainly aren’t the cheapest or quickest of the ground transportation options, but the lack of needing a car seat certainly makes them quite logistically convenient!
(Editor’s Note: Thanks to reader Rachel who noted that very occasionally Mears uses smaller vans instead of motorcoaches for this service – vehicles on which a car seat may well be preferred by many parents. That’s something we hope will be standardized soon. But in the meantime, parents with kids of car seat age may prefer Sunshine Flyer for the guarantee of a motorcoach.)
Renting a Car
If you rent a car at Orlando International Airport, you will need a car seat. Florida law 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 when deflated 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 preference. 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 take 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 in most circumstances.
But a few options do provide more reliable car seat options. Disney World just announced it will be offering private airport transfers as a Disney vacation package addition. This option comes with one car seat appropriate for kids through age 5 and additional car seats are subject to availability.
Uber and Lyft both operate at Orlando International Airport and that opens up one other ground transportation option that offers a car set – the Uber Car Seat service that is available in a couple of select US cities, including Orlando. These are regular UberX and XL cars that carry a child 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 (and need only one car seat for your family), 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 or to Get Elsewhere in Orlando?
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 and where you plan to go in Orlando. Disney transit, your own rented car, or a taxi or ridesharing service are your major choices.
Disney Transportation (Bus, Boat, Monorail & Skyliner)
While you are on Disney property, your choices for getting around using Disney’s free transit system include Disney’s bus, boat, monorail, and Skyliner options. Car seats are not needed and not allowed on any of these forms of Disney resort transit. The bottom line? Don’t bring a car seat if you plan to use Disney transit exclusively and stay entirely on Disney property during your vacation.
Related: Check out my complete guide to Disney World transportation to learn how to navigate all these Disney transit options.
If you plan to stay on Disney property during most of your visit but will use a rental car, then a car seat is of course needed. Rental cars can be more flexible options for travelers with kids of car seat age because you can come and go when you want to the parks and other attractions – before naptime and bedtime meltdowns happen. But the negative is hotel and theme park parking charges.
If you plan to go to other destinations in and around Orlando (Universal Orlando Resort, off-property hotels, etc.), then having your own rental car and car seat is much more convenient.
Taxis & Car Services
If you want to take a taxi or other car service, 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.
Ridesharing services like Uber & Lyft offer the same challenges as taxis for transportation on-site at Disney. You can bring your own seat along to ride in regular ridesharing vehicles but where do you store it while you are in a theme park all day?
If you need to get around on Disney property only, thankfully there’s an alternate solution – Disney’s Minnie Vans! This ridesharing service operates on the Lyft app. The “vans” are actually SUVs driven by Disney cast members that seat 6. Best of all – they come with two car seats that safely can seat kids of any age! Disney Minnie Vans were on pause for several years, but returned in June 2022, making life a lot easier for families needing on-demand Walt Disney World transportation. See my complete guide to using Minnie Vans for all the details.
While Minnie Vans work well for trips around Walt Disney World, what if you need to leave Disney property? Uber Car Seat is really the only viable choice for taking a rideshare with kids of car seat age. It’s not perfect but it can work in a pinch for some families. But be aware that availability for this service can be limited and somewhat unreliable at peak times. And only one car seat per vehicle is provided.
Do you bring a car seat to Disney World? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
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