Here are some basic ideas for how to make your daily Orlando transportation needs as hassle-free as possible.
1. Coordinate your accommodation with attractions you intend to visit: For example, Disney has official hotels with unlimited free transportation to its own parks, and some of them can be fun in and of themselves (e.g. monorails and ferries). In general, though, researching what your hotel offers as far as shuttles will always pay off; you’ll rarely be the only one heading where you’re headed. Ask about park directions, discounts or drop-offs wherever you’re staying. Most importantly, stay someplace relatively close to the park in which you think you’ll spend the most time – it’s much easier to get around if you minimize the amount of getting around you have to do in the first place.
2. Make use of the I-Ride Trolley: A very convenient way to get around the International Drive Resort vicinity without stressing over pick-up times or routes, the trolley runs pretty much all day (8am to 10:30pm) with loads of stops and minimal wait time. Fare is only $1.25 per ride, but if you’re visiting for a few days it’s very much worth it to get a pass (one day for $4, three days for $6, five days for $8, a week for $10, and so on). Note that drivers don’t have cash, so bring exact change; passes must be purchased ahead of time in one of these locations – you can’t buy them on the trolleys.
3. Say no to taxis: Cabs may be a convenient way to end the night in other cities, but in Orlando, and especially if you’re staying in the resort areas, the fare can skyrocket before you even realize it. The only time you should consider taking a taxi is if you’re in a big group to split the cost; the rest of the time, let shuttles do the work for you. If you feel the need to vacation-splurge, consider doing so instead on a carriage, rickshaw, bike, or something else fun and atmospheric on I-Drive.
4. If driving, prepare to deal with tolls, construction detours and parking scarcity: Bringing a map (or getting an app on your phone pre-trip), spare change, and alternative routes is always a good idea. The downtown part of the city is on a grid, but much of the rest of it is not, and every time an establishment wants to expand or upgrade, the road around or through it may alter greatly. Toll booths pop up frequently and vary in price, so keeping a few bucks extra in your cup holders is wise.
5. If driving, also remember rush hour: Orlando regularly appears near the top of ‘worst commuter traffic’ lists. Remembering rush hour seems obvious, but because of the existence of all the famous parks and attractions, visitors often forget that Orlando is still a busy city with people trying to get to and from work every day – particularly the people who work in the hotels and restaurants you’ll be visiting. The Florida Dept. of Transportation has a 511 website (you can also call) with live updates, but in general expect delays and even gridlock in the early mornings and late afternoons. They’re called peak hours for a reason!