Disney World on a Budget - Getting There

We flew AirTran which is now a branch of Southwest Airlines.
Depending on where you live, you can either drive or fly to Disney World. I live in Texas, approximately 1,100 miles from Disney World.  My family has traveled to Disney World both ways.  There are advantages and disadvantages to each method of travel. This posting will give you more details about each method so you can make an informed choice about travel for your family. 

Flying to Disney World
Is your family limited on time off for vacation?  Do your children/spouse struggle riding in cars for long periods of time? Do you want to get to Disney World the fastest way possible? If so, then flying might be the best choice for your family. 

I started watching airline prices to Orlando, Florida 6 months prior to purchasing my tickets so I would know prices and what was a good deal. A good site to keep up with fares is Google Flights. I like Google Flights because I am able to see many different airlines and rates.  It will even tell me if another nearby airport is cheaper to fly out of. Another site I use when searching for airfare deals is Fare Compare . The deals site on the Fare Compare website shows the latest airline sales on many airlines. Everything I read said the best time to buy an airline ticket is 6 weeks before departure. The cheapest days of the week to fly are Tuesday, Wednesday, & Saturday. The first flight out for the day is typically the least expensive.  If you are early birds then this could save you hundreds of dollars. As you are searching for flights, you might consider flying into Tampa International Airport and renting a car.  Sometimes rates are considerably less expensive than flying into Orlando - just don't forget to factor in the cost of the rental car and perhaps parking at your hotel, if it is not a Disney hotel. 
  • Advantages of flying to Disney World:
    1. Disney Magical Express - This is a BIG advantage! If you are staying at a Disney World resort hotel you have the option of using Disney Magical Express. Disney offers FREE transportation to and from Orlando International Airport, meaning you don't have to rent a car.  In addition luggage delivery to your Disney resort hotel is FREE too! You just check your luggage at your home airport and then you don't see them again until you arrive in your room.  It is just MAGICAL!
    2. If you live a substantial distance from Disney World flying is MUCH faster than driving. (Even with the added time it takes to get through airport security these days.)
    3. Your vehicle is not getting added miles on the odometer. 
    4. Disney Magical Express

    5. You do not have to worry about lodging for the trip to and from Orlando.
  • Disadvantages of flying to Disney World:
    1. Flying is EXPENSIVE - especially if you have a large family. The best deals I have been able to find (other than on airlines such as Spirit) in 2015 was $199 per person round trip from Austin, TX to Orlando, FL. If I were to fly from Dallas or Houston the rates are averaging $285 per person round trip.  Oh yeah, you will also have to pay a fee (averaging $25 for the first bag & more for each additional bag) for your checked luggage to fly unless you fly certain airlines like Southwest or JetBlue. Did I mention gas prices are currently hovering around $2.25 per gallon?  My car can go a long way for what it costs for just one person in my family to fly to Orlando. 
    2. Airport security - gone are the days where you walk into the airport and go to your boarding location and then get on the plane.  It is recommended that you arrive at the airport no less than 2 hours before departure for domestic flights. Once at the airport you will be subjected to long lines, rude people, metal detectors, and having to disrobe - well just your shoes but hey it's annoying!
    3. Rules, rules, rules!! Every airline has different policies about the size of checked luggage permitted without an added fee on top of the fee you paid to have your luggage fly. Then of course there are the rules about carry on luggage. Oh and don't let me forget the rules about liquids and carry on bags.  But wait as if there weren't enough rules, don't forget each person is limited to one quart size Ziploc bag for your liquids. Oh yeah, tell your husband NOT to leave his $50 pocket knife in his pocket when he goes through airport security or he will never see it again.
    4. Seat size - in an effort to make more money airlines have been cramming more seats on a plane.  That's great for them and AWFUL for you!  The average airline seat is now between 16.5" and 18" wide with a 32" pitch. Basically you will be sitting right on top of the person next to you. Oh yeah, did I mention that if you want to select which seats your family receives (so you can all sit together on the plane) that will cost you more money on many airlines today?  
    5. Annoying people on the plane - you just want to sleep so you will be rested when you get to Disney World.  HOWEVER, the 2 year old behind you is crying and kicking the back of your seat pushing you into the stranger (who has a flu like cough) sitting next to you. At least if you had driven, you could turn around and yell at the annoying 2 year old because he or she is your child!
Driving to Disney World
Is your family on a budget? Do you enjoy seeing the different parts of the country? Do you have a fear of flying? If so then maybe driving to Disney World is for your family! 

Being the planner that I am I use Google Maps to plot my trip when I am driving to a destination. Google Maps even has a neat feature that will allow you to see street view.  I use this feature to see the neighborhood where the hotel I am considering is located. I learned a long time ago if there are pay day loan & pawn shops within a mile of your hotel you probably want to avoid the hotel. (It was San Antonio... just glad we made it out alive.)

  • Advantages of driving to Disney World:

    1. Cost - For the budget minded family the expense of flying is not a feasible option.  Therefore we are left to drive.  When gas prices are low, as they are in 2015, it makes financial sense to drive IF you have the time to make the drive. 
    2. See the world - You have the opportunity to see parts of the United States you have never seen before at your own pace. You can even visit websites like Road Trip America and plan your road trip so you don't miss the world's largest ball of yarn or some other great adventure you never knew existed. 
    3. Family time - good or bad road trips are memorable family adventures that will be repeated at family gatherings for the next 30 years!
    4. You can pack as much as your vehicle will hold, including food and drinks.  Try doing that on an airplane!
    5. Did I mention NO AIRPORT HASSLES - see my posting above...
    6. The only smelly & annoying people you will be traveling with are your family.

    • Disadvantages of driving to Disney World:
      1. Time - If you live quite a distance from Disney World, you are looking at a lot of time to get there if you drive. 
      2. Lodging expense: Unless your family can drive 15+ hours straight through and still have the energy to maneuver Disney World when you arrive, you will have lodging expenses on your road trip.  I usually avoid hotel costs because I have hotel reward points I have accumulated during my travels during the year. On my Disney World road trip I cash those points in so I get a FREE hotel room. Tip for the budget conscious family: SIGN UP FOR EVERY HOTEL REWARDS PROGRAM YOU CAN.  Hotel rewards programs are FREE and you can accumulate points quickly if you travel during their promotional times.  When I don't have FREE hotels, I use Google Hotel finder to find the best room rates. I don't use online travel agencies such as Expedia, Hotels.com, or Priceline because I have read too many blog posts about how rooms weren't booked as promised or the Priceline room was a real dump or the price was higher than anticipated, etc. I usually try to drive to within 4-5 hours of Disney World to spend the night.  For me that is around Tallahassee, Florida. That way I can be at Disney World by 11 AM the next day and have almost a full day to enjoy the parks. 
      3. If you are staying at a Disney resort hotel you really do not need a car.  Disney will take you where you want to go for FREE! Thankfully you will not be charged a fee to park your car at your Disney resort hotel. 
      4. Some family members just don't ride in a vehicle well. If hours on in with the same people sounds like a new form of torture then maybe the road trip is not for you.

    Will you fly or will you drive?