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The Not So Known Disney Parking Secrets

The Not So Known Disney Parking Secrets

Finding a parking spot can be an everyday struggle: outrageous parking fees, circling the lot to find an opening, trying to locate your car after. This is the last thing you want to deal with on your vacation, right? Considering Walt Disney World is one of the most visited theme parks on Earth, prime parking is in demand. Here are some valuable tips on where to park and what to remember so your focus can be on having fun instead of worrying about your vehicle.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO PARK AT DISNEY WORLD?

Theme park parking costs

The four Disney World theme parks are Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Each of these parks charge the same amount for parking per day.  Your daily rate covers all theme parks for that day so you can bounce from one park to another for a single parking price.

The cost depends upon your type of vehicle and if you choose preferred or standard parking. For example, cars and motorcycles may choose between standard parking, which is currently $25 per day but can fluctuate throughout the year, or preferred parking for $20-$25 more. The preferred parking lots are closer to the entrances which are handy after a long day of walking and standing in lines. Please note that if you are only visiting one park per day and arriving for park opening time, your parking spot will most likely be very close to the preferred parking spots and if walking is an issue, there is always a tram running at all the theme park parking lots. Don’t feel that you must spend for this costly perk.

The Disney Platinum and Disney Platinum Plus annual pass holders and Disney Resort hotel guests receive complimentary standard parking at any of the Disney theme parks but can pay the additional $20-$25 to get the preferred parking spots.  There are also oversized vehicle lots that charge roughly $30 per day.

Resort Parking Costs

While Disney Resort hotel guests can park complimentary at the theme parks, they do have to pay for parking at the resorts themselves.  Overnight standard self-parking varies depending upon the resort category you’ve chosen.

Currently, Disney Value Resorts are $15 per night and Disney Moderate Resorts are $20 per night. Disney Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts are $25 per night for self-parking but you can also use valet for $33 per night. The parking fees will show up on your bill when you check out of the resort. One exception is that guests in campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort receive one free parking space per campsite.

Where you can park for free at Disney World

If you’re headed to the Disney theme parks but are not staying at a Disney Resort, there are other ways to achieve free parking for your vehicle. While it may take a little bit more time, these ideas will keep some money in your pocket and offer you an excuse to check out other areas of Disney World that you may have not yet explored. We don’t recommend these options unless time doesn’t matter to you. Remember, you paid a lot for your park tickets and want to spend as much time as possible in the park, not waiting for buses and transfers. Also, if you still think this is an option for you, make sure to investigate exactly what connections and where you will catch them to get to your end destination, especially if you aren’t familiar with Disney property.

DISNEY SPRINGS

Over 100 shops, 60 restaurants, and 20 entertainment options can be enjoyed at Disney Springs for no admission. Self-parking is also free, and with access to the theme parks, Disney Springs can make a nice dropping point for your vehicle. One important thing to keep in mind, however, is that traveling from Disney Springs to the theme parks is not going to be direct. You’ll need to combine modes of transportation, which could mean taking a bus to a Disney Resort and then taking either water taxi, ferryboat, gondola, monorail or walking path, depending upon the Disney Resort or theme park you’re going to. If you have reservations or fast passes, remember to leave time to walk from the parking garage to the bus area and time for the bus to arrive (usually around 20 minutes) and then the transport time for the bus to drive to your destination. The time starts to really add up fast, depending on how complex your route is. Returning back to your vehicle is a little easier. From 4:00 pm to 11:00 pm or two hours prior to park closing time, whichever is earlier, you can use the Disney bus service to make your way from any of the four theme parks straight to Disney Springs.

DISNEY TYPHOON LAGOON & DISNEY BLIZZARD BEACH

Parking at both of Disney’s water parks is free for everyone, whether you are a guest of a Disney Resort or not. If you want to travel to the theme parks from the water parks without moving your vehicle, you can go by Disney bus to any of the four theme parks, although there may be stops between your point A and B. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that annual refurbishments may close the water parks temporarily. Checking the schedule of operations is always a good idea before relying on parking here.

DISNEY MINI GOLF COURSES

There are two Disney mini-golf courses at Disney World and both have free parking. One is Fairways in the Fantasia Gardens at the Disney Swan Hotel, which anyone, not just resort guests, can use when they hold a mini-golf reservation time. Just make sure to park near the mini-golf area and not in the standard resort parking because you would incur a fee to park there if you are not a resort guest.  The other mini-golf course is Winter Summerland, which is at Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park. You don’t have to have water park tickets to park here, just a reservation for golf.

DISNEY VACATION CLUB

For those a part of the Disney Vacation Club timeshare membership, you can enjoy complimentary parking when you stay at the Deluxe Villa whether you used points or a different form of payment.  Disney Vacation Club members can also opt to use points at the Disney Resort hotels and get free parking. However, if you pay for your resort stay in an alternate way than points, you will be charged for the standard parking.

TABLES IN WONDERLAND CARD HOLDERS

Tables in Wonderland is an exclusive membership for annual passholders, residents of Florida, and Disney Vacation Club members that provides 20% discounts to more than 100 restaurants in Disney World. Another perk is free parking at Disney Resort hotels, with the Disney Springs valet or at any of the theme parks when you are going to dine at one of the many restaurants your discount applies to.

This benefit includes one vehicle and only for the day that you are using your dining discount. Be aware that there are Tables in Wonderland blackout dates and that you should hold on to your dining receipt as proof so your free parking perks will be honored.

Parking at the Disney World Theme Parks

MAGIC KINGDOM

The Magic Kingdom has 12 different lots named after iconic Disney characters. The parking is divided into two sides with a separate road to each, the Heroes and the Villains. The parking crew will direct you to which area they are currently filling. They generally start the day with the Heroes side and save the Villains for later in the day. Since you will be directed on which side to use, you probably won’t be paying attention to where you are parked, but it is extremely important to note the character and row number that you are parked in, because when you are ready to leave the park, you will have to choose the Hero or Villain tram. Each tram only services one side of the parking area. If you know your characters name, the tram crew will know if you are in Heroes or Villains. It is possible to walk to the Ticket and Transportation Center if you are parked in the first or second area of the parking lot. I recommend using the tram on the way in and judging if the walk is short enough for you to do at the end of your day. Also, the heat and sun might be a good indicator if you should ride or walk. 

Unlike some of the other Disney theme parks, you are not going to be able to walk straight from your vehicle into the Magic Kingdom. The Magic Kingdom parking lot is located at the Ticket and Transportation Center. You will need to either board the ferry or the Express Monorail. The Ticket and Transportation Center also has an option for the Resort Monorail, which will take you to the Magic Kingdom after stopping at the Polynesian Resort and the Grand Floridian Hotel. The parking area for the Magic Kingdom is also larger than the other theme parks so if mobility is an issue for you, feel free to ask a cast member to help you locate a spot close to a tram pick up or drop off location.

Also, since this is the largest parking lot and you have to take another mode of transportation into the actual Magic Kingdom, we recommend that you take this into consideration when calculating how much time you should allot to travel when planning on arriving at the Magic Kingdom. If it is the busy season (and when isn’t it now) it could easily take you 10 minutes to get through the parking entrance. If it is the beginning of the day, not only will that line be long to pay and enter, you will then have to get in line to park. Many ticket windows will be open and then they have to funnel down to two lanes to proceed to the parking lot itself. Plan on at least another 5 minutes to park the car. In all your excitement to finally be here, make sure to take a photo of your row number or text the information to someone. If you are riding the tram, you now get to stand in line to wait for it, and many times in the morning, you will need to wait for the second tram because of the crowd. Don’t worry, one is usually lined up waiting to pull in once the previous tram has pulled away. Now you will be dropped off at the security area of the Ticket and Transportation Center – another five minutes at least. Finally you are ready to board the last transportation to get to the Magic Kingdom. I would leave a minimum of 30 minutes to get into the Magic Kingdom, once you have arrived at the initial parking pay area. On very busy weeks and Saturdays, it can take longer.

EPCOT

There are seven lots with direct access to Epcot. The lots here have names that are a little harder to remember, such as Create, Amaze and Journey. The row numbers are unique to each lot so make sure to remember it before you leave your vehicle. (Tip: if you are few rows away from your car and you didn’t check the row number, at least note it now! I text it to whoever I am with.) In these parking lots, remember that sometimes the walk is shorter from one side of the parking lot than the other, always look toward the entrance and judge which direction is quickest, especially if you are walking instead of taking the tram. Also, note that this is not necessarily from the side that they parked you.

Unless the park is expecting an extremely busy day, they tend to park the cars in the first two parking lots as you enter. Epcot saves the parking lot furthest to the left (when facing Spaceship Earth) for their busiest days. 

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

Hollywood Studios is one of the easier parking lots to navigate. It has five lots, all right outside the theme park gates. Favorite Disney character images, such as Mickey and Minnie, mark these lots, making your car easier to find after a day filled with fun. Still, you should make sure to  note which row number you are parked in. Also, the rows are much longer here, so note which section of the row you are parked in. I use the tram end, the middle or the wrong end of the row. If you are unlucky enough to be on the wrong end of the row, you will know what I mean. Remember at the end of day, this parking lot will be filled with a sea of cars.

If you haven’t been to Hollywood Studios since the summer of 2019, you’re in for a surprise. Disney has completely redone the parking lots here and increased the handicap parking. The tram line still goes down the center of the parking lots, although there is much more parking towards one side than the other. Also, the entrance is now in one central location, not either the Buena Vista Drive entrance or the back World Drive entrance. 

In addition, the tram drop spot has changed to allow access to the new and greatly enlarged security bag check areas. If you are coming by bus, you will be amazed at the new and enlarged bus area to the right side of the parking lots. Not to be missed is the Skyliner, which travels over the parking lot.

ANIMAL KINGDOM

The Animal Kingdom has six different lots, each identified by a different animal or mythical creature. There is tram service for those parked at the back of the lot to the entrance, but oftentimes, it is quicker to use the walkways, especially in the morning. If you are not familiar with the parking lot, take a look and see if you can see the tram drop off area and judge if it is an easy walk for you. The rows here are not unreasonably long, but to make up for that, the parking lot has many rows. They tend to always park down the left hand side first thing in the morning and just keep going, which can make the walk into the entrance very long. If you are lucky enough to be parked on the right hand side of the parking lot, I skip the tram and walk to the right to take the large walkway into the park security entrance.

Disability Parking at Disney World

Guests with disabilities will find designated parking areas throughout the resorts and parks. Just remember to bring a valid parking permit to display. There are also complimentary blue wheelchairs available to take you from the parking lot to the nearest wheelchair rental station.

For maps and more details on parking for those with mobility issues, check in with the Auto Plaza which is located at the entrance of every Disney theme park or call (407) 824-2222 to chat with guest services.

Charge your electric car while enjoying the parks

A handful of ChargePoint stations are available to charge electric cars at Disney World. Currently, these are an option at all four theme parks, Disney Springs, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. It wouldn’t be surprising for this list to grow so be sure to ask a Cast Member if you’re wondering about other locations throughout Disney World.

Regardless if you are eligible for free parking at any of these lots, you will need to pay $.35 per kilowatt hour to charge, with a minimum cost of $1.50. You can do this buy pre-purchasing a ChargePoint card or using a credit card.  When your vehicle is fully charged, you’ll be notified and charging will automatically stop. Pretty handy if you opt to bring your electric car with you to the parks.

How to remember where you parked at Disney

Don’t spoil your dream Disney day by forgetting where you parked! Snap a pic of the parking lot sign to locate your vehicle easily afterward. Take the shot from the same angle that you’ll be returning to look for the car so you can get some of the landscape in the background for reference. I also try to look when I get out of the car to get a general idea of how far in the row I am – Iike near which end or halfway down the row. Just make sure you keep your phone charged so you can return to the photo later if needed. If this isn’t an option for you, make sure to remember the Disney character assigned to your lot along with the number and come up with a fun saying or scenario combining that character and number. Share it with everyone in your group so you can all remind one another. If you are taking the tram, they normally will say your lot and row numbers several times, so you can take the opportunity remember it.

What to do if you have car troubles in the Disney parking lot

Don’t fret! Disney has security cast members that patrol the parking lots to give you assistance in locating your car or if you can’t get in or start your car. If you see them, wave them down or go to the end of your row to the tram area to locate a cast member. Disney World has a full-service Car Care Center. Roadside assistance, repairs, and even car rentals are available for a charge. They’ll also help you with transportation to the theme parks or Disney Resort hotels so you don’t miss any more moments of fun! There are select hours for the Car Care Center, which can be reached at (407) 824-0976.

I hope these tips help make your trip to the “Most Magical Place on Earth” extra magical! For up-to-date info on parking prices and detailed maps of various lots around Walt Disney World, click here.

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