Disneyland Transportation

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Should you fly or drive to Disneyland? Rent a car while you’re at Disneyland if you fly? In this Disneyland transportation guide, we’ll answer these questions for you.

Fly v. Drive

Even though plane tickets to California can be expensive, if you live on the East Coast, the answer to this question should be relatively easy. Driving to California for many is time-prohibitive, so flying is the de facto way of getting to Disneyland. Those living in California or the surrounding states may choose to drive, but sometimes it’s even more efficient for these guests to fly. Unfortunately, there is no one-size fits all answer. Weigh the cost of airfare times the number of people in your party versus the cost of driving. However, don’t stop there. Driving takes longer, so consider how much more time it will take to fly and add the value of your time, and also the wear and tear on your car, to the cost of driving.

For example, if it’s just you and your wife traveling, and airfare will cost $250 round trip for each of you, whereas gas will cost $150, don’t assume you’d be better off driving because the cost is $500 v. $100. Also ascribe a value to your vacation time. I value each day of my vacation as my salary for one day at work. You may value your time differently, but factor it in somehow. Same with vehicle wear and tear; this should be a per-mile cost. If it would take three full days of your vacation to drive to and from Disneyland, but only one full day to fly, and you value each day of your vacation at $100 for each of you, that’s $400 more to add to the cost of driving. Wear and tear to your vehicle would probably be offset by transportation costs once you get to SoCal if you don’t have a car. So, at that point, flying would have the same cost as driving, so you might want to tip the scales in the favor of your preferred way of getting there. As you’ll read below, you likely won’t need a car at Disneyland, so don’t choose driving just because you want to have your car at Disneyland.

As for airfare being too expensive, before coming to this conclusion, make sure to do your research. Use ITASoftware and Expedia to search all airlines, and search for flights flying into LAX, SNA, LGB, and BUR. All airports are relatively close to Disneyland, and sometimes LGB or BUR ends up having cheaper flights than LAX or SNA! My personal favorite is SNA, also known as John Wayne, and not just because John Wayne is a national treasure. John Wayne is the closest airport to Disneyland and typically has the best prices. Plus, it has a statue of John Wayne by baggage claim!

Ground Transportation

Cars Land at sunset on June 14, 2012 (preview day).


Renting a car at the airport is one option. You can read about the pros and cons of in the next section. The alternative, if you don’t plan on renting a car, is taking a taxi, limo, or shuttle to your hotel.

Shuttles are about $10 per person, per way. If you’re taking a shuttle in Southern California, SuperShuttle is probably your default choice since it’s so large and offers the best prices. It serves each of the three Disneyland-area airports. If you use SuperShuttle, use code UYR59 for $3 off each way if booked online. Note that these shuttles are shared, and each shuttle can fit around 8 people, so don’t be surprised if you make a few other stops before arriving at your hotel. We typically use SuperShuttle, and the average time from picking up our bags at the airport until arriving at the front desk of our hotel (factoring in time spent waiting for other people to board the SuperShuttle at the airport and time spent dropping others off) is typically around 70 minutes. The driving distance from John Wayne Airport to Disneyland is around 20-3o minutes, to the majority of this time is spent waiting and dropping off others. SuperShuttle will wait for other people to fill up a shuttle, so your wait at the airport could be long or short depending upon when you arrive. If you’re lucky enough to be the last person to arrive to fill a shuttle and you’re the first hotel stop, your SuperShuttle trip could be as little as 30 minutes (we’ve had this happen to us before). We recommend booking your SuperShuttle online in advance, but reservations are not necessary. 

There are other shuttles serving Disneyland, including the Disneyland Resort Express, but they’re more expensive than SuperShuttle and do exactly the same thing, so discussing them in more depth is pointless.

 If you’re a party of three or more, strongly consider a taxi or limo instead of a shuttle. Both charge by the trip rather than per person, so the economics are such that a 20 minute taxi ride starts to be cheaper at around person number 4. I say consider one if you have three people because the convenience is worth something in itself. You won’t have to wait around at the airport if you take a taxi, nor will you stop at other hotels. The commute time for a taxi is exactly however long it takes to get from the airport to your hotel.

Should You Rent A Car?

Some people can’t travel anywhere without having a vehicle at their disposal. We aren’t like that, but we can understand others always wanting a rental car. If you’ve already chosen to drive to Disneyland, you’ll have your own car. Be aware that most off-site hotels in the Disneyland area charge for parking. Plus, even if you drive to Disneyland, you’ll still want to stay as close as possible to Disneyland to avoid dealing with the SoCal transportation grid.

Transportation at Disneyland is very different from transportation at Walt Disney World. Whereas Walt Disney World is spread out requiring some form of transportation to get around the resort, Disneyland is compact and can easily be canvased by foot. The distance from the front entrance of Disneyland (park) to the front entrance of Disney California Adventure is only about 100 yards. Downtown Disney is just as close to both of them. Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa has its own entrance to Disney California Adventure. Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel overlooks the Paradise Pier area of Disney California Adventure. Disneyland Hotel is adjacent to Downtown Disney. The entire resort has a very small footprint. At Disneyland, your feet are always the best form of transportation.

Since you can easily find a cheap hotel within walking distance of Disneyland, and since many hotels charge for parking, there is no cost-savings to renting a car. So, although the shuttle or taxi from the airport will cost money, and although hotels slightly farther away from Disneyland will be cheaper, the cost of the rental car, plus the cost of parking at your hotel and/or parking at Disneyland will undoubtedly be more expensive than taking an airport shuttle or taxi and staying at a slightly more expensive hotel within walking distance of Disneyland.

The real reason to rent a car is if you want one or if Disneyland is just one stop in your California trip. It’s difficult to visit other Southern California attractions without a rental car (although not impossible) as you have to rely upon public transportation or taxis. The cost of taxis can add up quickly, and the time wasted in relying upon public transportation makes a compelling case for getting a rental car.

If you do elect to rent a car, we recommend Hotwire.com (look for their “Our Lowest Price” special car rate) and Costco.

As stated above, we recommend staying in a hotel within walking distance of Disneyland even if you do decide to rent a car. These hotels can be found for as little as $59/night, and walking to Disneyland Resort is much more convenient than relying on the Anaheim Resort Transit system, public transportation, your hotel’s shuttle, or driving to Disneyland and parking there. To help choose the right hotel for you, refer to our Disneyland hotel guide.

Conclusion

Our preferred way to visit Disneyland is by flying into John Wayne/Orange County Airport and taking SuperShuttle to our hotel. We make sure to book a hotel that’s right across the street from Disneyland’s Esplanade (so, around a 5 minute walk to Disneyland), which costs $90/night or less. We do not rent a car, but if we do decide to visit somewhere else in Southern California, we utilize a taxi. We actually find it inconvenient to have to deal with a rental car (I know we’re in the minority on that one!), so we have been willing to pay a bit of a premium to have a taxi drive us to other destinations in SoCal. Most of our trips to Disneyland, though, are Disneyland-only trips, so we haven’t used SoCal taxis all that much.

Hopefully by using this guide along with your personal preferences and circumstances, you can determine the type of transportation best for you to utilize while at Disneyland. As with all things on this site, your mileage may vary!

To plan your trip to Disneyland, read our “10 Steps for Planning a Disneyland Trip” post! 

Your Thoughts…

What tips do you have for Disneyland transportation? Do you recommend renting a car, or just walking? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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18 Responses to “Disneyland Transportation”

  1. C-J. says:

    Great article! All three of the Disneyland resorts charge for parking though (I believe it’s $15 for self park and $22 for valet.)

  2. Caro says:

    Another choice (the one I use) is Amtrak. The Amtrak station is just down the road at Angels’ stadium and is a stop for many shuttles and the ART.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Good suggestion. How long does using the Amtrak typically take you?

      • Caro says:

        Usually takes 5 hrs using Amtrak. It takes about 3 1/2 to 4 driving, when traffic is light.

        The trains have plenty of leg room, you can get up and walk around whenever, I don’t have to worry about traffic and with gas costs it’s cheaper for me.

  3. BobD says:

    “There are other shuttles serving Disneyland, including the Disneyland Resort Express, but they’re more expensive than SuperShuttle and do exactly the same thing, so discussing them in more depth is pointless.”

    You should give this a little more thought/research. SuperShuttle costs as much, or even more, than the Resort Express from LAX. When price is not an issue, the real trade-off becomes waiting for the hourly Express vs. waiting in a cramped Suppershuttle while your new friends are dropped off.

    • Not true anymore, ever since Disneyland Resort Express (DRE) raised its prices rather steeply and cut back service in summer 2013. For two or more people not traveling with children, DRE is now a significantly more expensive option than SuperShuttle or other shared-van services. We switched away from DRE for our airport transfers last year because of this.

      The backstory is DRE wanted to win more family business, so they raised their adult prices by around 40 percent with the bonus that children ride free. That now makes DRE more attractive for families with kids, but unfortunately also makes it a less economical option for visitors without kids.

      In addition, DRE also used to have 30-minute arrivals during morning and evening peak flight times. This was eliminated from the schedule in 2013, leaving only hourly service. So if you pre-pay your fare online, but just miss a DRE bus upon arrival, you’ll be sitting at LAX or SNA for an hour waiting for another one.

      We switched to Karmel Shuttle, but they’re a bit dicey. We’ll use SuperShuttle when we visit DLR for HalloweenTime this year. Hoping that they will be a good option.

  4. Adriana says:

    I just have a question regarding transportation as myself and 2 other friends are going to Disneyland Park for the first time before we head back home to Australia.
    We will be staying around Hollywood are and we want to purchase the one day pass. But we are not very clear on what our options are on how to get there and back as we would like to spend as much time as we can and hopefully hang around for the midnight fireworks and somehow make our way back to were we are staying, any suggestions will be appreciated.We are really excited to go!!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Taxi or public transportation. Taxi will be EXPENSIVE, public transportation will be slow. The other option would be a one-day car rental.

  5. Erin says:

    I was wondering what your transportation recommendation would be for traveling with a child. Specifically a 31/2 year old who needs to be in a car or booster seat still. I had emailed Disneyland and their recommendations were similar to yours however they could not relay to me if a car or booster seat was necessary in a shuttle or taxi.

    • Vanessa says:

      I know this is an older post but I wanted to answer this one for those browsing. You and the cab or shuttle driver have to obey the laws of the area, which includes booster seat car seat etc. Some cabbies wont pick you up without one.

      • Michelle says:

        Would it be better to wait and get a taxi or limo when we arrive or schedule ahead of time. I am traveling with a 5 year old, 2 year old, and my husband. Does anyone know the rules about car seats and limos? Everywhere says a taxi or limo would be more cost and time effective for us-so we are planning on bringing the car seatsand shooting for that. I have heard that if you just walk out of the baggage area you can negotiate the cost for a limo for your whole party-rather than scheduling ahead of time. Because they are standing around not making any money if they are not driving-supposedly they may be less expensive? Anyone have any experience with this??? recommendations??

  6. Bob says:

    Tom,

    This will be my first trip to DL after 10 trips over the last 7 years to WDW. We will be spending the first two days at DL/DCA, then jumping around to some of the other amusement parks and attractions before spending our last day at DL/DCA once again. That said, I like the idea of the SuperShuttle from the airport, especially when we won’t need a car at least for the first two days. After that however, are there any car rental places right near DL/DCA that you know of? We’re potentially going to stay at one of your recommended hotels or the Quality Inn right there for the entirety of our trip. Any help or recommendations you can provide are appreciated – we’re planning on going near the second week of August, 2014, so we’re still in the very early planning stages.

    Thanks.

  7. Sara says:

    Coming for just the day. Need transportation from Orange County Airport to Disneyland and the from Disneyland back to Orange County Airport all in the same day. Will be traveling wig husband and 5yr old, who needs a booster. Thanks for any help you can send my way.

  8. Nick says:

    Sara, don’t know if you still need the info or not, but from SNA (Orange County, a.k.a. John Wayne Airport), take the Disneyland Resort Express (google it). I have had very good luck with them, both from SNA and LAX. Kids ride free. You don’t have to have a booster on a bus, so you don’t have to worry there. Easy, clean, convenient. I’m so jealous of your trip, hope you have a magical time! (I’m not getting to go this year :-(

  9. Michelle says:

    Hi Tom,

    First, thank you for providing such an amazing and informative blog! I truly enjoy readng it, learning, and seeing comments from other Disney fans.

    Quick question on the transportation, for whomever can give their advice or personal experience. We are flying for the first time to Disneyland California, and will not be getting a rental car. I’ve been goin to various shuttle/limo/and cab websites to figure out what the best cost vs convenience. (Personally, I myself am leaing more towards convenince.)

    Ironically (to me anyway), the taxi cab is the cheapest, coming in at $38.00 from SNA John Wayne to our hotel. That’s for 4 people too. Limo was way expensive, and the shared shuttl would be around $30.00. The taxi is looking good to me at this point.

    What are your experiences with the taxi cabs in the Disneyland area?

    I’ve only had one taxi cab ride in my whole life,and it was terrifying. I was 16, parentless in Chigago with a group of other teenagers competing for scholarships. I swore I would never ride in another taxi. Haha

    Thank you :-)

  10. Aaron in DC says:

    Rental cars are also good for the all important pilgrimage to In-N-Out! But I totally agree with you – if you’re staying at or near the resort, a car is a real inconvenience.

  11. Michele says:

    Great advice, but we have both walked to and from our hotel and used the ART (Anaheim Transport System). In my experience, with all of the walking that you are going to be doing at the parks, using the ART is the best option unless you are staying right across the street. We usually stay within 1-1.5 miles (La Quinta) and have never had a problem with ART. buy the week pass so that you can ride unlimited from the hotel front desk. Also we recently discovered that if you are disabled there is a discounted pass available for you. The disability pass can be purchased at a kiosk to the far right before going through the inspection terminals. It’s kinda tricky to see but it is there. Just let the ART driver know that you are purchasing that pass at the park, he will need to see your disability ID, but there should be no problem riding that first time without the pass.

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