Thinking of using Uber or Lyft instead of a taxi, rental car, or bus transportation at Walt Disney World? Ride-sharing services are the most efficient way for getting to parks, resorts, and Universal Studios Florida; these tips will help save money and improve your experience with it. (Updated March 24, 2021.)
During the phased reopening, Walt Disney World transportation options are limited and operating at reduced capacity. Fewer parties are allowed on each bus to accommodate physical distancing, and the result has been longer and more unpredictable wait times for buses. We discuss how bad this has gotten as of Spring Break 2021 in Bus Wait Times at Walt Disney World.
Consequently, our “Temporary Abnormal” Guide to Walt Disney World recommends avoiding the buses for this reason. Unfortunately, the Minnie Van private ride service has been suspended and is not returning any time soon–if ever. That essentially leaves two options: Uber or a rental car. However, the latter option comes with a couple of big downsides…
While we’re fans of the freedom having your own vehicle offers, not everyone wants to drive on vacation and there are obvious downsides in paying for parking and hassling with the car at the airport. Beyond that, there is currently a severe rental car shortage.
Last year when travel essentially stopped, the rental car industry sold off more than a half a million cars, about a third of their combined fleets, to generate cash they needed to survive the crisis. Although demand has now returned, rental car companies are unable to rebuild their inventory because of supply chain issues facing the auto industry.
Consequently, many Florida airports are now totally sold out of rental cars for peak travel dates (including Orlando International) with other dates having insane prices–like $100 to $300 per day for a rental. Suffice to say, if you didn’t book a rental car for your Walt Disney World vacation far in advance, Uber or Lyft might be your only alternative to Disney’s buses. As such, we’ll rundown the pros & cons of rideshare at Walt Disney World here…
First and foremost in terms of a post-reopening update, both ride share companies have new health safety programs. You can read about Lyft’s here and Uber’s here. Both are essentially the same, with face masks being required for drivers and riders, new cleaning procedures, and keeping the windows open when possible.
Masks are important and well-understood at this point, but we would emphasize opening the windows. Study after study has shown that ventilation is one of the keys in reducing transmission risks (check out “We Need To Talk About Ventilation,” which breaks things down in lay terms). When using taxis or ride share services, professors at Harvard’s School of Public Health suggest that you “open up the windows just a bit, even if everyone is feeling fine…doing so will dilute the concentration of viral particles in the car.”
Thankfully, even as bus transportation has gotten worse at Walt Disney World, using Uber and Lyft has actually gotten better over time! Cast Members and security have become more familiar with ride-sharing services, and Walt Disney World has introduced policies for consistent drop-off/pick-up.
As such, we highly recommend using Uber or Lyft for rope drop in the morning–especially at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where arriving in time for opening and the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding pass dash is imperative. (Unless you’re staying at a Skyliner resort.) Uber and Lyft can also be incredibly useful if you’re leaving any of the parks at closing time, and there are long lines at the bus stops.
In fact, using ride-sharing at Walt Disney World has been a such a positive experience for us that we thought we’d return to offer the ins and outs of it, and why we think it’s worth the added cost for the added convenience. We’ve used Uber and Lyft extensively at Walt Disney World in the last 5+ years, and have updated this advice as of March 2021…
For most people, Uber or Lyft will be cheaper than renting a car, but some people still might prefer the perceived freedom of their own car. We also wanted to provide some new tips based on things we’ve learned with more recent experiences using Uber.
To start, although the details here are specific to Walt Disney World, the high-level advice can be applied to Disneyland and virtually anywhere else Lyft and Uber operate in the United States. In many cases throughout this post, we reference only Uber, and that’s simply because they have a larger presence. Corporate culture aside, Uber and Lyft are nearly identical in guest experience and service, and these tips apply equally to both ride-sharing services.
By way of background (you can skip all of this if you’ve ever used Uber), Uber is ride service that allow users to request rides via robust mobile apps. These apps show drivers in your vicinity, anticipated pick-up time, and have a host of other features. When a ride is requested, nearby drivers are pinged, and can accept or decline the riders.
Riders then see that their ride has been accepted, the driver’s name, vehicle, license plate, average score, current GPS location, and arrival time. This is all virtually instantaneous: the amount of time from requesting a ride to a ride being confirmed is usually under 10 seconds. If all of that doesn’t totally make sense, think of Uber as a taxi for the modern age, with a really nice app.
Does that all sound pretty good? Well, it should, because it is. Uber and Lyft have exploded in popularity, which has wrecked havoc for taxi companies that are rapidly losing business and are in danger of obsolescence in some areas. Taxi companies have fought bitter political and legal battles to keep Uber out of many areas, with the dispute boiling down to one thing: money. Taxi companies want to keep making money, and Uber makes that difficult for them.
As a consumer, the only pertinent concerns are whether Uber safe, efficient, and less expensive. Uber is obviously less expensive. That’s the whole reason taxi companies are fighting Uber tooth and nail. It’s cheaper because it’s more efficient, allocating resources via the app in a way that makes best use of them, with the app likewise providing a more efficient experience for riders.
Finally, safety. None of the above would matter if Uber isn’t safe. Uber performs background checks on its drivers (as do taxi companies), but more important is the rating system in the app. If a driver’s score falls below 4.5/5, they run the risk of being dropped by Uber. The flip side of this is that drivers also rate riders, so if you’re constantly an angry, drunken buffoon, you run the risk of not being picked up.
By contrast, ask any regular Uber rider how many negative experiences they’ve had with ride-sharing drivers. The horror stories are few and far between, with most riders instead gushing over how much better the experience is than traditional taxis. Friendly drivers who come from interesting backgrounds and will make pleasant conversation with you, or simply leave you alone if you don’t feel like chatting.
Now that we’ve established some background, let’s get into the tips…
- Payment is automatically made via the app (and your attached credit card) at the end of the app. No cash payments.
- Tipping originally was not part of the Uber “culture” but it is becoming increasingly customary to tip drivers. You can now do so within the apps for both Uber and Lyft. (We recommend tipping.)
- A pleasant way to end each ride is by saying, “thanks for the great ride, I’ll be sure to give you 5-stars.” (Which also helps increase your chances of receiving a positive review from the driver.)
- If you have more general questions about using Uber that this post doesn’t answer, refer to the Uber Help page for FAQ.
- If you’re new to the Lyft, you can get a free or reduced-cost first ride via this link.
- Average Uber/Lyft cost within Walt Disney World is $10-15 per trip. This works out to be around one-third to half the cost of a Mears taxi for the same distance.
- Average Uber cost from Walt Disney World to Universal Orlando’s drop-off point is $20-25 per trip.
- Average wait for a pick-up at Walt Disney World is 4-8 minutes.
- Security check-point and parking plaza Cast Members are familiar with the Uber service, and will allow drivers to pass (without paying for parking) if they show an ID and indicate they are there for guest drop-off.
- DO NOT show your Annual Pass or parking voucher at the parking plazas, as your driver will be directed to regular parking, which is farther away from the front entrance of parks than the guest drop-off points.
- Surge pricing is becoming less common in Orlando as more drivers flock to the area, but if there is a surge, it’s most likely to occur around 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
- Lyft and Uber pickups are now allowed at MCO; there’s an airport surcharge added to your tab, but it’s not too bad. Uber drop-offs are also allowed at the airport. Uber and Lyft are far faster than Disney’s Magical Express.
- Drivers can see your GPS location, but sometimes the system is a bit wonky. Immediately after requesting an Uber, message the driver and indicate your exact location if it’s not the main lobby (e.g. “I’m wearing a ballin’ tie dyed EPCOT Center shirt outside Building 4 at Pop Century Resort. Turn left as soon as you pass security and follow the signs.)
- To decrease your wait time for a pickup, drop a pin for the location where you want the pickup as you walk to that location, but be sure you can beat the driver there based on the estimated arrival time.
- Uber has unveiled the Uber + Car Seat in Orlando, which will bring parents an Uber vehicle with a car seat inside, on-demand.
- Standard pickup and drop-off location for the Magic Kingdom is the Ticket & Transportation Center; from there, you take a monorail or ferry to the Magic Kingdom.
- Instead, consider specifying the Contemporary or Grand Floridian as your destination and walking to Magic Kingdom.
- Security at the Contemporary isn’t always the easiest to pass, so don’t be surprised if you’re turned away there. Grand Floridian is the better option, but the walk is slightly longer.
- The Uber process at Epcot has improved considerably. The only downside is that the roadway into the park and parking lot itself are both lengthy, making pickups take longer than at the other 3 parks.
- If possible, we recommend using the International Gateway entrance at Epcot, and walking to/from Beach Club for pickups and drop-offs. This is simpler, and often faster.
- The pickup and drop-off spot at the front entrance of Epcot has constantly changed, but as of now, it’s near the Preferred Parking section.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Drop-off and pickup at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is right next to the Disney Skyliner gondola station (lower left corner in the photo above). This location is very convenient.
- Due to the popularity of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, the drop-off line can back-up early in the morning before DHS opens. Plan accordingly and allow yourself a bit of extra time.
- If you request an Uber ride as you exit the park, your driver will often arrive within 2 minutes after you get to the taxi point at DHS. Just make sure you double-check that there isn’t a driver already near the Studios lot when you make the request, as you don’t want your driver having to wait for you!
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- Animal Kingdom is another park with a long roadway leading into the park, so pickups can take a bit longer here, but it’s still pretty simple.
- The drop-off/pickup spot is also pretty simple at Animal Kingdom. You can see it as the pin on this map.
That about covers the major points, I think. If you’re new to using Uber, you can get a free ride credits by signing up via this link for Uber or a free ride on Lyft via this link. They are constantly changing their sign-up incentives, so if you don’t see any credit amount on those screens, definitely Google signup offers. There’s usually an incentive or promo code for your first ride on both Uber and Lyft.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Any additional experiences using Uber that you’d like to share? Do you prefer Uber, Lyft, Minnie Vans, or using Walt Disney World’s standard (bus, monorail, boat, Skyliner) transportation? If you’ve used Uber or Lyft at Walt Disney World, did you find the services efficient? Do you agree or disagree with our Uber/Lyft advice? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!