Any parent who has flown with small children knows that getting the crew from point A to point B often feels like you’re part of a traveling circus and that you’ve brought every single thing from your house on vacation. Kids need a lot of stuff. But here’s one thing you don’t always have to bring: a car seat. Really. Here’s how to do Disney World without a car seat.
This post is sponsored by The Sunshine Flyer, the motorcoach bus service between Orlando International Airport and Disney World hotels.
We live just far enough away from Walt Disney World to make driving an impractical choice for us, so we’ve always flown. The challenges of dragging our own car seats to Disney include:
- Checking it as baggage
- Having to move it in and out of rental cars, taxis, or ride shares
- Figuring out how and where to store them while we’re having fun
My kids sat in booster seats until they were 8 due to weight but we’ve been able to navigate Disney sans car seats just fine.
We understand some families prefer their children to sit in a car seat on the airplane, even though the airlines do not require it. Like just about everything when it comes to parenting, whether to travel with a car seat is a matter of choice. This information focuses on how to navigate travel to Disney World (safely and within the rules) when you’ve chosen not to bring a car seat.
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Challenges of Kids and Car Seats at Disney World
A car seat at Disney World is just one extra thing you have to pack and keep track of. A lot of what you’re going to need for a day in the theme parks fits in a backpack. Most car seats are bulky. We discuss portable travel car seats at the end of this post. If that’s something you’d like to explore, we recommend a couple.
Most families with small children pack a lot of things to get them through a Disney trip. Let’s face it: most families with small children pack a lot of things any time they leave the house!
Disney is a pretty “stuff intensive” trip, especially for first-timers and newer families who haven’t yet found their travel groove. For me, the biggest negative about taking a car seat to Disney is that you’re packing something you don’t need that someone has to carry and not lose.
If you’re staying in a Disney resort and plan to spend the bulk of your time there and in the Disney parks, you do not need a car seat.
The big transportation hurdle you’ll face is getting from the airport to Disney World and back. Let’s talk about your options for doing that.
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Getting to Disney from Orlando International Airport (MCO)
If you’re flying into MCO, you have three options for getting from the airport to Disney World: rent a car, use a ride share, such as Lyft or Uber, or take one of the bus services that replaced the Magical Express, such as The Sunshine Flyer.
Disney used to provide transportation from MCO to the Walt Disney World resort hotels. The service was called the Magical Express and it stopped at the end of 2021.
The Sunshine Flyer has stepped in to fill that gap. If you opt to use this bus system, you can leave the car seat at home.
That’s because Florida law does not require car seats on motorcoaches. You can get off the plane and onto your bus to Disney – no car seat required. Sunshine Flyer motorcoaches wrapped to look like 1920s-era trains or automobiles. All buses include entertainment and restrooms. Round trip pricing is $32 per adult and $20 per child. Advance reservations are required and baggage service isn’t provided at this time.
Although car seats are not required on The Sunshine Flyer, you can bring them on board if you have them. Car seats can be harnessed to the seatbelts, similar to installing them in a passenger car.
Getting Around Disney Without a Car Seat – It’s Easy!
Disney offers lots of transportation options for guests staying on property at one of Disney’s hotels. Transportation modes range from buses to boats to SkyLiner and monorail. Disney transportation will take guests from the resort to the parks and from park to park (but not resort to resort) and is included in the cost of your room.
What type of transportation is available will depend on where you’re staying and where you’re going. If you’re staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge, the only option for getting to the parks is a bus. But guests staying in one of the BoardWalk resorts can hop on the SkyLiner or take a Friendship Boat to the parks.
Not only do you not need car seats to take Disney transportation, car seats are not permitted. Even if Disney did allow car seats on their park-to-park transportation, how fun would it be to lug a car seat around the parks all day? The answer is “Not fun at all.”
Bottom line: If you plan on using Disney transportation to get to and from the parks and don’t plan on venturing outside of the Disney bubble, you have zero need for a car seat during your trip.
Do I Need a Car Seat for Ride-Sharing Services?
Lyft and Uber are options for getting to Disney from MCO. Uber Car Seat, available in the Orlando area, offers one forward-facing car seat for a child who is at least 2 years old, 22 pounds and 31 inches tall. Rates for Uber Car Seat are the same as Uber X, plus an additional $10 surcharge. Car Seat Mode in Lyft operates the same way as Uber Car Seat.
These services aren’t available in all markets. There’s no guarantee you’ll be able to find a ride share with a car seat when you need one or that the car seat will be up to the standards of every parent. The obvious disadvantage is that these services aren’t going to meet the needs of families with more than one kid who needs a car seat or families with kids who need a rear-facing seat.
You can also use ride-share services to travel between resorts. This is currently a hole in Disney’s transportation.
A free, albeit clunky, way to resort hop is to take Disney transportation from your resort to one of the parks and then catch the bus (or boat, or SkyLiner) to the resort you want to get to. Warning: this is time-consuming and may not work for early morning character breakfasts.
Once you’re on the Disney property, Minnie Van service, operated by Lyft, is an option. Each Minnie Van carries two car seats and the drivers are trained on how to properly install them. Minnie Van pricing runs between $25 and $50 per trip, which is much higher than a regular Lyft ride.
When DO You Need a Car Seat?
I’ve talked a lot about getting around Disney World without a car seat. Here are some situations where bringing or obtaining a car seat might be necessary.
- If you’re renting a car, you’ll need to make advance arrangements with the car rental company to have a car seat included. Prices will vary from company to company.
- If you’re going to do other things in Orlando besides going to Disney, consider what kind of transportation you’re going to use. If you’re going to be using ride shares, taxis or riding in private cars, you’ll need to scope out how to make sure you’ve got a car seat as well as figure out how you’re going to manage your car seat while out and about. There are portable car seat options, such as mifold and BubbleBum which can fit into a bag or backpack.
I’ve personally used the mifold seat and my child complained about it being uncomfortable to sit on. I think it’s OK for shorter rides, however, it wasn’t me who had to sit on it.