7 Best Disney World Parking Secrets, Tips and Tricks

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I have a large family with five children, which means that we usually drive to the Walt Disney World parks. Thankfully, we live in Georgia, so the drive isn’t very long.

With our large family, we also typically stay in a short-term rental house or condo and drive to the parks each day. So even though I have to admit to being a passenger princess, I do have a lot of experience with Disney parking.


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How do you get the best parking at Disney World?

The best way to get a good parking spot at Disney World is to arrive early. You might not like it if you’re not an early riser like me, but it’s the truth.

However, if an early wake-up is a non-starter on your Disney World vacation, there are some other helpful parking tips available to you. So, here are the best parking secrets, tips and tricks for your next Disney trip:

EPCOT Parking Entrance
Parking early can make the process so much easier (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

1. Arrive early

For Animal Kingdom, EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, this generally means you should be pulling up to pay for your parking about 30 minutes before the park opens.

For the Magic Kingdom park, make it an hour. This is because of the extra hop you have to take from the Transportation & Ticket Center across Seven Seas Lagoon on either the monorail or ferry.

The good news is that this strategy will also set you up nicely for rope drop.

a parking sign with moana figure in disney world parking lot
You can note where you park using zone markers and the Car Locator in the My Disney Experience app (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

2. Note where you’ve parked using Disney’s Car Locator

This summer when I was traveling with my brother and sister-in-law, they introduced us to the genius life hack of sending the parking information in the group text as soon as we arrived. That way, all the adults could scroll back to find the character and row number in case we split up or in case someone forgot.

Disney parking lots have zones named after beloved characters. In Magic Kingdom, there are heroes like Simba, Aladdin and Mulan.

There are also villains like Zurg, Scar and Hook.

EPCOT has space and ocean-themed characters like Rocket Raccoon, Dory and Moana. Hollywood Studios has classic Disney characters like Mickey plus Star Wars and Toy Story-themed zones, too.

Also, there’s a “Car Locator” feature in the My Disney Experience app. If you enable notifications, the app will prompt you to save your parking information as you are parking. It estimates the row number, but you have the opportunity to confirm or adjust it as needed.

I’ve found it to be fairly accurate within one or two rows. Later, when it’s time to return to your car, you can look up the information in the app. Again, if you have location services and notifications enabled, the app will remind you automatically as you leave the park.

Animal Kingdom Guest Walkway from Parking Lot Sign
Get to the parks early and save time by walking to the entrance (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

3. Skip the tram, it’s a scam!

My children absolutely love riding the parking tram. Sometimes I think it’s their favorite Disney World attraction. But they’ve learned what mom is going to say when they ask to ride: The tram’s a scam!

It’s especially true in our family’s case when riding the tram means unloading multiple children and bags from the stroller and folding them up. It just does not make sense to ride the tram.

Typically, you have to wait a few minutes for the tram to arrive, so the walkers get a head start. If you’re following tip number one and arriving early, you’re going to beat the tram to the security checkpoint in most scenarios.

As a compromise with the kids, we sometimes ride the tram back to the car. Most of the time we split up with one parent riding the tram back to the car with the big kids while the other parent walks with the stroller.

Read Also: 8 Best Disney Hotels on the Monorail, Skyliner

Guests Enter at the Parking Area Disney
Parking fees can be used all day at any park, so be sure to keep your receipt (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

4. Keep your receipt

If you’re taking a midday break like we almost always do, be sure to keep your receipt!

Once you’ve paid your parking fees for that day, it’s valid for all the theme parks. So if you’re planning to park hop, you only have to pay once.

View of the Side of the Disney Ferry Boat
Paying for premium parking will get you a head start on the day, especially if you are going to the Magic Kingdom (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

5. Spring for premium parking if you’re running late

Premium parking is certainly more expensive. But this option allows guests to get into the park with less hassle and wait time.

If it is an option for you and you have some wiggle room in the budget, it can be worth it.

The Grounds at the Caribbean Resort
If you are planning to dine at one of the resorts, be sure to use this option for free parking in the theme park (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

6. Make a dining reservation at a Disney World resort hotel

If you make a dining reservation at any of the Walt Disney World resort hotels, you’ll be able to score free parking for the day.

The catch is that you’ll spend more than the parking fee on your meal, but it’s a great strategy if you are planning on visiting a restaurant anyway.

Self-parking is free for Disney resort guests and day guests with dining reservations. Deluxe resorts also offer valet parking for an additional fee.

From any Disney hotel, you’ll be able to use free transportation to get to the Walt Disney World theme parks. If you visit one of the deluxe resorts on the Monorail Loop, you can take the monorail to Magic Kingdom or EPCOT.

Recently, we made a breakfast reservation at Cape May Cafe at Disney’s Beach Club Resort and parked at the hotel. After breakfast, we walked over to EPCOT through the international gateway and it worked out really well!

Read Also: 12 Best Disney Character Dining Experiences, Ranked

typhoon lagoon sign
Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach offer free parking with bus service to the parks if you want to take a break from the heat during the summer months (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

7. Park for free at Disney Springs or one of Disney’s water parks

Parking is free at both Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. So if you’re not in a hurry and want to avoid paying for parking, it is possible to park at Disney Springs or one of the water parks and take Disney buses to get to the theme park.

But do remember that the waterparks typically open later and close earlier than other Disney parks.

General parking is also free at ESPN Wide World of Sports. If you’re looking for covered parking or electric vehicle charging stations, the Disney Springs parking garages are a great option.

Cars in Disney Parking Lot
Cars in a lot outside Disney’s EPCOT (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

What is the difference between standard and preferred parking at Disney?

At the time of this writing, standard parking at Walt Disney World costs $25 and premium parking ranges from $45-50, depending on the season and crowd levels. Motorcycles pay the standard vehicle rate. But remember, prices are subject to change.

Oversized vehicle parking is $30 per day for standard parking. Oversized vehicles include shuttles, RVs, campers, camper trailers, tractor-trailers and limos.

Annual passholders get free standard parking, which is an awesome passholder perk! If you’re like us and visit frequently from out of state, the savings on parking can really add up. Many Florida residents and locals also drive to the parks and save with an annual pass.

However, you can pay the difference in fees to upgrade to preferred parking for the day. My husband insisted on doing so at Disney’s Animal Kingdom this past 4th of July, and it was a great splurge considering the parking lot was boiling lava hot.

How does preferred parking work at Disney World?

If you pay extra for preferred parking, you can park in an area that is closer to the park entrance. The cast member will give you directions, typically to put on your hazard lights and then you will be directed to the designated area.

Preferred parking areas are usually located near the parking for guests with disabilities. Guests with a valid disability parking permit will pay the standard theme park parking fee.

Cast members will then direct you to park in the disability parking area. Note that signage will sometimes label this area as the “medical parking lot.”

Is premium parking at Disney worth it?

Sometimes premium parking can be worth it.

For example, it might be worth it if you can’t make it to the park early. It might also be worth it if it’s a super hot day and the idea of trudging across the seemingly endless desert of asphalt feels unbearable to you.

EV Charging Station
EV charging stations are available in multiple locations throughout Disney (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Are there EV charging stations at Disney Springs?

Yes, you’ll find ChargePoints in all of the Disney Springs parking garages. Several are located on the 5th floor of the orange garage and the 5th floor of the lime garage.

There are additional charging stations on the 3rd floor of the grapefruit garage and in the Watermelon garage. You’ll also find charging stations at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Riviera Resort and Coronado Springs Resort.

Disney World Bus
The Disney World shuttle bus has no direct bus service from one park to another (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Is a bus service available between parks?

Importantly, there typically is no direct bus service from one park to another. This means you’ll have to take a bus to a Disney resort hotel and transfer to another bus that will take you to another Disney park.

If you opt for this strategy to avoid paying parking fees, be careful! Pay close attention to the water park hours. They typically open later and close earlier than other Disney parks.

Usually, the buses stop running approximately two hours after a park closes. If the buses stop running, you may end up having to call a Lyft or Uber to get back to your vehicle.

Do you have a Disney parking tip? If so, let us know in the comments!

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Kirby Russell

Kirby Russell is a freelance contributor for TheSmokies.com LLC – the parent company of TheSmokies.com and HeyOrlando.com.

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