How to Use Uber Around Disney World and Universal Orlando as an Alternative to On-Site Transportation

Earlier this week, Universal Orlando and Uber jointly announced they would be implementing a $4 fee for all pick-up rides from their theme parks.

This comes after Universal recently added a new rideshare pick up area inside their parking garage, as opposed to sharing space with the buses and taxi companies.

Universal Orlando also shared plans for a new “Uber Lounge” in the pick up area in the parking garage, for guests to wait in while waiting for their driver to arrive. Universal said they charged Uber a fee to cover the costs of this new lounge and Uber passed that fee onto the rider in the form of $4 per ride. This only applies to pick ups and only for pick ups from the theme parks – pick ups from Universal resorts and drop offs anywhere on Universal property will not have the fee attached.

This also only applies to Uber rides. Lyft, Uber’s main competitor, will continue offering pick ups and drop offs for Universal guests with no added fee.

In the Orlando area, added fees for certain locations is not new. There’s already added fees for Orlando International Airport trips and even more fees for airport rides to and from the Disney and Universal parks.

Despite the increase in fees, rideshare services remain to be a budget friendly and time saving option for guests visiting multiple theme parks or going off site from one theme park during their stay. Even if you are just traveling with Disney property, an Uber or Lyft ride could be considerably faster than Disney transportation.

When I lived in Florida for grad school, I actually drove for Uber in the Tampa and Orlando areas. Driving around the tourist areas of Orlando generate a lot of trip requests and can be a good way to make some extra money, by the way. I’ve also used Uber/Lyft a lot in the last year when I’ve traveled down as a guest. As a result of both those of experiences, I’ve picked up on a lot of tricks of the system – which I’m going to share with you here.

Get rides to and from resorts, not directly to the parks

Whether it’s Disney or Universal, you’re better off (most of the time) getting dropped off or picked up at a resort that’s walking distance or connected by another on-site transportation option to a theme park rather than going straight to the park itself.

For Magic Kingdom, especially, you want to get dropped off at the Contemporary (ideally) or at the Grand Floridian or Polynesian and then either walk or monorail to the Magic Kingdom park entrance. Once the walkway from the Grand Floridian to the Magic Kingdom is fully open, you’ll have even more options for this. For now, Contemporary is your closest and best option. And trust me, you want to avoid the Ticket and Transportation Center parking and gate area at all costs.

For Epcot and Hollywood Studios, you have many resort options in the Boardwalk area. Yacht and Beach Club Resorts will be closest to Epcot and Boardwalk Resort itself will be closest for Hollywood Studios. You can also now go to Caribbean Beach and take the Skyliner to either park. The rideshare location for both parks isn’t too far from the entrance though, so you’d only want to use these resort options on a super busy day.

Animal Kingdom is the one park where it’s best to go straight to the park for drop off or pick up. The area resorts aren’t walking distance at all and aren’t even that close for on-site transportation. The drop off and pick up points are on the bus loop here as well, so you’ll be close to the gate.

For Universal, drop offs at the park (parking garage) won’t be a huge issue as long as it’s not super busy in the main security line. You can avoid that new added fee by taking a boat to Portofino or Sapphire Falls, walking over to Hard Rock, or taking a bus to Surfside and getting a ride from any of those resorts.

Talk to your driver, they likely know a lot about the area

It’s not a sure thing, but usually drivers in the theme park area will know a lot about the parks around them and the Orlando area in general. You can have some great conversations and learn a lot about the parks. When I was an Uber driver, I always played Disney music in my car, had Disney items decorating my car, and asked my riders if they needed any recommendations or assistance with their trip plans. Even if they don’t ask, don’t be afraid to ask them for help if you need it or just want to chat!

Pay attention and know the navigation (at least a little)

While many drivers know the area and can share a lot of helpful information, there are some that just don’t know the on-site areas that well – especially at Disney. Having driven for the service myself, I find that I know Disney property better than most of the rideshare drivers I get paired with. In general (in any location), it’s always a good idea to pay attention to where your driver is going and know enough (at least by reading signs) to know if they are going in the right direction. This is just a good rule of thumb for safety, and it can also save you a lot of time.

Boatride view of Disney Springs from Saratoga Springs Resort. Take an uber from a theme park to the resort, then catch the boat over for lunch or dinner.

Have a plan when going to Disney Springs from a theme park during the day

Getting to Disney Springs (from a park) before 4 pm can be tricky. Buses to Springs from the parks don’t start running till 4 pm – so you have to transfer a bit and be smart about your plan. You have a couple options:

First, you can bus from the park to any resort and then transfer to the resort’s Disney Springs bus. I recommend going to Old Key West if you’re doing because it’s close and you also get to see this gorgeous resort.

You can also bus to Saratoga Springs, which is right across the lake from Disney Springs. You can bus over, but you can also walk or take a boat. The boat ride in is gorgeous and definitely something I’d recommend you do.

If you’re coming from Epcot or Hollywood Studios, you can take the Skyliner to a resort (Caribbean Beach will be closest till Riviera opens) and bus from there to Springs. Magic Kingdom will be similar, with the monorail taking you straight to a resort and then bussing to Springs from there.

It can seem easy, but if you’re not in the ideal spot it can take a bit of time to get over there. I like to go to Springs for lunch/early dinner some times and then go back to the parks, and that just gets tricky with limited bus service.

Know which Disney Springs drop off/pick up area you need

Continuing with Springs tips, there are actually 2 drop off and pick up points for rideshare. One on each end of the Springs area. The first is on the east end behind the Christmas and Art of Disney stores. The other is on the west end – past the Cirque Du Soleil Building next to the surface parking lot in that area.

In most cases, I prefer the east location because it’s much closer to the stores and everything in the area. Unless you are going to the NBA Experience or restaurants in that area (or the AMC), the west end will lead to a lot of unncessary warlking.

Final Thoughts: Pricing

Wrapping this up, I want to address pricing. Price varies by time of day, time of year, and distance/location of the trip. Trips within Disney property (start and end point are all on site) usually are under or right at $10 most of the time. Going slightly off site to the outlets or nearby restaurants and stores can get up to $15, but usually stay around that $10 mark.

Going from Disney to Universal can get closer to $20 at times, and getting to the airport can range from $30-50 depending on the distance and time of day – plus you’re likely having tolls added on to your bill as well.

It’s usually still going to be cheaper than renting a car, unless you plan to do a lot of off-site driving or back and forth trips – or you’re staying for a long period of time. I stayed in the area for 9 days in October, and didn’t rent a car because I was on Disney property for the first half, got an uber to Universal, and then stayed there. It was just one long trip, and not any back and forth.

Consider what your plans are and add up estimates of your uber costs to compare with the cost of renting a car. If you can find a cheap rental, it might be a better option but in most cases, ride share is your best deal (and then you’re not paying to park at hotels or at parks – if you don’t have free parking with an annual pass).

Do you use Uber/Lyft in the Orlando area? What’s your best tip?

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