Car Rental Orlando
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Why rent a car in Orlando?
Orlando is the largest market for rental cars in the world, and for good reason. With more than 70 million visitors flocking to this theme park mecca every year, Orlando is not just a top travel destination in the U.S., but the world.
With all of the theme parks, other attractions, and resorts spread out over the surrounding area, travel between all can be burdensome. While shuttle services exist between major parks and resorts, the times are often inconvenient and can detract from the visitor’s experience. Most visitors also intend to visit some attractions further afield, such as John F. Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral. It is no wonder, then, that so many travels chose to rent their own vehicle for their stay in the Orlando area.
Driving here may be daunting for the uninitiated with large highways and speedy drivers. However, the roads, including the toll roads mentioned below, are in a great state and funnel the millions of visitors and locals smoothly on a daily basis.
Top ways to enter Orlando
Most travelers not arriving with their own vehicle enter the Orlando area through the Orlando International Airport. The largest rental companies are located at the terminals Others provide free shuttle services to their off-airport locations.
Many travelers, especially those arriving from abroad, may find that another airport may provide lower fares. Specifically, Miami International Airport hosts flights from many originating from many countries. It is perfectly feasible to arrive in Orlando by renting a car and driving along Florida’s Turnpike for a few hours. In the end, this may be a way to save considerable money over the short connecting flight.
If you are seeking to return your rental car with a full tank of fuel, DO NOT stop at either of the gas stations closest to the airport, Suncoast Energys or Sun Gas. If you fill up at either station, you will pay at least twice the normal price. The Wawa, 7-11, and Mobile stations one or two blocks north offer competitive prices.
Useful city facts
Orlando may be known for its largest theme parks, however, it has much more to offer. From the museums about history and art to all of the smaller theme parks and attractions, the city can hold any traveler’s attention without them having to even step onto a Disney or Universal property.
As one would expect given its location, Orlando is a generally hot place. Hot, humid, and rainy weather awaits the largest crowds visiting in the summer who should be aware of the potential for heavy thunderstorms during afternoons. The other half of the year is generally milder, and drier. While winter temperatures usually remain in the 70s, visitors should be aware of the possibility for cold snaps bringing temperatures below freezing at night. This milder weather also tends to coincide with the low season for tourists, making for the perfect time of year to visit.
Top destinations and activities
- Walt Disney World - The world-famous resort that Orlando is famous for (though it's actually closer to Kissimmee) includes four main theme parks, each of which is one of the 10 most visited theme parks in the world on its own. Billed as fun for all ages, Disney World is a destination not just for families, but married couples adult friends all the same.
- Magic Kingdom - The most visited theme park in the world is undoubtedly a classic. Cinderella’s Castle greets visitors on their entrance into this wonderful fantasy land rich with fairy tale and Disney lore.
- Epcot - Immediately known from afar by its giant golf-ball-like Spaceship Earth that often eclipses Cinderella’s Castle as Disney World’s main icon, Epcot provides visitors with an educational journey. Here visitors can take an odyssey from the beginning of humankind to the future on Spaceship Earth or visit 11 countries in one day at the World Showcase, a permanent world’s fair of sorts.
- Hollywood Studios- Formerly Disney-MGM Studios, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is, unsurprisingly, a theme park based on cinema, specifically the Golden Age of Hollywood. The upcoming Star Wars: Galaxy Edge began development after Disney’s purchase of the Star Wars franchise and will open in August of 2019.
- Animal Kingdom - A fusion of theme park and zoo, Animal Kingdom is Disney World’s most recent theme park addition. Visitors to this park can take a safari that includes wild animals from the African savannah, go on a trek through a tropical jungle seeing wildlife from birds to tigers, and enjoy animal-themed roller coasters and raft rides.
- Universal Orlando - The second largest and most visited attraction in the Orlando area, Universal Studios, and Islands of Adventure make up Universal Orlando. These parks offer visitors an adventure-themed after some of the most popular film and television franchises. Such films include Spiderman, E.T., Transformers, and the Men in Black. The newest large addition to the parks brought multiple attractions based on the Harry Potter franchise named the Wizarding World, split equally between the parks and connected by the Hogwarts Express. Note that you must have a ticket good for entrance to both parks on the same day to take the Hogwarts Express.
- SeaWorld - Once famously loved, and then resented, for its orca shows, the marine theme park is currently in the process of phasing them out. Not to worry, SeaWorld has plenty of attractions from rides, to other shows, to educational experiences to make for an interesting break from the area’s other parks.
- Discovery Cove - Have you ever wanted to swim with dolphins? Discovery If so, Discovery Cove is the place to visit. You should also stick around for the coral reef, where you can swim with exotic fish and rays, the tropical rainforest, or the relaxing beach. Be sure to book ahead of time, as some of the experiences are only available to a very limited number of people per day.
- Citywalk - Part of Universal Orlando, Citywalk is a stretch of shops, restaurants, and entertainment, such as a karaoke club with a live band and a show by the Blue Man Group.
- Water Parks - Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld all have waterparks. These are a great way to take off the heat after spending a day in the hot summer sun. Water-loving travelers shouldn’t fret, most of the water parks are open through winter with heated water, though may close on particularly cold days.
- Golf - Orlando is a premier destination for golf. With over 65 courses in the region and warm weather year-round, golfers of all ages and skill levels flock to Orlando.
Traffic and parking tips
All of the theme parks charge for parking. For example, parking rates at Disney parks start at $25. Many also include priority parking, which will get you a spot much closer to the entrance, and valet. One notable exception is that parking for Citywalk at Universal is free after 6 pm.
Parking downtown is much more wallet-friendly than at the resorts. Metered street parking is $1 per hour and free during evenings, while city-owned garages are $2 per hour.
Florida’s Turnpike is the longest toll road in the Orlando area, connecting I-75, northwest of Orlando, with Homestead, south of Miami. Of more immediate interest to Orlando area travelers, either the Beachline Expressway or the Central Florida Greenway would be of use for traveling between the airport and Disney World or the resorts near it. Yes, you will need to take a toll road to leave the airport.
There are a few options when it comes to toll payment. A Sunpass or E-Pass transponder is the most convenient way of paying. Many rental cars will come equipped with one; however, the agency will charge a convenience fee for its use (usually on a per-day basis which can really add up over the rental period). Luckily, most Orlando area toll roads have booths where the toll can be paid with cash (some may only take coins). Be sure to remain in the right lanes, as the left lanes are for the pass systems only.
Important: If renting from Green Motion, Ace, Clubs, Easirent, Horsepower, or Routes, keep in mind that they may use a type of transponder that is neither removable nor able to be switched off. This means you will be left with the choice of accepting their toll package or avoiding toll roads altogether. If you decline their package but use a toll road you will be charged exorbitant administrative fees. You will not be able to pay for the tolls yourself with cash as the cash lanes also have receptors for SunPass.
There are two different types of toll packages that rental companies offer. One is a daily fee (that may or may not be capped for the rental period) for the use of the transponder with the total for the tolls incurred billed to the renter after the rental period concludes. The other is a daily fee that includes unlimited tolls. Unless you plan to use toll roads often, the latter of these types of toll packages will be much more expensive.
Examples of the fees for these packages for specific rental companies are as follows (as of August 2019):
- Green Motion - $12.99 per day plus all tolls incurred
- Ace - $6 plus tolls incurred or $10.99 for unlimited tolls
- Clubs - $7.50 plus tolls incurred or $10.99 for unlimited tolls
- Dollar - $10.49 for unlimited tolls
- Easirent - $15 for unlimited tolls
- Horsepower - $5.95 plus tolls incurred or $15.95 for unlimited tolls
- National - $3.95 plus tolls incurred
- Routes - $11.99 for unlimited tolls
- Sixt - $4.45 plus tolls incurred
If you plan to use the toll package of a rental company, be sure to include that in the final cost when comparing offers.
If you plan to pay for the tolls with cash, be sure that the Sun Pass transponder is turned off. It is also a very good idea to keep the receipts for the payments.
Note: If you plan to travel to South Florida, there are many toll roads without booths. In this case, you will need a transponder to pay for the tolls (or avoid the toll roads altogether).
Ideas for a day-trip
- Cape Canaveral - For those interested in the history of the American space program, Cape Canaveral, a two-hour drive from Orlando, hosts the Kennedy Space Center visitor’s center. Standard admission includes various attractions and a bus tour of the Apollo/Saturn V Center. More extensive tours are also available but should be booked in advance. It is also possible to see rocket launches with advanced booking.
- Cocoa Beach - Just south of Cape Canaveral is the Town of Cocoa Beach and its actual beach. Though known for being the setting of the classic television show I Dream of Jeannie, the location’s real fame comes from the beach’s surf. Widely regarded as the best surfing location on the East Coast, Cocoa Beach has an annual surf festival and is home to the flagship store of Ron Jon Surf Shop, the largest surfing store in the world.
- Canaveral National Seashore - A short drive north of Cape Canaveral, the National Seashore is 24 miles of undeveloped beach. Visitors can fully enjoy unspoiled nature here by way of a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, camping, animal watching, walking on nature trails, and a wide array of water-based activities. If you are bored with overdeveloped, crowded beaches elsewhere in the state, then this serene place is perfect for you.
- Daytona Beach - A short hour-long drive northeast of Orlando will bring you to Daytona, a center of auto racing. Here, it’s possible to tour the infamous Daytona International Speedway. Driving and parking on the beach is a tradition in Daytona Beach and nearby New Smyrna Beach.
- Ocala National Forest - Located just a little over an hour north of Orlando, The southernmost forest in the continental U.S. contains more than 600 lakes, rivers, and most interestingly, springs. Visitors can swim, snorkel, and dive in the spring waters that stay a perfect 72 degrees year-round. Be warned that both bears and alligators make the forest their habitat. Neither should ever be approached.
If you plan to begin a longer road trip starting in Florida, be sure to choose a rental company that allows their vehicles to be taken to other states. Most low-cost rental companies do not allow their cars to be taken outside of the state of Florida. Ace Rent a Car, Clubs, Green Motion, Easirent, and Routes only allow their cars to be driven in the state of Florida. Sixt allows renters to travel to Georgia and/or Alabama in addition to Florida. Finally, National and Dollar allow their vehicles to travel to any state.
- The Florida Keys - No trip to Florida can be complete without making the journey south to the Keys. An archipelago off the southern tip of Florida’s peninsula stretching into the straits of Florida, the Florida Keys is notorious for its beaches. The tourist high season is from December to April when mild temperatures combined with less rain to make it the perfect winter getaway. Therefore, later in spring towards the beginning of summer may be the more pocket-book-friendly time to experience the keys. June through November are hurricane season, and therefore can be risky.
- St. Augustine - The oldest European settlement in the United States, St. Augustine offers a historical charm unique to the country. Gorgeous views of the bay and sandy beaches would normally be enough to bring tourists in, but this city packs an experience that would make the 2-hour drive from Orlando more than worthwhile.
Top 18 Cities near Orlando
Fort Lauderdale Car Rentals from $19.44 per day285.9 km / 177.7 miles away
Miami Car Rentals from $15.99 per day309.8 km / 192.5 miles away
Tampa Car Rentals from $72.92 per day130.2 km / 80.9 miles away
Fort Myers Car Rentals from $72.92 per day215.1 km / 133.6 miles away
West Palm Beach Car Rentals from $19.45 per day228.1 km / 141.7 miles away
Jacksonville Car Rentals from $19.45 per day232.5 km / 144.5 miles away
Sanford Car Rentals from $72.92 per day39.3 km / 24.4 miles away
Clearwater Car Rentals from $72.92 per day146.9 km / 91.3 miles away
Sarasota Car Rentals from $70.29 per day167.9 km / 104.3 miles away
Pensacola Car Rentals from $72.92 per day612.7 km / 380.7 miles away
Eglin Car Rentals from $72.92 per day554.3 km / 344.4 miles away
Punta Gorda Car Rentals from $72.92 per day180.9 km / 112.4 miles away
Tallahassee Car Rentals from $72.92 per day366.9 km / 228.0 miles away
Daytona Beach Car Rentals from $72.92 per day87.0 km / 54.0 miles away
Melbourne Car Rentals from $64.35 per day74.5 km / 46.3 miles away
Gainesville Car Rentals from $60.75 per day168.5 km / 104.7 miles away
Key West Car Rentals from $72.92 per day433.0 km / 269.1 miles away
Panama City Car Rentals from $72.19 per day467.8 km / 290.7 miles away
Top 20 Locations near Orlando
Hyatt Regency Orlando Hotel Car Rentals from $72.92 per day
Orlando, Buena Vista Palace Hotel Car Rentals from $54.95 per day
Orlando, Disney Car Care Downtown Car Rentals from $72.92 per day
Orlando Airport Car Rentals from $19.45 per day
Orlando, Downtown Car Rentals from $70.06 per day
Sanford Airport Car Rentals from $72.92 per day39.3 km / 24.4 miles away
Melbourne International Airport Car Rentals from $64.35 per day74.5 km / 46.3 miles away
Daytona Beach Airport Car Rentals from $72.92 per day87.0 km / 54.0 miles away
Tampa Airport Car Rentals from $72.92 per day130.2 km / 80.9 miles away
St. Pete–Clearwater Airport Car Rentals from $72.92 per day146.9 km / 91.3 miles away
Sarasota–Bradenton Airport Car Rentals from $70.29 per day167.9 km / 104.3 miles away
Gainesville Regional Airport Car Rentals from $60.75 per day168.5 km / 104.7 miles away
Punta Gorda Airport Car Rentals from $72.92 per day180.9 km / 112.4 miles away
Fort Myers, Southwest Florida International Airport Car Rentals from $72.92 per day215.1 km / 133.6 miles away
West Palm Beach Airport Car Rentals from $19.45 per day228.1 km / 141.7 miles away
Jacksonville Airport JAX Car Rentals from $19.45 per day232.5 km / 144.5 miles away
Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport Car Rentals from $72.92 per day272.5 km / 169.3 miles away
Fort Lauderdale Airport Car Rentals from $19.44 per day285.9 km / 177.7 miles away
Miami Airport Car Rentals from $15.99 per day309.8 km / 192.5 miles away
Tallahassee Airport Car Rentals from $72.92 per day366.9 km / 228.0 miles away
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