Do I really need a hire car when on holiday in Orlando, Florida?

We are asked many times….do we need a hire a car when on holiday in Orlando? The simple answer is YES, but I’m nervous about driving?  Don’t be, and here I answer why…

Hire Car Driving in Orlando
You don’t need a hire a truck like this, but it was offered and I had never driven anything like this so why not, not great on fuel but fun to drive.

With the majority of flights going into Orlando International Airport (MCO) it’s very simple to pick up your hire car and be on your way.  Many offer sat navs that will help you navigate your way around during your holiday, but these are charged by the day and it would therefore be cheaper to purchase the North American map for a Tom Tom that you own already, just remember to pack the charger!

The roads in Orlando are much wider than the UK and very simple to navigate.  The main roads work on a grid system, with odd numbered roads (for example HWY 27) running from North to South, and even numbered roads (for example, HWY 192 and I4) running from East to West.  Therefore if you are heading east when you leave your home, you know that you have to head west to return.

When on the main I4 (interstate 4), the exits are numbered in miles from Tampa, therefore if you are at junction 58 (Champions Gate) and wish to get off for at World Drive, which is the main road into Disney at junction 62, you know that you are on the I4 for 4 miles.  Each park is well signposted from the I4 and once off the interstate you can then follow the ‘Disney’ signs for each park.

Orlando International Airport Road Signs - 417 South

From the airport it’s better to take the toll road 417 heading south (see image above).  Toll roads are a lot quieter than the main highway which will enable you to settle into driving on the left as well as giving you time to get accustomed to your new car.

Toll Booth Signs in Orlando, Florida

You have to pay to use the toll road when going through the various pay booths.  You will have the option to use either the blue ‘Exact Change’ lane, to use this you will need the amount due in change which you put it in the bucket, wait for the machine to count the amount and then drive through once the light turns green.  If you have notes then you use the green ‘Change Provided’ lane, where you speak with an attendant who will take your money and give you change, you can also use this lane if you have the exact amount in change.  Some hire cars have the SunPass system built into the car, I don’t recommend that you activate this as there is a daily charge in addition to the toll that is due, this is calculated across the length of time you have hired the car and will be costly for a 14 night stay.

Toll Booth Signs in Orlando, Florida

Before leaving for your Florida vacation the owner of the home you are renting will give you full driving directions to the villa, a general rule would be…

For homes located in the Kissimmee area you will leave the toll road at Exit 2, this is the junction for Celebration.  You will need some quarters as this last booth is “unmanned” and only gives you an option of the “Exact Change” lane.  From here you take a right and follow the road to the HWY 192 junction where you take a left to head to Formosa Gardens, Windsor Hills, Calabria and homes at the Northern end of HWY 27 / Western end of HWY 192.  Taking a right on the HWY 192 will take you to homes located in the Poinciana Blvd area, for example Aviana Resort, Cumbrian Lakes etc

For homes located in West Haven, Ridgewood Lakes, Champions Gate, Reunion Resort and Hwy 27 you will travel the full length of the Toll Road 417 and join Interstate 4 (I4), from here you are now heading West for Tampa.  You will either need to leave the I4 at junction 55 (HWY 27) or junction 58 (Champions Gate).

A few additional tips for driving…

  1. Unless otherwise stated, a right turn at a red light is permitted but only if the way is clear and only after making a complete stop. Always stop at a Red Stop sign at junctions.
  2. Overtaking is allowed on the inside, so watch out for traffic on either side.
  3. The road name on the sign facing you at crossroads is not the road you are on, but the one you are about to cross.  They may have a different name to the right and to the left.
  4. Always carry your driving licence in the car with you.
  5. Beware speeding; the police are very keen to give away tickets. It is very easy to find blue flashing lights in your rear-view mirror – it can happen to the best of us!
  6. Children under 6 years of age or 40 pounds in weight must use a child seat. Seat belts must be worn in the front seats. The number of passengers may not exceed the number of seat belts.
  7. The car must be in “Park” or “P” position in order to remove the ignition key.
  8. Yours is the only set of keys. If you lose the keys or lock them in your car, you will need the services of a locksmith!
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