We’re halfway through September, which in the world of Disney means that Halloween has already been happening for a month, Christmas starts in less than 2 months, and 2022 is basically already here. Once the calendar does flip over, everyone flying to Walt Disney World will have a different choice that they have to make about how to get from the airport to the resort. Until the end of the year, all on-site guests are eligible for complimentary rides to and from the airport on the Magical Express, run by Mears. But starting in 2022, Disney is no longer partnering with Mears to provide that service.
This means your options all include paying to get transportation to and from your resort:
- Rental Car
- Mears Connect
- Ride Share/Taxi
- Floo powder (oops, wrong park)
In almost all situations, traveling via ride share (like Uber or Lyft) will end up being the cheapest option. But it comes with its own pitfalls, especially if you’re travelling with small children. In the past, if you used Magical Express and Disney resort transportation (neither of which allow car seats), you didn’t need to worry about bringing a car seat with you. But if you’re traveling in a car, SUV, or minivan, you will most certainly need one. So what are your options? This is one of the most common questions I get from friends visiting Disney with small kids, so let’s discuss what you can do.
Bring Your Own Car Seat
The first option that you have is the biggest hassle, but the most reliable (and potentially most cost-effective). As long as you’ve purchased a separate seat for your child, you are allowed to install a car seat in their spot on the plane. Only caveats are that:
- Your car seat must physically fit in the plane – airplane seats are notoriously skinny, so it’s worth doing some googling to determine whether yours will fit.
- Your car seat must be approved for use in flight – almost all car seats have this approval; you can check on the safety sticker (usually found on the bottom of the seat). Booster seats are the major exception. You cannot use a booster seat in an airplane because they require a lap-shoulder belt, which planes do not have.
This is the route my family goes. But hauling a car seat (or two) through an airport, onto a plane, off of a plane, through another airport, into a ride share and finally to your resort is no joke. Here are some lessons learned that we would share:
- Buy a separate car seat for air travel, especially if you fly regularly. Our big, bulky normal car seats are horrible things to carry around when we’re already burdened with kids and other travel bags. Do your research, but we ended up with the Cosco Scenera because of its reasonable price, really light weight, and dimensions. It has been used on many trips, and we have no regrets about it.
- To carry the car seat through the airport, we pull the shoulder straps to their full extension and use them as “backpack” straps. That keeps all hands free, and the seat is light enough that it doesn’t feel like much additional burden.
- Car seats generally have to be installed in the window seat of an airplane. Flight attendants might not tell you when you board, so don’t make the mistake of putting it in the middle or aisle seat, only to have to uninstall and reinstall on a crowded plane.
- If you install the seat front-facing, it’s almost guaranteed that the seatbelt latch will end up uncomfortably right in the middle of the seat, behind your kid’s back. You could bring something small to put behind the seat cover and the seatbelt latch, but it’s going to be lumpy.
- Practice installing and uninstalling the seat in different types of cars if you have different makes/models at your house, or if you have friends or family that are willing to let you try it out in their cars. You don’t want to be fumbling with getting it set as your Uber/Lyft driver is waiting for you.
What about older kids?
I mentioned above that booster seats aren’t allowed on airplanes. So what if you have a 4-5+ year old that’s too big for a car seat, but needs a restraint system in your ride share? You could bring a booster seat and just check it at the gate or in your luggage. We opt for an easily packable travel booster – after researching, we opted for the Bubble Bum. It’s an inflatable booster, so when we head to the airport, we deflate it, roll it up and stick it in our diaper bag or other carry-on luggage. Then when we land we take it out and are ready to inflate it and install it in our rental car or ride share. Super easy if your child is 4 or older and weighs more than 40 pounds.
Borrow/Rent from Ride Share
Options here are more limited, and will cost you an additional fee on top of your ride fare. But you don’t have to worry about bringing one with you or storing it at your resort. There are many caveats with this option, though:
- Uber and Lyft both offer a car seat option, but both technically only guarantee availability in New York City. I did a quick search in Orlando, though, and the option did pop up. When you enter your ride request, you just have to scroll to the bottom of ride options, and car seat options appear under “More”.
- A car seat will incur a $10 surcharge per ride on both Uber and Lyft.
- Even if you find an available ride with car seat, there is always only one car seat offered. If you have multiple small children, you’re out of luck.
- For both services, the standard car seat that is offered is the IMMI Go, which is only suitable for children ages 2 and up, and at least 22 pounds and 31 inches. If your child is younger or smaller, again, you’re out of luck.
Non-Option: Roll the Dice without a Seat
I’m only including this “option” to be very clear that this should not be and is legally not an option. Laws in Florida dictate that all children under the age of 5 be transported in vehicles with the appropriate restraints. Parents must:
- Provide a federally approved child restraint system OR confirm that the driver has provided a federally approved child restraint system
- AND install or confirm proper installation of the seat in the vehicle
- AND secure or confirm that your child is secured in the restraint
What Does This Mean For You?
If you will be using a ride share service during your time at Disney:
- If you have a child under the age of 2, you 100% need to bring your own car seat, find a service that will rent you one, or somehow purchase one while you are there.
- If your kid is 2 or older, you have a few more options. You can specify that you require a car seat when you order your ride share. But there will only be one seat, and it will likely be an IMMI Go.
- If your child is 4 or older and meets other height/weight requirements, you could pack along a travel booster seat.
What has been your experience traveling with a car seat? Any other tips and tricks? Let us know in the comments.