Back in March, The Orlando Sentinel confirmed through a spokesperson that Disney World is testing a new preferred parking program, allowing theme park visitors to get a closer parking spot at entrances to Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom (according to Orlando Attractions Magazine on April 3rd.) Other theme parks in Orlando have charged for preferred parking for years now. Regular car parking at Universal Studio’s garage is $20, with a preferred parking upgrade cost of $30(total). Universal offers valet parking ranging from $20 to $50. SeaWorld parking is $18, with a preferred parking upgrade cost of $23(total).
So do you need to splurge on the up-charge for closer parking or take your chances just parking in the back?
How to Get It
By paying $15 on top of the regular parking fee, you will be allowed to pull into designed areas of currently existing Disney parking lots. Since the current parking fee for automobiles is $20, the preferred-parking total would then be $35.
If you stay in Disney resort hotels, you have parking fees included in your room rate. You will simply need to pay $15 for the closer preferred parking place.
Parking fees are included in the cost of an annual pass. If you are an Annual Pass holder, you will have to pay $15 for the closer preferred spots as well.
Where Will You Preferred Park?
Since this is a testing phase, this information could change at any time.
Magic Kingdom preferred parking is in the Jafar section of the lot; Epcot preferred parking is in the Amaze section. These preferred parking sections at both parks are close enough that you can skip taking the tram and walk up, if you wanted the walking option. Magic Kingdom preferred parkers will still go to the Ticket & Transportation Center by walking or riding the tram and then travel on to the park entrance by taking the monorail or ferry.
There was no word on the preferred parking location at Animal Kingdom, but Orlando Attractions Magazine had a photo of their preferred parking lot sign, so it’s obviously being tested there as well.
This parking test is not available at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, yet. Visitors can still park for free at Disney Springs, Disney World water parks, and the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.
Will This Affect Handicapped Parking?
A Disney spokesperson confirmed to the Sentinel that the test is not affecting handicapped parking spaces at Magic Kingdom and Epcot.
Do You Need It?
How close do you need to park to the theme park entrances? Are you in rush to get there or get back home?
The first thing I would ask myself would be if there was any reason I couldn’t just park out further in the lot. I realize not everyone who has physical issues will have a handicapped sticker, so it may depend on your circumstances on the day/s you decide to pay for closer parking.
I may be a cheapskate, but I am not all that big a stranger to paying for extra vacation benefits. I have paid the up-charge to park in Universal’s preferred parking garage. While owning a perfectly good stroller, long ago I paid to rent a Disney double stroller on multiple days during multiple trips. I know if I was parking today at Magic Kingdom, I don’t have any reason to pay for an upgrade in order to cut some steps out of my day. That’s not to say I might not have reason in years to come.
Since no word has been announced directly by Disney, there has been no information released if preferred parking passes would transfer from park to park if you went Park Hopping. I would obviously skip this parking option right now if you plan to park hop, at least until a transfer option has been confirmed or denied.
The current trend in Disney vacationing is to pay for upgrades and extras. Extra time in the parks, special parties and t-shirts, and now closer parking may one day be on your list of Disney World extravagances. I sure hope it’s not on MY list anytime soon, but I try to never say never. On the day I need to pay for the parking upgrade, I may have to pull out my toll road roll of quarters and hope for the best.
If you do a lot of walking in the heat of the day, you certainly may need this information:
To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.
Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you walking toward the Epcot entrance from the parking lot…
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