Talking about Disney transportation always gets a mix of reactions. I will stand by my statement that after staying at Disney resorts from Pop Century to most of the deluxe resorts and having visited just about every resort at some point, the Polynesian has the best overall transportation. With that said the bus situation can be very inconsistent. During some of my visits the Polynesian bus has stopped at the Wilderness lodge before getting to the Polynesian, then moving on to the Grand Floridian. Most of the time in the last few years it has stopped at the Contemporary first. In all cases you are the second resort to get picked up so the bus can be anywhere from partially full to very full before it gets to the Polynesian. This is even worse for the Grand Floridian because it very often only has standing room left once it gets to the Grand Floridian. Same thing with the monorail. Unfortunately for the Grand Floridian guests they are the last pick up for both. The thing that sets the Polynesian apart from the Grand Floridian and the Contemporary is the ability to take a short walk to the Transportation and Ticket Center to either get on a bus or one of the 3 monorails (Resort, Express or Epcot) or even get a cab. Also coming back from Epcot it is not necessary to get onto another monorail to get back to your resort like it is for the Grand Floridian and Contemporary. Also the Polynesian not only has a direct boat to the Magic Kingdom from its dock but for those that do not want to fold up a stroller or are in a wheelchair you can go to the big ferry between the monorails and Tahiti longhouse to go over to the Magic Kingdom, but this article was not intended to focus on why the Polynesian transportation is the best. It was intended to focus on what I see at the weak link of Disney transportation. Disney buses and why I have always rented a car since my trip in 1996.
Disney buses can be great and when I had no car in 1996 it did get me to where I wanted to go. After that trip I rented a car because I found that it was difficult to go from Disney destination to other Disney destinations. Now if you go enough you learn the tricks like going to Downtown Disney from other Disney parks or resorts to get to other resorts or using the Transportation and Ticket Center to get to other destinations. There were times we wanted to go from a water part to Downtown Disney and could not do that so I decided I wanted to be able to go anywhere I wanted and I rented a car. People still tell me I am crazy to spend the money on a car with Disney transportation being free but with as cheap as I have been able to find rentals I see it worth the money. Yes you could save $200 for the week but lets look at this a little more carefully. Disney Magical Express is a great thing but not always perfect and coming in either very early or very late can complicate how and when you get your bags. I would rather have control of my own bags and access to them at any time. Also I get to my destination quicker if I have my own car. When leaving for the airport I can leave when I want and not during a scheduled pick up by Disney.
Having your own car you will have free parking at your Disney resort and at the parks. We often put stuff in our car (like rain gear) that we don’t want to have to carry around the parks all day or maybe a change of clothes if we do get caught in a downpour. Also when coming from a water park we can change and be off to another park or Downtown Disney without waiting for Disney transportation to get us, take us back to the resort, change, wait for more buses and go off to a park or Downtown Disney.
With your own car you have the flexibility of going and eating at other resorts without taking a cab or finding a creative way to go from Resort to Resort. Many people talk about getting a cab so that they can get to their destination quickly and easily but most of the longer distances at Disney World will cost you about $20 to $30 after tip each way. My rental car cost me about $30 to $40 a day and if you belong to their free club you often get upgraded to a bigger car. Your daily rental car can be less than one round trip in a cab on property and you have the flexibility of having your own car. I will be the first to admit that even when I have my own car there are days that I don’t use it because I have the monorail and at times will use the Disney Busses but I still find it a convenience that is well worth having. Many times I have even gone and picked up friends from other Disney resorts to go out and eat at a different resort like the Animal Kingdom Lodge (one of my favorites). The other benefits to having a car are if you ever want to visit something outside Disney property.
I do believe for the most part that Disney does a good job with the buses. There have been times that the buses are not crowded and do not take long to pick you up but most of my experiences have not been that positive. I don’t see it as a problem that is unique to the Polynesian and in my experience staying at other resorts have been worse. Even staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge a few times I had worse experiences than what I have experienced at the Polynesian. When the Animal Kingdom Lodge first opened I visited it and I was told how great the transportation would be since it did not share a bus. When I first stayed there in 2002 I was surprised how long I waited for a bus at the resort and once we got to a destination we would see multiple buses for other resorts come and go before the bus for the Animal Kingdom Lodge would arrive. During our stay at the Boardwalk and Yacht Club we had to stop at Boardwalk, Swan, Dolphin, Yacht Club and then Beach Club. Not very many of my bus experiences are very good although the people chugging a bottle of tequila as we came back from Downtown Disney was quite an experience. Having smaller kids I would rather having them in a car with a car seat than stuck in a bus full of people. We all know Disney transportation has not been accident free.
One thing to keep in mind is that renting a car and staying at the Swan or Dolphin you will have to pay a $15 a day fee and there were times I came back to a completely full self-parking and had to pay the $20 a day valet fee. You do still get the free parking at theme parks when staying at the Swan or Dolphin.
I hope this information will give you another point of view on the subject so you can decide what is best for you, your family and your budget.