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Is it cheaper to drive or fly to Disney from popular U.S. cities?

Things to remember...

  • The cost of driving or flying to Disney World depends on where you’re coming from.
  • Both costs will fluctuate based on the time of year you’re visiting the most magical place on Earth.
  • Disney may be for Dreamers, but you’re never going to get there if you’re not a Do-er.

The United States is home to a litany of exciting vacation spots. No attraction gets quite the same amount of attention, though, as does Disney World. No matter how old you are, you’ve probably thought about saving up your money and heading down to the most magical place on Earth.

You’re not alone. Disney World sees over 52 million annual visitors. What we don’t know is how many of those visitors drive to Disney and how many opt to take a plane.

There are a variety of benefits to both forms of travel. The competition comes down to two primary factors: time and cost. A trip to Disney World is already reasonably expensive for the average American household. Disney World budgets for a family of four typically run a hefty $5,726.

With the average American household operating on a disposable income of $3,258 per month, you’ll have to do a lot of saving to make it to Disney World and back without denting your savings.

In light of that need, let’s explore the difference in cost and time commitments that travel to Disney World takes. We’ll elaborate on these factors, along with our “Do-er versus Dreamer” ranking, so you can see which cities are the most affordable, timely, and actionable to travel from to the land of Mickey Mouse.

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Table of Contents


To rank the cost-effectiveness of flying or driving to Disney World from some of the U.S.’s most popular cities, we had to consider some factors. These include:

  • The time it takes to drive versus the time it takes to fly
  • The cost of driving versus the cost of flying
  • Our “Do-ers versus Dreamers” ranking

The combination of these three categories results in each city’s final score.

While “time” and “cost” are fairly straightforward factors, our “Do-ers versus Dreamers” ranking deserves further explanation. This ranking describes the likelihood of a person to research a trip to Disney World versus their likelihood of actually visiting Disney World. We generate this score based on the following factors:

  • Search Index Ranking – how many times do the terms, “road trip,” “travel,” and “vacation” pop up in the search histories reported by every city on this list?
  • Miles and Population Ranking – how many million miles did drivers in a particular city travel? What was that city’s population? What are that city’s miles per capita? In this case, these miles apply to miles driven and miles flown.

If a city has a high search index ranking but a low miles ranking, they’re a “dreamer” city. Comparatively, a state with a low search index ranking but a high miles ranking is a “do-er” city.

Comparison: Time

In the table below, you’ll see a comparison of the amount of time (courtesy of Travelmath) it takes for families to travel to Disney World by car and by plane from some of the United State’s most popular cities:

New York City, New York17 hours, 51 minutes2 hours, 14 minutes
Chicago, Illinois16 hours, 58 minutes2 hours, 10 minutes
Charleston, South Carolina6 hours, 43 minutes1 hour, 8 minutes
Las Vegas, Nevada35 hours, 22 minutes3 hours, 58 minutes
Seattle, Washington46 hours, 36 minutes4 hours, 58 minutes
San Francisco, California42 hours, 59 minutes4 hours, 45 minutes
Washington, D.C.13 hours, 41 minutes1 hour, 54 minutes
New Orleans, Louisiana9 hours, 6 minutes1 hour, 17 minutes
Palm Springs, California35 hours, 20 minutes4 hours, 42 minutes
San Diego, California35 hours, 50 minutes4 hours, 2 minutes
St. Louis, Missouri15 hours, 40 minutes1 hour, 54 minutes
Sedona, Arizona30 hours, 27 minutes4 hours, 9 minutes
Honolulu, Hawaiin/a10 hours
Miami Beach, Florida3 hours, 52 minutes39 minutes
Branson, Missouri16 hours, 34 minutes1 hour, 54 minutes
Boston, Massachusetts19 hours, 22 minutes2 hours, 41 minutes
Savannah, Georgia4 hours, 22 minutes1 hour
Orlando, Florida32 minutesn/a
Portland, Oregon45 hours, 45 minutes5 hours, 33 minutes
Lahaina, Hawaiin/a9 hours, 52 minutes
Saint Augustine, Florida2 hours43 minutes
Nashville, Tennessee10 hours, 53 minutes1 hour, 26 minutes
Los Angeles, California37 hours, 14 minutes4 hours, 17 minutes
San Antonio, Texas16 hours, 40 minutes2 hours, 12 minutes
Austin, Texas17 hours, 32 minutes2 hours, 7 minutes

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Naturally, there are a few cities on this list — namely, those based in Hawaii — from which driving to Disney is unfeasible (unless you have an aquatic car, in which case, we want to know more).

In most cases, it’s much faster to fly to Disney World than to drive. However, the closer you get to the Sunshine State, the more doable driving to Disney World becomes.

The cities with drive times to Disney World under 10 hours include:

  • Orlando, FL
  • Miami Beach, FL
  • Savannah, GA
  • Charleston, SC
  • New Orleans, LA

Comparison: Cost

Convenience is only brought into question, in this case, by cost. While the cost of flying is occasionally more affordable than the cost of gas, you’ll frequently find that it’s cheaper to fill up your tank than to board a plane to Disney World.

CityDrive (One-way)Drive (Round trip)Fly (One-way)Flight (Round Trip)
New York City, New York$117.16$234.32$133$266
Chicago, Illinois$123.81$247.62$133$266
Charleston, South Carolina$37.17$74.34$248$496
Las Vegas, Nevada$267.5$535$152$304
Seattle, Washington346.74$$693.48$238$476
San Francisco, California$347.53$695.06$238$476
Washington, D.C.$89.78$179.56$203$406
New Orleans, Louisiana$61.30$122.60$99$198
Palm Springs, California$289.63$579.26$564$1128
San Diego, California$292.63$585.26$178$356
St. Louis, Missouri$97.23$194.46$151$302
Sedona, Arizona$218.82$437.64n/an/a
Honolulu, Hawaiin/an/a$647$1294
Miami Beach, Florida$22.39$44.78$123$246
Branson, Missouri$105.97$211.94n/an/a
Boston, Massachusetts$134.64$269.28$88$176
Savannah, Georgia$28.96$57.92$217$434
Orlando, Florida$2.20$4.40n/an/a
Portland, Oregon$337.31$674.62$283$566
Lahaina, Hawaiin/an/a$647$1294
Saint Augustine, Florida$12.06$24.12n/an/a
Nashville, Tennessee$65.02$130.04$111$222
Los Angeles, California$302.10$604.2$205$410
San Antonio, Texas$110.26$220.52$281$562
Austin, Texas$107.05$214.1$112$224

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Do note, though, that the above table does not include the average price of overnight hotels in its driving costs. If you want to make a 45-hour drive without stopping, we recommend investing in good friends and solid driving rotation.

If you want to stop and take a nap, be aware that your driving costs will likely go up.

You might also notice that there are a few cities in this table that you cannot fly to Disney from. Branson, MI, for example, does not house a local airport, and neither does Sedona, AZ. To fly to Disney from these locations, you’ll likely have to put in a little extra driving time.

The most affordable cities to fly to Disney from include:

  • New Orleans, LA
  • Nashville, TN
  • Miami Beach, FL
  • New York City, NY
  • Chicago, IL

The source of prices listed here consists of FareCompare.

Comparison: Doers & Dreamers

Finally, let’s compare the likelihood of a trip to Disney in these cities — or rather, their primary states. A trip to Disney can be expensive. Some Dreamers may be on a tighter budget and would rather sit at home and eat a Disney-themed dinner than be a Doer who experiences the magic in-person. While residents of some states may be more likely to research a potential vacation than take one, there are a few notable states where Disney World trips aren’t just a thing of dreams:

CityDo-ers V. Dreamers ScoreDo-ers V. Dreamers Designation
New York City, New York0.7Dreamer
Chicago, Illinois0.53Dreamer
Charleston, South Carolina2Do-er
Las Vegas, Nevada1.03Do-er
Seattle, Washington0.27Dreamer
San Francisco, California0.71Dreamer
Washington, D.C.0.59Dreamer
New Orleans, Louisiana2.19Do-er
Palm Springs, California0.71Dreamer
San Diego, California0.71Dreamer
St. Louis, Missouri2.44Do-er
Sedona, Arizona1.14Do-er
Honolulu, Hawaii0.1Dreamer
Miami Beach, Florida0.64Dreamer
Branson, Missouri2.44Do-er
Boston, Massachusetts0.29Dreamer
Savannah, Georgia3.69Do-er
Orlando, Florida0.64Dreamer
Portland, Oregon1.28Do-er
Lahaina, Hawaii0.1Dreamer
Saint Augustine, Florida0.64Dreamer
Nashville, Tennessee2.92Do-er
Los Angeles, California0.71Dreamer
San Antonio, Texas1.19Do-er
Austin, Texas1.19Do-er

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As you can see, 14 of the most popular cities in the United States are full of dreamers — people who would love the chance to go to Disney World but who haven’t managed to yet. Comparatively, 12 of these cities see their residents taking at least one vacation a year.

Sources here include Google Trends and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Driving: The Benefits

The benefits of driving to Disney World will primarily depend, as you might have guessed, on where you’re driving from. While driving from some cities will save your budget, driving from others will cost too much to be practical (after all, driving from Honolulu requires you to invest in an amphibious car, and we don’t have the calculations for that listed here).

Let’s take a look at all the driving data brought together in close comparison:

CityDriveDrive (One-way)Drive (Round trip)
New York City, New York17 hours, 51 minutes$117.16234.32
Chicago, Illinois16 hoursm 58 minutes$123.81247.62
Charleston, South Carolina6 hours, 43 minutes$37.17$74.34
Las Vegas, Nevada35 hours, 22 minutes$267.5$535
Seattle, Washington46 hours, 36 minutes$346.74$693.48
San Francisco, California42 hours, 59 minutes$347.53$695.06
Washington, D.C.13 hours, 41 minutes$89.78$179.56
New Orleans, Louisiana9 hours, 6 minutes$61.3$122.6
Palm Springs, California35 hours, 20 minutes$289.63$579.26
San Diego, California35 hours, 50 minutes$292.63$585.26
St. Louis, Missouri15 hours, 40 minutes$97.23$194.46
Sedona, Arizona30 hours, 27 minutes$218.82$437.64
Honolulu, Hawaiin/an/an/a
Miami Beach, Florida3 hours, 52 minutes$22.39$44.78
Branson, Missouri16 hours, 34 minutes$105.97$211.94
Boston, Massachusetts19 hours, 22 minutes$134.64$269.28
Savannah, Georgia4 hours, 22 minutes$28.96$57.92
Orlando, Florida32 minutes$2.20$4.40
Portland, Oregon45 hours, 45 minutes$337.31$674.62
Lahaina, Hawaiin/an/an/a
Saint Augustine, Florida2 hours$12.06$24.12
Nashville, Tennessee10 hours, 53 minutes$65.02$130.04
Los Angeles, California37 hours, 14 minutes$302.1$604.2
San Antonio, Texas16 hours, 40 minutes$110.26$220.52
Austin, Texas17 hours, 32 minutes$107.05$214.1

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Based on the information in the table above, the best cities to drive from include:

  • Orlando, FL
  • Charleston, SC
  • New Orleans, LA
  • Miami Beach, FL
  • Nashville, TN

Road Trip Preparation

The last thing you want to find out while on a road trip is that you’ve left something important behind. If you’re getting ready to drive to Disney World, you’ll want to keep the following 10 tips in mind:

  • Clean your car – starting a road trip with a clean car gives a sense of freshness to your new adventure. When you take the time to get all the non-essential items out of your car, too, you’ll find that there’s more room for the souvenirs you’ll undoubtedly be bringing home with you!
  • Find your important paperwork – you need to have proof of insurance in your car with you when going on a road trip. These forms of financial responsibility will keep you out of trouble if you happen to get pulled over somewhere along the way.
  • Map out your stops – while GPS has made traditional map-watching a little unnecessary, you may still want to know ahead of time if there’s a place along your trip that you want to stop at. While the ultimate goal here is Disney, there may be restaurants along your route that you want to try or gas stations with the lowest gas prices in the state. Make note of these places before you hit the road so you don’t miss them as you drive.
  • Pack with care – Disney World is a shopper’s paradise. The last thing you want to do, whether driving or flying, is overpack. Make a list of your absolute essentials and bring only those. When you do, there’ll be more room for the things you want to bring home with you.
  • Stash your trash – establish a “dirty spot” for your used laundry on a road trip. When you do, you won’t start confusing your clean clothes with your dirty ones, and you’ll stay fresh the entire time you’re on the road.
  • Keep an eye on traffic – smart cars and smart GPS will help you avoid the worst accidents, but you should still keep an eye out for easy exits if you notice traffic starting to back up.
  • Keep the music playing – craft a couple of Disney-oriented playlists to make your ride all the more enjoyable.
  • Budget for gas – gas prices will fluctuate by state, but you should still try and create a gas budget for the whole of your trip. These prices will, naturally, contribute to your overall costs, so you need to be aware of them moving forward.
  • Rotate drivers – if you’re traveling with multiple people, why not create a driver rotation? If you frequently rotate drivers, you’re less likely to get tired, and happy passengers are fun passengers.
  • Have an emergency kit ready – you’ll want to have an emergency kit in your car in case a tire goes out or another car-related issue arises.
  • Insure your car with care – you always want to ensure that you have the proper auto insurance coverage when embarking on a road trip. Proper coverage will keep you from having to spend more money than expected in case of an accident.

If you want to be certain that you have the best cheap auto insurance, you can enter your zip code into our FREE online tool and compare rates in your area.

Flying: The Benefits

If you’re looking to arrive at Disney World quickly, however, while also staying on budget, there are a few cities you can fly out of with ease. Let’s take a look at the flight data brought together for close comparison:

CityFlyFly (One-way)Flight (Round Trip)
New York City, New York2 hours, 14 minutes$133$266
Chicago, Illinois2 hours, 10 minutes$133$266
Charleston, South Carolina1 hour, 8 minutes$248$496
Las Vegas, Nevada3 hours, 58 minutes$152$304
Seattle, Washington4 hours, 58 minutes$238$476
San Francisco, California4 hours, 45 minutes$238$476
Washington, D.C.1 hour, 54 minutes$203$406
New Orleans, Louisiana1 hour, 17 minutes$99$198
Palm Springs, California4 hours, 42 minutes$564$1128
San Diego, California4 hours, 2 minutes$178$356
St. Louis, Missouri1 hour, 54 minutes$151$302
Honolulu, Hawaii10 hours$647$1294
Miami Beach, Florida39 minutes$123$246
Boston, Massachusetts2 hours, 41 minutes$88$176
Savannah, Georgia1 hour$217$434
Orlando, Floridan/an/an/a
Portland, Oregon5 hours, 33 minutes$283$566
Lahaina, Hawaii9 hours, 52 minutes$647$1294
Nashville, Tennessee1 hour, 26 minutes$111$222
Los Angeles, California4 hours, 17 minutes$205$410
San Antonio, Texas2 hours, 12 minutes$281$562
Austin, Texas2 hours, 7 minutes$112$224

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Based on the information in the table above, the best cities to fly from include:

  • New York City, NY
  • Chicago, IL
  • New Orleans, LA
  • St. Louis, MI
  • Nashville, TN


  1. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/
  2. https://www.travelmath.com/driving-time/
  3. https://www.farecompare.com/
  4. https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=2016-01-01%202016-12-31&geo=US&q=%2Fm%2F0cnfpz,travel,vacation
  5. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/abstracts/2015/state.cfm?loc=al
  6. https://www.forbes.com/sites/brianroberts/2018/04/30/road-trip-tips/#61b2182f6198
  7. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/faq/directions-parking/best-driving-routes-to-disney-world/


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