From a reader (yay!):
I noticed that you mention in your Ft. Wilderness post that you wouldn't stay there without a car. My husband and I are staying at the Wilderness Lodge over Christmas. Would you recommend renting a car? My husband says NO, I say YES!! We are taking Magical Express.
PL: Thanks for your email. If I was trying to save money on a trip (and I usually am), renting a car is the first thing I'd cut if I'm staying on Disney property. Magical Express is incredibly convenient. I know that some people have complained about long waits and there is the extremely rare luggage mishap, but from my perspective, the ability to walk from your gate to ME, get on the bus, check into your resort, and have your luggage delivered to your room later that day is priceless. As for Disney internal transporation, I've stayed at all resort levels and although there have been exceptions, I've generally not waited more than 15-20 minutes on what I would consider a heavy crowd day. Other times, I've waited only a few minutes.
Regardless of where you stay, you will be able to get anywhere you want on Disney property using Disney transportation. It is, particularly considering the vast amount of people Disney moves from place to place, remarkably efficient. Some resorts however, have less than stellar bus service. Saratoga Springs and Treehouse Villas come to mind, as does Ft. Wilderness. Other resorts are so far from dining options that staying there without a car can be difficult. If you stay at a more remote location, you may want to plan your dining options a little more carefully. Keep in mind that you generally can't go directly from one resort to another, so if you're dining at a resort different from your own, you'll have to go to a park or the Ticket and Transportation Center and then transfer to a bus or monorail that takes you to that resort As you can see, this is where staying at a monorail resort or at one of the Epcot resorts is very convenient.
Ask yourself how you intend to vacation. Are you comfortable buying everything you need on Disney property? If not, you still don't have to rent a car; look into grocery delivery services. Does your resort have adequate dining options? This can be a particulary difficult issue when staying at Ft. Wilderness, for example. Do you intend to visit other attractions in the Orlando area? If you choose to do so, some of them, such as Universal, provide shuttles to their parks and back from Disney property with certain ticket options. Ultimately, I think it's also important to be honest with yourself about how you feel about waiting for a bus. No one likes it, but for some it's a real hassle and cuts into precious vacation time. If you fall into the latter group, by all means, rent a car. It's worth it for your peace of mind. Finally, are you visiting during an especially busy time of the year? The busier the season, the more likely I am to rent my own car.
There are huge benefits to not dealing with a car rental. Besides saving money, you avoid a lot of hassle. No getting lost coming from the airport, no pressure to go off site, no parking issues. And in some cases, such as with the Magic Kingdom, it's almost always faster to take Disney transportation than to use your own car.
I would be very comfortable staying at the Wilderness Lodge without a car. I think there are adequate dining options on site or just a ferry ride away in the Magic Kingdom or at the Contemporary Resort. Keep in mind that some buses from the Wilderness Lodge pick up guests from other resorts; allow yourself a little extra time for those routes.