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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 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:
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.
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 York||17 hours, 51 minutes||2 hours, 14 minutes|
|Chicago, Illinois||16 hours, 58 minutes||2 hours, 10 minutes|
|Charleston, South Carolina||6 hours, 43 minutes||1 hour, 8 minutes|
|Las Vegas, Nevada||35 hours, 22 minutes||3 hours, 58 minutes|
|Seattle, Washington||46 hours, 36 minutes||4 hours, 58 minutes|
|San Francisco, California||42 hours, 59 minutes||4 hours, 45 minutes|
|Washington, D.C.||13 hours, 41 minutes||1 hour, 54 minutes|
|New Orleans, Louisiana||9 hours, 6 minutes||1 hour, 17 minutes|
|Palm Springs, California||35 hours, 20 minutes||4 hours, 42 minutes|
|San Diego, California||35 hours, 50 minutes||4 hours, 2 minutes|
|St. Louis, Missouri||15 hours, 40 minutes||1 hour, 54 minutes|
|Sedona, Arizona||30 hours, 27 minutes||4 hours, 9 minutes|
|Honolulu, Hawaii||n/a||10 hours|
|Miami Beach, Florida||3 hours, 52 minutes||39 minutes|
|Branson, Missouri||16 hours, 34 minutes||1 hour, 54 minutes|
|Boston, Massachusetts||19 hours, 22 minutes||2 hours, 41 minutes|
|Savannah, Georgia||4 hours, 22 minutes||1 hour|
|Orlando, Florida||32 minutes||n/a|
|Portland, Oregon||45 hours, 45 minutes||5 hours, 33 minutes|
|Lahaina, Hawaii||n/a||9 hours, 52 minutes|
|Saint Augustine, Florida||2 hours||43 minutes|
|Nashville, Tennessee||10 hours, 53 minutes||1 hour, 26 minutes|
|Los Angeles, California||37 hours, 14 minutes||4 hours, 17 minutes|
|San Antonio, Texas||16 hours, 40 minutes||2 hours, 12 minutes|
|Austin, Texas||17 hours, 32 minutes||2 hours, 7 minutes|
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:
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.
|City||Drive (One-way)||Drive (Round trip)||Fly (One-way)||Flight (Round Trip)|
|New York City, New York||$117.16||$234.32||$133||$266|
|Charleston, South Carolina||$37.17||$74.34||$248||$496|
|Las Vegas, Nevada||$267.5||$535||$152||$304|
|San Francisco, California||$347.53||$695.06||$238||$476|
|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|
|Miami Beach, Florida||$22.39||$44.78||$123||$246|
|Saint Augustine, Florida||$12.06||$24.12||n/a||n/a|
|Los Angeles, California||$302.10||$604.2||$205||$410|
|San Antonio, Texas||$110.26||$220.52||$281||$562|
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:
The source of prices listed here consists of FareCompare.
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:
|City||Do-ers V. Dreamers Score||Do-ers V. Dreamers Designation|
|New York City, New York||0.7||Dreamer|
|Charleston, South Carolina||2||Do-er|
|Las Vegas, Nevada||1.03||Do-er|
|San Francisco, California||0.71||Dreamer|
|New Orleans, Louisiana||2.19||Do-er|
|Palm Springs, California||0.71||Dreamer|
|San Diego, California||0.71||Dreamer|
|St. Louis, Missouri||2.44||Do-er|
|Miami Beach, Florida||0.64||Dreamer|
|Saint Augustine, Florida||0.64||Dreamer|
|Los Angeles, California||0.71||Dreamer|
|San Antonio, Texas||1.19||Do-er|
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.
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:
|City||Drive||Drive (One-way)||Drive (Round trip)|
|New York City, New York||17 hours, 51 minutes||$117.16||234.32|
|Chicago, Illinois||16 hoursm 58 minutes||$123.81||247.62|
|Charleston, South Carolina||6 hours, 43 minutes||$37.17||$74.34|
|Las Vegas, Nevada||35 hours, 22 minutes||$267.5||$535|
|Seattle, Washington||46 hours, 36 minutes||$346.74||$693.48|
|San Francisco, California||42 hours, 59 minutes||$347.53||$695.06|
|Washington, D.C.||13 hours, 41 minutes||$89.78||$179.56|
|New Orleans, Louisiana||9 hours, 6 minutes||$61.3||$122.6|
|Palm Springs, California||35 hours, 20 minutes||$289.63||$579.26|
|San Diego, California||35 hours, 50 minutes||$292.63||$585.26|
|St. Louis, Missouri||15 hours, 40 minutes||$97.23||$194.46|
|Sedona, Arizona||30 hours, 27 minutes||$218.82||$437.64|
|Miami Beach, Florida||3 hours, 52 minutes||$22.39||$44.78|
|Branson, Missouri||16 hours, 34 minutes||$105.97||$211.94|
|Boston, Massachusetts||19 hours, 22 minutes||$134.64||$269.28|
|Savannah, Georgia||4 hours, 22 minutes||$28.96||$57.92|
|Orlando, Florida||32 minutes||$2.20||$4.40|
|Portland, Oregon||45 hours, 45 minutes||$337.31||$674.62|
|Saint Augustine, Florida||2 hours||$12.06||$24.12|
|Nashville, Tennessee||10 hours, 53 minutes||$65.02||$130.04|
|Los Angeles, California||37 hours, 14 minutes||$302.1||$604.2|
|San Antonio, Texas||16 hours, 40 minutes||$110.26||$220.52|
|Austin, Texas||17 hours, 32 minutes||$107.05||$214.1|
Based on the information in the table above, the best cities to drive from include:
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:
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.
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:
|City||Fly||Fly (One-way)||Flight (Round Trip)|
|New York City, New York||2 hours, 14 minutes||$133||$266|
|Chicago, Illinois||2 hours, 10 minutes||$133||$266|
|Charleston, South Carolina||1 hour, 8 minutes||$248||$496|
|Las Vegas, Nevada||3 hours, 58 minutes||$152||$304|
|Seattle, Washington||4 hours, 58 minutes||$238||$476|
|San Francisco, California||4 hours, 45 minutes||$238||$476|
|Washington, D.C.||1 hour, 54 minutes||$203||$406|
|New Orleans, Louisiana||1 hour, 17 minutes||$99||$198|
|Palm Springs, California||4 hours, 42 minutes||$564||$1128|
|San Diego, California||4 hours, 2 minutes||$178||$356|
|St. Louis, Missouri||1 hour, 54 minutes||$151||$302|
|Honolulu, Hawaii||10 hours||$647||$1294|
|Miami Beach, Florida||39 minutes||$123||$246|
|Boston, Massachusetts||2 hours, 41 minutes||$88||$176|
|Savannah, Georgia||1 hour||$217||$434|
|Portland, Oregon||5 hours, 33 minutes||$283||$566|
|Lahaina, Hawaii||9 hours, 52 minutes||$647||$1294|
|Nashville, Tennessee||1 hour, 26 minutes||$111||$222|
|Los Angeles, California||4 hours, 17 minutes||$205||$410|
|San Antonio, Texas||2 hours, 12 minutes||$281||$562|
|Austin, Texas||2 hours, 7 minutes||$112||$224|
Based on the information in the table above, the best cities to fly from include: