Orlando's major artery is Interstate 4. Locals call it I-4, or that #@$*%^#!! highway! It runs diagonally across the state (though directional signs are always marked east or west) from Tampa to Daytona Beach. The exits along this route will take you to Disney, Universal, SeaWorld, International Drive, U.S. 192, Kissimmee, Lake Buena Vista, and north to downtown Orlando and Winter Park. Most exits are well marked, but construction is common and exit numbers have been changed through the years. If you get directions by exit number, always ask the name of the road to help avoid getting lost. (Cellphone users can dial tel. 511 to get a report of I-4 delays.)
The Florida Turnpike, a toll road, crosses I-4 and links with I-75 to the north and Miami to the south. U.S. 192/Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway is a major east-west artery that reaches from Kissimmee to U.S. 27, crossing I-4 near World Drive, the main Walt Disney World entrance road. Construction has widened this stretch of highway and made driving a bit easier, while the addition of large numerical markers has made locating hotels, restaurants, and attractions much easier as well. The Beachline Expressway (Hwy. 528; previously the Bee Line Expwy.), also a toll road, goes east from I-4 past Orlando International Airport to Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center. The East-West Expressway (also known as Hwy. 408) is a toll road that can be helpful in bypassing surface traffic in the downtown area. The 417, also a toll road, runs from north of the Orlando International Airport to I-4 just below U.S. 192. This route is a good alternative to I-4 if you are staying on the lower end of International Drive, World Center Drive, or areas east of the I-4, as it is far less traveled than the main highway.
If you're jockeying between Disney and Universal, one of the lesser traffic evils is Apopka-Vineland Road. It tends to be less cluttered than I-4 or International Drive. Follow it north from Lake Buena Vista and the northeast side of Disney to Sand Lake Road, then go right/east to Turkey Lake Road, and then left/north to Universal Orlando. Another way to avoid the highway when driving between Universal Orlando and Disney is to take the Palm Parkway (just off Apopka-Vineland Rd.) to Turkey Lake Road, which will take you right to Universal.
I-4 and Highway 535 roughly bound Walt Disney World to the east (the latter is also a northern boundary), and U.S. 192/Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway bounds it to the south. World Drive is WDW's main north-south artery. Epcot Center Drive (Hwy. 536/the south end of International Dr.) and Buena Vista Drive cut across the complex in a more or less east-west direction; the two roads cross at Bonnet Creek Parkway. Despite a reasonably good highway system and explicit signs, it's easy to get lost or miss a turn here -- even if you think you know the roads. I've gotten lost or passed an exit on Disney property at least once or twice on every trip. Again, pay attention and drive carefully. Don't panic or pull across several lanes of traffic to make an exit, especially once you're on Disney property -- there's always another exit just ahead where you can turn around. All roads lead to the parks, and you'll soon find another sign directing you to the same place. It may take a bit longer, but Goofy will still be there.
Clever landscaping hides the fact that many parts of WDW are very close together. It took me several trips to discover that Disney's Hollywood Studios is just behind the BoardWalk, which is right next to the WDW Swan and the WDW Dolphin, which is across the lake from Disney's Yacht and Beach Club resorts, which are next to Epcot -- you get the picture. Walking can occasionally be the most efficient way to get from one place to another; it's always worth looking at a map to check before you set out anywhere. Note: One of the best maps of WDW's parks and roadways, although not nearly as detailed as it once was, can be found on the back of the "Orlando, Florida, and Vicinity" map provided by Alamo (Disney's official rental-car company). The map is available (upon request) to those staying on Disney property -- it lays out the entire WDW roadway system as well as the theme parks and resorts.
AAA (tel. 800/222-1134; www.aaa.com) and other auto club members should call their local offices for maps and optimum driving directions.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.