It is not until you start planning your Disney vacation that you realize how large it actually is. Covering nearly 40 square miles, Walt Disney World Resort is about the size of San Francisco or two Manhattan islands. It houses 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 25+ resorts, 3 championship golf courses, 2 mini -golf courses, a sports facility AND a shopping and entertainment district.
Disney provides complimentary transportation to all of it.
The transportation system is as large and complex as that of a mid-sized city – but in my experience much more efficient. Yea… I get it leaving the Magic Kingdom after fireworks with everyone else inevitably means that you may have to wait for a bus or two before getting back to your resort. But if you are used to public transport in a major city, Walt Disney World is a breeze! If you just missed the bus or you see a long line at the stop for your resort there is usually an alternate way of getting to where you want to go. All of the transportation runs on a loop so you should never have to wait more than 20 minutes for the next vehicle. In my experience, there is usually only one ride per trip where we have to wait longer than expected. You should always build in plenty of time to get where you need to (Disney recommends 1.5- 2 hours) but I think you will be pleasantly surprised with how seamlessly it all seems to work.
It is important to understand the transportation system to use it as effectively as possible.
This one is pretty easy. Disney’s Magical Express is a complimentary shuttle between Orlando International airport and your Disney Resort. You add the service to your reservation prior to arrival, and once you have booked your flights you link the information and Disney sends you luggage tags. Why do they send you luggage tags you may ask? Disney picks up your luggage from baggage claim and has it waiting in your hotel room a few hours later.
Yep! Disney delivers your luggage for you.
The Magical Express busses run approximately every 20 minutes and it is around a 30 minute ride to Disney property. Sometimes the busses drop at multiple resorts so it may take a little bit longer. If you are looking to make plans on your arrival day I would leave about 2 ½ hours to account for any possible flight delays, transportation to your resort, check in and getting settled before you make any dining or fastpass
This is the most iconic of Disney’s transportation options. There are not many other places where you can ride on a sleek monorail high in the sky. At Walt Disney World there are 3 monorail loops. The biggest benefit to the monorail is that strollers do not need to be folded AND your child can remain in it – a total #momwin if you are leaving the park with a sleeping child after fireworks.
TTC to Magic Kingdom
The TTC is the Transportation and Ticket Center. It is essentially the Magic Kingdom parking lot. If you park for a day at the Magic Kingdom you will take a tram from the parking lot to the monorail station and either the monorail or a ferry to the Magic Kingdom. The monorail runs from the TTC directly to the Magic Kingdom and back. If you are staying at a Disney resort you are much better off taking the bus which goes right up to the entrance.
Resort Monorail Loop
The Resort Monorail Loop starting at the Magic Kingdom goes to through the Contemporary Resort (yes, I said through) to the Transportation and Ticket Center, and on to the Polynesian Resort and Grand Floridian. If you need to get to the TTC to get to parking or to the EPCOT monorail it is sometimes faster to take the resort loop with the stops then to wait for the next monorail. This is a better option if you just missed a monorail or if the line is long you know you are going to have to wait until the next one.
If you are park hopping or staying at a monorail resort and looking to get to EPCOT you will take the monorail to the TTC and transfer monorails and finish your journey at the entrance to EPCOT.
There is a legend that Walt Disney was in Disneyland one day and noticed a family leaving before the park had closed. He asked them why they were leaving and allegedly the family told him they were on the skyway and saw the roads below and wanted to beat the traffic home. From that moment Disney knew he didn’t want that for his Florida project. He already had a huge advantage there that he didn’t have when he built Disneyland …. land. When he started what is now Walt Disney World he wanted the arrival to his Magic Kingdom to be just that, magical. He wanted to take you out of your reality. So when you park your car for a day in the Magic Kingdom you must be transported to the park. You can choose the monorail (see above) or a ferry. There are currently 3 ferries in operation, all named after men who were instrumental in the success of either Disneyland or Walt Disney World, Richard F. Irvine, Admiral Joe Fowler, and Gen. Joe Potter.
I try to take boat transportation at least once every time I visit Walt Disney World. There is something about the leisurely pace and breeze that is just so restorative during a hectic day running around the parks. The great news is that there are SO many options when it comes to taking a boat between destinations.
There are a series of watercraft that operate between the Magic Kingdom area resorts and the theme park. The begin transporting passengers about 30 minutes prior to park opening until 90 minutes after the park closes.
● The Gold Flag Launch carries guests from the Magic Kingdom to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, continues to Disney’s Polynesian resort, and back to the Magic Kingdom. This route goes in reverse of the resort monorail. Strollers most likely need to be folded and ECVs are not accommodated on the boat.
● The Green Flag Launch operates between the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. This route is served by larger boats called cruisers which are both capable of accommodating ECVs, wheelchairs and unfolded strollers (you child will need to come out though.) This is a popular route due to the dining options at Fort Wilderness and it is the only transportation between the resort and the Magic Kingdom.
● The Red Flag Launch transports guests from the Magic Kingdom to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. This route typically runs one cruiser and one launch, which means if you have an ECV, you’ll have to wait for the next boat. There is also a bus that serves this connection.
● The Blue Flag Launch has two launches transporting guests around Bay Lake between Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Fort Wilderness, and Contemporary Resort. The two launches operate in opposite directions, meeting at the Contemporary.
The Friendship Boats that sail around the World Showcase Lagoon and between the EPCOT area resorts are never the quickest way to your destination. All of the places they serve also have walking paths, but when you need a break from walking they are a lovely way to reach your destination. They accommodate ECVs and Stroller beginning operation 45 minutes before park opening and run until an hour after closing.
● In EPCOT there is now only route that operates between the World Showcase Plaza and Morocco.
● On Crescent Lake right outside the park there is a boat route that transports guests from Boardwalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Dolphin and Swan Resorts to EPCOT and another that brings them to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. There are no busses between those resorts and the theme parks unless there is lightning in the area and the boats are out of operation.
Formerly known as Downtown Disney, Disney Springs is an ever expanding shopping and entertainment district. The amazing restaurants that are opening what seems like daily has made staying at a Disney Springs area resort more and more appealing. They typically run daily from 10:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m but check the My Disney Experience app for the hours for your trip.
● Yellow route – Sassagoula River Cruise goes to and from Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside from the Marketplace Dock.
● Green route – services The Landing to and from Old Key West.
● Blue route – services The Landing to and from Saratoga Springs Resort
● Red route – Disney Springs Water Taxi at the West Side Dock, The Landing Dock and the Marketplace Dock. Route is West Side, Marketplace, and The Landing. This route is open until 1:00 a.m.
This grand, state-of-the-art gondola system conveniently connects Disney’s Hollywood Studios and International Gateway at Epcot to select Resort hotels. Guests enjoy easy access to Disney’s BoardWalk entertainment district and a fun way to travel between Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Plus, the Disney Skyliner provides a relaxing trip to dining locations across Disney Resort hotels—including Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, Disney’s Beach Club Resort and Disney’s BoardWalk Inn.
Some of the gondolas are adorned with iconic Disney Characters, figures from Disney attractions and film favorites, which makes getting around even more magical as Guests enjoy breathtaking vistas over and between each of these enchanting locations!
Gondola stations will be available at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort and Disney’s Riviera Resort.
Every Disney resort is connected to every theme park by some mode of transportation. If the monorail, boat or walking paths are not available your option is the bus. The bus system at Walt Disney World is an operations marvel. Like all modes of Disney transportation, bus service is complimentary and offered to both visitors staying at a Disney Resorts, as well as those staying off-site. On average, Disney buses run every 20 minutes from all Walt Disney World Resorts, although wait times can vary. When going from a resort to a theme park you can track the next buss’s arrival through the My Disney Experience app.
Buses run at full operation roughly 1 hour before the park opens and stop running up to 2 hours after the park closes in the evening. They may begin running earlier to accommodate early reservations but will arrive less frequently. Buses to/from Disney Springs remaining in operation until 2 a.m. Check with your Disney Resort for the most up-to-date information.
Most Deluxe and Value Resorts have one bus stop at the resort’s front entrance. Larger Disney World resorts like most moderates Ft. Wilderness, Old Key West and Saratoga Springs have additional bus stops inside the resort grounds. It is important to know the order of pick up at your resort ahead of time. If you are the first stop the trip is going to be longer with the additional stops taking time. If you are the last stop the bus may be standing room only. In the rare cases a bus is full when it reaches the last stop the driver will call dispatch for an additional bus which usually takes a few minutes.
When leaving the park there is a large sign leading up to the bus stops with all the resorts and the number stop their bus will arrive at. If you are staying at a Deluxe Resort your busses will be the closest to the exit with the values being further away. There is currently no way to track busses picking up from the theme park going to the resorts.
There is no direct bus routes between resorts. If you are traveling from one resort to another for a dining reservation or other purpose you will have to get creative. We recommend that you head to the nearest theme park to your destination, then hop on a bus, monorail, or ferry to your destination from there. You may also find that heading to Disney Springs and catching a bus from there an easy option. Do your research in advance – find out what the options are for the resort you are heading to. If you are going to Beaches and Cream the easiest thing to do is take a bus to EPCOT, walk through the park and walk directly to the restaurant. If Hoop De Doo is your destination you will want to take a bus to the Magic Kingdom and then take the boat to Fort Wilderness.
Disney watched the popularity of rideshares to the park increase and wanted to get in on the game so they introduced Minnie Vans. The ‘vans’ are are brand-new Chevy Traverse mid-size SUVs painted red and decorated with polka dots to resemble Minnie Mouses signature look. There are also accesible options for guest traveling with ECVs.
Minnie Vans pricing starts at $15 and adds $$ per mile of your trip with most trips being in the $30 range. Unlike the lowest tier Uber/Lyft they accomodate 6 guests with up to 3 car seats at no additional fee. There are phone chargers in every vehicle and the drivers are Disney cast members. They have all been working for the company for years and are full of information and trivia.
Another huge benefit is that Magic Kingdom drop-offs actually take you to Magic Kingdom instead of the Ticket & Transportation Center. The only park I would not recommend using to/from is Animal Kingdom – the pick up spot is past the busses.
To use the service, you need to have the Lyft app on your smartphone (Minnie Vans are “powered by Lyft). From there, you need to activate the Minnie Van Service via My Disney Experience or visit your resorts front desk for assistance.
Minnie Vans is now an option between your Disney resort and Orlando International Airport. The airport service is offered to guests with airline flight departures out of MCO between 9 a.m. and midnight and flight arrivals 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. For a flat rate fee of $150 per trip, airport Minnie Vans can accommodate up to 6 people per vehicle, including up to three car seats for guests. Guests wanting to request a Minnie Van to get to MCO are advised to use their hotel’s Resort Airline Check-In for additional information
As you can see there are so many options for getting around Walt Disney World. If you have any questions feel free to Contact Us and we will advise you on the best way to get from one place to another.
I understand how you’re feeling, I know all too well how easy it can be at the beginning to start researching online, just to find yourself 3 hours down the line more confused than when you started. But don’t panic! I can help you plan your dream Disney vacation without any of the stress of hassle – starting with the ‘A Disney Trip without Overwhelm, 5 Easy Steps’ Guide. These 5 steps will help keep you focused on organizing the best trip ever, while giving you peace of mind that everything will be done, and nothing will be left out.
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