Disney World Transportation
Disney World’s transportation system is one of the things that makes Disney World so unique. Many guests love to leave their cars at home and allow Disney to take them all over the resort.
But this system can also cause a lot of frustration! Bus wait times can be long, transportation options can be confusing, and if you’re not careful you will find yourself wishing that you had your car.
Disney has a lot of different transportation options. We’re going to give you an overview of all of these options. If you’d like to get more details about any of them, there are separate longer articles on each transportation system that you’ll find helpful.
Let’s analyze the five basic means of transportation at Disney.
Disney World Monorail
Without a doubt, the most convenient and simple mode of transportation at Disney World is the monorail. Unfortunately the monorail only stops at three resorts, the Polynesian, the Contemporary and the Grand Floridian. The monorail also currently only services the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. If you are staying at any of these three resorts, you’re definitely going to take advantage of the Monorail, and because of it you’re going to save a lot of time. The monorail enables you to quickly get back to your room, which is really great in the early afternoon when you’re hot and ready for a break.
The monorail is also one of the two ways to get to the Magic Kingdom from the Transportation Center, which is where you will park if you drive to the MK. However, the TC can be very busy. You will encounter long lines (especially if you aren’t getting there early!), and the parking lot is huge.
Please note that the Monorail system to get to Epcot from these three luxury resorts requires you to monorail to the Transportation Center, and then catch another monorail to Epcot. It’s still usually easier than taking a bus, but it’s not a direct monorail.
Disney World Bus System
The bus system is adored by many, and despised by others. Unfortunately, all it takes is a couple of really bad experiences to sour your opinion on it. While your bus is supposed to arrive every 20 minutes, please understand that 20 minutes can be a long time in the Florida heat, and an ETERNITY with small, tired kids! If you need to be somewhere and plan on using the bus system, please give yourself an hour at a MINIMUM if using the bus system.
Why does it take so long? A number of reasons. First of all, you may encounter a line at your bus stop. Then you have to wait on the bus. Handicapped guests unloading and loading will take quite a bit of time. Many resorts may have multiple bus stops! This means that once you’re picked up, you’ll have to go to multiple bus stops and wait on guests to load and unload at each one.
Despite these faults, I still prefer the bus system to driving. Parking lots at Disney are large and require trams and long walks. The bus system will drop you off at the front of the parks. Most resorts now are equipped with bus times that let you know when the bus is arriving. These are usually very accurate and can allow you plan better or grab a snack if you’ve got a long wait.
The bus system has direct routes from every resort to each park. But the bus systems don’t have routes from resort to resort. This can cause problems if you have dinner reservations at a resort. If you are staying at the All-Star resort, for instance, and you are eating at the Wilderness Lodge, there will not be a bus that runs directly between the two. You’ll need to catch a ride to one of the parks, and then get on ANOTHER bus that goes directly to that resort. If you are one of those people that always catches bad breaks with your timing, you can see how you may need to plan to leave 90 minutes in advance, in this case.
If you are unsure of the quickest route using a bus, I strongly recommend asking a cast member at your hotel for the quickest way to another resort.
A final thing to consider with the bus system is your stroller situation. Lugging huge strollers in and out of a bus, especially when Disney is crowded, is enough to cause many to forego this means of transportation.
In conclusion, if you have flown to Disney World and are relying on the bus system, give yourself ample time to get to the parks. If you know ahead of time that you will have a 15-20 minute wait, and if you plan for that, you will do just fine using the bus system. Many times, those that complain are the ones that cut things too short, miss their reservations, and then blame the bus system. Plan ahead and leave early!
Using a Car at Disney World
When you use a car, you can quickly change plans, you can drive off grounds to the store, to Orlando restaurants, or even to the doctor if a family member gets sick.
If you have a car, I recommend driving to the Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and to Epcot. All three have trams that can pick you up and whisk you to the front gate if you have to park far away. Unless you get lost, a car is usually going to be faster than a bus. There are no special bus roads, so a bus will travel the same roads that you do. In addition, you usually will have your car right next to your hotel room, whereas with a bus you have to walk to the front of the resort, which can be quite a haul from some hotel rooms.
I would, however, always recommend taking a bus to the Magic Kingdom. The bus takes you right to the front gates. You cannot drive to the front gates of the MK. Instead you have to drive to the Transportation center. Then, you’ll have to catch the monorail or ferry from the transportation center. If you find yourself getting a late start, I STRONGLY advise using the bus. The transportation center is torture when its crowded.
Parking at Disney World is not free. For guests that are staying offsite, you’ll have to pay for parking at the theme parks, unless you’re an annual passholder. For guests that are staying onsite, Disney has begun charging for overnight parking at the resorts.
Disney’s Magical Express
For Disney World resort guests, the Magical Express is a fantastic option in terms of convenience. If you are flying into Orlando, Disney will pick you up at the airport and allow you to catch a ride directly to your resort. This saves you from having to buy an expensive taxi or Uber, or having to rent a car. But there is one perk that really makes this offering shine. Before you leave for your vacation, Disney will send you luggage tags for your luggage. You’ll put these tags on BEFORE you arrive at the airport to leave.
With these tags on your bags, Disney will pick up your bags and deliver them directly to your room! If you have as many bags as we do, you know how big of a time-saver that is! Then when you want to leave, you take your luggage to the front of your resort, and they’ll get it to the airport and on the plane! You won’t touch it again until you arrive at your destination city! For my family, this is absolutely one of the best things about staying onsite. We routinely have 8 bags (2 per person) and we don’t have to haul them through airports.
Disney Skyliner Transportation System
In late 2019, the Skyliner Transportation system is opening in Disney World. We obviously haven’t been able to test it out yet, but we’ll give you an overview of what the plans are for this system.
This is a gondola system that will transport guest between 2 Disney parks and 4 Disney World resorts. There will be stops in the International Gateway in Epcot. That means that it will arrive in the back of the park. If you’re arriving for early morning rides, you’ll need to plan for a different starting point at rope drop. This will also provide easy access to the Boardwalk area (and some of the Epcot area hotels).
The second park utilizing this system will be Hollywood Studios, just in time for Star Wars land. This is going to become perhaps the 2nd most popular park in Disney, so having another option to get there will be very helpful.
There are currently four resorts that will utilize the Skyliner system: Art of Animation, Pop Century, Caribbean Beach and Disney’s new Riviera Resort (coming soon). For guests staying at these resorts, this will be a really fun way to travel.
It remains to be seen if Disney expands the Skyliner system or not. It’s also too early to say whether this will just be a novelty, or will provide guests of these four resorts a major benefit. Once we try it out, we’ll let you know!