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Now that you have completed Step 6, and your days planned, how you are getting to, from, and around Walt Disney World? I’m not going to lie to you–this one can be tricky! Do you fly, drive, rent a car, take Disney transportation, use Uber? It can seem like a lot of effort to put into something that’s, well, utilitarian, but it also takes up a lot of the budget so we need to spend some time here. I’m going to walk through getting to the parks, getting around the parks, and getting home. I’ll try to let you know all the options and the pros and cons of each. I’m assuming throughout this post that you’ve chosen to stay on Disney property. If you missed Step 2: Choosing a Resort, go back and learn the pros for an on-property stay.
Getting To & From Disney
First, let’s talk about how you’re going to get there. For most people, the options come down to flying or driving. The economics of this are going to come down to the distance you need to travel, the number of people you are traveling with, and what time of year you are going.
Flying vs. Driving
If at all possible, we fly. Right now we are about 14 hours away from Disney World, and with two small kids, that’s a long trip. Sometimes driving has made more sense though. We went for Thanksgiving one year and flights were unbelievably expensive. We able to split the trip over two days and it worked out. Fast-forward to January and Shaun and I flew to Orlando and back for under $200 altogether, and it helped save some of his vacation days for future trips.
We have to reexamine which mode of transportation is right for us on each trip. If we fly, we usually end up flying Frontier simply because they are so cheap, but you have to be careful because you pay for everything individually so be sure to add it all up before booking. Also, we’ve had some problems with them in the Customer Service. No one was rude, but it can be hard to find someone knowledgeable enough to answer questions especially if there is an issue.
One more thing to consider when driving are the parking fees at the resorts. Depending on the grade of the resort, the fees for Disney resorts will be between $13-$24. Over the course of a week, this can add up. In some cases, it will make up the price of one person’s plane ticket.
Let’s assume you’ve decided to fly. How are you going to get from the airport to your resort, and then around the Disney property? Disney offers the Magical Express as a complimentary service when you stay on property. It is very easy to use. You’ll head downstairs when you land and to the far right is the check-in desk. You’ll scan your magic band and be told which bus to get on. Buses may stop at several resorts so it can take a little bit of time, but it’s never been enough to bother me.
You’ll notice I didn’t mention picking up your luggage. When you receive you vacation booklet, you will get special Magical Express luggage tags if you sign up for Ground Transportation when you book. (You can add it later) You will put these on before you leave home, and when the luggage gets to Orlando, it will be separated and delivered to your room within a few hours. If you have a late flight, you may not be able to take advantage of this.
I personally have mixed feelings on this. You can hop over to this post to find out what happened when the Magical Express accidentally put our luggage into storage instead of delivering it. Shaun and I kind of have a luggage curse anyway. It started on our wedding night when bad weather made us miss a connecting flight. Our luggage went on without us while I tried to wash a can’s worth of hairspray out with hotel shampoo, and has kind of been a running theme in our marriage ever since.
In the years of following Disney fans, we are the only people we know that has ever had this happen, and Disney handled it well. So the moral of the story is it’s probably fine. If you don’t want to take the chance, don’t put the luggage tags on, pick up your luggage yourself and they will put it under the bus for you. And, if you ever see us in line at an airport, request your luggage be put as far away from ours as possible!
Disney’s Transportation System
Once you’re on property, Disney an has an inclusive and sometimes complicated transportation system. They have a whole fleet of buses which you can take pretty much anywhere, as well as, boats and monorails. If you’re thinking you’ll just walk most places, know that this is usually not an option. A few of the resorts offer a walking trail to one or two parks, but for the most part, you will have to take some sort of vehicle to get places.
The monorails service the Magic Kingdom area. There are three monorail loops. The Resort Monorail stops at the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC), the Grand Floridian Resort, Magic Kingdom, the Contemporary Resort, the Polynesian Resort. The Express Monorail only goes between the TTC and the Magic Kingdom. Finally, the Epcot Monorail takes you from the TTC to Epcot and back.
The Magic Kingdom area also offers boats as transportation. If you’re coming from the TTC, you can take a Ferryboat instead of a monorail. There are also smaller water taxis (no charge) that you can take from the Magic Kingdom resorts including the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness. The Friendship boats connect Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Boardwalk Inn, Beach Club, Yacht Club, and the Swan and Dolphin hotels. Disney Springs also has boats to take you to Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter, Old Key West Resort, and Saratoga Springs.
The buses are probably the most practical, but least fun mode of transportation. From any resort, buses will run to all the parks and Disney Springs. Buses are how the majority of people get around. Bus rides can be long depending on how far away you are from your destination, and at certain times the line gets long to get on. For most resorts, this is the only transportation available.
Renting a Car
If you’ve chosen to rent a car, you can drive anywhere on Disney property without worrying about schedules. This option is convenient, but there a few things to know before you rent. Like I mentioned before, the Disney resorts do charge a nightly parking fee so be sure to add that to the cost of your rental. Also, the parking lots at the parks are massive. Even if you drive, you may have to take a tram or walk a lot to get into the park. With the Magic Kingdom, you have to park at the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) and take a ferry or monorail to the park.
Uber and Lyft are both allowed on Disney property and can be useful, especially when the buses are busy. There are some restrictions on where you can and cannot be picked up so be sure to check. Most rides on the property will run under $10 which is sometimes worth it. We’ve used Uber to get around several times and have been very happy.
Disney has introduced their own pickup service in partnership with Lyft. They have a fleet of Minnie Vans (minivans dressed up like Minnie Mouse complete with bows) that seat up to 6 guests and have 2 car seats if needed. Unlike Uber or Lyft where you pay by distance, the Minnie Vans are a flat $25 rate anywhere on the property, even though you pay through the Lyft app.
Know before you go
Depending on where you need to go, you may have to make a transfer. For instance, there is no direct transportation between the Disney Parks and Disney Springs. You will have to go to a resort, switch buses, and continue to your destination. Also, you cannot go between resorts without making a transfer either at Disney Springs or a Disney Park. These are the instances where renting a car or using a pickup service is the most useful. If you choose to take Disney transportation around the parks, give yourself about an hour to reach your destination. It usually won’t take this long, but you don’t want to miss a reservation.
Well, I hope you have a better understanding of the transportation system at Disney World. I know it can get a little complicated once you’re on the property which is why I’m going to recommend this handy tool. Use WDW Prep School’s navigator tool to find the best way from point A to point B. You simply enter your starting and end point, and it calculates possible routes. If you’re new to Disney’s transportation system this really helps! If you have any questions send me an email or leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to help you!