Planes, trains, and automobiles? In Orlando, that’s not quite right. For Walt Disney World visitors, let’s revise the old transportation adage. How about monorails, Magical Express, and ferries? Or perhaps ride-sharing, shuttles, and rental cars? Disney transportation can be both overwhelming and overwhelmingly convenient. But you need to know how to use the system. Find out everything you need to know to master Disney World transportation.
Walt Disney World is a pretty enormous place. That means transportation is an essential part of the experience. Most new visitors are completely overwhelmed by the choices. How can you best make use of Disney transportation? Don’t worry – that’s what this guide is for!
From buses to rental cars to monorails and more, there are a myriad of choices. Here’s everything you need to know about transit around Walt Disney World.
Airport Transportation to Disney World
First things first – getting to Disney World! While for many travelers that is as simple as a road trip, many others need to fly to Orlando to start a Disney vacation. For guests flying into Orlando International Airport, that’s where the Disney transportation may start for you.
Disney offers the Magical Express for all guests staying in a Disney resort hotel. The Magical Express is a free motorcoach transfer to Disney resort hotels. It’s easy to use, but booking it and making the most of its free checked bag delivery service requires some pre-trip planning. Don’t miss TravelingMom’s guide to using the Magical Express for all the important details.
TravelingMom Tip: Magical Express is only offered to guests arriving into MCO. If you fly into Orlando Sanford, you’ll need to find your own transportation. Check those airport codes!
If you aren’t staying in a Disney resort hotel, you’ll have to find your own way from the airport to your hotel. Taxis and shuttles are available, as are rental cars. Standard ridesharing app services are not allowed to operate on airport property (only the more expensive UberSelect is), so plan accordingly.
Walt Disney World Transportation Basics
Once you are on property, Walt Disney World offers a number of different transportation options. Disney’s system covers over two dozen hotels, four theme parks, two water parks, the Disney Springs area.
The most common form of transportation is buses. Ferries and the well-known monorails serve quite a few locations as well. The system is entirely free to use, whether you are staying at a Disney resort hotel or off-property.
TravelingMom Tip: If you are traveling with a baby or toddler, think carefully about your stroller and transit. You must fold your stroller before boarding buses and ferries. Can you do that while juggling a young child and whatever bags you have with you? Make sure to choose a travel stroller that works!
Disney’s Shuttle Buses
The network of buses at Walt Disney World is so extensive that new visitors are best served to study a map. A convenient shorthand to know is that buses run from nearly every Disney resort hotel to every park. The major exception is for hotels on the monorail loop. Buses also run regularly between and among all the parks.
TravelingMom Tip: At Disney Springs? There are no buses that will take you directly to the four theme parks. A connection at a hotel is required.
Disney recently began offering an Express Transportation bus option for park hopping guests. It costs $19 per person for single day ($29 for up to 7 days) but it has a big time advantage: riders do not have to be screened by security again at the second park. It uses backstage routes so you never have to edit the secure areas.
Master the Monorails
Walt Disney World has two monorails. One serves the hotels on the Magic Kingdom monorail loop: Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian, and Disney’s Contemporary Resort. It connects at the Transportation and Ticket Center to the second monorail that goes directly to Epcot.
Ferries & Boats
Disney’s fairly extensive water transportation system is occasionally overlooked. The buses and the famous monorails loom larger. Water taxis and ferries can be a smart choice too. They offer a peaceful and often less crowded transportation method.
The boats to know about include:
- Epcot to Hollywood Studios, with stops in-between and Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club, Disney’s Boardwalk, and Disney’s Swan & Dolphin
- Transportation and Ticket Center to the Magic Kingdom
- Grand Floridian and Polynesian to the Magic Kingdom
- Wilderness Lodge to the Magic Kingdom
- Fort Wilderness to the Magic Kingdom
- Between Wilderness Lodge, Fort Wilderness, and Contemporary Resort
- Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter to Disney Springs
- Disney Springs to Old Key West
- Disney Springs to Saratoga Springs
Walking at Disney World
Last but certainly not least, sometimes the best transportation at Disney is no transportation at all! Even though Walt Disney World is large, there are certain parks and hotels that are nevertheless very much within walking distance of one another. A few common walking-distance connections to make:
- Contemporary Resort to the Magic Kingdom
- Disney’s Beach & Yacht Club or Boardwalk to Epcot’s World Showcase entrance
- Swan & Dolphin or Boardwalk to Hollywood Studios
- Polynesian to the Transportation and Ticket Center (to catch the direct Epcot monorail)
Off-Property Transportation Options
Guests from hundreds of different off-property hotels need transit options too. While off-property visitors can use the Disney transportation systems too, getting to the parks at the start of the day requires a car or shuttle ride.
There are quite a few hotels that offer their own shuttle systems. The Disney Springs area hotels, for example, all share a shuttle system. The Four Seasons Orlando also has a set of dedicated buses to the parks.
Before booking an off-property hotel promising park shuttles, do your research first. How often do the shuttles run? Do they cost extra? Do they go to all the theme parks or just the Transportation and Ticket Center?
If you are staying off-property on your Disney vacation, be sure to read these transportation tips for off-site hotels at Disney World.
Renting a Car at Walt Disney World
Even though Disney’s transportation system has fairly robust coverage, many visitors nevertheless prefer the convenience of a car. If you are flying to Orlando, MCO has some of the cheapest rental car rates in the country. It’s not a budget buster.
If you are staying at a Walt Disney World resort hotel, parking everywhere is free. Off-property visitors, however, should be sure to plan for parking fees in the vacation budget. As of summer 2017, parking at the theme parks is $20 a day (preferred parking is also available for $40). Parking at Disney Springs is free for everyone. Parking is also free if you drive to a Disney hotel to dine.
Ridesharing and Taxis Around Disney Property
For the convenience of a car without the cost or parking hassles, consider letting someone else do the driving at Disney. Taxis have long been ubiquitous on Disney property, but ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft have recently taken Orlando by storm. Get the apps on your smartphone and add your credit card before your trip. Don’t miss TravelingMom’s complete guide to ridesharing in Orlando for all the best tips.
TravelingMom Tip: There are no direct transportation options from one resort hotel to another resort hotel. Those trips require changing buses, usually at a park. Consider taking Uber or Lyft if you need to get from hotel to hotel quickly, particularly for early morning character breakfasts.
Finally, if you have a young child of car seat age, families can still use ride-sharing services safely. Uber began offering Uber Car Seat service in Orlando in early 2016. This option provides one convertible car seat rental with your car for a small extra fee.