Since 2005, guests visiting Walt Disney World haven’t had to put any effort into deciding how they were going to get from the airport to their resort hotel. Disney’s free “Magical Express” motorcoach service provided guests with luggage and shuttle service to their resort hotel from Orlando International Airport and back again at the completion of their trip. However, on January 2nd, 2022 that service was officially retired, causing a bit of panic and confusion for many planning a trip to Walt Disney World.
With the help of our friends over at Key to the World Travel, we have put together some tips to help you navigate the current options for guests looking to get from the Orlando International Airport to their resort hotel. While there are no longer any free options, we have broken each of these categories down to show the pros and cons and value of each service.
Magic Express Paid Replacements:
Mears Connect is one of the first options presented when Disney announced they would be retiring their free Magical Express service. Mears Shuttles, the same company that operated Disney’s Magical Express, immediately stepped up and released a press announcement stating they would replace the existing DME with an affordable paid option. Mears Connect was born and uses the exact same drivers and buses for their “new” service. The major difference is the price tag and the missing Disney-branded wraps.
Mears Connect has two options: Standard and Express. Pricing could vary depending on date and hotel, but the standard service is $16 for adults and $13.50 for children for a one-way trip or $32 for adults, and $27 for children for round trips. The Standard level of service is a shared-ride service on Mears Connect (bus or van) that is economical. The Connection will make a limited number of stops and will have you on your way to your resort within 20 minutes of your check-in to the Mears Connect reception area. The Premium level is a direct service with limited to no wait time. Premium Service’s round-trip price has already increased to $250. Both include all tolls and other surcharges.
- Pricing Options- two pricing options depending on your budget
- Same Service- the buses are run by the same company as before with Magical Express
- Roundtrip Options- you can book ahead and have your whole ride paid in advance
- Not Free
- Not Themed
- Possibility for many stops- each shuttle stops at between 3-5 resorts and will not leave until the bus is full
Another bus shuttle service has appeared in the last few weeks offering another way to get from the airport to your Walt Disney World Resort. The Sunshine Flyer has just come out of left field offering a themed motor coach option that plays on the familiarity of Walt’s love of trains. Each Motorcoach is themed around old-fashioned passenger cars and train engines. From the bus designs to staff dressed as old-timey rail conductors and engineers, the motorcoaches effectively serve as time machines, offering a glimpse into 1920s train travel.
The Sunshine Flyer begins service from Orlando International Airport on February 1, 2022. It’ll offer transportation to all Walt Disney World resorts, from Value Resorts to Deluxes–and will be expanded to off-site accommodations in the future. Tickets for the Sunshine Flyer must be booked at least four days ahead of arrival. Tickets are $17 per adult and $12.50 per child each way. The Sunshine Flyer offers a full refund if canceled 72 hours in advance, or credit towards future tickets if canceled under 72 hours.
The buses service all Walt Disney World resort hotels and offer with a restroom, USB chargers, and three-point seatbelts. Ahead of travel, guests will book their tickets online and receive a QR code to scan at MCO, which will ensure smooth timing and departures. For the return trip, a confirmation email will be sent advising of the bus departure time the day before checkout out. It’ll be approximately 3 hours prior to the scheduled departure time for domestic flights and 4 hours prior to departure time for international flights.
- Themed- the coach is themed like a Walt Disney World train and drivers look like conductors
- Lower Price- the price point is lower than Mears Connect
- Same Location- located in the same place as Magical Express was at MCO
- Free Cancelation- full refund if canceled 72 hours in advance, or credit towards future tickets if canceled under 72 hours.
- Not free
- Many Unknowns- the service has not yet started so we don’t have any way to gauge the effectiveness of the service
Using Lyft or Uber is by far the easiest way to get around in the Orlando area. It is safe, efficient, and the most wallet-friendly option when you’re looking for a way to get to and from the airport. Long before Disney’s Magical Express retired, we were using rideshare to get to our resorts just to save on time. You can often grab your bags, get a Lyft, and be on your way to your resort in less than 30 minutes.
If you’re looking for the cheapest option to get to your resort, rideshare will likely be it. It can be economical and quick if everything comes together as planned. UberX or Lyft Basic can be as cheap as $25 one-way from the airport to Disney World properties. UberXL or LyftXL, which offers slightly larger vehicles, tend to run between $40-50 one-way. Uber Black or LUX Black with a reserved car seat will run $100-$120 depending on whether you book a car or an SUV.
*Taxi*- another rideshare option
Available on a walk-up basis at the Arrivals Level (Level 2) on both sides of Orlando International Airport. Taxis may carry up to 9 passengers, and charge the same rate regardless of the number of passengers. All taxicabs picking up at the MCO are regulated by Orlando’s Vehicle-for-Hire Ordinance, which requires fares to be determined by a taximeter. This means there are no flat rates–you’re paying by distance, which typically amounts to $60 to $70 each way depending upon the location of your hotel. We strongly suggest using a “pay one price” through one of the Uber or Lyft options over taxi. They often rip off out-of-town guests playing on their nerves and frustrations.
- Private- you don’t share with anyone else
- Low Cost- it is often a lot less than a private transfer
- Fast- there are so many rideshare options that you often never have more than a 15 min wait
- Not Free
- Car Seats- you’re not guaranteed a car seat unless you upgrade to a larger car with that as an option(bring your own to avoid this)
- Surge Pricing- during peak times pricing may be higher to reflect the demand.
Luxury Car, Limo & Private Van Service
There are many options when it comes to private cars and transfers in Orlando. You can book these ahead and depend on the size of your family, it will be cheaper than using a paid bus or shuttle service. Car service is also a great option when you want a little more room, privacy, and luxury. What about those trips to Universal Orlando Resort or maybe you need a way to get to Port Canaveral for your cruise? There are many reasons you may be in need of a car service, and there is one in the Orlando area we recommend above all others.
Florida Magical Tours and Transportation provides private transportation to all major destinations in Orlando including Disney World, Port Canaveral, and Universal Studios. Their main priority is customer safety and comfort. The best part about Flordia Magical Tours and Transportation is the variety of luxury and clean vehicles they offer. Don’t have a car seat? No problem! Car seats are also available and you are able to choose the kind that works best for the safety of your child or children. You can view the different options of car seats here: https://flmagicaltours.com/carseats. Another great perk you will not get with a Cab, Uber, or Lyft is complimentary grocery store stops with rates that are all-inclusive covering gratuity, tolls, meet and greet for airport pick-ups. Curbside pick-up is also available upon request. They are fully licensed and commercially insured to operate in Florida as well.
You can also choose to rent a car when you visit Walt Disney World. There are many options to choose from and most offer pre-arrival check-in. This makes your rental experience super fast and easy. The last time we rented we stopped at the booth in the parking garage and they had us sign on an iPad and pick out our own car. We loaded it up and drove right away.
If you are not afraid of driving and don’t mind resort parking fees, this might be a good option for you! This especially comes in handy if you plan to visit Universal or other Orlando landmarks during your stay.
- Options- you have lots of options in size and color from many different companies in Orlando
- Pricing- It is possible to find a car cheaper than the cost of any other paid transportation
- Car Seats- you can preorder the number and sie car seats you need
- Not Free
- Limited Options- there have been many times when the car we have reserved has not been there when we arrive.
- Parking Fees- All Walt Disney World resorts charge overnight parking fees if you bring a car
Contacting your Key to the World Travel Advisor is always the best advice when trying to choose a transportation option for Walt Disney World.
Are you considering a trip? This is a great time to plan your perfect vacation! Having a travel advisor means someone there to have your back in any occurrence. There is no additional cost to you and you have peace of mind knowing that your vacation is in good hands. Contact our friends at Key to the World Travel® for a free, no-obligation quote for your next trip. Click here.