I’m not going to say too much on the flights – its really not my area of expertise! I’ll just let you know my experience:
- It’s possible to book a flight inclusive holiday with all the major travel companies that sell holidays to Walt Disney World
- We never do (no not even from the Walt Disney World travel company) – we’ve always found it works out cheaper to buy the flights directly, separately. I feel safe not to book it as a ‘package deal’ as you can book free transfers to Walt Disney World hotels, or book a hire car and pick it up from the airport. Plus you’re in Disney – the hotel’s staff will help you the best that they can if anything comes up.
- However that really isn’t a recommendation – just do your research and make sure you’re booking the best option for you. You may feel more secure having a travel company waiting for you at the other end!
Disney’s Magical Express
This is the free Disney bus transfer that picks you up from the airport and takes you to your hotel and then back again at the end of your trip. I’m ashamed to admit that I love it! They show a little video telling you what to expect during your holiday and its that moment when I really feel like I’ve arrived! Even before we’ve got to the hotel. And at the end of holiday, Mickey’s ‘See ya real soon’ is my final goodbye to Walt Disney World for a while. I know, I’m a grown woman, please don’t judge me! Aside from that, having this transfer is ideal for us – it’s free, easy to find and because we don’t really go many other places while we’re in Orlando, we don’t need a hire car, so Disney’s Magical Express is perfect.
So if you want this free transfer, it really is easy. Just make sure you have it booked when you book your holiday. If it’s not an option, speak to your travel company and they’ll book you on it – I know if you’re booking through the Walt Disney Travel company, there will also be a number to ring in all the confirmation details so you can book it later if you wish to.
When you get to the airport, go and claim your bags. Some American Airlines will take your bags to your hotel for you, without you having to pick them up, but we don’t get this, so please make sure you pick your bags up (in case you read that else where)! Then follow the signs for Disney’s Magical Express. That will bring you to a check in desk called the Disney’s Magical Express Welcome Center which is located in the Main Terminal Building, B side, Level 1. They’ll check your booking and tell you which queue to get in and shortly after a bus will turn up for you to clamber into and be transported to the Magic!
If you’ve booked a package/flight inclusive holiday with a travel company, please do check that this is the same process to follow – for all I know they might arrange different transfers for you, or check you in en-mass.
A hire car is going to work really well for you if you
- don’t mind driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road
- are staying in a Walt Disney World Resort, but plan on spending a fair bit of time outside of Walt Disney World, i.e. at other Orlando Theme parks, shopping, shows, other Florida attractions
- are staying in a Walt Disney World hotel and plan to visit other Walt Disney World Resort hotels multiple times. Disney transport isn’t great for hotel to hotel transfers.
- are not staying in a Walt Disney World hotel and the hotel’s complimentary transfer system is poor or doesn’t go everywhere you want to
Note if you’re not staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, please do check in detail what your hotel offers in way of transfers – they often put on a service to all the parks on the area. In my experience this is usually pretty poor and the quality of this will effect your decision about whether to hire a car or not. The transport we’ve had previously is usually two or three times going in the mornings and two or three times returning in the afternoon/evenings. It is nowhere nearly as often as the Disney World Resort transportation which is every 20 minutes or so all day. They usually only have one stop too – so if you’re going to Walt Disney World they’ll drop you somewhere like the transportation and ticket centre, or Epcot, and then you have to use the Disney transportation to get to the park that you’re headed too. Our last experience of a hotel’s transport didn’t come back late enough for us to ever catch the Magic Kingdom fireworks and once failed to turn up all together in the evening, meaning an entire group of us had to get cabs back and then battle with the hotel over who should pay for them. We checked out and moved to a Walt Disney World hotel the next day! I’m sure some of them are excellent though – but just check exactly what they offer.
Many holiday travel companies enable you to book your car with them when you book your holiday, and if you want a car for your whole trip, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t book it this way. You pick it up and drop it back off at the airport – nice and easy.
If however you’re trying to save a little cash and only want to book a car for a few days, there are some car hire locations within Walt Disney World, with Alamo and National – these are owned by the same company and are the ‘official’ rental car company for Walt Disney World. The Walt Disney World Car Care centre is probably the easiest option. Book the car in advance online (just use the US version of their site) and once there give them 24 hours notice and they will arrange for a shuttle to pick you up from your Walt Disney World Resort hotel and take you to the centre to get your car. The other locations for these companies on site are the Dolphin hotel (on the BoardWalk) and Buena Vista Palace (which is opposite the Market place at Downtown Disney).
Car hire is around $40 a day, including fees and will work out better value than taxis if you’re venturing out of Walt Disney World a number of times. The distance between Walt Disney World and Universal, for example, is a good half an hours drive, which can clock up on the taxi fare. Might be worth it if you’re only doing it once or twice. Definitely not if you’re doing it much more than that.
It seems like you either love or hate it! I’m definitely in love it camp (yeah I know, surprise, surprise) , but I’ll give you both accounts:
- It is free
- It is regular – around every 20 minutes of so (although I’ve never waited more than 10)
- It takes you from your hotel to any of the parks, water parks and Downtown Disney
- It drops you off right outside the gates – no walking through car parks for me!
- It technically runs from an hour before the parks open to an hour after they shut, but in my experience if you’ve got an early morning breakfast at a park they’ll run them early enough to get you there and you wont be abandoned at a theme park bus stop trying to get back in the evening – they’ll run them until you’re home
- It also runs between parks – so you can always get from one to the other (Downtown Disney you have to go to a hotel first and Boardwalk you’d need to go to a Boardwalk hotel)
- You can easily get to any Walt Disney World hotel, e.g. for a meal – just by getting a bus to your closest park and then transferring to that resort’s bus.
- It is soooo much better than any other hotel transport I’ve come across
- In high season it can be crowded. Disney will increase the number of buses running but at prime times, e.g straight after the fireworks show it may be standing room only. Get around this by either waiting in a location where you can get out quickly, or go buy and ice cream and watch the crowds rush by. 15 minutes later and all is calm again!
- You have to collapse all buggies before you get on board
- Kids are on laps – there are no child seats for the safety conscious. Having said that Disney are very proud of their bus safety record.
- Those that hate it say it takes too long. I’d say I’m always at a park within about half an hour or so. Theoretically though, you could be waiting for 20 minutes, then if you’re at a moderate resort, have to stop at 4 bus stops before leaving and then take the 20-25 mins to get to the park – so it could possibly take you 50 mins to an hour. I can honestly say that that has never been my experience, but I can see it is possible. However, my counter argument is that a car could also take that time, especially in high season. You do the drive yourself to a park, queue to get into the car park and then park ages away and have a 20 minute walk or have to catch the shuttle to get to the front gates – I’ve got enough walking to do once I’m in there, I’d rather be sitting on my bum up till that point!
- It can also take quite a while if you’re trying to get from your hotel to another, e.g. for a meal. I’m happy to catch the two buses needed (one to a park and then the second to a hotel) but if you don’t want to do this a cab wont cost the earth, or you’ll need a hire car.
One important thing to note though, is Disney do not transport you to the competition. They’ll get you round Walt Disney World, but that’s it!