Planes, trains, and automobiles? At Walt Disney World, the old transportation adage works a little differently. How about monorails and Minnie Vans? Or perhaps ridesharing and rental cars? Shuttles and a Skyliner? Ok, I’ll stop.
Walt Disney World is a pretty enormous place. In fact, it’s basically a major city, with a transit network to match. Transportation is an essential part of the Disney vacation experience. Most new visitors are completely overwhelmed by the choices and the learning curve. How can you best make use of Disney transportation with a minimum of waits and wasted time? Don’t worry – that’s what this guide is for!
From buses to rental cars to monorails and more, there is a myriad of choices. Here is everything you need to know to master Disney World transportation and transit, both on and off-property, fully updated to reflect the most current changing conditions of the last couple of years.
(Trips With Tykes uses affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission if you purchase through links in this post. See our full disclosure policy linked in the menu at the top of this site.)
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 World vacation. For guests flying into Orlando International Airport (MCO), that’s where the Disney transportation experience usually start for you.
Disney used to offer its own free Magical Express motorcoach transfers for all guests staying in Disney resort hotels. Sadly this service was discontinued as of the start of 2022. Guests now need to figure out their own ground transportation, mostly from a variety of third party providers. No more Disney transportation bubble from the moment you land in Orlando.
The closest replacements for the Magical Express are two competing bus transfer services that have filled the void: Mears Connect and the Sunshine Flyer. Taking a motorcoach can be helpful for families of young kids, as no car seat is required on board. This logistical benefit makes these services appealing even if they are not always the cheapest or fastest ground transportation option overall.
Mears Connect is the same company that used to operate the Magical Express, so they have plenty of experience with operating these routes. Upstart The Sunshine Flyer has gone all in on theming using buses that look like historic trains, so this might be more appealing to families with little ones. These services are priced similarly, and it doesn’t seem like one is the clear favorite at this time.
If a motorcoach seems too slow for you, ridesharing is another option my family uses often. After years of being banned, ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft can operate at MCO. Uber and Lyft usually offer substantial savings over taxi rates (about $50 to the Disney World area in a standard car vs. approximately $80 for cab fare). Uber Car Seat is available in Orlando, but it’s availability around the airport can be hit or miss at non-peak times. Of course, other private ground transportation options like taxis, shuttles, and car services are available as well.
Last but certainly not least, a lot of guests will opt for a rental car (more on rental cars later). While you may not need one if you plan to spend all your time in the Disney bubble using Disney World transportation, a rental car can be really convenient if your trip includes other stops in Orlando, like Universal Orlando Resort.
Walt Disney World On-Property Transportation
Once you are actually on Disney World property, Disney offers a number of different transportation options entirely of its own. The Disney transportation system covers over two dozen hotels, four theme parks, two water parks, the Disney Springs area, and more.
The most common form of transportation is buses. Ferries, the well-known monorails, and the still newish Disney Skyliner 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.
Trips With Tykes 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 (but not usually monorails and not the Skyliner). Can you do that while juggling a young child and whatever bags you have with you? Make sure to choose one of these best strollers for Disney to make your life easier!
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 to understand it all. A convenient shorthand to know is that buses run from most Disney resort hotels to each of the four parks at least.
The major exceptions are for hotels on the monorail loop (you can reach the Magic Kingdom via monorail instead) or on the new Skyliner (you can reach Hollywood Studios or Epcot via the Skyliner instead). Buses also run regularly between and among all the parks.
Shuttle buses also run from most Disney hotels to Disney Springs. But if you want to go from Disney Springs to a theme park, you’ll need to make a connection at a hotel first. There are no buses that will take you directly to the four theme parks.
Buses to the two water parks – Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon – also may require a connection. Not every hotel has direct bus service to these water parks. Be prepared to make a connection, usually at a theme park.
Monorails at Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World has two monorail systems. One runs through the hotels on the Magic Kingdom monorail loop: Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian, and Disney’s Contemporary Resort. It also goes to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC).
Note that there are actually two types of monorails that run along this line of tracks. One is the Resort loop that stops at every hotel. The other is the Express loop that takes guests directly to and from the Magic Kingdom and the TTC, skipping the hotel stops. Watch the signs to make sure you are boarding the right one!
The second monorail connects the Transportation and Ticket Center and the front entrance of Epcot (by what used to be called Future World but that is now called World Celebration).
The newest addition to the Disney World transportation system is the Disney Skyliner, an ambitious transportation option that launched in September 2019. This gondola system connects Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot (at the International Gateway entrance by World Showcase) to Caribbean Beach Resort, Art of Animation Resort, Pop Century, and the new Disney’s Riviera Resort. The World Showcase station also serves Disney Yacht & Beach Club and Boardwalk, all of which are just a few minutes’ walk away.
To be sure, some guests are a bit nervous about riding the Skyliner. If you have a legitimate fear of heights, this might not be the transportation system for you. But the convenience can’t be argued with. It’s been a pretty overwhelming success in the past few years that it has been fully operational.
Skyliner demand can sometimes exceeded supply, especially in the early morning hours for guests trying to make rope drop (and in the evenings after nighttime spectaculars). If you plan to use the Skyliner for early morning park access, make sure you fully research what time it starts running on the days of your visit. If you plan to rope drop or use early entry for popular Hollywood Studios attractions like Slinky Dog Dash, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, or Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, plan to arrive well in advance of Skyliner opening time to be at the front of the line.
Ferries & Boats at Disney World
Disney’s fairly extensive water transportation system is occasionally overlooked. But ferries and boats can be a smart transit choice too. They offer a peaceful and often less crowded transportation method.
The Disney boats, ferries, and water taxis 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 (aka, the FriendShip Boats)
- 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
- Disney Springs to Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter
- Disney Springs to Old Key West
- Disney Springs to Saratoga Springs
Walking at Disney World
Sometimes the best transportation at Disney is no transportation at all! Even though Walt Disney World is large, certain parks and hotels are nevertheless very much within walking distance of one another. When transportation lines are long and the weather isn’t too hot, it might be quicker and more pleasant to walk to your destination.
A few common walking-distance connections to make:
- Contemporary Resort to the Magic Kingdom
- Grand Floridian to the Magic Kingdom (Disney recently constructed a brand new walking path)
- Grand Floridian to the Polynesian
- 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 without making a connection)
Renting a Car at Walt Disney World (Or Driving Your Own)
Disney’s transportation system has fairly robust coverage, but many visitors nevertheless prefer the convenience of a car.
For families with young kids, also never underestimate the importance of being able to leave and arrive when your child’s schedule dictates. Nothing ruins a Disney day like a tantruming toddler waiting on a Disney bus that just isn’t coming speedily! Plus, having your own car can really be advantageous for families because it makes transporting strollers easier.
Many visitors of course road trip to Disney World and will have a car with them anyway. If you are flying to Orlando, MCO has some of the cheapest rental car rates in the country. For travelers with young kids, you can add a car seat rental on to a rental car for an extra fee (or rent from Hertz with your AAA membership to get it for free!). Or, bring your own car seat from home on the plane for the extra peace of mind of a known seat.
So what are the downsides of driving your own car or renting one? Although parking used to be free to guests at Walt Disney World resort hotels, Disney began charging for parking in 2018. Guests now must budget for hotel parking costs (although they will not have to pay an additional fee to park at the theme parks at least).
As of late 2022, Disney hotel parking fees are as follows:
- Value Resorts: $15 per night.
- Moderate Resorts: $20 per night.
- Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts: $25 per night.
Off-property visitors should also be sure to plan for parking fees at the theme parks. As of December 2022, parking at the four theme parks is $25 a day (preferred parking is also available for $45-50 depending on the season). Parking at Disney Springs and the Disney water parks (Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach) is free for everyone. Parking is also free if you drive to a Disney hotel to dine.
Be aware that parking can be distant from some of the theme parks. Trams have returned to bring guests closer without walking, but you may need to wait for those. And as of late 2022, they are only in service for the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. Note also that guests headed to the Magic Kingdom will need to park at the Transportation and Ticket Center and then take a monorail or boat to reach the park.
Ridesharing 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 taken Orlando by storm the past few years. Get the apps on your smartphone and add your credit card before your trip.
If you have a young child of car seat age, families can still use ride-sharing services safely in Orlando – even when venturing off-property. Uber began offering its 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 (approximately $10). The seat types vary but are usually most appropriate for toddlers. Availability isn’t always guaranteed so be sure to leave extra time if you want to use this service at peak times or very late at night or early morning.
Ridesharing with Disney Minnie Vans
The cutest Disney ridesharing method is to hop aboard Disney’s Minnie Van service. Minnie Vans are SUVs that hold up to six people painted in Minnie’s classic red and white polka dot pattern. They provide private transportation on demand. Whenever you might use Lyft or Uber on Disney property, you can now use Minnie Vans.
Guests hail Minnie Vans via the regular Lyft app. Although Lyft provides the technology platform for dispatching them, Minnie Vans are entirely Disney run. Disney cast members serve as the drivers and Disney maintains the fleet.
Minnie Vans charge a hefty premium over Uber and Lyft, so be prepared for high prices. But why might you want to splurge on one? For family travelers, it’s all about the car seats! Disney Minnie Vans come with two Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 convertible car seats. These provide safe travel for children of all ages, from 4 pounds up to 120 pounds. The car seats can rear face, forward face, or work as a highbacked booster. Disney maintains them safely and even trains the drivers on proper installation and maintenance. For parents, the peace-of-mind factor is significant.
Trips With Tykes Tip: There are no direct transportation options from one Disney resort hotel to another resort hotel. Those trips require changing buses, usually at a park. Consider taking a rideshare or Minnie Van if you need to get from hotel to hotel quickly, particularly for early morning character breakfasts.
Off-Property Disney Transportation Options
Guests from hundreds of different off-property hotels need transit options too. While off-property visitors can use the Disney transportation systems, 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? Are there modifications still in place from the closures in 2020 and 2021 you need to know about? Make sure you do your due diligence so you don’t waste valuable time waiting on transportation instead of enjoying the theme parks!
What is your favorite kind of Disney transportation and what do you use with your family most to get around the parks and resorts?
Where to Book Your Walt Disney World Vacation
Planning a visit to Walt Disney World? Book your Disney vacation with trusted Trips with Tykes partner, Get Away Today. Get Away Today sells park tickets at a discount, helps you find great deals at both on-property and off-property hotels, assists with all the logistics of a Disney World vacation with its free concierge service, and provides complimentary price monitoring so you can lock in newly-released discounts.
2 Ways to Save:
- Discount Tickets: If you only need park tickets, don’t purchase direct from Disney and pay more! Book discounted Disney World park tickets from Get Away Today here.
- Discount Vacation Packages: To take advantage of hotel and other package discounts from Get Away Today and get concierge service for free, request a full vacation quote here.