Start at the airport
You can effectively use Disney’s complimentary transportation from the moment you arrive at the Orlando International Airport. Add Disney’s Magical Express to your reservation before you arrive so you have time for Disney to send you luggage tags in the mail. When placed on your checked luggage, the tags allow you to skip baggage claim and hop right on the Magical Express bus to your resort. The same bus can pick you up at the end of your trip, and all Disney resorts offer airline check-ins at your resort so you can check the bags and enjoy the last few hours of your trip. (Disney’s Magical Express is the most convenient and cost effective way to travel between the airport and your resort, but it’s also one of the happiest and saddest rides of the trip!)
Download the My Disney Experience app to check bus schedules
The My Disney Experience app recently launched a feature that allows guests to check bus schedules in real time. If you haven’t already, be sure to download the app so you can get all the latest updates for the bus you’re looking to take to the parks. With or without using the app, we recommend leaving for your destination about one hour in advance. While it typically will not take that long, guest demand for buses and traffic are not always predictable and you’re better off being safe than sorry.
Park and resort hop efficiently
Plan your park and resort hopping by checking out a map of the Walt Disney World Resort. Efficiently planning your transportation will really prove to be useful when considering dining reservations you may have at resorts since there is no resort to resort transportation (with the exception of the Magic Kingdom monorail resorts and select watercraft that make multiple resort stops). If you know you want to have lunch at the Polynesian Village Resort for instance, it may be helpful to plan this meal either before or after a visit to the Magic Kingdom.
Consider alternative routes
Going to Jellyrolls at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn after Epcot closes? You can walk there! If you’re up for the extra steps, walking to the Epcot area resorts from the park can be much quicker than waiting for a bus or a boat. (You can also walk to Disney’s Contemporary Resort from the Magic Kingdom.)
Outside of distances that may be unknowingly walkable, keep an eye out for extra forms of transportation during peak times. For instance, if you’re at the Transportation and Ticket Center looking to get to the Magic Kingdom, your first thought is probably to take the monorail or ferry boat. During peak hours however bus transportation is often available and it’s almost always much less crowded and quicker because most people opt for the boat or monorail instead.
Don’t forget about Uber, Lyft, and Minnie Vans
You can certainly spend your entire vacation using Disney’s complimentary transportation as your only mode of transportation. And while you may not see the need to “splurge” on a rental car, there are some instances where paying for transportation (in the form of a ride share app) can be worth it.
One instance is when you have plans for an early morning breakfast at another resort. Since there is no resort to resort transportation, Disney’s transportation would require you to take a bus/boat/monorail to a park and another bus/boat/monorail to the resort. You’ll need to wake up earlier and you’ll have a longer commute. You can avoid this by using a ride share like Uber or Lyft or Disney’s Minnie Van service.
Another time when you may want to consider getting your own ride is if you plan on leaving the parks immediately following the fireworks or park closing. With so many guests leaving at the same time, lines for Disney’s transportation can be very unforgiving, and you may see a greater value in paying for a way to get to your resort quicker. (In this situation however you could also choose to stay in the parks longer and wait out the crowds—though this option may be less appealing with small, sleepy kids.)
Don’t leave your manners at the resort
If you’ve never taken public transportation before, getting on a Disney bus may be a rude awakening. When taking the bus (or monorail or boat) you want to be courteous to other guests by making as much room for others as possible. Disney’s transportation really can accommodate large amounts of guests, and it’s only polite to move all the way down and fill in all of the available space on board so other guests can get on.
Folding up your strollers before the bus arrives can make the load process move along quicker and save more room on the bus for other passengers. In the past guests have been hesitant to wake sleeping kids too early, but with the bus times now being displayed on the app this should be less of an issue. Many stroller-aged kids can also be held on your lap while on the bus, and doing so can help free up seats for other guests and thus get more people to their destination quicker.
Lastly, be polite to guests who are older, vacationing with an injury, or who have disabilities (especially remembering that not all disabilities are visible). Guests traveling in ECVs and wheelchairs get first priority when boarding the bus. This is the process because it’s the most efficient way to fit an ECV on a bus with other passengers. While there have been some abuses over the years the overwhelming majority of guests traveling in ECVs and wheelchairs need them to get around, and they don’t need rude comments from guests who board after them.
Similarly, when taking any kind of public transportation, it’s customary to give up seats to those who need it more than you. It’s no secret that everyone hopping on a bus when the park closes is tired of being on their fit, but if you see an elderly couple or a guest on crutches you could certainly offer up your seat to them.
& don’t forget to thank your drivers! They work hard getting you from point A to point B and they really appreciate your gratitude.