Disney Magical Express, Car Rental Center, and Airline Check-In
There is so much I want to review from our trip to Walt Disney World, I almost didn’t know where to start, and then I thought why not at the beginning. Or, at least from the time we arrived at the Orland International Airport.
This was actually the first trip that we used Disney Magical Express (DME), so that is a good place to start. In addition, we rented a car on site which is also a first. But at the very end, we used Resort Airline Check-In, not all new but some of it was. This entire experience, from and to the airport, worked like clockwork.
DME Information Booklet and Luggage Tags
As I said, the Disney Magical Express was a first for us. Normally we rent a car at the airport for the convenience of travelling from resort to park and elsewhere during our visits. This time, we decided to use DME from and to the airport, and rent a car onsite at the Disney Car Care Center. Unfortunately, our Disney Magical Express package didn't arrive on time, but no matter; our travel agency had made our reservation but I also called in advance to double check (I always do that, double check everything on a trip). A picture of the information booklet and advance luggage tags are above. As we approached the DME counter, a gatekeeper right in front asked if we had our packet or not, and since we didn't, he directed us to the counter. There, they found our reservation, gave us some paperwork and sent us on our way. What even better on Disney Magical Express, is that it’s all FREE (but do tip the driver if he stores your carry-on luggage).
Our first impression was, OH MY, what a long line (there were a couple hundred people waiting for the buses). But as we got closer we were directed to a specific line for Pop Century and two other resorts, and the numbers in front of us got much smaller. In fact, there were separate lines for groups of resorts as opposed to everyone all grouped together, which was very efficient and made us feel much better. Now I’m sure during busier times of the year, it might not go along as quickly, but for us it was great.
Boarding our Bus, with Luggage Area open on left
After about 20 minutes, our bus arrived and we were ready to board. You follow the line of people, drop off any handheld luggage you want to have stored in the baggage area of the bus, and put yourself in very comfortable captain’s chairs. This is not a city bus or like you ride on site, but one that is just like one you might take a trip on. There is a very small bathroom in the back, and seats are two across. It was a full house, and very shortly after we boarded, we were on our way.
The anticipation you have for your arrival is heightened by a Disney introductory video shown on small screens hanging from the ceiling and distributed among the full area of the bus so that you are not too far from seeing and hearing. All the Disney characters get in the act, illustrating the places and activities you will likely encounter during your trip. And when it ended, we were at Pop Century, luckily the first stop of our vehicle. You would never know that about a half-hour had passed.
On-Property Disney Bus
We used on-site bus transportation to get to and from the Magic Kingdom during our first day, which worked out very well since we had only planned that one stop for the day. While we were at the hotel, I asked the Concierge to make a reservation for us to be picked up by the Alamo car rental van the next morning at 8:20 am, although they could have been there much earlier and up to around lunchtime.
Promptly at 8:20 the Alamo van was in front of Pop Century, on the very right side facing the front of the building from the street. A few other guests were on the vans, picked up from other Disney resorts. In about 15 minutes were we in line waiting for our car that we had previously reserved online. After getting all the paperwork complete, our Chevy Impala (really nice vehicle and a step up from what we expected) was pointed out to us in front, and we were on our way.
This was the first time we used the onsite Alamo location at the Disney Car Care Center, and I think this will be the way we rent a car in the future. We like to have our own transportation since we enjoy eating at places all over the “World” and not just in the parks. Also, we occasionally go off site to shop or pick up supplies, which we did on this trip too. We get to visit other resorts, which are like visiting new “Worlds”. It’s also a lot more convenient, even on the busiest days.
But we had always rented at the airport, although I’m now willing to give DME a second chance to “wow” us, as they did this trip. PLUS, it saves us one or two days of car rental, not a bad thing as well. And, we do plan ahead for most of the major aspects of our trip (what parks to attend, what sit-down restaurants to eat at, what events to participate in etc.). As such, we’ll just make sure we have single stops, for just one bus to and from the resort on our first and last day.
Fast forward to our last days (as I explained, I’ll fill in the details over time), and I needed to drop off our vehicle. We planned to take the last plane out of Orlando back to Syracuse, so there was going to be at least one park visit. However, the rental period was ending, and we had a plan for the rest of the day.
While Mary Ann was packing our bags, I drove over to the Car Care Center (which is right next to the Magic Kingdom, just past the entry toll booths). There is a Hess Station, with nearly the best price for gas in the area, in the plaza of the Car Care Center, so that’s where I filled up the car. It is still cheaper than having the car rental agency do it. Then, I drive up to Alamo a few yards ahead of me, dropped off the car and went in to settle, which only took a few minutes.
Outside the door, I sit on bench waiting for the Alamo van, which arrived a few minutes later and took me right back to Pop Century, where I walked over to our room and helped finish the packing. Our plan was to visit two parks that day, so we had to vacate the room and take care of our luggage so there would be as little as possible to carry during the day.
In the meantime, it appeared we needed another bag, not a big one, but something to pack the extra stuff we bought during the trip. Normally, we bring another bag with us, something that would fold flat on the way down, but had not since our plan was not to spend much money on the extras. But, plans change and I walked back over to the Gift Shop which is in the same building as the dining hall. I remembered during the trip that there was a special offer for purchasing $40 worth of stuff in a Disney store, and you could buy a “throw” or a small “luggage bag”, about the size for a small child. I took my receipts from the other Disney stores on site and asked if I could buy for $15, one of those bags and they very graciously allowed me to do this and now we were set.
So, once we were packed we had two large suitcases that we planned to check in with Jet Blue, and since we could each have one for no additional fee, that was our plan. We had my camera bag, the new small luggage bag and a canvas bag that would be used for carry on… plus, a sweatshirt for each of us since we were going from 85 degrees to 40 degrees later in the day.
But I skipped two steps which really differentiates Disney World from everyone else. First the day before we left, a letter was left on our door informing us of the time the DME would pick us up at Pop and return us to the airport. Usually its three hours prior to your flight, and for us the time was 4:45 pm. Our flight was at 7:40 pm. The letter listed our flight number and additional information on the Motor coach, luggage and Resort Airline Check-In.
The day of our departure, in addition to our front desk invoice information, there was another envelope but this one had two critical items. There were two luggage tags to put on the bags we would leave at Pop with the Resort Airline Check-in Desk, located outside the front entrance to the Resort. If we were flying before 8:00 am we wouldn’t have been able to use this service. Jet Blue allows us each a free bag each, but not all airlines have this so you might have to pay via telephone usually the day before you leave.
(l. to r.) Disney Invoice Envlope, DME Day Before Envelope, Resort Airline Check-In Envelope
The second item in the envelope was our airline Boarding Passes. This was a new feature to us, and since I didn’t have a computer to print ours in advance, this was a real nice addition and another time saver. So we walked over to Classic Hall and a nice young man took our two checked bags at the Resort Airline Check-In. The next time we saw them was when we collected our baggage in Syracuse about 13 hours later. We left the canvas carry-all and the newly acquired small rolling luggage, along with our two jackets, at with Pop Century Luggage Assistance Window. We also tipped both persons who helped us.
Then, we walked to the Magic Kingdom Bus stop for a trip there, and then just before lunch we took the Monorails to Epcot for our ADR at Via Napoli. Our last bus took us back to Pop Century where the Disney Magical Express was waiting for us (and others) where we reversed the process started with six days earlier except they dropped us off at the Jet Blue Terminal. We walked upstairs, rode the monorail, took about a half-hour to get through security and waited for our on-time flight.
So what did we learn? We learned that Disney Magical Express worked very well for us. We learned that renting a car on site is convenient and will save us money. We also learned once again, that Disney service was supreme, in this case preparing our arrival and departure, especially Disney Magical Express and Airline Check-In. We can’t wait to do this again.
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