For resort guests, getting around Walt Disney World, as you travel from one place to another, is one of those conveniences Disney put much thought and effort. Today we will touch upon the various opportunities not only to get from here to there, but also to enjoy the experience of it all as a “plus” to your vacation.
Upon landing at MCO, skip baggage claim and proceed to the Disney's Magical Express Welcome Center in the Main Terminal Building, B side, Level 1. Disney's Magical Express service will collect your luggage and deliver it directly to your Walt Disney World hotel room within 3 hours after you check in at the resort. Luggage delivery service provided by Disney's Magical Express is available for flights arriving between 5:00 am and 10:00 pm daily. For airport arrivals after 10:00 pm, Guests may collect their luggage at Baggage Claim and transport it with them on the motor coach.
Resort Airline Check-In
As an extra convenience, guests travelling on participating airlines can check their baggage for the return flight right at your Disney resort. The same airline rules about baggage (i.e. weight/size) are followed, but this is a time saver and luggage-toting convenience. This service is available for all resort guests, even if you didn’t use Magical Express. If your flight is prior to 8:00 am, this service won’t be available since you need to plan at least three-hours ahead. But from 5:00 am until 1:00 pm, you can drop off your checked luggage (some restrictions apply) and get your boarding pass for your flight.
This service at the resort is operated by a third party company. So if you have any bag charges for checked luggage, this needs to be paid in advance. Call the company at BAGS, (407) 284-1231, between 7:00 am and 11:00 pm prior to checking in to this service and pay by credit card. This is a service only at WDW-owned resorts, so when you arrive your first day, check to make sure this service is available at your resort. Resort Airline Check-In Service is available with the following airline carriers: Alaska Airlines, Continental, JetBlue, United, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Northwest, AirTran, and US AIR. And this service is only available for domestic flights at this time.
Likely the most frequent method of travel is buses, unless you are located in one of the Monorail resorts. Resorts bus stops are found at various locations around a resort as well as the main buildings. Buses travel from resorts to parks, but also to Downtown Disney and you can expect about a 20-minute wait (shorter and earlier if you are going to a Character Breakfast at the Magic Kingdom). The buses themselves follow the schedules of the parks they are going to, so a later opening means the buses arrive later. But in general, most begin their runs one hour prior to a park opening.
Since parks and Downtown Disney also close at different times, you should listen for (or ask) the bus driver when the latest buses will return to your original location, although I’ve never heard of anyone being stranded without transportation back to their resorts. Remember also, that buses go only goes from resort to park, so leave plenty of time if you need to travel from a resort to another resort – even an hour or more due to the transfers needed.
Traveling by Monorail
"Por favor, mantenganse allejado de las puertas" is likely one of the most recognizable phrases in all of Walt Disney World. It’s even found of tee shirts in Disney stores. Of course the translation is “Please Stand Clear of the Doors”. People ride the monorail to reach the Magic Kingdom, the “Monorail Resorts” and Epcot. But we also travel the rails just to enjoy the view.
Originally conceived as a public transport for the future, the Walt Disney World Monorail System has three separate beams that travel throughout Walt Disney World Resort. I believe there are 12 Mark VI monorail trains currently making their way around the property, running over 13 miles of track. And although it used to be permitted to ride in front, this was discontinued after 2009. The newest design is based on the Tron Legacy upcoming Disney film.
One of the Monorail trips takes you from the Transportation and Ticket Center to the Magic Kingdom. A second rail provides round-trip express service to Epcot. A third rail circles the Seven Seas Lagoon and stops at the Contemporary, Grand Floridian and Polynesian Resorts.
Travelling by Boat
The Magic Kingdom is accessible by water taxi from several of the resorts, including: Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Fort Wilderness and Wilderness Lodge. From Epcot and Hollywood Studios, you can access the following resorts by boat including: Boardwalk Inn and Villas, Beach Club, Yacht Club, and the Swan and Dolphin Hotels.
Here is a summary of the WDW fleet of water transportation for guests:
Getting to Downtown Disney
Downtown Disney is your shopping, food and entertainment mecca after the parks close, although it starts to pick up visitors in the morning. You can take a bus from all WDW Resorts. There are two main bus tops, the Marketplace area and Pleasure Island. The parking lot is massive, but always seems to fill up since this is an attraction for residents, those staying off site as well as resort guests. Always note the latest bus return times.
Walking is a common method of reaching Downtown Disney, from the Hotel Plaza area of non-Disney resorts and Saratoga Springs. Downtown Disney Area is accessible by ferryboat from: Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter, Old Key West and Saratoga Springs Resort. Again, if you want to return in the same fashion by the Sassagoula River, make sure you check on the last return time.
The other feature of Downtown Disney is being able to get to more places than you can from your resort or the parks. For example, it is a convenient source to transfer from one but to another to go to a hotel different from yours, or to play Mini-Golf at Fantasia Gardens or go to ESPN.
More to consider regarding transportation around the parks
Golfing guests at Disney owned-and-operated hotels have complimentary door-to-door transportation between their resort and Walt Disney World golf facilities. You may request a ride at the Valet Desk or from Bell Services at Resort hotels, and in the Pro Shop or from any golf operations staff members at the golf courses. Please note complimentary transportation is only available to guests of select Walt Disney World Resort hotels.
If you do rent a car, you might want to bring (or rent) a GPS unit to help you find your way around (especially if you travel off-site). MouseSavers has a great feature on using a GSA on Disney property, and even offers a free downloadable POI file you can use for selected units for nearly every place you need to drive at the “World”. I have used it and it is really helpful.
On the official Disney web site, located on each of the resort pages, you will find a summary of the transportation options from that site to everywhere else on property. Click on this site: http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/, and the resort you will be staying at and select the transportation link to see the list of options.
Complimentary transportation is available one hour prior to Disney Theme Park opening time up to 3 hours after Disney Theme Park closing time. Additionally, buses operate until 3:00 a.m. from the Downtown Disney Area. Certain areas of Walt Disney World Resort are also connected by well-lit, paved, low-grade walking paths.
Many of the transportation systems at Walt Disney World Resort are accessible to guests with disabilities. All bus routes are serviced by buses equipped to accommodate various types of wheelchairs. Watercraft access varies depending on the type of watercraft and the existing water levels and conditions. Also, guests may access the monorail system by proceeding up the entrance ramps, or using the elevators provided at Epcot, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney's Polynesian Resort and Disney's Contemporary Resort.
Parking at your WDW Resort is free and hotel guests get a pass for their windshield that offers free parking at the theme parks. Otherwise, automobile parking is $14 and higher depending on your vehicle, although once you pay for the day, you can park at any theme park for free. Obviously, the cost of parking needs to be taken into account when considering on- or off-site hotels. And, Annual Pass holders also get free parking. Downtown Disney parking is free.
A WORLD VIEW
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