Ground Transportation Options
As of December 31, 2021, Disney's Magical Express (DME) is no longer a transportation option for arriving guests at Walt Disney World. DME bookended the trip for so many & the magic began with that first swipe in at the Orlando International Airport.
My hope is that these new options will help provide more efficient service with less time spent between landing & arriving to the resort. I never would have explored other options before this change, but now that I am, I am excited to try out different services & find the one that I actually like best, not the one that was just put in front of me on past trips.
Things to keep in mind when booking airfare & ground transportation
Ground transportation costs are lower & options are greater when flying into Orlando International Airport (MCO.) The private options listed below may be available at other airports, but the shared options currently are not available outside of MCO.
When booking ground transportation, make sure to think through all the steps between landing and actually getting to your transportation.
There is deplaning, bathroom breaks, MCO tram rides between terminals, navigating baggage claim & checking in to ground transportation. On top of that budget some wait time & travel time to get to the resort.
For this reason, I do not recommend ANY dining reservations or plans to be inside parks for 3-4 hours AFTER landing. This gives ample time to navigate all of the above, travel to the resort, drop bags or head to the room & then grab transportation to the next destination.
For your return flight, pick up will occur 3-4 hours prior to flight time. This allows time to navigate travel, traffic, bag check, security & getting to the gate,
Ground transportation options require flight information in order to book.
These options are going to feel more like Magical Express. Buses & shuttles are shared with other families that are headed to the same resort or resorts that are close in proximity.
Sunshine Flyer (My Top Pick)
Sunshine Flyer is another shared option that was just announced in late December 2021.
Sunshine Flyer takes "decades of experience in the major event transportation space to bring the premiere destination shuttle experience."
These buses are each themed after 1920's era locomotives. No two are the same & the theming carries to the drivers & staff attire as conductors & engineers.
Pricing for this service begins at $19.50 per person age 13 & up each way & $11 per person age 3-12. There is not charge for children age 2 or under UNLESS you want to guarantee they have a seat rather than riding on laps.
Sunshine Flyer plans to depart within 20 minutes of guest arrival. Because of multiple stops, it may take up to 65 minutes to drop off all guests.
There is themed entertainment and bathrooms on the bus with plans to add luggage service. All seats feature a 3 point seatbelt & can accommodate carseats if guests wish to bring them. Cancellations can be made up to 72 hours in advance.
I used this service and absolutely loved the quality of service and friendliness of the staff.
Guaranteed bus (so no need to travel with a car seat)
It is a shared option, so you may have to wait for others to fill your shuttle or make additional stops before arriving to your resort.
Mears connect - Standard
Mears is the company that oversaw the operation of Disney's Magical Express . They are going to be the same or similar buses with different branding. Pickup & dropoff is in exact same spot at the airport that the retired DME.
Rides begin at $16 per person age 10 & up each way & $13 per child (ages 3-9) each way. There is not charge for children age 2 or under UNLESS you want to guarantee they have a seat rather than riding on laps.
Mears Connect is marketed as having guests on the way to the resort within 20 minutes of check in. It may make stops at several resorts before unloading all guests.
Guests will use a QR code to board the buses. There is interactive entertainment in the waiting area & on the buses.
Mears is a LARGE company. In addition to their Magical Express fleet, they have many other buses & shuttles at their disposal.
Mears is accustomed to transporting thousands daily to & from Walt Disney World Resort. This should lead a a seamless process for them.
Mears Connect is NOT supplying carseats. This is not an issue when guests are on buses, but it is unclear how that plays out with smaller vehicles. Vehicle assignment is not given until arrival at MCO.
According to MEARS,
"Florida Law provides that the child restraint [car seats] requirements do not apply to a chauffeur-driven taxi, limousine, sedan, van, bus, motor coach, or other passenger vehicle if the operator and the motor vehicle are hired and used for the transportation of persons for compensation. It is up to the parent or guardian. If a guest would like to bring a car seat, they are welcome to use it. In this instance, please book a seat for the seat occupied by the child in a car seat."
Those uncomfortable with potentially showing up & having young children without a carseat for a 30-40 minute drive in a van or small vehicle (should that be the assigned at arrival) should steer clear of this option or plan to bring a carseat.
Bringing a carseat does not guarantee a small vehicle. Guests may lug carseats through 2 airports to find out it was unnecessary because a bus is assigned.
You can book your ride on MearsConnect HERE.
For the shared option, I lean toward Sunshine Flyer. I love the theming & as a parent with kids in carseats, I love that I KNOW that we will be on a bus where I am comfortable without carseats.
option that may be shared or private
In addition to the Mears Connect-Standard, there is also Mears Connect-Express.
Express guarantees DIRECT service to & from the resort. It may be shared or private & still operates the same as Standard in terms of types of cars used & wait time at the airport. The main difference here is travel time will be shorter.
Cost is $250 roundtrip for 4 guests & $55 for each additional guest
Express guests will always be the first stop either way.
The carseat conundrum still exists.
This service MUST be booked both ways. There is no one way option.
Private options provide direct service to your destination (some accomodate a stop on the way like to a grocery store), no waiting at the airport & carseats can be pre-reserved for little to no fee.
Away we go
Away We Go provides service for up to 11 guests at a flat rate. Their cost builds in carseats, gratuity, fuel surcharges and still beats the price of most other private options, especially for large groups.
If you want luxury, this is not the way to go, but if you want a solid, private option- I highly recommend it.
Minnie Vans, Disney's signature private transportation option, is slowly making its way back to Orlando International Airport. These red, polka dot vans have space for up to 6 guests & can fit up to 2 car seats. Currently they are only available for airport service to concierge guests at select resorts.
Sunshine FLyer Private
Sunshine Flyer is rolling out a private transportation option in early 2023. While I love Sunshine Flyer for shuttle service, their pricing cannot compete with Away We Go.
Link MCO is an incredible luxury option for guest wanting private service. This is my top luxury choice in the Orlando area.
Mears has private options that are separate from Mears Connect. These options feature luxury sedans, SUVs, vans & limousines.
Pricing begins at $210 round trip for a parties of 1-3 & $250 round trip for parties of 4-6.
Gratuity is included in the cost.
Ace is another private option that features luxury vehicles.
Pricing begins at $280 round trip for parties of 1-3, $300 round trip for parties of 4-6 & $325 round trip for parties 7-10.
They also offer passenger vans, mini buses, limousines, sprinter limousines & full private motor coach options.
Their drivers are extremely professional & 20% gratuity is already included in all pricing.
options without pre-booking
Uber & Lyft
If you prefer to grab transportation once you land, there are plenty of Uber & Lyft drivers in the area.
This gives you flexibility, but you will be subject to dynamic pricing that can fluctuate greatly as well as unknown wait times.
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