The ultimate guide to getting to, from, and around Disney
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My very first question when traveling anywhere, including Disney World, is… how do I get around??
Disney World has lots of free and paid transportation offerings to help you get around Disney without a car. I’m going to explain all of ways to get around Disney, including how to get to Disney from the airport.
I’m also going to give you some suggestions for the best day trips from Disney, if for some reason you find yourself ever wanting to leave the most magical place on Earth!
How to Get to Disney from the Airport
Disney used to pick you up for free at the airport and shuttle you to Disney World, which was honestly one of the best things about Disney! But no more… Disney disbanded the Magical Express service in 2022.
However, you can still find a shuttle to Disney at the airport, you will just have to pay for it.
Airport Shuttles to Disney
There are two companies that offer airport shuttles from the Orlando airport to Disney:
Mears will shuttle you from the airport to Disney, as well as many other resorts in the area.
They offer services to more than just Disney Resorts.
They have the best service; this is the company Disney cast members prefer to work with.
Tickets are currently $15 each way.
The Sunshine Flyer is the other option for getting to Disney from the airport. This is the company that we used on our last trip to Disney.
They only offer transportation to the Disney World Resorts, not any other area attractions/hotels.
This company is newer and less established than Mears. I overheard cast members complaining about the drivers being impatient.
Tickets are currently $12 each way.
There is no discount for a round trip ticket. Both companies are similar in price, but keep an eye out for sales that offer discounts on their pricing.
Can you book an airport shuttle without a flight?
Yes, for example, if you need a shuttle from Disney to the airport but you are going to pick up a rental car, not fly out, you can still book the shuttle without the airline information.
We took the Sunshine Flyer shuttle to the airport from Disney and picked up a rental car at the airport.
When I booked the shuttle, I checked the box that flight information was not available, and then added a note in the comments section that we were picking up a rental car. They picked us up about 1 hour before our car rental time.
Is there a train from the airport to Disney?
When Disney first announced they were getting rid of the Magical Express, they also announced plans for a new Brightline train from the Orlando airport to Disney Springs.
However, the Orlando Brightline train is no longer going to go from MCO to Disney Springs. There are plans to provide train transport “near” Disney, as well as close to all of the other theme parks and resorts in Orlando.
The train is supposed to run from MCO’s new Terminal C, which just recently opened. The train station is set to open sometime in 2023, although I don’t know if the plans to connect it to Orlando’s tourist corridor will also be completed at the same time or not.
So for now, no, there is no train to (or near) Disney World.
Other Ways to Get to Disney from the Airport
You can take an Uber from the airport to Disney. If you have several people in your party, the shuttle costs can add up, so this is a good option. Uber costs to Disney are usually between $40-$50. Check out this guide to using Uber at Disney World for more information.
Free Transportation at Disney World
Thankfully, once you get to Disney World, you can get around Disney without a car using the free transportation.
The only problem with this is that it can take a long time. The Disney World property is actually HUGE, and it can take a long time, whether you drive yourself or ride the bus, to get around. However, it takes even longer if you have to wait for the bus. So just be aware that it takes time to get where you’re going.
Types of Free Transportation at Disney World
There are a lot of different ways to get around Disney, and they are all so fun, I often ride on them just for kicks. Here are the options of free transportation at Disney World:
I will discuss all of these ways to get around Disney in detail later, but for now I’ll just briefly go over the simplest and most straight forward way to get around Disney: the buses.
Disney Bus Transportation
As far as buses go, they are pretty straight forward. There are monitors at each of the resort bus stops that give you an estimate of when the next bus will come.
Most resorts have bus stops off to the side out front of the main lobby, but be aware that some of the larger resorts have multiple bus stops! Be sure to pay attention to the name of your bus stop at these resorts, so you know at which stop to get off at when you come back.
These resorts have multiple bus stops:
Old Key West
Fort Wilderness Campground has one main bus stop at the front of the camp, but there is an internal bus that runs around to all the bus stops throughout. In this case, you might have to take two buses, one to get to the main bus stop, and then a bus to the parks.
Where does Disney transportation take you?
The Disney transportation system will take you to all of the theme parks:
Blizzard Beach waterpark
You can also get to Disney Springs using free Disney transportation.
Disney transportation also goes to all of the Disney resorts. So if you want to go resort hopping, aka visiting all the other resorts for free, you can do this using the free transportation system.
You can get to both of the mini golf courses at Disney World using free transportation, even though there is not a direct bus to either of them. Read this article for more information on how to get to mini golf at Disney World.
The Swan and Dolphin Resorts are confusing, as they are Disney resorts, but also… not Disney resorts. The boat transportation from Hollywood Studios will take you directly to these resorts, however, the bus transportation to all of the other theme parks from here will take you to the third party lots.
Third Party Lots
If you are staying at a hotel off Disney property that offers shuttle service to Disney, this will take you to a third party lot (Ubers also drop off here). The perks of staying at a Disney resort is that you get dropped off closer to the park entrances.
Third party lots will be farther out, and you will have a ways to walk to get to the entrance.
Disney's Transportation and Ticket Center
If you are going to Magic Kingdom from a third party shuttle or from the Swan and Dolphin Resorts, the bus will take you to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC).
If you are riding the monorail from the Magic Kingdom resorts (Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Contemporary) to EPCOT, that will also take you to the Transportation Center.
Transportation Center Boats
The Transportation Center is across the lake from the Magic Kingdom. The third party shuttles drop you off here, where you get a boat to ride across the lake to the Magic Kingdom (it’s also a good spot to view the fireworks at night).
Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get to the park, as you will have to account for driving time to the Transportation Center, wait time for the boat, and the time it takes to get across the lake.
You will have to go through the security bag check before you get on the boat to the Magic Kingdom, but then you will not have to go through security when you get across the lake.
Transportation Center Monorails
The monorails at the Transportation Center service both the Magic Kingdom park and EPCOT.
You can take a direct monorail to the Magic Kingdom, or the resorts monorail, which stops at the Magic Kingdom and all of the Magic Kingdom area resorts (more info on that below).
There is also a monorail that goes directly to and from EPCOT. Monorail rides to the parks will take about 10-15 minutes.
The Disney Monorail
Disney has 3 monorails:
The Resort Monorail
The Magic Kingdom Monorail
The EPCOT Monorail
You do have to go through a metal detector at the resorts or the transportation center to get onto the monorail. There is also a bag search, but your bag does not have to be searched unless it sets off the metal detector (Fun fact: if you have a DSLR camera, it will set off the metal detector. Which means you have to have all your bags checked every. single. time.).
Aside from the extra security (for which I am thankful, despite my complaining), riding the resort monorail is one of the best ways to go resort hopping around the Magic Kingdom resorts!
What Disney resorts have monorail access?
There are only 3 Disney resorts on the monorail line:
Grand Floridian Resort
The Magic Kingdom Monorail
The Magic Kingdom monorail goes directly from the Magic Kingdom gates to the Transportation and Ticket Center.
It will go through the Contemporary Resort lobby, but it will not stop. Take this monorail if you are going to/coming from a third party shuttle bus/Uber, or if you are park hopping from the Magic Kingdom to EPCOT.
The Resort Monorail
The resort monorail follows this route: Magic Kingdom —> Contemporary Resort —> Transportation Center —> Polynesian Resort —> Grand Floridian Resort —> Magic Kingdom.
It takes about 15 minutes to cycle through the whole route.
The EPCOT Monorail
The EPCOT monorail goes directly from the Transportation and Ticket Center to EPCOT and back. It is a fairly long ride to EPCOT, and takes about 15 minutes.
If you are coming from the Magic Kingdom resorts to EPCOT, you will have to get off your monorail, go down and around (follow the signs for the EPCOT monorail) and get on the monorail on the other side of the tracks.
You do not have to go through a second bag check to change monorails.
It took me 30 minutes to get to the Contemporary Resort (the very last stop in this direction) from EPCOT.
Pro Tip: Ride the EPCOT monorail at night during the fireworks show for a brief but magical view of the fireworks!
The Disney Boats
Disney boats are one of the best ways to get around Disney World!
Look for the different colored flags on the boats to indicate where each boat is going. Be sure to get in the right line for the boat you want, as several boats run from the same place to different destinations.
What Disney resorts have boats?
Pretty much all of the deluxe resorts have boat transportation to somewhere in Disney. A good rule of thumb is, if you can see water from your resort, it has boat transportation.
The one exception is the Contemporary Resort, which currently does not have any boats running from it.
These resorts offer Disney boat transportation:
Yacht & Beach Clubs
Swan & Dolphin
Old Key West
Magic Kingdom Boat Transportation
These resorts have boat transportation to and from the Magic Kingdom at Disney:
The Polynesian and Grand Floridian are just across the lake from the Magic Kingdom, and you can see the park from the resorts (and the fireworks!). They are just a short boat ride away.
The Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness are further away and will be a longer boat ride.
There used to be a boat that went in between these two resorts and the Contemporary Resort, but since Covid that boat is no longer running.
You do not have to go through a bag check to get on the boat, but you will have to go through a bag check as you exit the boat. So even if you are just resort hopping, and not going into the park, you will have to go through security to get off the boat and to the buses or monorail.
Pro Tip: Ride the Magic Kingdom boats at night for a free view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks show!
Hollywood Studios & EPCOT Boat Transportation
Because Hollywood Studios & EPCOT are so close together, the resorts in between them have boat transportation to both parks!
These resorts have boat transportation to EPCOT & Hollywood Studios:
Yacht & Beach Clubs
Swan & Dolphin
Make sure to pay attention to the colored flags on the boats, which indicate their destination. The boat ride to EPCOT will be shorter than the ride to Hollywood Studios.
You do not have to go through security to ride these boats. If you are heading into the parks, you will just go through the metal detector at the park entrance.
The EPCOT entrance is the back side of EPCOT, so it enters at the World Showcase (also where the skyliner station is). The Hollywood boats will bring you close to the front entrance to the studios, just ahead of the bus stops, walking trail and skyliners.
Disney Springs Boat Transportation
These resorts have boat transportation to Disney Springs:
Old Key West
Port Orleans French Quarter & Riverside
There is only one boat dock at Disney Springs. There used to be a boat that would take you from one side of Disney Springs to the other, but now there is just the one boat dock.
The boat dock is by the Marketplace side of Disney Springs, just where the walking path from Saratoga Springs comes up.
There are two lines for the boats, and two boats for each line, so pay attention to what color flag the boats have. The boats for Old Key West & Saratoga Springs are on one side, and the boats for Port Orleans Riverside & French Quarter are on the other. There are signs at the top of the boat launch to tell you which line to get in, but they are small and easy to miss, so be sure to look out for them.
You do not have to go through security to ride these boats. There is security at the entrance to Disney Springs.
The Disney Skyliners
The skyliners are my favorite way to get around Disney! They are so much fun! (Although if you are afraid of heights, I would reconsider them).
I also think they are one of the fastest ways to get around Disney, as they are continually running, so you don’t have to worry about just missing it and waiting for the next one.
Pro Tip: Ride the skyliners over EPCOT at night for a great view of the EPCOT fireworks show!
What Disney resorts have skyliners?
The skyliners run through these resorts:
Art of Animation
You can also walk to the back entrance of EPCOT (where the skyliners let off) and get on the skyliners to visit any of these resorts if you are at:
Yacht & Beach Clubs
Swan & Dolphin
What is the Disney Skyliner route?
The main skyliner station is at the Caribbean Beach Resort (Note that this station is a 10 minute walk from the main lobby).
There are 3 skyliner routes to take from the Caribbean Beach hub station:
To Hollywood Studios
To EPCOT (with a stop at the Riviera Resort)
To Pop Century/Art of Animation
In total, there are 5 Disney Skyliner stations:
Pop Century/Art of Animation (shared station)
The skyliner runs from the Art of Animation/Pop Century station to the Caribbean Beach station. From there you can get on a skyliner to Hollywood Studios, or to EPCOT.
The skyliner to EPCOT will stop at the Riviera Resort station, so you can choose to get off there, or just stay on for EPCOT.
Things to Know About the Skyliners
If you are afraid of heights, do not ride the skyliners.
They glide along above the highway, and sometimes slow down and stop. Because they have open airflow, you can hear the traffic below you as they go along. This is not a good mode of transportation if you’re afraid of heights!
The skyliner stops at the Riviera Resort, but you do not have to get off.
If you are already on the skyliner, just stay on until you get to EPCOT.
The trip from the Riviera Resort to EPCOT is the longest Skyliner route.
It always tends to slow down to almost a stand still at some points along this route.
Be sure to have your camera ready as you pass over EPCOT.
You can get some fabulous aerial views, if you are in a gondola without a picture on the side.
Some gondolas have pictures on the outside.
This will obscure your view and make it hard to get good pictures.
If there is lightning, the Skyliners will shut down.
Bus transportation will be provided instead of the skyliner.
Walking at Disney World
What Disney resorts have walking paths?
To be clear, all Disney resorts have walking paths/running trails. But these resorts have walking paths to a park or to Disney Springs:
Yacht & Beach Clubs
Swan & Dolphin
You can also walk in between some resorts. For instance, all of the resorts around Crescent Lake (Yacht/Beach, Swan/Dolphin and Boardwalk) have connecting walking paths.
You can also walk between the Caribbean Beach Resort and the Riviera Resort, which are situated next to each other. It is much faster to walk between these resorts than to use the skyliners, because the Caribbean skyliner station is so far away from the main lobby area.
Other resorts that you can walk between include the Art of Animation and Pop Century Resorts along Hourglass Lake. These resorts share a skyliner station, which you can cross to visit the other resort.
Walking to the Magic Kingdom
You can walk to the Magic Kingdom park from these resorts:
Transportation & Ticket Center
There is an old walking path to the Magic Kingdom theme park from the Contemporary Resort. It’s a fairly short walk, about 10-15 minutes. and the path has been a Disney institution for a long time.
I have personally never walked from the Contemporary to the Magic Kingdom, but I’ve read that there are parts of the path that smell like sewage… and it involves waiting at a crosswalk.
However, there is also a brand new walkway that goes ALL THE WAY from the Ticket & Transportation Center, past the Polynesian Resort, past the Grand Floridian to the Magic Kingdom.
That’s a long walk! But if you don’t feel like waiting for the boat or the monorail, you can walk to Magic Kingdom from the Transportation and Ticket Center! It’s about a 10-15 minute walk to the Magic Kingdom from the Grand Floridian, and roughly another 10 minutes from the Polynesian, and another 10 from the TTC.
But it is a beautiful walkway, with a neat view of the monorail passing overhead!
Walking to Hollywood Studios & EPCOT
You can walk to Hollywood Studios and to EPCOT from these resorts:
Yacht & Beach Clubs
Swan & Dolphin
There is a walking path that leads from the Boardwalk Resort to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It takes about 10-15 minutes to walk the path, which comes up right between the bus stops and the skyliner station at Hollywood Studios.
You can also use this walking trail from the Swan & Dolphin and the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts, which are just across the lake from the Boardwalk.
Additionally, these resorts have a walking trail to the back entrance of EPCOT, which is literally just a minute’s stroll away. This leads to the EPCOT skyliner station, so just walk toward the skyliners and you’ll find it.
Walking to Disney Springs
You can walk to Disney Springs from this resort:
Saratoga Springs is one of the larger resorts, and has multiple bus stops. The closest bus stop to the walking trail to Disney Springs is Congress Park, which is about a 10 minute walk to the Disney Springs Marketplace entrance.
If you are at a theme park and you want to visit Disney Springs, if there is no bus service to Disney Springs, take the bus to Saratoga Springs. Then be sure to get off at the Congress Park bus stop to walk to Disney Springs.
Renting a Car at Disney World
Can you rent a car at Disney World?
Yes! You can rent a car at Disney World, on Disney property. You will rent it from the Car Care Center.
The Car Care Center is not run by Disney, and they are not Disney employees. However, they have an agreement with Disney to rent cars on Disney property. They have cars from Alamo, Enterprise and National.
Is there a free shuttle to the Car Care Center at Disney?
Yes, there is complimentary shuttle service to and from the Car Care Center at Disney World to your Disney resort. You will call the shuttle phone number (407-824-3470 ext. 1) at least 2 hours before you need it to schedule the ride.
The shuttle will pick you up outside of bell services, the same place the airport shuttles drop off/pick up. It is an easily recognizable blue van with the rental agencies’ logos on the side.
A couple resorts have a unique pick up spot, so double check at the front desk where your pick up spot is.
Is it expensive to rent a car at Disney World?
It actually costs more money to pick up a rental car from the Car Care Center on Disney property than it does to rent it at the airport. If you just want the car for the day, to visit somewhere in Orlando like SeaWorld or Universal, it is your most convenient option.
However, if you are adding on to your Disney vacation with a trip to the beach or somewhere you plan to stay overnight instead of returning to Disney, it is cheaper to rent it from the airport, or take an Uber to one of the many nearby car rental places.
Where to Rent a Car Near Disney World
On our most recent trip to Disney, we took the Sunshine Flyer shuttle back to the airport after we checked out, and picked up a rental car at the airport. We took the rental car to the beach for a couple of days, and then drove ourselves back to the airport for the flight home.
This was cheaper than renting the car on Disney property, plus it gave us more freedom with our time on the day we flew out. The shuttle picked us up about an hour before our car rental time.
There are also A LOT of car rental agencies very close to Disney property. You can take an Uber from your Disney resort to one of these places to pick up your rental car. You’ll find the majority of these places on I-4, just outside of Disney Springs.
The Best Day Trips from Disney World
There are so many things to see in Orlando (and nearby) besides just Disney World! I know it’s hard to fathom leaving the most magical place on Earth… but if you can muster up the courage, here are some good places to visit in Orlando, and nearby.
Probably the most well-known park besides Disney World, Universal Orlando has 2 theme parks, a water park, and their own resort hotels. Harry Potter World is one of the most popular parts of the parks, with a different side in each park. You can pay extra for a park hopper ticket and ride the train between parks.
The other popular theme park in Orlando is SeaWorld. You can ride thrill rides, watch animal shows, and, for a bit extra, meet some of the animals! I love their Antarctica/penguin exhibit, which lets you get really up close to the penguins! I also paid the extra (literally doubled my ticket cost, but #worthit!) to MEET a penguin (#bestdayever)!
Also, the penguin proposed to me. Just sayin’.
Disney’s Character Warehouse
There are 2 Disney’s Character Warehouse outlet stores near Walt Disney World:
At International Premium Outlets near Universal
At Vineland Premium Outlets, closer to Disney
Here you can find leftover holiday merch and other cheaper Disney souvenirs. Sometimes you can score a really great find here, and sometimes there just isn’t much, so you’ll just have to go and see!
The one near Universal is a further drive from Disney, but it is the better store, so be sure to check that one out if you have a chance.
Lakeland Antique Mall
My friend took me to the Lakeland Antique Mall, about a 45 minute drive from Disney World. They have your general antique-y stuff, but then there is the section in the back!
In the back of the store you will find a huge section of Disney merch. And I’m not talking the latest Minnie ears. I’m talking shower curtains that were designed to hang in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Chairs that once adorned the halls of the Beach Club Resort. Pillows from the Grand Floridian.
Heck, there’s even a pirate ship bed frame from the Caribbean Beach Resort!!
Be sure to leave room in your suitcase if you want to bring home a bed set from the Polynesian Resort. Because I definitely would have been tempted, if I could have fit anything in next to my Disney Princess Run tutu…
Kennedy Space Center
Truly one of the most unique attractions in central Florida, the Kennedy Space Center makes a great day trip from Orlando. Learn about the history of NASA and space exploration, see actual spacecraft and moon rocks, or time your trip around a rocket launch for one of the best views you can get!
Beaches Near Disney World:
Daytona Beach is the biggest and most popular beach close to Disney World. It is just over an hour’s drive away to this popular and well-developed coastline.
Cocoa Beach is one of many beaches on Cape Canaveral. It is popular for surfing, and is close to the Kennedy Space Center, so they make a great combined day trip. It is about an hour and 20 minute drive from Disney World. It is also close to other more secluded beaches on Cape Canaveral.
We rented a house near Melbourne Beach after a trip to Disney World. It is about an hour and a half drive from Disney World to Melbourne Beach. This beach is less popular, which means, while the area is less developed, it is also less crowded. There is free public parking and beach access here.
Any more questions?
So there you have everything I know about how to get around Disney World! Or at least everything I could think of! If you have any more questions about transportation at Disney World, don’t hesitate to email me.
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