The Walt Disney World resort is so large that it’s similar in size to San Francisco or TWO islands of Manhattan. In fact, it’s such a large piece of land that Florida doesn’t control it. Disney actually created its own municipality, the Reedy Creek Improvement District, with oversight over its own Fire, EMS, zoning, and public works departments. But that’s another post for another day. Today, we’re digging into another wonder of the Disney company, Walt Disney World transportation.
Walt Disney World Transportation
The Walt Disney World Transportation system includes the famous Monorail, buses, boats, and the new Skyliner. Together, they form a network to connect guests to all the parks, resorts, and more. While transportation is still available, several significant changes have been made to ensure social distancing is followed. One of the main hubs of this network is the Transportation & Ticket Center (TTC). Located next to the Seven Seas Lagoon, this is where you park for Magic Kingdom and will access either a bus, monorail or boat to enter the park. There is also a monorail connection to EPCOT, though it’s not currently operating.
The most well known of all Walt Disney World transportation methods is the Monorail. Operating since opening day in October 1971, the Monorail services the Magic Kingdom and its resort hotels, in addition to Epcot via a transfer at the TTC.
The Monorail circling Seven Seas Lagoon offers express service to/from Magic Kingdom and the TTC in one direction. The other direction is “local” service with stops at Magic Kingdom and the three resort hotels: Contemporary, Grand Floridian, and Polynesian Resorts.
For most of 2021, there will be no monorail service at the Polynesian due to the hotel’s extensive renovation.
Monorail service between the TTC and Epcot has been temporarily suspended, though it’s unclear if that’s due to the pandemic or other issues.
WDW Resort’s fleet of buses whisks guests all over the property at all hours of the day and night. As the property has slowly reopened, there have been many adjustments to traditional schedules. WDW buses always came with some pros and cons. The main one being that even though they are convenient when staying at some WDW hotels, there are multiple bus stops. If you’re closest to the last stop, sometimes the bus you’d want would be full. Well, since their buses are holding fewer people, this has only exacerbated that problem. Buses also aren’t running as early or late as they used to, so if you plan to rope drop, depending on where your bus pick-up is, you might want to opt for getting your own rideshare.
There are also no longer any Disney buses traveling between Disney Springs and each of the four parks. You’ll have to transit via a hotel transfer or the Transportation & Ticket Center.
Last, but certainly not least, the Swan & Dolphin properties are no longer being served by official Disney Buses. The local taxi conglomerate, Mears Taxi, has taken over. They are on different schedules and drop off in different locations than all the other Disney Buses.
There are a lot of different boat services offered as part of the Walt Disney World Transportation system. While all boats are accessible to the public, some are larger – serving crowds transferring from the TTC to Magic Kingdom. Others, are far smaller and are designed to provide transportation for hotel guests to access both the parks and Disney Springs. They are all open-air and have reduced capacity to support social distancing.
Just prior to COVID-19, WDW Resort rolled out the Disney Skyliner, a network of gondola lines connecting some of the WDW Resort hotels and theme parks. This is the newest addition to the Walt Disney World transportation network.
Parks that have Disney Skyliner stops are EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The WDW Resort hotels that have stops are:
- Beach Club Resort
- Yacht Club Resort
- BoardWalk Inn
- Riviera Resort
- Caribbean Beach Resort
- Pop Century Resort
- Art of Animation Resort
The Skyliners hold 6-8 people and are handicap accessible. Even before COVID, they would load cars by separate parties, so there is no issue with being paired with those not in your group.
Sadly, the popular MinnieVan ride share service powered by Lyft and GM was ended after the March 2020 shutdown. While it was more expensive than regular rideshare services because they were driven by Cast Members and considered Disney Transportation, it was great to get picked up and dropped off in more convenient locations.
Almost all parks have fully completed and updated ride share areas. Rideshare apps will show you where the dedicated pickup areas are located, similar to airports or arenas. Magic Kingdom still requires you to transit through the TTC.
Disney’s Magical Express
Disney’s legacy airport transportation system at MCO has changed slightly, in that you now have to pick up your luggage, rather than have it “magically” transport to your hotel room. Fear not – after you check-in to be assigned to your motorcoach and give your bags to the driver, they will be taken to your room for you.
When you depart, fewer shuttles are running, so you may have more time to wait at the airport than you are used to. They have also discontinued the complimentary airline check-in service for your return flight.
In January 2020, Walt Disney World announced that the Magical Express would permanently end on December 31, 2021.
If you’re driving to the parks, there are no trams running to help save you the walk. While there aren’t nearly as many cars as there usually are, the parking is still socially distant. If you arrive after 2 or 3pm, rather than being directed to the back of the lot, ask if you can drive up to the front, and almost always find a spot of someone who has left early.
The most complicated parking lot to time is at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. They won’t let cars start lining up at the gates until 8:50 am. If you time it too early, they’ll force you to turn around. Then, by the time you do a full four-leaf clover, you’ll be at the back of the line. This can impact your ability to effectively rope drop this park.
Disney Springs Parking
The only parking lots open to guests are the two main garages: Orange & Lime. Lime is only accessible if you are driving southbound from Lake Buena Vista Dr. When arriving from any of the parks, the south, or EPCOT hotels, you will be forced to park in Orange.
You have to park in these garages because you must be screened for temperature and ensure you have a mask.
Valet Parking is currently not available.
Ride Share has been moved around and is in two different locations, based on the service you choose. Follow the rideshare apps information on their map for the most accurate pickup locations.