With Disney World being over 27,000 acres, getting around isn’t very simple. First, you’ve got to consider how you’ll get to Disney World in the first place. Then, you’ve got to determine how you’ll get around once you’re there. Welcome to my guide to Disney World transportation!
The simplest way is to just drive yourself everywhere, but if you are staying on-site, relying on the Disney transportation is a perk! You just need to know the best ways to navigate it all.
In this guide, I’ll be walking you through all of the above so that you have an idea of what transportation to be using and when. You might also want to check out my blog post: Beginner’s Guide to a Disney Vacation, for help on making all of the important decisions as you plan your trip!
Getting to Disney World
Before you learn how to get around Disney World, it’s important to consider how you’ll get TO the world.
For most people, flying into the Orlando airport makes the most sense. However, once you’re there, there are still transportation choices to be made. How will you get from the airport to your hotel?
Rent a Car
If you don’t want to need to rely on Disney transportation, or you’re staying off-site, renting a car is usually a good bet. Just note, you’ll likely have a parking fee per night at your hotel, and if you are staying off-site, you’ll have to pay to park each day at Disney World. The good news? You only have to pay once per day, so if you plan to park hop you don’t have to pay each time you enter a new lot.
You can get an Uber, Lyft, or Taxi to take you from the airport to your hotel. If you’ve got a group, this is likely the cheapest option if you’re not interested in renting a car. However, if you’re traveling alone and concerned about safety, looking into a shuttle service might be a good idea.
Disney used to offer the Magical Express service – a bus that would take you from the airport to your Disney World hotel and back, but they’ve since ended this service. The good news is that the company Disney previously partnered with, MEARS, still offers a service called MEARS Connect that’s direct service to and from Orlando International to all Walt Disney World Resorts. However, it’s no longer included in your stay, and they also no longer take care of your luggage for you – meaning you’ll now have to wait at baggage claim before boarding.
There’s also a new shuttle service that’s popped up recently called Sunshine Flyer. It seems to be pretty similar to MEARS Connect, except their buses are train themed.
On the other hand, if you live close enough, or you’re just making a road trip out of your stay, you can drive yourself to Disney and right up to your hotel. Just like with renting a car, you’ll want to be aware of any nightly parking fees at your hotel, and the need to pay for parking at Disney if you are not staying on-site.
Getting Around Disney World
Now that you’re here, it’s time to understand all of the various ways you can get around the World.
Note: You do not have to be staying on Disney property to use the transportation systems once you’re there.
I think we’ve covered this one pretty sufficiently, but this is a great option if you don’t want to wait around for Disney’s transportation, and are a control freak like me.
Disney buses run from every hotel to every park, and also to Disney Springs. Be prepared to have stops at other hotels on your route (for example, all three All Star Resorts share one bus line), and be prepared to be PACKED in, but it’s a system that will get you from point A to point B.
Also note: buses do not run BETWEEN resorts unless they’re on the same line. I had a client ask recently if they should drive themselves or take the bus from Port Orleans Riverside to Riviera for a dining reservation. The answer is drive yourself because in order to take a bus you would have to take the bus from Riverside to EPCOT or Hollywood, and then hop on the Skyliner to Riviera. Fine if you just want to enjoy a tour of Disney transportation, but not the most time efficient.
The Monorail is often called a train in the sky, and this connects Magic Kingdom and EPCOT to each other, and the Magic Kingdom Resorts.
There are three Monorail lines at Disney World. First, you have the express monorail which runs between the Transportation and Ticket Center and Magic Kingdom. (See below for a further explanation on the TTC).
Next is the Resort Monorail Loop. This line runs between the Polynesian, the Grand Floridian, the Contemporary, and Magic Kingdom.
And finally, the EPCOT line runs between EPCOT and TTC. If you were at Magic and wanted to hop over to EPCOT, you would need to take either the Resort Loop or the Express Loop (doesn’t matter which) back to the TTC and then transfer to the EPCOT line.
The Skyliner gondolas are the latest addition to the Walt Disney World transportation lineup and they connect EPCOT and Hollywood Studios with four resorts: Riviera, Art of Animation, Pop Century, and the Caribbean Beach Resort.
EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Riviera all have their own Skyliner stations, while Art of Animation and Pop Century share a station and Caribbean Beach hosts the hub itself.
Similar to the Monorail system, there are also three Skyliner lines. First, a line connecting Pop Century/Art of Animation with the Caribbean Beach Resort Hub. Next, a line connecting Hollywood Studios with the hub at Caribbean Beach. And finally, a line between Caribbean Beach and EPCOT, with a stop at Riviera.
Essentially, everything ends up back at the hub at Caribbean Beach, and this is the transfer spot to get between different lines.
When it comes to Water Taxis at Disney World, there are three main options.
First, you’ve got water taxis that take guests from Port Orleans French Quarter, Port Orleans Riverside, Old Key West, and Saratoga Springs to Disney Springs.
My husband and I greatly enjoyed this in the evenings during our honeymoon. It’s a very magical feeling ride and very restful after a long day in the parks!
Next up are the boats from Magic Kingdom to the Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Polynesian, Fort Wilderness, and Wildness Lodge resorts.
Finally, BoardWalk Inn, Beach Club, Yacht Club, and the Swan and Dolphin Resorts offer a water taxi over to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios.
There’s also a ferry from the Transportation and Ticket Center to Magic Kigndom, but I cover that in more detail below.
If you’re like me, you enjoy a little stroll outside of the hustle and bustle of the parks, so you’ll want to make sure you note the various walking paths around the World.
First up, if you’re staying at one of the main Magic Kingdom Area Resorts (Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Contemporary) you can walk into Magic. Contemporary is the closet on the path, and the Polynesian is the farthest.
However, if you are staying at Poly, you can also use the paths to walk over to the TTC, meaning an easy jump to EPCOT as well.
Next, we have the resorts in the EPCOT area. Beach Club, Yacht Club, BoardWalk Inn, and the Swan and Dolphin are all close enough to walk into both EPCOT and Hollywood Studios.
Note: if you’re walking into EPCOT from these resorts, be aware that you’ll be walking up to the gate by the International Gateway. This gate often opens later than the main gate.
On top of that, you can also walk between EPCOT and Hollywood Studios (again, using the EPCOT “back gate” in the International Gateway).
The third main walking path connects Disney Springs with Saratoga Springs. However, Saratoga is a very large resort, and some rooms are far enough away that you’re better off catching the bus or water taxi to Disney Springs. Unless you just really want to walk.
And finally, there are a few paths connecting various resorts. You’ve got Fort Wilderness with the Campgrounds. Then there’s Art of Animation and Pop Century. Caribbean Beach to Riviera Resort is walkable (and very picturesque with the Skyliner in the background). And the two Port Orleans hotels. I’ve walked this path many times and it is always gorgeous.
A Quick Note on the Transportation & Ticket Center
If you plan to drive yourself to the Magic Kingdom, you’ll need to be aware that the Magic Kingdom parking lot isn’t actually at the Magic Kingdom. It’s at the Transportation and Ticket Center. Not only might this seem confusing, but it also adds extra travel time to getting into Magic if you plan to drive yourself.
The Transportation and Ticket Center is a hub for Magic Kingdom parking, as well as the Monorail’s three lines.
Once you park your car, you’ll walk up, go through security and then have some options to choose from. You can either hop on the Monorail, or hop onto a ferry boat that will take you to Magic Kingdom.
Note: Don’t try and leave Magic Kingdom immediately after fireworks. Even if you drove yourself, you’ll have to wait in huge lines to use Disney transportation to get back to TTC. Trust me, I’ve made that mistake so that you don’t have to.
Be aware – if you’re choosing to take the Monorail, you can either get on the express Monorail directly to Magic, the resort Monorail that stops at the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Contemporary, and Magic Kingdom, or the EPCOT Monorail. Make sure you’re getting on the right one!
If you decide to take the bus to Magic, the bus will bypass the Transportation and Ticket Center and take you straight to Magic!
And there you have it! Everything you need to know to get around Walt Disney World! If you still have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below and I’ll help you out. And if you’re gearing up to plan your next magical escape, be sure to check out my Beginner’s Guide to Planning a Disney Vacation blog post! Or, check out my post Beginner’s Guide to Disney World Hotels to make sure your hotel choice aligns with how you hope to get around!