There are so many ways to get around at Walt Disney World it can be overwhelming.Here is my explanation of the system including tips for how to navigate the transportation system so that you can spend more time in the parks and less time stuck in-route.
Disney Transportation Buses:Every WDW hotel and park has buses that travel to multiple locations throughout the day.Transportation reliability changes from hotel to hotel (and depends on the travel season and how busy the hotel may be) but in general, the buses come at regular intervals and you won’t have to wait too long before a bus to your destination swings by to pick you up.Buses pick up passengers at bus stops, which usually include a few benches to sit on while waiting and some type of shade from the hot sun.I suggest having water and a few snacks with you in case you get stuck with a longer than expected wait, especially when traveling with kids.
·Hotel Bus Stops: Near the hotel lobby or in another main location (check the map of your hotel) you will find your bus stop.If the bus stop is small, there may only be one location where buses stop, but if it is large, there may be multiple waiting stations where buses for specific parks stop.Read the signs around you to see if there is a specific place you should wait for your ride.When a bus arrives, the scroll on the front and side will tell you the destination it is traveling to.The main park buses stop at every hotel, so you should be able to easily identify which bus will take you to Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Downtown Disney, or the water parks.Just hop on the right bus, relax in your seat, and use the time to check your favorite Disney aps on your cell phone, look through park maps to plan your day, or chat with your family as the excitement builds along the way.The buses travel in pretty direct routes, though depending on how far a hotel is located from your destination park, you may stop at other hotels along the way to pick up more passengers, making the ride a bit longer for you.Disney posts that there is no eating on the buses, but you will often see people eating and drinking in route.In my opinion, this is a good rule though, because not allowing food cuts down on trash and spills on the bus.As with most things Disney, they do a good job keeping the buses clean, but not eating and drinking goes a long way to help.
·Park Bus Stops: When you arrive at your park destination, the bus will drop you at the bus stops beyond the main gate of the park, and you just walk up to the park entrance and go on in.To find the buses leaving the park, you just exit the main gate, follow the signs to the busses, and queue up in the line for your next destination.Each park has stops for the hotels and the other parks.There is no way to know how often buses arrive, so again, you may get stuck waiting for a while.Also, there are fewer benches at the park bus stations, and especially during peak traveling times (like when the park closes at night) it can be impossible to find a seat and you may find a long line.If you leave in the huge rush to exit the park at the end of the night, you will find that many other Disney guests are also headed for the buses.Be patient at these times, or opt for a less popular mode of transportation if you have the choice.This is another time that it is a good idea to have a small activity or snack ready to keep your kids occupied while waiting.
·Buses to non-park locations: The buses have fabulous, frequent and direct routes from hotels to the parks. But what about getting to another hotel, like the Boardwalk, or other less frequented Disney locations?This can be a bit tricky.Besides buses that share multiple hotel stops, there are no direct buses between hotels.The best bet for these bus trips is to take a bus to the closest park and transfer at the park bus station to a bus going to your final destination.This takes a bit of extra planning, and extra waiting time, but can be done. If you decide don’t want to figure it out and wait for multiple buses, such a trip may be a good time to call for a taxi.
·Buses are usually the best way to get to the Waterparks and Animal Kingdom.
Monorail: There are two major routes for the Monorail in WDW. The first, original route, travels around the Seven Seas Lagoon at Magic Kingdom.There are two different train options.The regular train stops at the main gate to Magic Kingdom, The Contemporary Hotel, The Ticket and Transportation Center, The Polynesian Resort, and The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.The express train travels directly from the Ticket and Transportation Center to the main gate to Magic Kingdom.The second, longer route, travels directly from the Ticket and Transportation Center to the main gate at Epcot.
The monorail is an obvious travel option for anyone staying at the Magic Kingdom Resort Hotels, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored by everyone else.Especially during the day and evening when fewer people are traveling between locations, it is a great way to get around.Even if you arrived at Magic Kingdom or Epcot earlier in the day on another form of transportation, the Monorail is the best way to park hop between the two.My great aunt and uncle who live in the Orlando area and go to WDW on a monthly basis always drive to the park, use the Epcot parking lot- which is their personal favorite- and hop on the Monorail to go over to the Ticket and Transportation Center and then transfer to the express train any time they visit Magic Kingdom.Even though that may sound complicated, they swear that is the easiest, most efficient way, for them to get to Magic Kingdom and avoid the traffic filled Magic Kingdom parking lot and parking lot entrance.
The best part about the Monorail is that it is almost an attraction ride.The train goes through the middle of the Contemporary Hotel building and flies above the other hotels, giving a great view to watch out the windows.There are also many seats, and other than peak traveling times (like at the end of the night when the parks close) you will usually be able to sit down, relax, and enjoy the air conditioning.The rides also include a sound system that gives facts and tips to riders, which, along with the views, will keep your family pretty well entertained for the ride.This is the one form of transportation where you won’t hear your kids asking, “Are we there yet?”
·If you try to hop on the Monorail at the end of the evening, when the Magic Kingdom or Epcot closes, you will encounter long waits, crowded trains, and a less relaxing trip.That does not mean that the Monorail isn’t a good option during this busy time. It just means that along with all the other transportation options, it is packed.One way to find a shorter wait on the Magic Kingdom route is to use the hotel train instead of the more popular express train.This can buy you some time, but it will also be the most crowded at park closing.
·During less busy times (aka during the day) if you arrive early to a train and find yourself waiting, you can pick what train car you will be in for your ride.You also may be able to ask to ride in the front car, with the best views from the train.This is a great treat for families, and an easy way to make the Monorail ride feel magical.
·If you get stuck in a long line waiting for the Monorail, have fun activities or games ready for your kids in case they start to get impatient.It may be the perfect time to ask older kids, “What was the best part of your day today and why?” or to play “I Spy” or “The Alphabet Game.”Don’t let a long line ruin the moods of everyone in your group.
Boat Transportation: There are multiple boat trips throughout all of WDW that can bring you to and from your destination or carry you along part of the journey.This is my personal favorite way to travel because it is the most relaxing with the most beautiful scenery.Boats are not always the fastest way to get around, but they are often less crowded and can give you and your family a few moments peace in the middle of your day.
·Magic Kingdom Water Launches: Most of the Magic Kingdom Resort Hotels have water taxis that take you to and from Magic Kingdom.These boats are a great way to get to the park.There are boats to and from Magic Kingdom at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, the Polynesian, the Fort Wilderness Campground, and the Fort Wilderness Lodge.There are also boats from The Contemporary to the Fort Wilderness Campground.These boats are the BEST way to get to the Fort Wilderness Campground for the Hoop-Dee-Doo-Review show or Mickey’s Backyard BBQ.All guests are invited to use these free boat rides, they are not just reserved for Magic Kingdom Resort guests.
·Ferryboats to the Ticket and Transportation Center: There is a large ferryboat that goes across the Seven Seas Lake from the main gate at Magic Kingdom to the Ticket and Transportation Center.During the day, this is a fun and relaxing ferry ride with great views of the hotels and the park, but at night, it is very crowded (along with the buses and monorail) as everyone leaves the Magic Kingdom Park as it closes.This, however, is a great option for getting to the Ticket and Transportation Center where you have access to the Epcot Monorail, the Magic Kingdom Monorail, hotel and other park buses, and the Magic Kingdom parking lot because though you still have to wait and you will be with a crowd, the capacity is much higher for the ferry ride, and more people will get on at the same time and be taken to their destination than the Monorail or buses.
·Epcot and Hollywood Studios and surrounding hotels:There is a boat launch at the secondary entrance to Epcot at the International Gateway between The United Kingdom and France in the World Showcase.There you will find a boat launch that takes guests from Epcot to the Boardwalk (with access to the shops and restaurants and the resort), the Beach Club and Yacht Club, the Swan and Dolphin Hotels, and the main gate at Hollywood Studios.The best way to get from Epcot to Hollywood Studios is by boat.I often use this quick, and frequently underutilized (i.e. no crowds!) method to go and eat a great meal at my favorite World Showcase restaurant and then travel to Hollywood Studios for evening rides and a late showing of Fantasmic.
·Downtown Disney: There are ferryboats from the Downtown Disney area to the Port Orleans resort (both the French Quarter and Riverside), Old Key West, and Saratoga Springs.I admit that I have only used this ferry when staying at Port Orleans, but anyone is able to use the boat to get around that area or even just for a joy ride while visiting Downtown Disney.
Personal or Rental Cars: For those who wish to travel by car (your own or a rental) it is easy to navigate inside WDW.There are clear signs along the way and maps are readily accessible, so it is hard to get yourself lost.All the parks have their own parking lot area with trams that take guests who have to park far away to the main gate of the park (Note: at Magic Kingdom, the parking lot tram takes you to the Ticket and Transportation Center where you have to ride the Monorail or hop on the Ferryboat to cross to the park main gate).Just because you park at one theme park’s parking lot does not mean you have to visit that park.You are more than welcome to park at one theme park and then hop on Disney Transportation to get you to another location.
All hotels also have parking for you to leave your personal car or rental car while you are staying on site, but you must be staying at the hotel, going to the hotel restaurant, or visiting someone staying at the hotel for a short time to use the parking lot.
Though rental cars work well for some families flying into Orlando from far away locations and for anyone staying outside the park, many families who stay at Disney Resort Hotels now find that they are completely unnecessary now with Disney’s Magical Express service from the airport to your hotel and Disney Transportation within WDW.
Other Note: All Disney Transportation starts 1 hour before the park opens and last until 1 hour after the park closes (though if it is VERY busy, they won’t stop picking up passengers until they have all boarded and arrived at their destinations).Downtown Disney Buses operate until 2 am.After that, you will need to use a taxi.
For more information on Disney’s Magical Express, click here