by Disney Magic Diva
Did you know if you fly into Orlando International Airport, Disney offers its guests complimentary motorcoach transportation to Walt Disney World Resort hotels? With so many things to budget for in your vacation, it’s pretty magical that ground transportation isn’t one of them! Wondering how it works? Here’s the scoop!
When you book your Walt Disney World Resort stay, you can indicate that you’d like to use Disney’s Magical Express. If you’re booking your vacation online, there will be a question about whether you’d like to use the Magical Express ground transportation. Just check the appropriate box. If you’re using a travel agent, (Tips from the Disney Divas and Devos recommend Patricia at All for Dreams Travel) be sure to let them know you’d like to use the Magical Express. When you make your reservation, it’s helpful if you have your flight information, but often we book a trip before we have our flights. No problem! Just let Disney know your flight information once it’s booked, (you can call (407) 939-1936) and then all you need to do is start the countdown to your vacation.
In addition to the ground transportation service, Magical Express offers a complimentary luggage delivery service for flights arriving between 5:00 am and 10:00 pm. Disney will collect your luggage from Baggage Claim in Orlando, and deliver it to your resort room! If your flight arrives outside of this timeframe, you will need to collect your luggage yourself, and bring it with you on the Magical Express.
About 2-3 weeks before your departure, you’ll receive yellow sticker luggage tags. These are NOT the same as the adorable character tags that come with your magic bands. These resemble the luggage tags airlines fasten to your bags when you check them at the airport. But these yellow tags are vital to you, because they are the key to your luggage getting from the airport to your resort room. You’ll be mailed one tag for each person in your party, but if you need more just call and ask. Disney is happy to send more! If you want to utilize the luggage delivery service, affix these tags to your luggage before you leave home. Then once you check your bag at the airport, you never have to bother with it again. No need to stop at Baggage Claim in Orlando, and drag those suitcases with you all over the airport. Let Disney work it’s magic, and your luggage will be delivered to your resort room after you arrive!
TIP: Disney recommends you allow up to 3 hours for your luggage to reach your room. Anything you may need immediately upon arrival should be packed in your carry-on. (Think medications, park essentials if you’re heading out to play, swim gear if you’re planning to hit the pool immediately, pjs if it’s an evening arrival and kiddos need to get to bed, etc.)
Once you’ve finally landed in Orlando, all you need to do is make your way from your arrival gate to the Magical Express. No need to stop by Baggage Claim! It’s hard to express how much I LOVE this feature, because I absolutely dread waiting at Baggage Claim, watching endless suitcases circle around and around – and mine is always last. Then dragging luggage through the airport to ground transportation is such a hassle, especially if you have children in tow too. So having Disney handle all of this for me is truly magical!
So how to get from your arrival gate to the Magical Express? Airline gates at Orlando International Airport are on either the “A” or “B” side of the terminal. To get from your gate to the main terminal (and vice-versa), you must board a monorail type train for a 2 minute ride. (More magic! A “monorail” ride before you even get to Walt Disney World!) When you get off the train and enter the main terminal, you are on Level 3. You’ll walk past all those poor unfortunate souls going through airport security to begin their trip home. Try not to feel too smug as you pass them on your way to begin your magical vacation.
If you’d like to grab a bite to eat, there’s a wonderful food court in the terminal. We used to only visit it on our way home, but have learned it is wise to stop here when we arrive too. Since we typically land around noon (having been up since around 3:00 am for early morning flights with little or no time to grab something during our layover), we are famished by the time we arrive in Florida. Over time, we’ve learned everyone is happier if we force ourselves to take a few minutes to eat before we board the Magical Express. It can still be 60-90 minutes before you arrive at your resort, and that can be a long time for weary travelers on an empty stomach.
Disney’s Magical Express departs from Level 1 on the B side, so follow the signs to make your way there. Remember, you’re on Level 3, so go down two flights. Watch for the Mickeys on the floor, and they will lead you to friendly cast members anxious to help you find the correct line for your bus. Have your Magic Bands on, because here’s your first chance to use them. Just touch the Mickey on your band to the Mickey on the scanner to verify your bus reservation, and off you go!
While you wait for your bus, there are several television monitors showing Disney cartoons to help entertain your little ones. (Or your husband, in my case.) Your wait time can be anywhere from nonexistent to 30 or 40 minutes, just depending on crowd levels and your luck of when you happen to arrive. Sometimes we’ve walked right on the bus, sometimes we’ve waited for what seems like an eternity. (But then, when you’ve waited so long for your vacation, and you’re this close, ANY wait can seem like an eternity!)
Before you board the Magical Express, you’ll scan your Magic Band once again, then you can settle in for about a 30 minute ride to Magic Kingdom. Any carry-on luggage you have can be stowed in the luggage compartment under the bus. If you have a stroller you gate-checked on the plane, it can go here too. The busses are equipped with television monitors which play a brief video explaining the check-in process for when you reach your resort. Busses usually stop at 2-3 resorts, so you’ll likely get a chance to see some other resorts before it stops at yours. You will finally arrive, and your magical vacation begins!
Since all good things must come to an end, all too soon your vacation will be winding down. The day before your flight home, you’ll find an envelope hanging on your resort room door handle. It’s the dreaded notice containing information you’ll need for the return trip to the airport. It will advise you of what time your “Tragical Express” will depart (generally 3 hours before your flight) and have other information about checking your luggage. Keep this letter, because it will serve as your ticket to board the bus.
You may be able to participate in Resort Airline Check-In. This service is fabulous, because it enables you to avoid the airline check-in counter at the airport! If your return flight is on Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest or United, you can check your luggage at the resort, just like you would at the airport. You can pay your baggage fees (if any) by calling Baggage Airline Guest Services at (407) 284-1231 between 5:00 AM and 11:00 PM. Disney will make certain the bags get to the airport, and all you need to do is pick them up at your arrival destination. You can also get your boarding passes at Resort Airline Check-In. You will need to have proper photo ID, just like you would at the airport, and you must complete the check-in process at least 3 hours before your flight departure.
TIP: During peak times, this can take some time, just like it would at the airport. Plan accordingly. Have this process completed BEFORE your Magical Express departure time. The bus will not be able to wait for you while you stand in the Check-In line with your luggage.
Since we usually have a late afternoon flight home, we bring our luggage with us on the way to the park for the last day. We’ll complete our Resort Airline Check-In, leave any carry-on items with Bell Services, and head to the park! Just be sure to allow plenty of time to get back to the resort, claim your carry-on items from Bell Services, and be ready for that the Magical…err..Tragical Express ride to the airport.
And as you go through security at the airport, watch for those people arriving as they pass you by on their way to find the Magical Express. You’ll know who they are. They’re the ones trying not to look smug.
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