For just over 15 years, Disney’s Magical Express had been transporting Walt Disney World Resort Guests from the Orlando International Airport to their Disney hotels as a complimentary add-on to Disney vacation packages. Disney’s Magical Express provided motorcoach service from the airport and even included luggage service, allowing Guests to head right to the bus to their Disney resort without stopping at baggage claim upon landing in Orlando.
When Disney announced that the service would be ending at the end of 2021, many fans expressed disappointment in the loss of a once complimentary amenity, while others shared that they were likely to rent a car during future Walt Disney World vacations anyway.
Since a couple of new transportation services have popped up effectively replacing Disney’s Magical Express, we wanted to take a look at the available options for getting from the Orlando International Airport (MCO) to your Disney resort:
Disney’s Magical Express was run in partnership with Mears Transportation and as a result, the company’s newest service is technically the “official” replacement for Disney’s previous bus service. Mears Connect effectively runs almost exactly the same as Disney’s Magical Express with the notable exception that the service is not complimentary regardless of which hotels Guests are staying at.
Guests using Mears Connect must make a reservation in advance, then head to the bus pickup location at MCO, which is located in the same area as Disney’s Magical Express was, and uses a nearly identical check-in process, albeit without the use of MagicBands.
For standard service, (as outlined above) prices per person for Mears Connect are $16 for adults and $13.50 for children (one way) and $32 for adults, and $27 for children (round-trip). Note: This is an introductory rate so it is possible it may change in the future.
Express service is also available for $250 per group of four passengers (and $55 for each additional person). By booking express, you would be placed on a bus or van (not a private vehicle) but your resort would be the first stop and you would get on the bus with little to no wait. The introductory rate for express service on Mears Connect was originally priced at $200 and has since been increased to $250.
The Sunshine Flyer operates similar to Mear Connect however the buses come in themed 1920s railroad styles. If you are missing the immersive feeling of boarding a themed bus right at the airport before setting off on your Disney vacation the Sunshine Flyer could be a better option for you.
The motorcoach-style buses can accommodate all of your luggage just like Mears Connect, and the prices are comparable to Mears Connect. One-way service runs $17 for adults and $12.50 for children while round-trip rides are $34 for adults and $25 for children.
While new to Orlando, the Sunshine Flyer is run by Transportation Management Services, which is a reputable transportation company so you can feel safe traveling with them if you are interested in a more themed experience. The Sunshine Flyer is also donating 50% of sales made in their first 50 days of service to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Taxis & Rideshare Services
Another option for traveling to and from the airport is taking a taxi or rideshare services like Uber or Lyft. Taxis are easy to find at MCO and any airport, simply arrive at the taxi stand and request a ride. Uber and Lyft operate similarly in that you do not need an advance reservation, but you do need to be comfortable with the general concept of rideshares of ordering rides through the apps and getting into the driver’s personal car.
If you are traveling with young children and need car seats, rideshare services can be a mixed bag because they may or may not have car seats. Of course, many drivers in the Orlando area do try to have car seats given the demographic of families visiting the area, however, you might be taking the chance by taking this route if a car seat is needed.
Both taxis and rideshares typically cost about $50-60 one way between MCO and your Disney resort. If you go this route, you will also need to make sure your luggage will fit in the vehicle. The taxi stand would only direct you to a car your luggage will fit in, but again, with rideshares, you might be taking a chance.
We recommend rideshares for solo travelers or a couple of adults without children to have the best possible experience given space for luggage and the lack of requiring car seats.
The cost of renting a car varies wildly based on availability and the time of year you are visiting Orlando. This option does give you the most flexibility though, as you would simply pick up your rental at the office and have the car for the duration of your trip.
In addition to the rental costs, however, you will want to factor in the cost of parking at your resort and at the Disney theme parks, which could add up over the course of your stay. If you are taking routine trips off Disney property though, having your own car could end up being a greater value over the repeated taxi and Uber rides, and a car can be especially helpful if you are looking to stock up on groceries for your hotel room.
Rental cars can come with car seats upon request, but they are based on availability. If you need a car seat and are planning on renting a car, you may want to bring your own to be safe.
We can’t end the rental car discussion without mentioning the rental car shortage that is just beginning to improve. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, most rental car companies began selling off their fleets to stay afloat. Unfortunately, a computer chip shortage followed, which impacted the production of new cars and therefore extended the rental car shortage as companies took longer to build up their fleets.
We have not heard of any issues at Orlando or any other airports in some time now, but earlier in the pandemic there were cases where Guests would arrive only to find no cars available. If you are booking a rental, we recommend picking up the car right at the airport (even if other nearby locations are cheaper) as the airport will have the most availability. A variety of rental car options are available at MCO, including Hertz, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise, which has a partnership and location on Disney property if needed.
Private Car Service
Reserving transportation through a private livery service is another option, though again prices vary depending on the company and type of car requested.
If having a private vehicle and a concierge-style level of service is a priority for you, this might be a great option. By booking a private car in advance, you would also ensure that there will be space enough for all of your luggage (which can be difficult to predict with rideshare services) and the driver would likely be happy to help with your luggage.
We are relieved to still have so many easy options to arrive at Walt Disney World from the Orlando International Airport even while we are still saddened by the loss of Disney’s Magical Express. Whichever option you choose, we hope you find a smooth start to your Walt Disney World Vacation and have a magical time!