Disney’s Magical Express is a complimentary bus service offered to guests who fly into Orlando International Airport and are staying at an on-site Disney hotel. The transportation takes guests to and from the airport. In this post we’ll share how the Magical Express works and break down some of the pros and cons of using the service.
Before getting further into the post, I’ll reiterate that Disney’s Magical Express is only offered at Orlando International Airport (MCO) and not any of the other nearby airports. While there’s some benefit to flying in elsewhere, renting a car or paying for a shuttle service is the only practical option from there. Likewise, if you’re staying at a non-Disney hotel then the service will not be offered. This includes the Swan & Dolphin and Shades of Green Resorts.
If you are flying into MCO and staying at a Disney-owned hotel then the process of using Disney’s Magical Express begins before your travel. Upon making a hotel reservation, the website will prompt you on whether you want to add Magical Express or not. If you aren’t ready to decide that once you make the reservation don’t worry. Adding the service later via the website or a phone call ((407) 939-1936) is simple enough. Be ready with your flight information when adding the service to your reservation
Once you’ve made a reservation for Disney’s Magical Express, Disney will mail you details and luggage tags roughly 2 weeks before your flight. If you decide to not use the luggage tags, you can still pick up your belongings at baggage claim and then head over to where Magical Express is located. If you do tag your bags, Disney will bring them all the way to your hotel room. Sometimes they will arrive a few hours after you do so pack any belongings you might need for that day in a carry on. We’ve both tagged our bags and picked them up at baggage claim and, frankly, I don’t really have a preference. If you’re traveling with little ones or a big group then checking the bags all the way to your hotel room is likely the best way to go. If your flight lands between 10 PM and 5 AM then you will need to pick up your luggage at baggage claim regardless.
Getting to the Magical Express is somewhat simple although Orlando International isn’t our favorite airport to navigate. There is plenty of signage to follow but the area where you’ll catch the bus is in terminal B, level 1. The walk from the plane should take around 10 minutes. Along with your luggage tags, Disney will send you vouchers for the bus ride. It’s good to have them but don’t sweat it if you lose them along the way. The reservation is linked to your account so they can just scan your magic band or look up the reservation if it comes to that. I’ve read elsewhere that you can just show up at Magical Express without a reservation and Disney will let you on after scanning your magic band (assuming you are staying on-site). I have not tried this but assume it’s true. Basically, don’t worry about having it all together. Disney is going to get you to your hotel regardless of what you forgot at home.
From there, the only thing left to do is get on the bus. Waiting for the bus can take up to 30 minutes, although we’ve never waited that long. Usually 10-20 minutes is our normal wait. Once on the bus it is just over a 30 minute ride to your hotel. The buses are coach-style buses and have restrooms in the back. Videos welcome you (or saying “See you real soon” if you’re departing) and there’s a nice array of little clips to keep you entertained. All in all, it’s a fairly comfortable bus ride.
The return trip to the airport is a very similar process. You’ll need to schedule the Magical Express in advance, although we’ve done it the night before in the hotel lobby. The hotel will give you a time to be back for pick-up, generally about 3 hours in advance of your flight. You can check your bags all the way to your final destination (depending on the airline) or just drop them off while boarding the bus and check them in at the airport. Dropping them off to your final destination when you check out is convenient and eliminates a couple of steps for the day.
Magical Express probably sounds more difficult than it actually is. The packet that Disney sends guests seems a little daunting when in reality guests don’t actually need a single thing from that packet to use the DME (as the cool kids call it). As always, it’s better to be prepared than not be but either way Disney is going to accommodate you.
Should you use Disney’s Magical Express?
What I’ve described is a complimentary service that is mostly foolproof. Seems like a no-brainer to use, right? Well, I’m not sure I’d go that far. While we generally use the service and appreciate it there are times when it doesn’t make sense to use it.
The biggest negative when it comes to using DME is the time it takes. All told, the experience (seems like a generous word to use for a bus ride) will likely take about an hour and a half. Factor in that the bus will not drop you directly at a park and that could add in another half an hour of time that you’re not in Magic Kingdom enjoying a Dole Whip. Getting off a plane, grabbing a rental car and heading straight to one of the theme parks would likely only take 45 minutes, maybe less. That’s not a ton of time gained but if you’re doing a shorter trip then it’s something worth considering. Uber is also offered at MCO and that would likely be the fastest and cheapest (outside of DME) option.
Another way Magical Express doesn’t make sense is if you’re doing anything else in Florida besides Disney World. Honestly, this is a big reason why the system is offered. Disney likes a captive audience and if they’re picking you up from the airport and dropping you off then it’s difficult to get elsewhere. For some, this isn’t an issue at all. WDW certainly has plenty to do and spending a week+ there isn’t hard to do. But if you want to start the trip at Universal or go to the beach for a few days then DME probably isn’t for you, at least one way. We’ve done several trips where we’ll rent a car for a few days, drop it off at Disney whenever we get there and then take the Magical Express back to the airport. That has worked well for us.
All in all, we recommend Magical Express if you’re focusing on Disney World and have a longer stay. There are instances when the service may not be the best option, but for the most part it’s convenience while being complimentary generally make it the right way to go.
Have you used Disney’s Magical Express? Let us know your thoughts or any questions you might have in the comments below. Planning a trip to Walt Disney World? Check out our planning guide to help you along the way. If you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages which you can find on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!
Categories: Vacation Tips