Updated: May 21, 2015
Disney World TransportationDisney World is a big place - over 30,000 acres in size, and over 40 square miles of space. When it comes to the best way of getting around Disneyworld, there are two things to consider. First, what is the best way to get to Disneyworld (from the airport, driving from home, etc.) and once there, what is the best way to get around the park. "Do I need a car at Disney World?" is a question we hear all the time. Inexpensive car rentals are available, but if you are planning to keep your visit contained within the Disney property parks, our advice is to skip the car rental and use Disney provided free transportation systems. This year, Disney even added something called Disney Magical Express which is basically complimentary airport transportation to and from Orlando airport, and they will even drop off and pickup your checked luggage for you and deliver it to your hotel room -- no need to wait at luggage carousels at the airport. When you arrive, you instead go to the Disney Magical Express desk on the lower level, check in, and hop on the Disney bus heading to your resort. Depending on when you arrive, you might have to wait 10-45 minutes for a bus - on a recent weeknight, our bus was waiting for us when we got there, and we waited about 10-15 minutes for other guests to board before departing. Buses makes 2-4 stops at adjacent resorts when they do their drop-offs.
Compared to a taxi, which will cost about $60 each way, you obviously save some pretty good money by taking the free Disney bus. The only trade-off is time - you probably lose 30-50 minutes by taking the bus (assuming you had no baggage to check). Disney Magical Express is easy to use. If you book your vacation through Disney, they will mail you special luggage tags for your checked luggage prior to your arrival. You put those on your bags that you check at the airport -- when they are unloaded in Orlando, they will go straight to a Disney bus instead of the luggage carousel, and then to your room. Normally, they will arrive an hour or more after you do, so be sure to carry any essential items you need in your carry-on bags.
Getting to Disneyworld from the Airport - Driving to DisneyworldHow far is it from Orlando airport to Disneyworld? It is about 25 miles from the airport - which can take 40-75 minutes on an average day. The Disney Magical Express, discussed above, is the easiest way to get to the resort if you are arriving by plane. Of course, like at all airports, there is also van, limo, and taxi service available. Expect to pay $100+ for private limo service, and $60 or so for cabfare. Disneyworld is located southwest of the Orlando airport off of Interstate 4 (westbound). There are several exits for Disneyworld, given the size of the park. Technically, you can take any exit and still get to where you are going, however choosing the closest exit to your destination will save you some time driving around the side streets. Exit 67 is best for Downtown Disney, Port Orleans Resorts, Typhoon Lagoon, EPCOT, Boardwalk Inn, Swan and Dolphin Resorts, Old Key West. Exit 65 is best for Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach, All-Star resorts, Coronado Springs. Exit 64 is best for Magic Kingdom, MGM Studios, Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge. To get driving directions to Disneyworld from your address, click here.
Parking at DisneyworldIf you are driving to Disney World or renting a car, you will find there is generally plenty of parking available at all the resorts. There is a main parking location for the Magic Kindom is called the Ticket and Transportation Center. You park your car here and then take ferry boats or monorail service to get to the entrance of the Magic Kingdom. The other parks (Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, MGM) have parking areas out in front of their entrance gates. Parking is about $10 (free if you are staying at the resort hotels), and trams are available to carry you from distant parking aisles to the ticket areas. As always, when parking in a large, unfamiliar parking lot, make a written note and stash it in your wallet indicating where you parked - picking out your rental car from an ocean of similar cars is no fun when your 4 year old is asleep and your 8 year old is whining about going to the bathroom! For the waterparks (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon) and Downtown Disney, there is no fee for parking (these areas attract a lot of locals as well - Disney doesn't want to scare them away!).
How do the buses work at Disney World? Disneyworld Bus SchedulesOnce inside the resort, Disney does a pretty good job of moving people around from park to park and resort to resort. There are bus stops in front of every resort property with specific park buses coming by every 15-20 minutes (one for Animal Kingdom, one for EPCOT, etc.). Each bus serves only one or 2 hotels and then goes direct to that park, meaning minimal stops once you are on board. Just make sure you get on the right bus for the right park - each bus will have the park name it serves emblazoned on the signs on the front and side of the bus - ask a driver if you are not sure. The same thing is true for return trips - each park has a bus area just outside the front gates with numbered bus-ports -- each one is labeled, indicating which resort(s) it serves - just get in line for the one that lists your hotel. The bus will pick you up and drop you back off in front of your hotel. The only time we found bus service to be a problem was when huge crowds exited at the same time, like after a parade or fireworks show. You may then have to wait 40 minutes or more to get on a bus, but on average plan on waiting 5-15 minutes for the next bus. Driving time can be 10-25 minutes depending on how far you need to travel - Animal Kingdom is farther away than Downtown Disney. If you want to get from one hotel to another, first take a bus to either any park or Downtown Disney, then switch to the bus heading for the hotel you are trying to get to -- obviously, picking a intermediate stop closest to you or your destination will minimize your overall trip time. If you are staying at the Comtemporary, Floridian, or Polynesian, you get to the Magic Kingdom via monorail, not bus. Unfortunately, the monorail doesn't go much further than the loop around those hotels right in front of the Magic Kingdom. It does connect to the Ticket and Transportation Center where you can exit and board another monorail train to get to EPCOT - it would just be nice if a quick, convenient train system served the whole resort, but the bus works pretty decent, all things considered.
When do buses run? What is the Disneyworld bus schedule? The buses run one hour before each park opening, and at least 1 hour after closing time. They run officially every 20 minutes, but we have seen them appear a little faster than that. For character dining, they run 30 minutes prior.
There is also limited boat service available from select resorts. An mentioned above, the 4 resorts right next to Magic Kingdom have boat service back and forth across the lagoon. Ferries also deliver guests from the Ticket and Transportation Center to the front gate of Magic Kingdom. EPCOT and MGM are served by boats from Boardwalk, Yacht and Beach Club and Dolphin and Swan. And Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter both are served by a boat that goes to Downtown Disney each day and evening, about every 15 minutes.
More Disney World Guides
- Magic Kingdom Guide
- Disney MGM Studios Guide
- EPCOT Center Guide
- Disney Animal Kingdom Guide
- Disneyworld Hotel Guide
- Disneyworld Transportation System
- Downtown Disney Guide