I have to admit, there are really only two ways to get to Disney – you can drive or you can fly. If you are driving, you are in complete control of how you actually GET to your hotel, but what if you fly? Back in 2002, I flew down to Orlando International Airport from Raleigh, NC, and met my sister for our first-ever, girls only trip. She was flying in from New York and so we met up at my gate (my flight got in minutes after hers), then went down to baggage claim, grabbed our bags and went in search of a shuttle to take us to our hotel.
At that time, there were several no-name or little-known-named shuttle services offering rides to the Walt Disney World Resort. The big name at the time was Mears. We had the option to take the Mears shuttle which was on a big luxury bus, but we were impatient and decided to get on a 15 passenger van shuttle that was leaving immediately. Big mistake! The van would shut off WHILE we were driving and the driver actually got pulled over for speeding! I think we actually saw the Mears shuttle go by while we were getting the ticket! Talk about irony!
It wasn’t too long after that that Disney introduced their Magical Express. Ah…the Magical Express…it truly is… Magical. Here’s how it works: You book your Disney trip and let them know where you are flying out of, your flight numbers, etc. Two to three weeks before you depart, you will be sent special luggage tags and vouchers. The luggage tags are bright yellow with Mickey’s head on them. These are paper labels with sticky tape on them that baggage handlers normally place on your bag when you check them at the airport. What these signify is that your bags, are Disney resort bags. When you land at Orlando International Airport, the baggage handlers take your bags and send them to your resort for you. There’s no waiting at baggage claim, your bags will be sent directly to your ROOM! Now that’s a perk for someone like me who is anxious to get out of the airport and in to the theme parks!
Okay, so your bags are taken care of, but what about you? You get off the plane in Orlando (bag free) and head down to the first floor to the Disney Magical Express terminal. Once there you will be greeted by Disney staff members where you will be directed to check in with your vouchers, then be directed to with luxury bus will take you to your resort. Once on the bus, you will be treated to a short video about the Walt Disney World Resort to prepare you for your visit.
So that is the basic description of what you’ll get with the Magical Express service, here are some other important bits of information to further help you:
– Passage on Disney’s Magical Express must be booked at leat ten days before your arrival date. You can book it through your travel agent, Disneyworld.com, or by calling Disney’s Reservations Center directly at 1-407-W-DISNEY. You will need to have all of your flight information available when making the reservation
– Car seats are not permitted on the Magical Express busses and will be stowed underneath in the luggage compartment.
– Each Magical Express bus may stop at up to four different hotels/resorts before getting to yours so be prepared to not go directly to yours.
– The Magical Express Service will also pick you up on your day of departure at your Disney Resort and take you BACK to the airport. You will be required to be picked up three hours before your flight’s departure.
The pros to using this service is that you are almost immediately in the midst of the Disney magic as soon as you get off the plane. The Magical Express staff are just wonderful – friendly and helpful. The busses are lovely and the video that they show you just gets you even more psyched (if possible) to get your vacation started. I loved the fact that I did not have to wait for my bags and they were brought directly to my room in a matter of two hours of my arrival time.
The cons to this service is Disney’s departure policy. The Orlando International Airport is about thirty minutes away from the Walt Disney World Resort and yet you will be picked up three hours before your flight’s departure. I understand that you may have to stop at up to three other resorts and board guests but I just hated having to cut my last day at Disney short to go and sit at the airport for two and a half hours.
All in all, this service is worth your while because not only is it free, but it makes your life easy. After living the nightmare of a smaller shuttle service, there is no comparison. Like everything else Disney does, this service truly is magical and I highly recommend it to everyone flying in for their Disney vacation.