Disney World Airport Transportation: Alternatives to Disney World Magical Express


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If you’re a long-time Disney World traveler, you’ve no doubt heard of the free Magical Express, providing Disney World airport transportation. Unfortunately, we saw the demise of Magical Express at the end of 2021, leaving guests on the hunt for the best alternatives to Disney World Magical Express.

Fortunately, a new and growing list of providers is stepping up to fill the void, and some may prove to be even better than Disney World Magical Express.

A Trip Down Memory Lane: What Was the Disney World Magical Express?

View of Magical Express airport sign from inside the bus prior to Disney discontinuing the service, requiring alternative Disney World airport transportation
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Disney World Magical Express service (DME) was a convenient way for guests staying at Disney World resorts to travel from the airport to their hotel. Best of all, it was included in the cost of your resort reservation!

All you needed to do in order to gain access to this mode of Disney World airport transportation was make you way to baggage claim to retrieve any checked bags upon your arrival at the Orlando aiport. Previous to COVID, Disney even picked up your bags and magically transported them to your hotel.

After picking up your luggage, you’d scan your MagicBand and a lovely cast member would direct you to the line to wait for the shuttle that would transport you from the aiport to your Disney World resort. Yes, that’s right, the lines would start even before you entered the park.

So, what was the magic of Magical Express? Well, for one thing, it was included in the cost of your resort stay. You didn’t have to worry about paying a separate service for Disney World airport transportation.

Second, there was just something to be said for sitting on the coach bus, watching classic Disney cartoons and waiting in anticipation to reach your resort. When Disney collected your backs and brought them directly to your room, the experience was even more magical.

Disney World Transportation from the Airport: Your Available Options

View of Grand Floridian resort driving up to the entrance using alternative Disney world airport transportation.
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Sadly, the Disney Magical Express service came to an end in 2021, leaving guests to wonder what services they could now use for Disney World transporation from the airport and back again. If you’re wondering too, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve rounded up all of the latest Disney World airport transportation options, and will continue to update the list as more altneratives become available.

Private Car Service/Airport Shuttle

  • Price: $70 and up
  • Additional Fees: Tipping is customary, usually 15% of the total fee
  • Benefits: Fast and efficient, personal meet and greet service, grocery stop available, car seats available, can accommodate large parties
  • Drawbacks: Higher cost than other options

Prior to the implementation of DME, there were a number of private car companies offering Disney World airport transportation. This was our preferred method of transportation as we could easily book van service for our family of 6 for around $90 round trip plus gratuities. The driver would pick us up at the airport, load our luggage and take us to our resort. We wouldn’t have to stop at other hotels to let off additional passengers. The ride was all ours, and for a family of 6, more economical than some of the other alternatives at the time.

As luck would have it, a private car service is still a great alternative to the Disney World Magical Express and a fast and convenient mode of transporation for traveling to Disney World from the airport and back again. While there are fewer vendors currently in operation, the number is likely to rise now that Disney Magical Express has been discontinued.

As an added plus, taking a private car service even brings back a little of the magic associated with airport transfers. Drivers meet you by baggage claim holding a sign with your last name. After you make a connection, they will help you retrieve your luggage from the baggage carousel and transport it to the vehicle. Most will load it for you, and then drive you straight to your hotel.

Getting to your hotel will take approximately 30 minutes, the total travel time from Orlando International airport to most Disney World resorts. Most services will even include a 15-minute stop at a grocery store for you to stock up on water bottles or other in-room supplies.

When it comes to selecting a car service, Happy Limo seems to win hands down from Disney fans. According to Mousesavers, Happy Limo offers the best value for the money. Mousesavers readers can even get a $10 discount off a stretch limo or bus and a $5 discount off all other vehicles by using the code MS5569. A money-back guarantee is also available for Mousesavers subscribers.

Disney Information Station (DIS) recommends FL Tours. DIS has long been providing vacationers with magical advice about Disney World stays, so they should have a good idea of the airport transfer landscape.

Quicksilver Tours is another company that comes up frequently on discussion boards and social media sites.

Mears has been an industry leading name in private airport car service for nearly two decades, making them a trusted alternative to the Disney World Magical Express service. Mears shuttles can be booked for one or more passengers through a fleet that offers Town Car service, SUVs, Limousines and van service for up to 8 passengers.

Booking a Private Car Service for Your Trip to Disney World

Before deciding on a car service, do your due diligence. Check the Better Business Bureau for complaints as well as social media sites.

A quick search on the internet of the company name followed by the word “reviews” can also uncover more details. If you find a number of satisfied customers, you are probably pretty safe with the company. If you see complaints or nothing at all, you may want to reconsider.

If in doubt, give the company a call. They should be willing to answer any of your questions and provide you with the information you need to feel safe. If not, don’t book.

Renting a Car, the Most Flexible Way to Travel from the Airport and Back Again

family enjoying a rental car as their form of disney world airport transortation
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  • Price: Depends on the length of stay
  • Additional Fees: Cost of fuel/tolls
  • Benefits: Fast and efficient, unlimited stops available, travel at your own pace, car seats available for an additional charge
  • Drawbacks: Can be costly for long stays, must battle traffic and navigate on your own, some Florida roads require tolls

While you won’t need a rental car at Disney World to get to the parks, thanks to the Disney World complimentary transportation system, it is a valid alternative to the Disney World Magical Express Service. With some companies, you may not even need to stop at the counter and wait in line to get your car.

For example, National’s Emerald Club members go directly to the garage, locate the section called Emerald Aisle, and pick any car there. Start it up, drive to the exit and flash your driver’s license. It couldn’t be simpler.

Avis offers a similar option with QuickPass. By signing up for the service, you can select your car from the app as you wait for your luggage. You’ll be given an assigned space in the garage.

Once you’re ready, proceed to the rental area, bypass the counter and locate the numbered space in the garage indicated by the app. Keys will be waiting in the car. The only thing left to do at this point is to scan the QR code provided by the app at the exit gate for a completely contactless experience.

With a rental car, you have the freedom to travel at your own pace and even make multiple stops on your way to your hotel. You’ll also have the freedom to leave Disney property for meals and such during your stay.

Just keep in mind that Disney resorts do charge a nightly parking fee if you bring a car, up to $25 a night.

Uber or LYFT, Cheap and Efficient Disney World Airport Transportation

  • Price: $35 and up
  • Additional Fees: Tipping of $1-$2 a bag if driver handles these
  • Benefits: Fast and efficient, grocery stop available
  • Drawbacks: Most drivers do not have car seats for children, cannot accommodate large parties, prices vary depending on time of day

Ridesharing offers a reliable alternative to the Disney World Magical Express service and also to the resort wide complimentary transportation system that runs between parks and resorts.

While LYFT is the official ridesharing service of Disney World, Uber drivers certainly have no trouble transporting guests between the airport and the resort.

Ridesharing at Orlando International Airport has been simplified in recent years. Just open the app, order your car and let your driver know where to pick you up.

Most Disney World guests who use the service say it takes no more than 5 minutes for a driver to arrive. Most will even be willing to make a grocery stop or to cruise through a drive through if you’re hungry after your trip.

Just keep in mind that most ride sharing services max out at 6 guests. If your party is larger than that, consider using a private airport transfer service as discussed above or keep reading for more alternatives to Disney World’s Magical Express.

Taxicab Please

  • Price: $50 and up
  • Additional Fees: Recommended tip of 15-20%, $1-$2 a bag if driver helps with luggage
  • Benefits: Faster, grocery stop available but will pay for the extra time
  • Drawbacks: Most drivers do not have car seats for children

Similar to ridesharing, a taxi offers a quick and relatively painless alternative to Disney World’s Magical Express service. The downside when compared to using a ridesharing app is that you will need to call the company to request a ride if no taxis are circling the airport at the time of your arrival. The only exception to this is the Mears fleet of taxis.

In 2018, Mears partnered with Uber to bring a number of on-demand services to the Uber app. You can now book a Mears professional driver by booking a vehicle listed in the Uber Black service. Taxis are also now available through the app for easy airport transfers.

Many taxis can accommodate larger parties of up to 7 guests.  

Mears Connect Shuttle Service, Relying on an Old Standby

  • Price: $13.50/child, $16/adult one way; $32/adult and $27/child round trip
  • Benefits: Cost efficient, reliable, accommodates large parties
  • Drawbacks: Takes longer to get to your resort, less private, makes stops at other resorts

Another alternative to Disney’s Magical Express is a service that is very similar to it. Mears Connect offers transportation to your Disney World resort via shuttle, usually in the form of a bus. Contrary to Magical Express, the Mears Connect Shuttle also serves Disney Springs resorts and other nearby Disney World hotels, such as the Swan and Dolphin or J.W. Marriott Reserve.

Mears Connect offers two levels of service. The Standard Service will sound very familiar to anyone who has already used the Disney World Magical Express. You’ll board the bus with other guests and travel to your resort. Expect to make stops along the way at neighboring hotels to drop off fellow travelers.

Mears Express Service is identical to the Standard Service with one important difference. You can plan on making it to your resort much faster since you won’t be dropping off passengers at other nearby hotels. The express service is a direct transfer from the airport to your Disney World resort, though you may be required to travel with other passengers.

If you plan to take advantage of the faster Express Service, you’ll pay $250 for up to 4 passengers and $55 for each additional passenger. This level of service is similar to Disney Minnie Van airport transfers, but since Minnie Vans are not currently running, Mears Express provides a prime alternative for travelers who don’t mind paying the premium price. However, some quick math demonstrates that a party of 5 could take advantage of the freedom afforded by renting a car for the same price, depending on discounts available.

On the other hand, Mears Standard service is priced at $13.50 per child and $16 per adult for a one way trip. You can double these figures for round trip accommodations.

How Does Mears Connect or Mears Express Work?

You can book a reservation for either the Mears Connect or Express shuttle online ahead of your departure at mearsconnect.com. Immediately after booking either service, you will receive an email confirmation of your reservation and a QR code. Be sure to hang onto this. You’ll need it to check in for your ride.

Upon arrival at the Orlando International Airport, all Mears shuttles are scheduled to pick guests up on the B side on the ground transportation level 1. If you’ve used Disney’s Magical Express before, this should look and feel familiar as its the same setup minus the Disney signage. Also, instead of scanning your MagicBand, you’ll be asked to scan the QR code sent via email from Mears.

When your vacation ends, both Mears Connect Standard and Mears Connect Express will pick you up at your resort. Mears will schedule this pickup time with you in advance, usually 3 hours before your scheduled flight departure for those guests using standard service and 2 hours in advance of your flight departure for those taking advantage of the faster Express Service.

How Long Does it Take to Reach Your Resort with Mears Connect?

Mears is rather quiet on how long an airport transfer with their Connect service will take, but a recent test conducted by Summer Hull, reporter for The Points Guy, indicates that you should expect a rather lengthy travel experience. According to Hull, she waited around 12 minutes for her shuttle to arrive. Once boarded, she waited an additional 13 minutes for the shuttle to leave the airport.

Finally on the road, her Mears Connect shuttle made it to the famed Disney World arch in only 24 minutes, thanks to light traffic, but she did not arrive at her hotel for another 23 minutes as the shuttle made stops at multiple resorts. She clocked the total time from scanning her QR code to stepping off the shuttle at an hour and 12 minutes.

Need Help Booking Ground Transportation?

Book your Disney World vacation with us, and we’ll take care of ground transfers, dining reservations and more. Our services are free of charge so contact kathleen@mickeyworldtravel or fill out the form to the right for a no-obligation quote.

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Introducing the Sunshine Flyer!

  • Price: $19.50/adult and $11.00/child one way. Roundtrip bookings are available for $39/adult and $22/child
  • Advantages: Fun and lively theming, 3-point harness seatbelts available, car seats permitted, ADA accessible, luggage service coming soon
  • Disadvantages: Possible lengthy travel times to and from the airport, less private, makes stops at other resorts, costlier than Mears Connect

If you’re missing the fun and magic of Magical Express, we may have identified a new alternative for getting to your Disney World hotel from the airport. The Sunshine Flyer is now available as an alternative to the Disney World Magical Express, offering guests the chance to chug on down the highway in modern buses dressed up to resemble vintage 1920s steam engines. Even more exciting, no two vehicles will be the same, so you can look forward to a little change in the magic every time you travel to or from the airport.

Inside, you’ll find all of the comfort of a modern train with leather-like seating, television monitors and climate controlled cabins. Similar to other bus services offering Disney World airport transfers, the Sunshine Flyer says you can expect to depart the airport within 20 minutes of check-in and you should arrive at your resort hotel no later than 65 minutes after departure. You should, however, expect to share your ride with other guests and may be required to stop at multiple resorts before you reach your own.

The Sunshine Flyer departs from the Main Terminal Building in Terminal B, Level 1. This is the ground transportation area. You’ll find the counter just past rental car services.

When it’s time to return to the airport from your resort, you’ll receive an email from the Sunshine Flyer alerting you to the time of pickup based on your flight departure. The bus will arrive in front of your Disney World resort hotel for pick up.

Best of all, the Sunshine Flyer hopes to have a luggage service running by summer!

Booking the Sunshine Flyer can be done online at sunshineflyer.com.

Other Information You Should Read

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Kathleen Hesketh and Ali Patton, mother daughter travel bloggers

We're Kat and Ali, a pair of mother daughter travel bloggers sharing our knowledge and experience from multiple years of Disney travel with other Disney lovers and first-time visitors, hoping to simplify your vacation experience and help you enjoy all of the magic of a visit to Disney World. As Disney vacation planners, we can now book vacations through Mickey World travel, at no additional charge, and help you realize all of the magic of a trip to Disney.

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Kathleen Hesketh

Kathleen is a travel agent with Mickey World Travel, a platinum level Authorized Disney vacation planner, where she helps people discover the magic of a Disney vacation and other travel destinations. She is also the chief author and editor for Seconds to Go - a travel blog where she shares experiences from traveling the U.S. with her daughter, Ali.