So your trip’s finally here and you’re ready to enjoy the theme parks, Downtown Disney, water parks and more. You’re all checked in to your hotel, whether on or off Disney property. How are you going to get to all of those places from your hotel? The answer will be very different depending on where you are staying and how you got to the Walt Disney World Resort in the first place. This post looks at how to get around after you’ve arrived and checked in to your hotel.
If you decided to make the drive from home in your own car (or a rental), you certainly could just drive from your hotel to wherever you’d like to go. This is the route we personally go, even if we stay on Disney property as it really is the fastest way to get where you are going. You also don’t have to be on anyone else’s timetable for drop off/pick up. Having your own car also lets you explore other places in the Orlando area and can be a time and money saver over taking a taxi, bus or hiring a car service. If you are staying on Disney property there’s a bonus-you get a parking pass that lets you park at any of the four Disney theme parks for free. Considering that parking costs $14 per day, that’s a nice savings.
What if you’re not staying on Disney property and don’t have your own car? Many hotels in the Orlando/Kissimmee area offer shuttles-usually free-to Disney’s four theme parks as well as Universal Studios and Sea World. These usually run on a set schedule and can vary from one drop off in the morning/one pick up in the evening to every hour. If you use your hotel’s shuttle make sure you check the schedule beforehand and just be sure of one thing-don’t miss the last one at the end of the night or you’ll be forking over some of your vacation money for a taxi to get back to your room. Which is also another option when staying off property-you can take a taxi to and from the parks and other places you’d like to go. While taking taxis can be a bit more costly, you do have a lot more freedom in your schedule to go where you want when you want. Another option is the local bus service. In Orlando, that is the Lynx bus system. The Walt Disney World Resort is currently accessible through Links 50, 56 and 111; Universal Studios is on Links 21, 37 and 40. Check out the Lynx website for schedules, maps and a trip planner.
If you are staying on Disney property, you have many different options available to you. Of course if you have your own car, you can drive everywhere and it will be the fastest way to get to and from most places on Disney property (depending on what resort you are staying at). You can also take a taxi, though again it is an added expense. Another option is the Disney bus system which is complimentary for guests staying at a Disney resort. Every Disney hotel has bus service to all four theme parks, both water parks and Downtown Disney. Most of the time you shouldn’t have to wait more than 15 minutes for a bus. It is advisable if you are going to use the bus system to build some extra time into your schedule to account for any delays, especially if you are trying to be on time for a dining reservation. Some resorts, like the three All-Star Resorts, sometimes share bus lines so you may have extra stops to wait until you reach your resort.
If you are staying at Disney’s Port Orleans (French Quarter or Riverside), Old Key West or Saratoga Springs Resorts, these offer ferryboat service to and from the Downtown Disney area. Even if you did drive a car, I’d recommend taking the boat at least once for a relaxing, scenic ride-especially since sometimes the parking at Downtown Disney can get a little crazy, particularly on the weekends and during peak seasons. At Downtown Disney, there is also a boat that will take you from the far end of the West Side (near the House of Blues) to the heart of the Marketplace side and back again.
If you are staying at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Villas, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Swan or Dolphin, boats are available to and from both Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Epcot is also within walking distance from these resorts. Hollywood Studios is as well, though the walk is a bit farther...but it is along a waterway and can be a nice way to de-stress after some time in the park if your feet aren’t too tired.
Staying at Disney’s Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge or Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground? Water launches are available to and from the Magic Kingdom from these resorts. The last way to travel by boat in Walt Disney World is from the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) to/from the Magic Kingdom using the ferryboats.
Disney also has a monorail system with three separate lines. The first is the Resort Monorail line which travels around the Seven Seas Lagoon stopping at the Grand Floridian Resort, Polynesian Resort, Transportation and Ticket Center, Contemporary Resort and the Magic Kingdom theme park. If you’re lucky enough to be staying at one of these Deluxe resorts on the monorail line, it makes getting to and from the park easy and quick (great for those mid-afternoon breaks for a relaxed lunch back at the resort or at the hotel pool!). You could also walk from the Contemporary (and Bay Lake Tower) to and from the Magic Kingdom, and quite often it may even be faster than taking the monorail.
The second monorail line is the Express line which only goes between the Transportation and Ticket Center and the Magic Kingdom around the loop that encircles the Seven Seas Lagoon. If you are driving in to the Magic Kingdom, once you park you can take either the Resort line or the Express line, though the Express of course will be much faster. While Disney usually tells you it will take the same amount of time to get from the TTC to the Magic Kingdom whether you take the ferryboat or the monorail, the Express monorail is normally faster.
The third monorail line offers round-trip service from the Transportation and Ticket Center to Epcot. If you are planning to visit both Magic Kingdom and Epcot the same day, you could park your vehicle at either theme park and use the monorail to go between the two. If you are staying at the Grand Floridian, Polynesian or Contemporary Resorts, you could take the Resort monorail to the TTC (or walk to the TTC if you’re close enough), then switch to the Epcot line.
All three lines of the monorail system are free, regardless if you are staying on or off Disney property. All complimentary Disney transportation is available from one hour before theme park opening times up to one hour after those parks close. Buses to and from the Downtown Disney area continue to run until 2am.
As you can see, there are lots of options. I personally always recommend staying on property as I find that it is much more convenient whether or not you have a car while there thanks to the multiple transportation options that Disney offers-all included in the cost of your stay. That’s not to say staying off property is not a viable option-it certainly is and once you have arrived on property those boats and monorails will move you around as well. If you are staying on property and are not sure of the best way to get from one place to another, check with the concierge desk in the lobby-they’ll be happy to help you map out a route.
How do you like to get around while at WDW?