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When you’re at a Walt Disney World theme park, you’re having an amazing time. Getting to the park isn’t always easy, though. Disney has three primary (and free) modes of transportation, with a fourth one available for a fee. In this article, I’ll evaluate each one, telling you all the good and bad about the various options. Here’s everything you need to know about Walt Disney World transportation.

Buses

Image: DisneyWhen you evaluate the various transportation options at Disney, you need to know a few things. The primary concerns are availability, reliability, logistics, and convenience. Since the presumption is that you haven’t visited Disney in a while if ever, you need to understand the process with each transportation mode. This conversation will be framed with these concerns in mind. It’s definitely more for the beginner than the frequent Disney guest.

I’ll start with buses since they’re the vehicles that you’re most likely to ride. When you stay at an official Walt Disney World resort, Disney even sends a bus to pick you up at the Orlando International Airport, presuming that you fly into that facility. This bus is the Magical Express, and it sets the tone for the bus system at Walt Disney World, albeit with a few wrinkles.

On the Magical Express, you’ll store your luggage in a special section at the bottom of the bus. Then, you’ll sit down and savor a 40-minute ride to your hotel. The one unusual element is that you’ll have an introductory video playing throughout this journey. The buses that transfer you from resorts to parks don’t have this feature. Otherwise, the experience is about the same.

You’ll ride to a designated location, but your bus will make stops along the way. It will visit other Disney resorts, giving all guests an opportunity to depart at the appropriate hotel. Disney’s main bus system is similar. At your designated Disney location, you’ll walk over to the bus station, which is impossible to miss due to its size.

Image: DisneyYou’ll wait for the bus to arrive. Each vehicle is first come, first served. Should the line be so large that it’s beyond bus capacity, you’ll have to wait for the next one. This situation frequently occurs soon after park closing. While they don't seem as huge as the classic Disney Omnibuses of yore, modern buses have more room than you realize. They have standing room areas, too, but you will probably have to wait for a second or third bus at some point during your trip.

Something else you should understand is that there are multiple buses. One will take you directly to Magic Kingdom, another goes to Disney Springs, and so forth. Some will have shared stops such as Blizzard Beach and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Each additional stop will delay your time of arrival. You’ll want to allow for this when you plan your travel time.

You should also understand that several resorts have multiple internal bus stops. For example, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside will stop several times before you ever leave the resort. Again, these extra stops add more travel time. Once you pick your resort, you should research the number of bus stops to reduce your daily time spent on buses.

Image: DisneyDisney recently added bus schedules to several bus stations at the resorts. These digital displays list the expected arrival of the buses. They also state the destination for each bus. They’re invaluable, and you should use them. Disney’s also testing the addition of bus times to the My Disney Experience app. This enhancement would dramatically alter the reliability of buses.

With buses, you never quite know how long the trip will take. You can do web searches for general estimates, but even those are unreliable. A quick trip one day may take much longer on another due to traffic, slow bus boardings/un-boardings and missed red lights. A lot about buses is seemingly random.

Despite the negatives, buses are currently the most readily available Disney transportation option. They’re the second most reliable rides, but their consistency is still dubious at best. So, their convenience is up for debate. Longtime Disney guests complain about the buses about as much as anything, which speaks to the fact that the setup hasn’t improved much over the years.

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