Arrive at and depart from Walt Disney World on Disney’s Magical Express

For many Walt Disney World guests, climbing aboard Disney’s Magical Express feels like the official start to their vacation. And, when that vacation is drawing to a close, again it feels truly done the moment they board that deluxe motor coach back to MCO. This is very much how our family feels, as we routinely use Disney’s Magical Express when traveling to Walt Disney World and choose not to rent our own vehicle.

The chief reason we don’t rent a car is the cost. We’re currently a family of six and many years’ trips would have required four carseat rentals (up to $13 per day per carseat). The cost simply seems too big to swallow when we can take advantage of Disney’s Magical Express, the free transportation service between MCO and the Disney resort hotels. Plus, we don’t mind using the (also complimentary) Walt Disney World Resort transportation system – busses, monorails, and ferries – to move throughout the World. It’s not ideal for every family, but it works well for ours. Particularly because we nearly always choose to stay on resort property (truth is, I don’t care to leave my Disney bubble during our trips!).

MH disney's magical express

The Magical Express has been solidly convenient in our experience. We arrange for the service from home before we travel by linking it to our trip reservation (possible now on My Disney Experience). The vouchers should arrive by mail a few weeks before the trip. However, if something goofs and you show up to the Magical Express counter at MCO empty-handed (as we did on our most recent trip) – not to worry. They’ll find your reservation in the system, print you out new vouchers and make sure you’re headed off on the correct bus. I believe I mentioned it above, but staying at one of the Walt Disney World Resort hotels is required to use Disney’s Magical Express.

We think the Express is the most fun way to travel between the airport and our resort hotel – even if it’s not the most timely. We’ve waited up to a half hour for our bus to leave the airport, spent another half hour driving to resort property (a cute informational video and old cartoon shorts entertain), and waited an additional 20 minutes for the bus to drop off guests at resort hotels on the circuit. We happen to enjoy this last delay, however, because it’s fun to peek in on a hotel we might dream about for the future! Luggage delivery has always been prompt once we’re settled into our hotel room.

A perk for those using the Magical Express and flying on participating airlines – when checking out of your hotel, you can arrange for your luggage to be delivered directly to your airline at MCO. This is properly scheduled a night or two ahead of time, but it’s possible last-minute as well. We typically spend our last “half day” at a theme park after dropping our luggage off at Bell Services – and then don’t have to give it much thought until we land back home. The Magical Express will pick you up at your hotel about 3 hours before your scheduled flight. The only harrowing experience we’ve had traveling back to the airport was the day we didn’t budget plenty of time to get from the theme park back to the resort hotel to catch the bus!

Ferry along the Sassagoula River to Downtown Disney

When you take the ferry boat to Downtown Disney, getting there is half the fun! Our favorite “Sassagoula River Cruise” departs from the docks at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside. From there it’s a leisurely 20-minute or so sail to the Downtown Disney Marketplace launch. The route winds along the Disney-created Sassagoula River, past the French Quarter, the Saratoga Springs Treehouse Villas, a few holes of the Lake Buena Vista Golf Course, and on into Village Lake.

After days of crowded theme parks and a ragged pace, it’s a wonderful way to slow down and – dare I say it – relax. The foresty riverbank feels far removed from lengthy queues and rushing to meet ADRs. We recommend it either mid-vacation (if you can spare a “break” in the action to cruise, shop and dine at Downtown Disney) or on one of those last “half days” when you’ve got a few hours to kill before the unfortunate ride back to the airport. Did I mention that this ferry service is FREE? It’s one of those rare ways to stay immersed in the Magic without forking over extra cash!

Location: Ferries to Downtown Disney operate from docks at Port Orleans – Riverside & French Quarter, Disney’s Old Key West Resort, and Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. All are located at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Touring Tip: The ferries begin service at 10am and run about every 20 minutes until 11pm. Strollers must be folded up on board and no luggage is allowed.