Disney World, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Planning

To Bus or Not To Bus?

When you are a guest at a Walt Disney World Resort, complimentary transportation is included with your stay.  You also get free parking on Disney property, so guests often have a choice to make regarding which method of transportation they use.  There are many guests that enjoy the idea of letting someone else drive them around while others have their reasons for wanting to provide their own transportation.  In this post, I’ll be discussing the pros of each.

Transportation Map
Current Disney Transportation Map

Pros For Disney Transportation

  • The first point for Disney transportation is you won’t get lost.  Even with excellent signage throughout Disney property, it can still be very easy to make a wrong turn and take much longer than originally expected to get to your destination.
  • Disney Transportation is definitely a perk when visiting the Magic Kingdom.  If you have not yet been to WDW, then you need to know that when you personally drive the the Magic Kingdom, you do not park there.  You actually park over a mile away at the Transportation and Ticket Center (also known as the TTC).  Consider this location a central hub for Disney transportation.  You can get a bus to any park or resort from here, as well as a boat or monorail to the Magic Kingdom or a monorail to Epcot.  Only Disney buses are permitted to drive up to the actual park entrance for the Magic Kingdom, and that could save you a lot of time if you have a dining or FastPass+ reservation you need to get to.
  • The buses will be cold, in some cases almost too cold, when you get on.  This can be a very welcome treat if you are traveling in the middle of a super hot summer and are drenched in sweat.
  • A lot of guests visiting Walt Disney World have flown into OrlaMagical Expressndo’s MCO airport.  From there, Disney provides Magical Express transportation to and from your resort, so there is never a need to rent a car or accruing that additional expense of a car rental.  Add to that the extra charge of filling the rental car up with gas, and it can turn into a pretty big added expense.
  • When you drive to a park, you will find parking attendants directing you to an exact spot to park in.  Sometimes, these aisles are very, very, VERY long and sometimes, you might be in way, way, WAY back.  I always joke that my daily driving habits have cursed me with the parking gods, and that’s why we are always stuck in the back of the very long rows.  Very rarely, we get to park at the front, and I’m always thrilled when we do.  After you park, you have the choice to either walk to the park entrance or take a parking tram.  Not an issue if you take the Disney buses, which always let you out right at the park entrance.
  • Have you ever forgotten where you parked in a Disney parking lot?  Oh, let me tell
    Parking Lot
    Gary Burke, Flickr

    you how much fun that it.  NOT.  Yes, each row has a number and there are signs in every lot telling you which lot you are parked it. The parking tram attendant will even repeat it several times, yet sometimes, you forget.  We try to take a photo as we walk past the number on our row, but we occasionally forget.  I remember one time we got lost in the Animal Kingdom lot on a very hot day, and the pavement had just been freshly done so it was jet black.  My clothes were soaked and our daughter was crying from being so hot.  I think we must have walked around for at least 15-20 minutes looking for our car.

  • Disney buses run very frequently, so catching one shouldn’t be too much of an issue if you aren’t traveling at a peak time (rope drop or park closing).  Disney will say they run their buses every 10 minutes, but that’s simply an average.  Sometimes it’s more like 15-20 minutes and sometimes there’s another bus waiting to pull in.

Disney Bus

Pros For Personal Vehicles

  • Whenever you make a dining reservation, you will either read in your confirmation or hear the cast member on the phone tell you to allow up to 90 minutes when traveling on property.  This is actually pretty accurate when using Disney Transportation.  If you are staying at Port Orleans Riverside and you have a breakfast reservation at Cape May Cafe to see Minnie Mouse, there is no bus from Port Orleans to Beach Club.  You need to take a bus to a park or the TTC first, then transfer to a Beach Club resort bus.  If you had your own vehicle, you could just drive straight to Beach Club.
  • Sometimes, there can be large crowds waiting for the same bus.  This often happens right after Wishes, illuminations, or Fantasmic.  There is a mass exodus and most of the people head for the buses.  I always advise clients to take their own transportation, if possible, if they plan on leaving right after a big end of day show like those.  I believe I waited over an hour one time to catch a bus after Wishes at the Magic Kingdom.  This was pre-baby, and my husband was going to hang around for a bit and take photos while I went back to the resort to go to bed.  By the time he was finished, I was still in the bus line.  Can you imagine waiting in a line like that with tired, cranky children?  If they fall asleep in their stroller, you’re going to have to wake them up and break your stroller down when it’s time to board the bus.
  • Some resorts have multiple bus stops throughout the resort or shares buses with a nearby resort.  You might get to the resort quickly when leaving a park, but then you have to still wait through numerous stops until you get to the stop closest to your room.  If there are any wheelchair bound guests on your bus, it is going to take even longer at each stop. It’s sometimes easier to get off at the first stop and walk across the resort to your room.  That might be a nice way to wind down from the day, anyway.
  • Disney will often pack their buses with as many guests as possible.  If you’re Crowded busexhausted and want a seat, chances are that’s not going to happen unless you’re one of the first guests on the bus.  Then you have to consider manners and if you should give up your seat to someone that truly needs it.  We visited 3 times during my pregnancy, and I recall being visibly pregnant and exhausted and having to stand on a crowded bus.  No, you don’t have to give up your seat, but come on.  You’re at Disney, and giving up your seat on a crowded bus a great way you can spread your own magic.
  • There has always been a loophole that people try to take advantage of when it comes to paying for parking at Disney, and it’s actually quite ridiculous and in no way worth it.  It has to do with Disney Springs. Yes, you can park at Disney Springs and avoid the $20 parking fee at the parks.  Disney is aware of this, and they have actually made it quite difficult to take advantage of by no longer having buses go directly to the parks form Disney Springs and vice versa.  If you want to hop between a park and Disney Springs, you now have to do so via transfer at a resort or the TTC.  It’s totally not worth it just to save $20, and it makes it very difficult for resort guests to get back and forth between a park and Disney Springs.  Having your own vehicle is definitely a huge convenience if you do want to visit both without going back to your resort in between.  This is especially important if you have a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique appointment at Disney Springs and you want to get back to the Magic Kingdom or Epcot for any meet and greets with the princesses.
  • You can venture away from Disney property in your own vehicle.  This can be highly convenient if you need to run to a grocery or drug store to get something they don’t offer in the resort gift shops.  You can also explore what else Orlando has to offer, such as Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Universal CityWalk, Sea World Orlando, Aquatica, Discovery Cove, Bush Gardens, Legoland, Gatorland, and the Kennedy Space Center.  Keep in mind that you may have to pay for parking at these destinations, but you at least have the option to easily go.

There are other options out there besides the main two of using your personal vehicle or Disney Transportation.  You can always get a taxi, shuttle, private limo, or Uber.

Personally, we like to use our car while we are on property.  I like knowing I’m guaranteed a seat on the way back to the resort.  We also typically skip the parking tram so we only have to break down our stroller one time once we get to our vehicle, and then it stays there until we get to a park the next day.  In the past, we have also kept a cooler with frozen bottles of water in it so we can grab a cold drink once we get inside.  To us, it’s a convenience that we much prefer.  Others think differently, and that’s okay, too.  There’s no wrong choice here, as every family’s needs and preferences are going to be different.

If you are planning a trip to the Walt Disney World Resort, I would love to help you plan out what kind of transportation options would be right for you and your family.  Remember, my planning services are always free when you book your vacation with me and pricing is always the same as if you booked directly on your own.  You can email me directly at Carrie@KingdomDestinations.com or through the “Contact Me” link above.

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