Orlando Airport to Disney World without Disney Magical Express
By Helen Wright
You’ve arrived! The magic is imminent but you just need to get from the airport to Disney World – but which is the best way?
It used to be one of the perks of staying at a Walt Disney Resort hotel, but since the Covid-19 pandemic, Disney have announced they are discontinuing their airport transfer and luggage service, Disney’s Magical Express. The Magical Express airport bus had been in operation since 2005 and was a popular incentive for guests to book a Walt Disney World Resort hotel for their stay in Orlando. But Disney upset a lot of fans when it announced in January 2021, amidst the coronavirus changes, that the bus would only be running for another year, ceasing operation on January 1st 2022.
Official statement from Disney:
‘Vacationers have more options to choose from than ever for transportation, including ride-share services that save time and offer more flexibility to go where they want, when they want. In light of this shift, when Disney Resort hotel bookings open for stays in 2022, we will no longer offer Disney’s Magical Express service for airport transportation.
We will continue to operate the service for new and existing reservations made at Disney Resort hotels for arrivals throughout 2021. Additionally, complimentary transportation – such as buses, monorails and Disney Skyliner – will continue to be available within Walt Disney World Resort, including to and from all four theme parks’.
Orlando airport to Disney World: How to survive without the Disney Magical Express
So what does this mean for guests who previously relied on the service? You’ll be pleased to know there are plenty of other ways to get from Orlando Airport to Walt Disney World. However, unfortunately for visitors whose main motivation for using Disney’s Magical Express was the free transfer from the airport, the main difference now is that whichever way you choose to get to the resort, you will have to pay.
Below, we have listed the most reliable and convenient ways to get from Orlando Airport to Disney World, Universal and other resorts.
Uber or Lyft from MCO Orlando Airport to Disney World
Price for an Uber or Lyft standard car (four adults maximum): $40 from Orlando Airport to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. $35 to Universal Orlando’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
Journey time: 30 minutes
This is our transport of choice when we arrive in Florida. We live in London and travel a lot, so we are very accustomed to using ride share apps, such as Uber and Lyft in countries all over the world. Many people are reluctant to use a ride share service but in our experience, we have found Uber and Lyft to be very good, competitively priced and safe, especially from Orlando Airport to Disney World. You can also use Lyft within the Walt Disney World resort to travel between parks.
To use Uber and Lyft, you will need the app on your smartphone. If you are travelling from the UK, I recommend you download the app before you fly out and have all your payment details set up. Orlando International Airport has excellent free wifi (it’s one of the best airports in the USA actually!), so you will have no problem booking your taxi once you land.
When your car is confirmed, you will receive a message with the loading bay number at which to wait for your taxi. Follow the signs to outside the airport on the arrivals floor. Wait until you are through security and have collected your bags before you order your Uber/Lyft, as the cars do not take very long to arrive. If you have a lot of luggage, you may need to request an Uber XL (which will be more expensive).
TOP TIP: If you are travelling with young children, they will need a car seat to travel in an Uber or Lyft vehicle. You can request a car seat using the app, but most drivers will only carry one car seat. We travel with our own car seats. In this post, we discuss travelling internationally with children’s car seats and the rules and regulations for the USA.
NOTE: We have ordered Uber cars in the USA that are not quite as smart as they are in London and other cities. One car I called had graffiti on the side… Again, we have never had any problems using Uber in the USA, but you are within your right to cancel a car on the grounds of appearance or safety and can request not to be charged via the app.
Orlando City (Mears) Taxi from the airport to Walt Disney World
Price: Official cabs do cost more than ride share taxis. Approximately $55 from Orlando Airport to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, including tolls. Approximately $45 to Universal Orlando’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, including tolls.
Journey time: 25 minutes
Mears Cabs are authorised by the city of Orlando and endorsed by Orlando International Airport. They operate like taxi services around the world on a meter basis. They usually have more luggage space than a regular Uber car and comply with strict Florida state stipulations.
Again, Mears cabs may have one car seat for children’s use. Some drivers will take a child not strapped into a car seat but it is against the law and if pulled over, the parent and the driver will get a penalty fine.
Orlando Airport Shuttle: transfer to Disney World and other Orlando hotels
Price: Transfers between Orlando Airport and Disney World are approximately $39 return for adults (12+) and $30 for kids ages 4-11. Under 3s travel free. Tips between $4-10 per person are custom in the USA, especially if you have a lot of suitcases.
Journey time: Average 75 minutes
A lot of people are sad to see Disney’s Magical Express discontinued but there are other airport bus transfers from (MCO) Orlando airport to Disney World, including a shuttle operated by Mears, who operated the Magical Express.
The main downside to using a Mears shuttle bus (or alternate shuttle company) is that the transfer can be tediously slow, serving many hotels and keeping some guests on the bus for almost two hours in some instances. However, it is a cost-effective option and convenient if you have children that require car seats, large suitcases, more than one carload in your party or you are a wheelchair user*.
*More on accessible transfers below.
For me, the downside of using a bus shuttle is actually returning to the airport after your holiday. They will only serve your hotel at set times and so you may find yourself really early for your flight, cutting your trip short by three hours sometimes! Or, alternatively, causing the stress of getting to the airport late.
Rent your own car
Price: Free, with your car hire agreement.
This is a topic that we discuss a lot on passportstamps.uk and it’s worth reading our two designated posts: Do you need a car in Orlando? and Everything you need to know about driving in the USA before you decide whether to hire a car in Orlando.
Having your own car allows you some freedom during your stay in Orlando and solves the problem of getting to your hotel from Orlando International Airport. All the major car rental firms are inside the airport (on the same floor in the ground transportation area) and picking up a car at MCO has always been one of the easiest places in the world. I highy recommend reserving your car in advance before you fly to save money and make sure you are covered by the proper insurance.
One frustration is that the lines to collect your car can be quite long with so many flights from the UK all arriving at the same time. However, once you have your car and everyone is packed in, it’s the fastest way to get from Orlando airport to Disney World, Universal Orlando and the other hotels, resorts and villas.
TOP TIP: Have some cash (including coins) available as you may pass a toll road and some booths are automatic coin-only tolls. The toll may only be 75c but if you go through without paying, the fine is $50!
Take a limo
Price: Between $170 -$400, depending on your vehicle and party size.
Journey time: 20 minutes
For something that is both very extra and very American – but may also work out better value for money, you could book a limo transfer from Orlando airport to Disney World. If you are travelling from Europe, in the USA ‘limo’ doesn’t only refer to the long, 90s hip-hop style cars. Private SUV (4×4) pick ups, town cars and stretch limousines (pictured above) all fall under the title of limo.
Crazily, for medium-sized groups (between 4 and 10) a private car service can work out better value than a bus transfer and the driver will personally meet you after baggage claim holding a card with your name on. Don’t you just love that?! You will have help with your bags and arrive at your resort a hella lot faster than on a shuttle bus – even the Disney Magical Express!
Below is a rough guide to limo prices (per car) for a round trip from Orlando airport to Disney World, Universal and the Kissimmee resort area, plus tip and any add-on fees.:
Luxury SUV / 4×4 (4 adults, plus suitcases): $170 – $190
Luxury minivan (5 adults, plus suitcases. Useful if you have excessive luggage or travel with a pram, golf clubs or other oversized bags): $175 – $200
Full Size Van service (With a capacity of 10 adults): $190 – $230
Stretch limo service (Up to 8 adults): $255 – $390, plus tip and any add-ons, such as welcome drinks, flowers or extras.
TOP TIP: Some companies, if stipulated when you make your booking, will go via a supermarket and make a free 15-minute stop so you can collect groceries and supplies for your hotel or villa. However, you are not able to stop free of charge if your plane arrives late or are delayed leaving the airport.
This link from Orlando International Airport (MCO) itself has a handy list of shuttle bus, van, car and limo services along with guide prices.
Accessible transfers from Orlando airport to Disney World for wheelchair users
NOTE TO READERS: I have no personal experience with booking accessible transport and do not wish to appear that I do. This is based on my own research and reputable blogs like rollingwiththemagicblog.com, curbfreewithcorylee.com and wheelchairjimmy.com
Mears transportation is the premier shuttle bus service and said to be the top company for an accessible transfer from Orlando airport to Disney World. The firm can provide wheelchair-accessible motor coaches, transit buses and trolleys and wheelchair-accessible taxis. Wheelchair secure seat belts and restraints as well as lifts and ramps to access into the vehicle are also available. If you need an accessible shuttle from Orlando Airport to Disney World, Universal or other Orlando hotels, it’s highly recommended you book at least 24hrs in advance but if you have any issues, Mears has a help desk on the ground transfers floor of each terminal.
Price: Accessible Mears taxi to most resorts within Disney, Universal and the Kissimmee area will be between $50 to $70 depending on traffic and plus tip.
Read more of our Disney and Orlando mini guides below:
How to spend two weeks in Orlando, our two-week sample itinerary.
The Ultimate Disney Trip Planner
An EASY guide to buying Disney and Orlando theme park tickets
What it is like to be a tourist in Orlando during a hurricane
What to wear at Disney World
Are Disney and Orlando Resort hotels worth the extra cash
What is the best hotel at Universal Orlando
What else is there to do in Orlando BESIDES theme parks
How much does a trip to Walt Disney World REALLY cost?
Where to buy the best official Disney merchandise in the UK
Top tips for travelling with a baby or toddler
Road trips from Orlando – Tampa is a must-visit
Think you are a Disney expert? Try and answer all the questions in our REALLY HARD Disney quiz