Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Disney Transportation: Who Needs a Rental Car?

Image from hubsterdisney

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about Disney's Magical Express and how it's an awesome way to get from Orlando International Airport to Walt Disney World if you're not old enough to (or for any other reason can't or don't want to) rent a car.  The next step if you don't have a rental car is getting around Walt Disney World.  That's where Disney Transportation comes in.  The main three types of complimentary Disney transportation are monorail, boat, and bus. 

The monorail is a basically a cool looking train that rides on one rail.  In Walt Disney World, the monorail runs to and from the Grand Floridian Resort, the Polynesian Resort, the Contemporary Resort, the Magic Kingdom, the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC), and Epcot.  It is most commonly used as a way for people to get from the parking lot of the Magic Kingdom to the actual park, but since we don't have a car in this scenario, we'll ignore that use.  If you don't have a car, the monorail is best used as a quick way to hop back and forth from Magic Kingdom to Epcot, as well as an easy way to get to the three resorts mentioned above.  Even if you're not staying at one of these resorts, you can always stop buy for a nice dinner or a quick lunch to get away from the Magic Kingdom crowds.  The monorail is one of the easiest and quickest forms of Disney transportation.

Next is the boats.  Boats connect the Magic Kingdom to the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian, the Contemporary, the Wilderness Lodge, and Fort Wilderness; Epcot to the Beach and Yacht Clubs, the Boardwalk Inn, the Swan, and the Dolphin; and Downtown Disney to Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter, Saratoga Springs, and Old Key West.  Additionally, you can choose to take a ferry from the TTC to the Magic Kingdom instead of the monorail, but we don't have a car, remember?  Boats aren't usually the fastest ways to get anywhere, but they do have the best atmosphere, in my opinion.

Finally, there are the buses, and if you're a college student staying in a value resort like I am, this is likely going to be your main form of Disney transportation.  The good thing about the Disney bus system is that you can get to almost anywhere via bus.  The bad thing is that you might have to be a little creative, and you better have lots of time to spare.  To get from one resort to another is going to require transfers, and that could take a lot of time.  In my experience, the bus system has been very good for the most part.  At All Star Music, I rarely had to wait more than ten minutes for a bus either way, and what they say about the All Stars sharing buses is very rarely true.  We almost always had our own buses.

The complimentary transportation makes Walt Disney World a great destination for people who don't want to or can't rent a car.  Plus, although they're not usually as fast as a car, all of the forms of transportation have a certain Disney atmosphere that a car doesn't have.  It's like you're fully immersed in the Disney experience, and it's pretty fun too!

What do you think about Disney transportation?  Do you like to use it, or do you tend to rent a car?  What's your favorite form of transportation, and what's your experience with the system been like?  Let me know in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or a Facebook comment!

This post is part of the fifth Disney Blog Carnival. Click the link to see more great Disney articles!


  1. i usually don't rent a car. i don't want to bother with a car if i can get by without one. for the most part, i've been pretty happy with disney transportation, and my favorite form are the boats. as much as i like the monorail, i find that it gets really crowded and that i'm waiting a long time at the station. for that reason, i prefer epcot resorts to monorail resorts, although i think dvc has something to do with that as well. i've also found that if i can walk it, i generally will. from the studios back to beach or boardwalk, if the boat isn't right there or if the line is really long, i'll walk back. from epcot, i hardly ever take the boat because i can beat the boat back walking. if going from epcot to the studios, i'll walk to the yacht & beach dock and catch the boat there. likewise, if going from studios to epcot, i'll get off at yacht & beach and walk the remaining way. from the contemporary to mk, i'll walk.that one. i wish there were a way to walk from animal kingdom lodge to animal kingdom.

    i have actually tried to outsmart the system, thinking that i can get somewhere faster with more unconventional routes. for example, i really don't like the transportation & ticket center; i think it's a bottleneck. however, the most direct route from any other park to magic kingdom goes through ttc. i've tried going to beach or any other resort and then catching a bus to mk, but it always seems to backfire and take longer than had i simply waited for the ttc bus and then taken the ferry or the monorail.

    if ever thought of driving a car around wdw, then just seeing the exit from the studios changes my mind quickly. there, the cars exit the park from the right lane, while the buses are coming from the left, and half of those buses are trying to get into the right lane to turn right to go to okw, port orleans, or saratoga springs. i can't imagine how nerve wracking that would be, seeing a fleet of buses trying to get into my lane while i'm in some itty bitty car. and that's only if i'm trying to make that same right turn. god forbid i'm trying to get into the left lane to turn left.

  2. We drive to WDW (even when it's just my friends and I), so we do have the car if we absolutely need it. But Disney transportation is definitely our preferred method. Even with waiting at the bus stop, the bus ride, and walking to the entrance gate it still seems to take less time than most of our car trips to the park.

    As you said, it does take some planning if you have to be at a meal reservation or show by a specific time and you are relying on transportation. But to me, it is worth it to not deal with guiding yourself around the World, parking, getting on the tram or walking to the gate, possibly going through TTC, etc. If nothing else, you aren't using gasoline!

    The only place I feel that I would prefer to drive to in the future is Downtown Disney. That tends to be our longest bus wait. But otherwise I'm very satisfied with Disney transportation!

  3. Cliff, apparently you can't outsmart the system lol!

    Anna, Downtown Disney was the only place we had a problem with Disney transportation. We were staying at the All Star Music, and no buses for us or Pop came for almost an hour. It was totally weird.

  4. Disney transportation does a good job most of the time and you can easily rely on it for your entire trip. The primary advantage of a rental car is that it simply does the same thing faster. I wouldn't say it's a mistake to use Disney transportation, just a question as to what your time is worth to you and if a rental car makes sense or not.

  5. A rental car or having your own car is all about convenience. There are places like water parks, Downtown Disney and other resort restaurants for dinner that are easier/quicker to drive to. If you don't have your own car then you have to plan a little more to get there. It isn't essential, just convenient.

    Some forms of travel are part of the experience. We always have a monorail ride each trip. Most trips we also have a boat ride between Magic Kingdom and one of the resorts.

  6. Matt, unfortunately, I'm not old enough to make that decision yet. Or at least the rental car companies don't think so.

    Chris, I agree that having a car is sometimes more convenient, especially when where you're going requires a transfer. And I also agree that some forms of travel are part of the experience. Love the monorail!

  7. I love using Disney transportation. It is all in perspective and I think you have the correct one! I often use Disney transportation as my means of taking a much needed break. When driving I have to pay attention, watch where I'm going and try not to run over anybody. There is something to be said about just sitting back and taking a break.

  8. Jeff, I agree. One of the best things about Disney transportation is that you just get on, and someone else takes you where you need to go.

  9. Love the article Amanda. This summer when I stay at Pop I'll be relying on Disney Transportation most if the time. We have used it a lot in the past even when we did have a car while staying at ASS and never had many problems. I agree that it can definitely be part of the fun to take the buses, boats, and monorails between parks... Though we have walked from Epcot to Studios or the reverse a few times, usually stopping for lunch in the Boardwalk area along the way.

  10. Hooray for Disney transportation!

  11. Since I can never afford to fly to Orlando OR stay on property, we always have our car. It's nice especially for some of my family members who have 5 kids to have their own vehicle, but frankly on our trips we go to the beach at least once, go to Jays spring training games (they have yet to play in WWOS while we've been there), go to a hockey game (we can AFFORD to go to hockey games in Tampa... holy CHEAP!) etc. So ya, that's just how my family is, busy busy busy and certainly can't afford to do a DISNEY vacation (and I'm probably the only one who would be willing to shell out the cash to do a Disney-exclusive trip).

    However, a few years ago my friend and I flew and stayed on property and so we used the transportation. We stayed at Pop and it was fine getting TO the parks, but ho-boy was is a mess most times getting back. It was August and reaalllyy hot and humid, and we would sometimes sit there for 45 minutes-an hour waiting for buses. This was especially true when we would be park-hopping or heading back to our hotel for the afternoon, but night (although not as hot) was even slower with the buses. At first I was really excited that it was a DISNEY bus (yay!) but it was hard to feel the magic of the bus by the end of the trip haha. I think it's for sure great that it exists though for people who can afford to stay on property and fly just out of convenience or to save that last bit of money.

  12. Aw, I'm sorry that you had such a bad experience with the Disney buses. Hopefully the system will be better if you ever choose to use it again.

  13. In my recent trip, I stayed at the All Star Music, and we never had a problem with the buses. The only times where we waited longer than 5-10 minutes for a bus was when we would leave a park right after a nighttime show, especially the very first night we were at Magic Kingdom and there were extra magic hours until 1am. Another time at Hollywood studios, we left in the middle of the day and had to wait about 20 minutes, but we were the only people there.

    The thing I really appreciate about the transportation system is the friendly-ness of the operators and drivers. When we had early dining reservations at Cape May, we caught a bus at 645 to Hollywood Studios. The nice bus driver asked us where we were going, and said he would take us directly to the Beach Club. It was so nice! Even the boat operators make you feel like you're on an adventure.

    Frankly, the boats are my favorite, too Amanda. I remember falling asleep on a boat ride from Hollywood Studios to epcot, and my boyfriend ended up just enjoying the ride a few times and let me sleep. The ride from Port Orleans to Downtown Disney is very relaxing too.

  14. Aww, that's so nice. I'm glad you've had such good experiences with Disney transportation.