A guide to using the free Disney Magical Express Bus
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Note: Disney plans to stop operating the Disney Magical Express Bus as of December 31, 2021.
Whether you book just one night at a Disney Resort hotel or a full-blown Disney vacation package that includes your hotel, park tickets and more, you’re entitled to free round-trip transportation between Orlando International Airport (MCO) and your Disney hotel when you stay at a true Disney World resort. This can save you serious cash over renting a car or shelling out for a ride-hailing service.
Here’s everything you need to know about Disney’s Magical Express bus service.
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What is Disney’s Magical Express?
Have you ever wished you could step off the airplane in Orlando, skip claiming bags at the luggage carousel and sink right into the magic of Disney? Well, Disney’s Magical Express helps you do just that.
Operated by Mears Transportation, Magical Express provides round-trip bus service between the airport and true Disney Resort hotels. With someone else handling the bags and doing the driving, you can sit back and relax and start enjoying your Disney World vacation immediately.
(Note that during the coronavirus pandemic, Magical Express is not currently providing luggage delivery service for those arriving or departing, so you’ll need to head to baggage claim and carry your own bags.)
Related: TPG’s ultimate guide to Disney World
Which hotels offer it?
Disney’s Magical Express bus is available with reservations at all true Disney World resorts and hotels. This means that the Swan and Dolphin, as well as Disney Springs hotels that confer some Disney perks but aren’t true Disney hotels, do not include this transportation service.
True Disney resorts include:
- Disney’s All-Star Resorts
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort and Villas
- Disney’s BoardWalk Inn and Villas
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & The Campsites
- Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- The Villas at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Villas
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort
- Disney’s Riviera Resort
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
Is Magical Express free?
Yes. Disney provides complimentary round-trip motorcoach transfers between Orlando International Airport and select Walt Disney World Resort hotels. This (normally) includes having your luggage picked up from baggage claim (if you traveled domestically) and delivered straight to your room, which is a nice perk when you’re lugging a lot of bags or want to head straight to the parks.
Do I need to pick up my luggage at baggage claim?
Right now, yes. (Thanks, coronavirus!)
But normally, if you traveled to MCO on a domestic flight, you can skip baggage claim altogether as long as you tagged your bags with the Magical Express tags sent to your home in advance of the trip. This is true for resort reservations and if you rent Disney Vacation Club points. Representatives from Disney’s Magical Express will collect the bags on your behalf, load them on the bus and make sure they are delivered to your Disney Resort hotel room. (Note that it can take a while for your bags to arrive in your room, so don’t check anything you need immediately upon landing if you go this route.)
If you’re an international traveler, you’ll need to first retrieve your bags in order to go through a customs checkpoint. After exiting the customs area, you can bring your checked bags with you to the bus or you can place them on the transfer carousel. From there, Disney will collect your bags and deliver them right to your Disney hotel room during normal times.
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When will the bags arrive in our room?
During the pandemic, you’ll have to carry your own bags to and from the Magical Express Bus.
But normally, if your plane lands between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m., it can take up to three hours after you arrive at your hotel for your luggage to be delivered. (It could be quicker than that, but three hours is the maximum wait time to expect.)
If your flight lands at MCO after 10 p.m., you must go to baggage claim, collect your bags and bring them with you on Disney’s Magical Express bus since late-night luggage delivery isn’t available.
Since Disney normally handles your luggage transfer from the airport directly to your hotel room, be sure to pack a carry-on bag with everything you may need, including:
- MagicBands (you’ll need these to check in at the Disney Welcome Center at the airport and to unlock the door to your Disney hotel room)
- money and credit cards
- swimsuits and sunscreen
- an extra set of clothes
- pajamas, if you’re arriving late
What other changes have affected the Magical Express Bus?
We’ve seen reports that the Magical Express Bus is boarding back to front, much like how some airlines are handling boarding during the pandemic. You may even have an assigned seat as social distancing is being used to leave space between rows on the bus.
Just like at the Disney parks and hotels, travelers ages 2 and up will need to wear a mask for the duration of the bus ride.
With social distancing and other coronavirus-related concerns that can complicate the bus situation, if you’ve ever considering renting a car and driving yourself to Disney, this may be the time to do that, especially while the benefit of bag delivery is suspended.
How to reserve Disney’s Magical Express
Normally, you can add your flight information to your Disney Resort reservation to secure your Magical Express ride when making a hotel booking, or later on after your hotel booking has been made. Should you have trouble adding the information to your reservation, you can try hitting the “change reservation” button and then click on “Add Disney’s Magical Express”.
If you aren’t able to add the bus information to your My Disney Experience account and you’re from the U.S. or Canada, call 1-(407)-939-1936. If you’re from the U.K., call 0800-16-90-730. International guests are advised to reserve a ride via the same travel agent or tour operator who booked your trip.
How to add Magical Express to a reservation made outside of Disney.com
While it’s pretty easy to add the Magical Express information to a reservation that displays on your Disney account, it can be tricky if you booked through Hotwire, Priceline or another travel website. (Sometimes, you can save money on a Disney vacation by booking elsewhere, and booking a Disney hotel through Hotels.com or by using Priceline’s Express Deals often can save you quite a bit.)
If you booked your Disney hotel through a third-party booking site, you’re still eligible for the free Magical Express transportation service, but Disney doesn’t make it easy for guests who book through these sites to book the bus.
You’ll need to follow a two-step process to get on the Magical Express:
- Get the Disney confirmation number, which is not the same as the third-party site booking number. The easiest way to get it is via chat with your booking site of choice, but you should wait about 24 hours after booking before requesting it. Send a note saying, “I need the Disney confirmation number starting with 4 for my booking XYZ.” (Disney confirmation numbers always start with a 4.)
- Once you have the Disney confirmation number, fill out this form. Disney doesn’t make it easy to find the online Magical Express reservation form, but you can fill it out for your own travels as long as you have the right number.
You can also call 1-(866)-599-0951, which is the direct number to Disney’s Magical Express office. There’s now a gatekeeping recording telling you that your travel agent (i.e. Hotels.com) has to arrange your Magical Express, but I’ve seen numerous reports about people being able to successfully book their own rides.
The key is the Disney reservation number. If you have that to give to the Magical Express cast member, he or she should handle the booking for you. I wouldn’t mention where you booked your room unless asked because you qualify for the service no matter how you booked your hotel stay.
How do I get Magical Express luggage tags?
If you reserve the Magical Express more than 30 days out, during normal times, you’ll get luggage tags that speed your luggage directly to your room. I’ve received tags on trips I booked as little as 10 days before departure, but I wouldn’t count on them arriving in time. (Disney sends the luggage tags via U.S. mail.)
Put the luggage tags on the bags you want Disney to pick up from baggage claim and deliver to your hotel room.
If you forget to attach the Magical Express luggage tags to your bags, you’ll need to give your airline baggage claim numbers to Disney so it can collect your luggage on your behalf from the carousel.
Where do we board the bus?
Once you land at MCO, follow signs to the Disney Welcome Center on level one in Terminal B.
How long does it take?
We’ve waited 30 minutes for our bus to show up at MCO before, but we’ve also waited less than five minutes.
So, it really depends. The ride itself usually takes 30 to 45 minutes, but that can vary depending on traffic and whether your resort is the first or last stop on the ride, since they serve several resorts with a single bus. If every second counts, the bus is rarely the fastest way to Disney, but it’s certainly the most wallet-friendly way.
When will the shuttle depart on the return trip?
Some bad news is that if you take the Magical Express Bus back to the airport at the end of your trip, you’re probably going to need to head to the airport earlier than you’d expect.
If you’re flying domestically, your departure time from your Disney hotel will likely be about 3 hours before your scheduled flight time. The pickup for international passengers is about 4 hours before their flight’s scheduled departure. Yes, that usually leaves you with time to kill at the airport, so you may have time to visit a lounge, like The Club at MCO.
Disney will provide you with a transportation notice the day before you check out that has your bus departure time listed. Keep that notice handy since the shuttle driver will collect it before you board the motorcoach back to the airport. You can’t use your MagicBands for shuttle check-in back to the airport.
Can Disney check my luggage with my airline on the return trip?
Again, during normal times, Disney offers Resort Airline Check-In for guests flying with participating airlines. Sadly, this feature is not necessarily available right now.
During standard operations, you’ll be able to get your boarding pass, check your luggage at your hotel and bypass airport check-in upon arrival at MCO. You’ll go straight to security.
Resort Airline Check-In is open each day from 5 a.m. to noon. Participating airlines include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines (U.S. domestic flights only), JetBlue, Southwest and United. You can find a Resort Airline Check-In desk at these Disney Resorts.
Can my child use a car seat on the bus?
Disney does not recommend the use of child safety seats on the bus. It notes that, “Not all motorcoaches have seat belts and the seat belts that may be present may not properly secure the child safety seat. Children can sit on an adult’s lap or occupy their own seat. Child safety seats may be stowed in the storage compartment underneath the motorcoach.”
Can wheelchair-users board Disney’s Magical Express?
The buses used for complimentary transportation can accommodate wheelchairs. When making your Magical Express reservation, just be sure to indicate that a member of your party is traveling with a wheelchair.
Note that Disney does not provide wheelchair assistance between the aircraft and the bus boarding area. If you need assistance departing your aircraft, contact your airline to make those arrangements.
Can service animals and pets ride the bus?
Yes. Service animals can ride in the motorcoach with their owners. Small pets can also hitch a ride — as long as you’re going to a dog-friendly resort. (Disney has four pet-friendly resorts: Disney’s Art of Animation, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, Disney’s Yacht Club Resort and The Cabins at Fort Wilderness Resort.)
Pets must be secured in a pet carrier that you bring along and it must fit in a seat on the bus. No other pets are permitted in the passenger cabin or the bus storage compartment.
Normally, Disney’s Magical Express makes it super easy to travel between the airport and your hotel — and it’s free! We often recommend making use of this service whenever you book a stay at a participating Disney Resort hotel. It will simplify your travel days and keep some money in your pocket.
Right now, however, the equation is more complicated — so think through the logistics of the bus versus a car rental or other more private transportation options before assuming one is better than the other.
Have you used Disney’s Magical Express bus? What did you think of it?
Featured photo by The Walt Disney Company.
With additional reporting by Dia Adams, Summer Hull and Ed Pizzarello.
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