You’ve now entered the stage in your planning where you start to wonder “How do I get from point A to Point B while I’m at Disney World?” For the most part, the transportation at Walt Disney World is excellent. If you are flying into Orlando International Airport and are staying on-property, you are immediately met at the airport by the first of many free transportation options. Disney’s Magical Express will pick you up at the airport and take you to your resort. You don’t have to get your checked luggage or anything – it just shows up in your room. Just get on the DME and your vacation is already underway.
Of course, free magic can have it drawbacks. Depending on when you hit the buses at the airport, there can be a wait. And, depending on which resort you are staying in, the ride could take up to an hour. But, once you get to the resort, you are free to head to your preferred first stop on your trip.
Once you are on-property, there a number of options for travel around the various parts of Walt Disney World. From buses to boats, there is always some mode of free transportation that will get you where you want to go. Not all options are available for every situation, but, we’ll get to that.
Most resorts rely heavily on Disney’s internal bus service to get you from your resort to your destination. The buses are free, clearly marked and reliable (a bus from any given resort to any given park will show up approximately every 20 minutes.) If you are going to one of the four theme parks, two water parks or Disney Springs, the route is usually a direct shot from your hotel. There are, of course, exceptions. The All-Star Value Resorts all share a bus route, so it will stop at all three before heading on to its destination. Similar situations appear at places like Animal Kingdom Lodge and Caribbean Beach Resort, which have multiple stops within the resort itself. At Fort Wilderness, there are separate In-Resort buses that take guests throughout the massive resort just to get to the places where park buses or boats can be caught.
Then there’s the dreaded “Resort-to-Resort” bus trip. Disney buses, by and large, don’t travel directly from one resort hotel to another, so you typically have to jump a bus to a theme park (or Disney Springs), then jump another bus back to the destination resort. This can add time to your commute if you are, for instance, going to a dining reservation at a resort different from where you are staying. Again, it’s free and relatively easy, but not always quick.
While buses are WDW’s mid-long distance transportation option, there are other solutions for resorts that are closer to the parks. All of the deluxe resorts around Seven Seas Lagoon (Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Polynesian) are linked to Magic Kingdom and EPCOT via monorail. There are no buses from these resorts to MK. Why would you need them? However, you would still take a bus from one of these to one of the other parks. At the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) near the Magic Kingdom parking lots, separate monorails depart regularly to both Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. So guests can park and take a monorail to either park.
You can also jump one of the massive ferries to Magic Kingdom at the TTC. Which leads me to…
Similar to the monorail at Seven Seas Lagoon resorts, resorts like the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness Resort have BOAT access to Magic Kingdom…and no buses.
Likewise, the resorts nearest EPCOT and Hollywood Studios (Beach/Yacht Club, Boardwalk, Swan/Dolphin) only offer boat transportation to those two parks, but buses to Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom. The boats are a fun way to arrive at the parks and have really convenient dock locations, but, depending upon your timing, it can take a while for one to arrive at your launch (though, rarely more than 25 minutes).
SIDENOTE: I won’t even get into the proposed gondola system that will COMPLETELY change EPCOT and Hollywood Studios access from Pop Century, Art of Animation and the Caribbean Beach Resorts. But, will act in similar fashion to the monorail and boat systems mentioned above.
Driving around Walt Disney World can seem overwhelming at first glance, but the roads and attractions are all very clearly marked and easy to navigate. They are constantly improving the intersections and exit ramps to aid in this. Parking is free most everywhere on property with a few exceptions: parking at a resort requires proof that you are staying there and parking at the theme parks costs a flat daily rate ($20/car as of 2017). The good news about this charge is that it is for the entire day. That is, if you have a Park Hopper, once you’ve paid for the day at your first park, you’re covered for the rest of the day no matter which other park(s) you go to. Trams are available at all parking lots to shuttle guests to the gates of the park (or to the TTC in Magic Kingdom’s case.)
Parking at Disney Springs is free.
If you don’t have a car and need to get somewhere quicker than the existing transportation options will allow, there are a number of paid options available. Taxis can be called from any resort hotel and the use of Transportation Network Companies like Uber and Lyft are quickly gaining popularity and ease around the resort. (UPDATE: Or maybe grab a Minnie Van?!)
The point of all of this is, exact transportation to and from various resorts to different attractions will depend on the resort AND the attraction. If you have questions, contact the resort hotel directly or just ask the front desk when you arrive. They will always happily give you the best option to get anywhere you want to go.