[Updated December 2016]
Pop quiz: Where can you find Florida’s third largest bus fleet?
Correct answer: Disney World.
With a bus fleet that’s third in size to the cities of Miami and Jacksonville, Disney World offers resort guests complimentary transportation.
Guests can forgo renting a car and take advantage of the bus service, plus get around via boats and monorails. Plus, getting to the resort from Orlando International Airport isn’t much of an issue with included motor coach transportation, including luggage transfers.
So what’s there to know about a transportation system that covers an area that’s twice the size of Manhattan? Here’s the scoop.
1. All of the Disney-owned-and-operated hotels are served by the resort’s bus service. Transportation from the resorts to the four theme parks and Disney Springs is direct, so there’s no need to make a transfer. However, to get to other resort hotels from your own hotel, you’ll have to make a transfer. This can be done by taking a bus from your hotel to one of the theme parks, to the Ticket and Transportation Center, or to Disney Springs and catching another bus to your destination.
For example, if you’re staying at Disney’s Coronado Springs and have dining reservations at a restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, you can take a bus from the hotel to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and transfer to a bus that’s heading to the hotel.
Sometimes you can even make a transfer using a boat or monorail. For instance, if you need to get from Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort to Disney’s Yacht Club, which can be accessed by boat, take a bus from the first hotel to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. From that theme park, switch to the nearby boat that makes a stop at the Yacht Club.
2. One of the conveniences of staying at a Magic Kingdom-area hotel is the proximity to Disney World’s first and most popular park. These hotels are on the Magic Kingdom monorail loop -- most of them anyway. Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Villas, and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Cabins and Campsites are considered Magic Kingdom-area hotels but do not have monorail service. They do, however, have boat access to the park in addition to bus pickups. Disney’s Grand Floridian and Villas, the Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower, and Polynesian Village and Villas and Bungalows resorts all have monorail access.
3. Several Epcot-area hotels have boat service to both Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The Yacht Club, Beach Club and Villas, BoardWalk Inn and Villas, and the Swan and Dolphin are such properties. Bus transportation between these parks and hotels is not provided. Taking a boat to Epcot will leave you in the World Showcase section of the park, meaning you’ll have to do a bit of walking if you’d like to start your visit in Future World, near the park entrance. Buses provide service to the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
4. Think again if you thought you’d be headed straight to your destination once you get on the bus. Disney often groups nearby resorts on a single bus route. For example, you may find that after boarding your bus headed to the Magic Kingdom from Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter that it makes multiple stops at sister resort Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside. You should also know that the buses may fill up quickly and there may not be any seats left when this occurs. Similarly, the Epcot-area hotels that we mentioned earlier are on the same bus loop. Keep in mind that your bus may make multiple stops on the way back to the hotel as well.
5. If you prefer to get to the parks at least a half-hour before opening to beat the crowds, know that bus service starts an hour before the gates officially open. Bus service continues until one hour after the parks close. Buses run from Disney Springs until 2 a.m. To avoid crowds at the bus stop, don’t wait until the last minute to exit the parks.
6. It seems logical that because the Magic Kingdom and Epcot have monorail access that park hopping between them would be simple, right? Unfortunately, a monorail transfer is required to do this. To get to Epcot from the Magic Kingdom, catch an express monorail to the Ticket and Transportation Center and transfer there to the monorail headed to Epcot.
7. Buses have lifts to board passengers with wheelchairs and monorail stations can be accessed by way of ramps and elevators. Check with a reservation agent or your hotel about boat accessibility.
8. Disney’s Fort Wilderness is one of the resort’s largest properties. Home to far-flung campsites and cabins, the resort has an internal bus system that transports guests to main parts of the property, as well as to the marina and the bus depot.
9. Want to ditch the boats, buses, or monorails? BoardWalk Inn guests can get to Epcot or Disney's Hollywood Studios on foot, while guests of the Yacht and Beach Club resorts may get to Epcot by walking. Folks staying at the Contemporary Resort have access to a walkway that leads to the Magic Kingdom, too.
10. Thinking of heading to the water parks? There is a dedicated bus stop for Blizzard Beach at Disney's Animal Kingdom, so head to that theme park and transfer to the Blizzard Beach stop to head to that destination. To get to Typhoon Lagoon, you can take a special bus from Epcot to the water park; if that bus is not running, try taking a Disney Springs bus from any resort hotel to Disney Springs to switch to the Typhoon Lagoon bus. Remember to ask a Cast Member about which bus is running where, as routes are subject to change.
11. As of August 2016, the resort is changing the way guests can travel via bus from the theme parks to Disney Springs. Between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. -- or two hours after the park closes, whichever comes first -- you can hitch a bus directly to the entertainment, shopping, and dining complex. Keep in mind that this doesn't work for when you want to get to a park from Disney Springs; for that, you will still have to take one of the Disney Springs buses to a hotel, then switch to a park bus.
12. In December 2016, Disney will begin offering a new add-on service called Express Transportation that gives guests the option of being picked up by bus inside the parks and dropped off at another park. The service runs from 10 a.m. until park closing; those with park-hopper tickets can add this for $15 per person for one day or $24 for per person for seven consecutive days.