Time-Saving Disney World Transportation Tips – Disney Tourist Blog

These tips will help you save time using Walt Disney World’s transportation systems with shortcuts, fastest routes, and info about the buses, boats, monorails, and gondolas. WDW’s transit network is complicated, but this guide makes it easy. We’ll also offer the latest as of Fall 2023 as a long-missing watercraft will finally return! (Updated September 29, 2023.)
Walt Disney World claims that transportation departs every 20 minutes from the resort hotels to take guests to the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Epcot making getting around simple. In theory, that’s true. While this is often the case, it’s often not. You should always plan on transit taking more time than expected. Additionally, the monorail is not as reliable as it once was, with breakdowns and unscheduled maintenance occurring more frequently.
In terms of updates to this Walt Disney World transportation guide, let’s start with the good news. All of the infrastructure work to transform the roads, theme park arrival experience, and more is now finished and makes navigating Walt Disney World easier than ever. This has been ongoing for the last few years, and is great news for anyone who rents a car or drives themselves.
September 29, 2023 Update: As fans of the Bay Lake resorts might know, boat service connecting Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campgrounds with Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Disney’s Contemporary Resort is currently unavailable. This transportation option–known as the blue route (named that for the flags each boat displays) was “temporarily” suspended back when the parks reopened, and hasn’t been seen since.
The good news is that the blue route for the Wilderness (Fort and Lodge) and Contemporary will finally return on October 1, 2023. Unfortunately, it’s not fully back to normal, as it’ll begin at 3 pm each day, so still doesn’t help guests staying in the Wildernesses who want to do breakfast at Chef Mickey’s. But it’ll be great for those wanting to spend an evening at Fort Wilderness for Hoop-Dee-Doo, dinner at California Grill or Chef Mickey’s, etc.
Although 3 pm is the official start time for now, I wouldn’t be surprised if the blue route service starts earlier by Christmas or early 2024. Earlier this month, I was staying late in Magic Kingdom for photos and ‘accidentally’ ended up being the last one out. To my surprise, boat service to Wilderness Lodge was still running (normally they’d put me on a bus at that hour) and they were using one of the larger boat…for literally just me.
As it turned out, there were about a half-dozen or more new watercraft Cast Members training. So I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re finally addressing whatever staffing shortages exist here. (Which somewhat surprise me in the first place–I always thought people retired to become boat pilots, not retired from the position!)

In other news, both EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios now have parking lot tram service restored. With this update, parking lot trams are now once again available at all four Walt Disney World theme parks.
This was another thing that had been missing since the parks closed–it had been almost 1,200 days between the parks reopening and these parking lot trams returned. While I don’t love that the blue route had been gone so long, I can give a pass to that being slow to return as there are alternative means of getting between the Contemporary and Wilderness.
However, the only other option in place of the trams is walking. For a lot of guests with mobility issues or who are older (or younger!), that’s not a great way to start the day. At the end of the day, it’s a lot to ask. Parking lot trams are a guest amenity that should be expected at a world class theme park with huge surface parking lots–especially one that has increased prices significantly over the last few years, including on parking! Glad to see the trams are back, though.

Beyond that news, transportation is largely running smoothly once you get to Walt Disney World. There are still lengthy lines for the Skyliner around park opening and closing, but they move quickly since the system is so efficient and high capacity (aside from during storm-induced shutdowns).
It’s a similar story with the buses. The downside is that you might once again be packed like sardines for rope drop or at the end of the night, but the upside is undeniable. No more standing in line waiting for two or three buses and taking 45 minutes just to get picked up. Midday things are more or less the same as before—lower usage, a seat for everyone, and no lines.

Additionally, Walt Disney World no longer has as pronounced of a driver shortage. Buses are now abundant, and dispatched with regularity. Staggered park opening and closing times help with this, and the bus service at Walt Disney World is also more or less back to normal. Still not perfect, but it never was.
As other Cast Member shortages are being resolved, Walt Disney World is scaling up operations and resuming normalcy elsewhere. Minnie Vans have been back for about a year for point-to-point direct transportation within Walt Disney World; the airport option for Minnie Vans returned last Christmas. We aren’t regular users of Minnie Vans, but from what we understand, it’s been smooth sailing in the last few months with that upcharge option.

The situation with rental cars has also improved. When travel essentially stopped, the rental car industry sold off more than a half a million cars to generate cash they needed to survive the crisis. When pent-up demand arrived in full force, rental car companies were slow to rebuild their inventory because of supply chain issues facing the auto industry.
Orlando International Airport ended up selling out of cars for many travel dates during peak season dates as a result, with astronomical rates for other dates. This has not been an issue in a while. You’ll still pay a premium for peak travel dates, but it’s no different than before.

Similarly, the Uber or Lyft shortages are largely resolved, with more drivers starting to return to the apps. Wait times are down as a result, and there are far fewer instances of no drivers being available at all. (We’ve had no issues whatsoever when using ride-sharing around Walt Disney World recently.)
With that said, prices are still elevated. We’ve seen prices as high as $75 to $100 for peak travel times. The lower end of that range wasn’t even during a busy time of year–just a busy time of day. It’s likely that this is going to be the “new normal” with Uber and Lyft, as costs had gradually increased over the course of several years pre-closure, and analysts have suggested that Uber and Lyft only have long-term viability with higher rates.

Speaking of airport transportation options, Disney’s Magical Express officially ended, so you’ll need to find a different way to get from Orlando International Airport to Walt Disney World. When DME ended, two competing services launched to replace it–Mears Connect and the Sunshine Flyer.
Last month, those two “joined forces” to form Mears Connect Driven by Sunshine. This merger has pros and cons for consumers. Competition is always good for keeping prices and service competitive. In this case, there arguably wasn’t a market for two competing shuttle services between MCO and WDW. The two were stretched thin, and had issues with both supply and demand at times.

For the full range of choices, see our Airport Transportation to Walt Disney World Guide. While some guests will be perfectly suited by a limo or car service, more will be better off with a shuttle, Uber, rental car, or something else.
As always, it’s good to crunch the numbers and do a bit of legwork yourself–rather than just booking what’s presented to you on DisneyWorld.com and assuming the money-hungry company is looking out for your best interests.

Our final updates are more about parking than transportation, but you can’t have the former without the latter. First, the good news is that overnight parking is once again free for hotel guests. We were tempted to put free in air quotes as the charge is arguably built into the nightly rate or resorts, but the reality is that discounts have increased since the free parking was restored–so you’re truly paying less than at the same time last year.
The bad news is that parking for day guests of resorts has become even stricter. Now, if you do not have confirmed Advance Dining Reservations, you will not be allowed past the security checkpoint for the vast majority of resort hotels. This means no Walk-Up Waitlist or Mobile Order, and it also often means no Uber or Lyft drop-offs, either.
This is a trend that first started several years ago with busier resorts in close proximity to the parks (e.g. Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Beach Club) and other resorts during peak season (e.g. Christmas, Spring Break). It has now spread to almost all on-property hotels, except a handful of options that you probably don’t want to visit, anyway (e.g. All Star Sports, Port Orleans Riverside). You can still arrive via Disney transportation or by walking–just not by car without an ADR!
With those updates out of the way, let’s start with an overview of transportation at Walt Disney World, followed by tips and hacks for efficiently navigating the 43 square miles of the sprawling vacation complex…

Given the abundance of transportation, it’s easy to have a Walt Disney World vacation without renting or even using a car. Simply using an airport shuttle, stay in a Walt Disney World resort hotel, and utilize Disney transportation during your stay.
Of course, you may want to rent a car. We have an entire post titled Tips for Renting a Car at Walt Disney World that covers the ins and outs of renting a car. Suffice to say, if you don’t like waiting at all, like to be in control, and don’t mind driving while on vacation, renting a car is probably for you. This is doubly true if you ever want to leave Walt Disney World property–then a rental car becomes almost essential.
When we rent a car at Walt Disney World, we typically use Hotwire for car rentals and book one of their “blind” Hot Rates. Renting a car can reduce waits and commute times, but we’ve found that not renting works better for us. Consider your circumstances and decide whether you might want a rental car. Your mileage may vary.

We’ve found Uber and Lyft to be great alternatives to renting a car at Walt Disney World. You can read some of our tips for using Uber and other ride-sharing services in the post Uber & Lyft at Walt Disney World Tips.
In addition to Uber, Lyft, and rental cars, Walt Disney World offers a private point to point transportation service called the Minnie Van. You can read our full Minnie Vans Tips & Review post here, but suffice to say, it’s an efficient and themed option for those who don’t care about cost. If you’re on a tighter budget, it’s not for you.

Let’s assume you don’t want to rent a car, nor do you want to use Uber or a Minnie Van. Once you arrive at your resort hotel, you can rely upon Disney transportation.
The most common form of transportation is Disney buses, which are fairly self-explanatory. These run from every single hotel to at least some of the theme parks, except where alternate transportation such as boats or the monorail are available. Buses are the least glamorous and most frustrating form of transportation, and we try to avoid them to the extent possible, but they get the job done.

Several resorts, especially those near Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, also offer boat service to the parks they’re near. This is reasonably efficient, as most of the boats make multiple stops. It’s also very leisurely and a pleasant experience. Who doesn’t love a boat ride?!
Almost every resort that offers boat service is also within walking distance of those same parks. Walking can be more efficient than taking a boat, but it’s obviously also more tiring and work.

Some hotels around the Magic Kingdom–Grand Floridian, Contemporary, and Polynesian–also offer monorail service to Walt Disney World’s iconic castle park. The monorail also connects to Magic Kingdom via the Ticket & Transportation Center, which is essentially Magic Kingdom’s parking lot.
From the Ticket & Transportation Center, guests can board the monorail to EPCOT. This means that the aforementioned monorail resort guests can access EPCOT via monorail with a transfer. Fortunately, the EPCOT monorail line is back up and running!

Our favorite transportation option is the Disney Skyliner gondolas. These connect Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach, and Disney’s Riviera Resort to EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios!
Our personal experiences with the Disney Skyliner have been positive. We cover initial impressions in our Skyliner Gondola Review: Walt Disney World’s Most Magical Flight on Earth article, and have subsequently used the Skyliner gondolas countless times in the past few years since they opened.

Transportation to the theme parks, water parks, and Disney Springs begins approximately 2 hours prior to that park’s opening time and all transportation runs until approximately 1 hour after the parks close.
If you’re still in the park one hour and 5 minutes after the park close, worry not, as Disney won’t leave you stranded at a park. Sometimes it’s closer to 2 hours after the parks close when transportation ends. All forms of Disney transportation have unload and load zones very close to the park entrance, making them more accessible than the parking lots for each of the parks.
If you’re planning to rely on Walt Disney World Resort transportation rather than renting your own car or utilizing a taxi, be sure to give yourself at least 1 full hour of transport time to get where ever you wish to go. Typically, it won’t take this long, but on occasion it can (it has taken us over an hour and nearly two hours on multiple occasions).

If you won’t have a car at Walt Disney World, the first time you should think about transportation is before you book a hotel. There is no one “best” hotel for transportation to all of the Walt Disney World parks, but here are a few factors that you should consider in your booking decision:
Non-Bus Transportation – Hotels with non-bus transportation to the parks earn bonus points because buses are, generally, less efficient (and cooler) than non-bus transportation. Monorails provide transportation to Magic Kingdom and EPCOT; boats provide transportation to EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios; Disney’s Animal Kingdom is accessible only via bus.
Hotels on the monorail loop are Grand Floridian, Contemporary, and Polynesian Village Resorts. Each of those hotels also has boat service to the Magic Kingdom, as do Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness Campground.

Additionally, all monorail loop hotels are also within walking distance of Magic Kingdom.
This used to just be true for Disney’s Contemporary Resort, but a new bridge is now open that connects the Grand Floridian and Polynesian Village Resort to Magic Kingdom. This path can be tricky to find, so be on the lookout for signage (or ask a Cast Member if you don’t see it).

Boat service to EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios is available to and from BoardWalk Inn, Yacht & Beach Club Resorts, and the Swan & Dolphin (non-Disney) Hotels. These resorts are also within walking distance of both parks.
Skyliner gondola service is available from Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach, and Rivera Resorts to EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Distance – Hotels that offer non-bus transportation do so because they’re closest to the parks to which they offer the transportation, so that gives you an idea of where those hotels are located.
For other hotels, refer to this Google Maps view of Walt Disney World to determine actual distances from hotels to the parks. The Value Resorts and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort are located the farthest from every park except Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Walt Disney World is a large place, and this difference in distance is not negligible.

Internal Bus Systems – Internal transportation is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s nice to be able to take a bus from near your room to the lobby or food court, especially at the spread-out resort-hotels. On the other hand, if you’re going to a park, that means either waiting for two buses or making multiple stops on your way to the park.
In general we find transportation to take longer when there’s an internal system. Hotels with internal systems are Caribbean Beach Resort, Coronado Springs Resort, Port Orleans Resort Riverside, Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, and Old Key West Resort.

Shared Buses – Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer here. Whether buses are shared depends upon how busy Walt Disney World is. The less busy, the more likely shared transportation will be used. As a general rule, none of the hotels above that have internal bus systems (except Fort Wilderness) have shared buses, but other hotels can at times.
Due to personal preferences, there’s no one-size-fits-all “best” resort-hotel at Walt Disney World for transportation. It all depends upon which parks you’ll visit most, whether you’ll have a rental car, and your tolerance to walking. For example, from a transportation perspective, Animal Kingdom Lodge is a pain for us, because it’s really far from everything (except Animal Kingdom) and it has two stops. To someone who visits Animal Kingdom a lot, it might be the best hotel! So know which parks you want to visit most on your trip, figure out which hotel will work best for your circumstances, and book accordingly.

While Disney attempts to make its internal transportation from resort hotels to the theme parks reasonably convenient, the same is not true with regard to using Disney transportation to get from resort hotel to resort hotel. Instead, you will need to go from your resort hotel to a park and then catch transportation to the resort hotel you’re intending to visit. This can make dinner reservations at resort hotels that are not your own especially difficult.
For this reason, many people only dine at the resort hotels on the monorail loop (as visiting them for dinner can be a nice change of pace from a busy day in the Magic Kingdom) or Crescent Lake (a short walk from the International Gateway entrance to EPCOT and a moderate walk or boat ride from Hollywood Studios).
If you are planning on dining at any other resort hotel and are leaving from your resort hotel or returning to your resort hotel afterward, you may want to consider utilizing a taxi for transportation. Taxis are readily available (and if not, the resort can call one for you) at Disney resort hotels, and usually cost around $15-25 one way within the Walt Disney World Resort (obviously, the price varies based upon distance).
When relying on Disney transportation to go from one hotel to another hotel via at least one bus, you will want to give yourself at least 1.5 hours for transportation times. Usually, it’ll take around an hour. Unfortunately, quite often it takes the full hour and a half. So don’t ignore the recommended transportation times Disney provides to you when you make those Advance Dining Reservations!

Ultimately, I like Disney bus transportation. I like it because it allows me to kick back and relax, without worrying about renting a car, navigating on foreign roadways, or breaking the “Disney bubble” and transporting me back to reality. This Disney bubble is an important thing for us. Really important. Because of it, we are unlikely to regularly rent a car at Walt Disney World.
On the negative side, the buses can be inefficient, especially for getting from resort to resort, and they aren’t exactly the paramount of futuristic or cutting edge transportation methods, and have poor and too few routes. On the plus side, the buses don’t cost anything extra, and are becoming increasingly efficient. Moreover, when used in tandem with an occasional Uber or Lyft, it’s very easy to travel to Walt Disney World without renting a car.

The bus system at Walt Disney World is not perfect. There have been occasions where we’ve waited 45 minutes for a bus to show up at our resort heading to a particular park, and in the meantime, 4 showed up for a different park. There have been other times where lines have been so long in the morning that it has taken three separate buses to consume the line in front of us. Other times still, we take multiple buses to get from hotel to hotel for a meal.
As the wait time boards pictured above have become more and more widespread, we’ve noticed this has become less and less of an issue. Presumably, these boards are tied into new technology Walt Disney World is using on the backend to more efficiently allocate its buses. Whatever the case, in the past few years, we’ve notice considerable improvements in Walt Disney World’s bus transportation. Whereas we would’ve given it a B- score 4 years ago, we are now inclined to give it a B+. Still, some room for improvement, but pretty good as a whole.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? If you’re interested in learning more about hotels, our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page is a good place to start. For where to eat, try out our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews page. If you want to save money on tickets or determine which type you should get, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at unconventional things you should take on your trip. Once you arrive at the parks, our Walt Disney World “Ride Guides” are great for determining what to do and when to do it. For overviews of all of these topics and so much more, the best place to start is our comprehensive Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide to make the most of your experience!
What are your Walt Disney World transportation tips? Have a “hack” that can save considerable time off the norm? What’s your favorite WDW resort from a transportation perspective? Any questions about the various forms of transportation at Walt Disney World? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

They claim transportation departs every 20 mins.
Bull! I’ve waited for busses for nearly an hour. So long that I just end up driving so I don’t have to wait.
Thrilled to hear that the boat is returning! We did Hoop de Doo when we stayed at Fort Wilderness and our children absolutely loved it. We’d love to go again in the future, but prefer not to stay at Fort Wilderness again and couldn’t figure out a smooth way of getting there. Staying at the Contemporary or Wilderness Lodge and taking the boat is a very appealing option!
Is it possible to park at the Transportation and Ticket Center and take the monorail to the resort hotels without having park tickets at the present time? I remember when I was there almost 40 years ago I wanted to ride the water sprites at the Contemporary marina, and one year the monorail operators gave us a hard time because we didn’t have park tickets. The following year, they asked to see our park tickets again, but we brought them along this time even though we weren’t going to the park. The experience went a lot more smoothly.
The crotchety ticket-demanding Disney transportation CM has passed into history. On my recent(-ish) trips stretching back over a decade, I have used buses, boats, monorails, ferries, and the Skyliner and nobody ever said anything about tickets. I am pretty confident that you can board any monorail you want, anywhere, and no CM will ask for tickets.
Yes, you can. I did just that on my trip in May before I renewed annual pass. Parked at DS, bus to Poly, boat with drink to MK, mono ride around, boat MK to WL for lunch, bus back to DS, drove from there to airport.
I haven’t actually done this yet, but….. I am staying at SS in Sept, and have rez at Olivia’s at OKW. It is my understanding that there is a path that goes from SS to OKW – roughly a 20 min walk. I got that from a You Tube review of SS. ‘Hope they’re right. ‘Hope it’s a pretty walk.
You can also take boat transportation – walk to the boat landing of the bridge from SS to Disney Springs and take a boat to OKW. Depending on where you are in SS, this may or may not be shorter. But you could always walk back from Olivia’s, esp if you want to walk off that fried chicken!
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get Our FREE Newsletter!

Sign up for news, Disney deals & free planning tips.
This site is not affiliated with, endorsed by, or in any other way associated with The Walt Disney Company. For official information concerning Disney, visit Disney.com.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *