One of the perks of staying on-site at Walt Disney World is the free ride around the resort. By gondola, car, ferry or monorail, you can hop straight from your Walt Disney World Resort hotel to the theme parks and Disney Springs! From the time Tad was a teeny tiny tadpole, he's loved collecting Disney Transport Official Collector Cards to document all of the different ways he jumped around during a particular trip. For Lily, card collecting is not her bag, but the monorail is always a must-do, a magical experience each and every time for our little froglet. And now, Walt Disney World has even added "The Most Magical Flight on Earth" — aka the Skyliner transportation system — to its fleet! With so many options to get around, it can feel like a puzzle to know how to get where using what. With COVID-19, there are even more pieces to consider, including knowing exactly what to expect right now in terms of safety protocols, wait times and route modifications.
When Disney World reopened with health and safety measures in place, it adapted by reducing capacity and enforcing physical distancing for every mode of transportation. During peak traveling times, buses, monorails, boats and Disney Skyliner have been taking longer than usual, so it's important now more than ever before for frog families to set aside extra time if they’re relying on Disney transportation. Have no fear, though! We frogs are here to help you hop from place to place as efficiently as possible, given the circumstances. This guide breaks down how each mode of transportation is currently running and any tips to keep in mind. Let's get movin'!
General Walt Disney World Transportation Expectations
There are still multiple ways to get around Walt Disney World, whether it’s by a bus, monorail, boat or gondola, and they operate on regular schedules much like before. However, limited capacity has significantly impacted all modes of transportation, especially in the mornings and evenings right around the parks’ opening and closing times. On the plus side, you don’t have to worry about standing on a bus or in a monorail cabin — no more being packed in like sardines! If you’re planning to hit the parks early or leave with the closing crowds, make sure to factor in more time than usual (and pack your patience!). We’ve heard reports from fellow frogs that they’ve waited up to an hour to catch a bus. If you don’t mind hopping to a park an hour or two later or leaving early, you shouldn’t have any issues with long lines. In fact, we’ve often had buses to ourselves when we traveled during an off-peak time!
Hand sanitizer is available before you board any of the Disney modes of transportation, but keep a spare bottle in case a hand sanitizer station is out. Like anywhere else on Walt Disney World property, you must wear your face covering for the entire ride. Parties will be seated together, and social distancing measures are in place (which you'll see in the photos throughout this guide), so be sure to keep an eye out for markers, not only on transportation vehicles, but also in queues. Be aware of operating hours — generally, services begin about an hour before park open and stop about an hour to an hour and a half after park close.
If you don’t want to depend solely on Disney transportation or don’t wish to be around others in these enclosed spaces, you may want to consider walking, using a ride-sharing service or driving yourself in your own vehicle or a rental car. Even if you’re driving, know that the parking trams are not operating, so you’ll want to add a few extra minutes for walking to the main entrance of each park.
For a park-by-park transportation overview, check out our guides:
Bus Transportation at Walt Disney World
Did you know that Walt Disney World has a bus fleet the size of Atlanta? For many, the first ride of a Walt Disney World trip is on a bus — the Magical Express! It's a complimentary service right from the airport to your Walt Disney World Resort hotel. There's service back to the airport from your hotel at the end of your trip, as well. You can see all of the deets about Disney's Magical Express here. One important note: Right now, guests are responsible for the handling of their own luggage.
Each Walt Disney World Resort hotel (as well as Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin) offers complimentary bus service to and from the theme parks and Disney Springs. Previously, riding a Disney bus during peak traveling periods meant being packed in closely with others and possibly standing while holding onto the railing. Thanks to the health and safety measures currently in place, those days are gone! Upon Disney World's reopening, each bus could hold up to six parties, divided into sections of seats protected by partitions. As a more recent change, some select buses now have a different seating arrangement that can allow up to 10 parties. If you’re traveling in a larger group, you may be assigned to multiple sections.
While you don’t have to worry about a stranger in your personal space, lower capacity also means the bus can fill up quickly. This has led to some longer waits at the hotels during peak traveling periods. If your goal is to be at the theme parks upon opening, we suggest planning for that extra time or arriving early at the bus stop to catch one of the first buses of the day. However, if you aren’t in a rush to head out of your hotel room, the lines will eventually simmer down about an hour after park open.
For additional air flow, the emergency hatch remains open on the buses unless it’s raining. Bus service between theme parks and Disney Springs is currently suspended.
Monorail Transportation at Walt Disney World
The monorail may be the very first mode of transportation you think of when it comes to Walt Disney World! The monorail is currently running, with a few changes. Each party has its own bench on one side of the cabin, and there is a partition in the middle so that parties sitting back-to-back remain separated.
The EPCOT monorail is temporarily unavailable since park hopping is not allowed — though this may change Jan. 1, 2021, once hopping returns! However, the express monorail and resort monorail are up and running for service to Magic Kingdom, the Transportation and Ticket Center, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Disney’s Contemporary Resort along the monorail line. (Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort’s monorail station is closed for refurbishment.)
Water Transportation at Walt Disney World
Onto Leap's favorite mode of transport — boats! Remember when we said that Tad likes to collect the Walt Disney World Transportation Collector Cards? Well, while we simplify "Water Transportation" here, there's a Walt Disney World Transport card for every type of boat you encounter! There are several different types around property — from large ferries, to Friendship Boats, to water taxis! In fact, if you counted all of the boats at Disney World, they'd make up the seventh largest naval fleet in the world.
Right now, the large ferry boats that travel between Magic Kingdom and the Transportation and Ticket Center have blue dot markers on the ground to designate where parties should stand. If you have a large party, the cast members may tell you to split up so that you aren’t spreading into others’ space. The benches also have clear markings to maintain physical distance. On the small Friendship Boats and water taxis, the aisle seats are marked off, and either rows are skipped or dividers separate the rows.
Currently, Disney Springs water service is unavailable. However, the following aquatic avenues are available elsewhere at Walt Disney World:
- Friendship Boats between EPCOT and Disney's Hollywood Studios, and the EPCOT-area hotels, such as Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts and Disney's BoardWalk Villas
- Water taxis from Magic Kingdom Park to/from Disney's Wilderness Lodge, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney's Polynesian Villas and Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground
Skyliner Transportation at Walt Disney World
The Disney Skyliner system is currently using all available routes that connect EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios to select Disney hotels. The major difference is that each party has its own gondola instead of sharing one with others in order to reduce capacity. A long line still doesn’t necessarily mean a long wait, as guests have to stay 6 feet apart. And because the gondolas are constantly moving, the lines can move quickly at most of the stations, except for the Riviera station (which we’ll explain in just a bit!).
If you’re staying at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Riviera Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort or Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Skyliner is currently the only Disney transportation option available for guests who want to go to EPCOT or Hollywood Studios. Buses are only available if Skyliner is not operating. If you’re staying in the EPCOT Resort area, riding Skyliner is a possibility in addition to walking or taking a Friendship Boat. You can check out the Skyliner station at Caribbean Beach in Tad's video above.
Plan extra time if you’re hopping on at the shared Skyliner station for Pop Century and Art of Animation. Because you need to transfer lines at the Caribbean Beach station, you’ll have to hop off and go to the back of another line for whichever destination you’re headed to.
The lines at the Riviera station may take longer (in either direction) because most guests are traveling straight through the station and do not hop off. Therefore, it may take longer for an empty gondola to come through the station, as opposed to guaranteed empty cabins at all of the other stations.
Other Modes of Transportation at Walt Disney World
Depending on which Walt Disney World Resort hotel you’re staying at, walking may be the fastest and most convenient option for you. Disney’s Contemporary Resort guests can easily walk the half-mile to and from Magic Kingdom within 10 to 15 minutes. We especially recommend walking to Magic Kingdom because the resort monorail has to make a few stops before it gets to the park entrance. A new walkway has just opened to connect Magic Kingdom with Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, which will also link the existing walkway between the Grand Floridian and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are also accessible on foot if you’re staying at one of the Crescent Lake resorts. This includes Disney’s Beach Club Resort, Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, Walt Disney World Swan Resort and Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort. With the return of the Friendship Boats, walking isn’t the only option anymore. However, walking may still be faster than a boat, which makes multiple stops and has limited capacity.
Using a ride-sharing app is an alternative if you wish to skip the long waits for Disney transportation (and the ride-share pick-up and drop-off areas are all right by the theme park entrances). We generally like using Uber or Lyft sparingly, the exception being if we’re running behind and need to make a dining reservation. However, it’s not the most cost-effective or family-friendly option. A ride will likely cost about $10 each, and the total costs add up quickly if you rely on ride-sharing. Also, if you have a large party or need more than one car seat, you may have to request multiple cars. Normally, the Minnie Van is a good option for larger families (or just those who need more than one car seat), but that service is temporarily unavailable. Minnie Van service is also available to and from Orlando International Airport.
Depending on where you’re coming from, it may be easier to drive your own car, especially if you’re staying on property. You get to move around in the comfort of your own vehicle and not have to worry about relying on Disney transportation. You also don’t have to be around others in an enclosed space. If driving to Orlando isn’t feasible, then consider renting a car that you can pick up at the Orlando International Airport. You can skip Disney’s Magical Express and would still be in charge of your own transportation around Disney World. While you would have to pay a nightly self-parking fee at any of the Disney hotels, general parking at the theme parks is free for on-site hotel guests (and annual passholders).
If you’re not staying on-site, we’d recommend weighing the costs of ride-sharing services against the costs of a rental car, plus any parking fees at the hotel and general parking at the theme parks. It would likely come down to how far away your hotel is and the size of your frog squad. Also keep in mind how close you are to Disney Springs — if you can walk to Disney Springs, you can hop on any of the resort buses there (though you will have to transfer buses if you're headed to any of the theme parks).
Navigating Walt Disney World Transportation with Wheelchairs, ECVs and Strollers
If you utilize an ECV, wheelchair, or mobility device, or have little ones in tow in a stroller, here's what to know about Walt Disney World transportation:
- Strollers will need to be emptied, folded and stowed when onboard a bus and some smaller boats.
- All Walt Disney World buses are equipped to accommodate various types of wheelchairs and ECVs/scooters. There's a lift on board where the ECV or scooter will be fastened. It is then recommended that guests transfer to a bus seat. Guests using canes, walkers, crutches or who have difficulty walking can board via the rear door (just let the bus driver know before boarding, as this is generally an exit only).
- Strollers may remain open (and full of tadpoles) when riding Skyliner, the monorail and larger ferry boats.
- There is a separate queue for wheelchair-accessible gondolas at each Skyliner station. These special gondolas move to the side so that you can take your time getting on and comfortable (no "ghostly interruptions" like you'll hear on Haunted Mansion!). Mobility aids, as well as larger strollers, need to fit within a 30-inch by 48-inch area.
- Watercraft access for those utilizing scooters, wheelchairs or ECVs varies depending on the type of watercraft and the existing water levels and conditions. Please contact a Disney cast member at the watercraft dock for information and assistance. When we've taken Grandma Frog to the parks, who uses a walker or cane, we've noticed that the smaller boats are more difficult to step off of the dock and onto the boats. The larger ferries, including the TTC Ferry and the Friendship Boats, make for a more stable transition for her. If you utilize mobility devices, it may be your safest bet to steer clear of the smaller forms of water transportation.
- Guests with mobility aids may access the Walt Disney World monorail system by using the elevators or ramps at each station.
- Disney's Magical Express motorcoaches accommodate most guests in standard-size wheelchairs and ECVs. When you book your Magical Express reservation, be sure to indicate that you'll require a wheelchair lift to board the bus.
- Strollers will need to be folded and stowed beneath the Magical Express.
- When Minnie Vans are operating, you can request an accessible vehicle by calling (407) 828-3500. There's also plenty of room to stow a stroller, and Minnie Vans are equipped with car seats.
Walt Disney World Transportation Tips and Tricks
- Be sure to check your hotel bus stop again as you leave the theme parks! Sometimes, these can change throughout the day (so the stop you arrived at may not be the same stall as you leave).
- The biggest transportation rush hoppens about an hour before the parks open, and in the hour after the parks close.
- Be sure to allow yourself about an hour to an hour and a half (if traveling during peak times) for Disney transportation. Whether you're parking and heading to the park's entrance, or utilizing free transportation, you'll need to pack some transport time into your day.
- Disney World theme park parking lots open up about an hour before the park's scheduled opening time, so if you arrive and see that there's a traffic jam, don't worry! The attendants may not be letting cars in just yet. Once things open up, it clears quickly.
- At Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground, ride share vehicles can only meet you at the Outpost (while Minnie Vans, when operating, can come directly to your campsite — which is especially appreciated during those Orlando showers!).
- Not sure where to catch a ride? In My Disney Experience, on your map, you can toggle to "Transportation" to see modes and stops near you (including directions).
Did we miss any tips for transportation at Disney World? Be sure to let us know in the comments below! Which mode of transportation is your favorite?