Everything You Need to Know about Disney’s Magical Express

One thing I really like about vacationing in Disney World is that everything just works. The Disney Cast Members are knowledgeable and reliable and they’re always to help with questions.

People are often overwhelmed with traveling because there is so much to know.  Add to that the fact that Disney World is a huge place to navigate.

Disney’s Magical Express takes care of the transportation so you can begin enjoying your vacation from the moment you land at the airport.

Let’s take a look at some important information you should know about Magical Express.

In a nutshell, what is Disney’s Magical Express?

Disney’s Magical Express is a free transportation system that transports Disney Resort guests to and from the Orlando International Airport (MCO) to any Walt Disney World Resort Hotel. The coach buses are well appointed with comfy seats and an entertaining and informative video that gives riders a sneak peek at everything going on at the Resort. The bus also has a small lavatory.

What resorts participate?

Any Walt Disney World Resort guest can take advantage of Disney’s Magical Express. Participating hotels including the following:

Disney’s Art of Animation

Disney’s All-Star Music Resort

Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort

Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort

Disney’s Pop Century Resort

Disney’s Boardwalk Inn

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort

Disney’s Old Key West Resort

Disney’s Port Orleans Resort

Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort

Disney’s Wilderness Resort

Disney’s Yacht Club Resort

Disney’s Beach Club Resort

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort

Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort

Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

It’s important to note that, even though some other hotels are on Disney’s property, they are not owned and operated by Disney and guests staying at these resorts cannot take advantage of Disney’s Magical Express. These include the Swan and Dolphin Resorts, Shades of Green, and the Disney Springs hotels. When you’re considering your savings staying at these resorts, factor in that you cannot use Disney transportation, which probably means you’ll have to rent a car or use taxi service.

Most resorts owned and operated by Disney participate in Magical Express.
Most resorts owned and operated by Disney participate in Magical Express.

How do I sign up?

If free transportation to and from the airport sounds good to you, you can sign up for Disney’s Magical Express (ME) when you’re making your hotel reservations.

If you’re booking on Disney’s website, they’ll prompt you during the booking / checkout process. Although the site doesn’t say “Magical Express,” you’ll want to click “Add Ground.” You can choose transportation to your hotel, from your hotel, or both. You should have your flight information, and especially the flight number, available.

Many people make their hotel reservations well in advance and book their flight just months or less before they leave. If you don’t have your flight information at the time that you’re booking your reservation, you can call 866-599-0951 or 407-939-1936 anytime to set up your Magical Express reservation.

In order to get your luggage tags in time for your departure, you should make these reservations no later than two weeks before you leave. If you book at the last minute or you don’t have time to get the tags in the mail, you’ll have to carry and/or retrieve your own bags and take them to the Magical Express. The bus driver will load them onto the bus and take them to the hotel with you. Alternatively, the ME website says that you can leave your bags on the carousel, describe them to the Welcome Desk, and they’ll identify them and transfer them for you. That part of the process has always seemed a little odd to me.

If you’re booking through an outside agency like Expedia, Orbitz, or Travelocity, the site will also probably prompt you. If it doesn’t, call either of the phone numbers above to reserve your spot on the Magical Express.

If your flight information changes at any time, you should call Magical Express to notify them of the change. A small change isn’t a big deal, but if your flight is significantly delayed or you missed your flight, you should call. If you don’t get a chance to call, just go to the Magical Express Desk, and they should be able to accommodate you.

If you didn’t sign up for Magical Express for whatever reason, you can just show up at the Welcome Desk and they’ll usually give you a ride. You just have to prove that you’re staying at a Disney Resort by giving them a reservation number. The friendly Cast Members can even look up your reservation number if you don’t have it!

What will I receive in the mail regarding my reservation?

Shortly after you make your Magical Express reservation, you’ll receive yellow luggage tags in the mail. If you want your luggage transferred from the airport directly to your resort hotel, put these tags on any of your checked bags. Disney will identify the bags, collect them from the airport, and deliver them right to your hotel room. They should arrive between three and five hours after your flight lands. Because of this delay, you should pack any necessities like medicine, baby items, and a change of clothes in your carry-on. You won’t need these tags on your carry-on bags.

If you plan to pick up your own bags from the carousel, you should not use the yellow luggage tags since Disney intercepts the bags before they get to the carousel. If Disney did not send you enough luggage tags, you can call the Magical Express at the numbers listed above and ask for additional tags.

You’ll receive another package in the mail that contains your MagicBands. These rubber bracelets have many functions, but when it comes to the Magical Express, they serve as your boarding ticket. You should either wear these or pack them in your carry-on bag. Do not put them in your checked luggage especially if you’re planning to have Disney intercept your bags because you won’t have access to your bands. If you accidentally do this or you don’t have access to your bands for whatever reason, go to the Magical Express Welcome Desk and they can print you tickets instead.

Be sure to tag your luggage, but keep your Magic Bands with you.
Be sure to tag your luggage, but keep your Magic Bands with you.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using Disney’s Magical Express?

As with anything, there are pros and cons to the Magical Express.

On the positive side, you’ll save money on a car rental or a taxi or car service, which can often be $70 give or take a few bucks. The other advantages have to do with the luggage service included in a ME reservation. You can skip the baggage claim and head right to the Magical Express Check-in. If your bags are being delivered, you won’t have to spend 20 minutes or more at the carousel then carry your bags through the airport. This can be especially helpful if you have young children who can’t carry their own bag, if you have mobility issues, or if your flight lands on the A side of the terminal.

On the negative side, it can take longer for you to get from the airport to your hotel than if you drive yourself or get a taxi. If you’re the first stop on the Magical Express, you could arrive at your hotel within 30 minutes of leaving the airport, but guests staying at the last hotel on the route could be on the bus for up to 75 minutes! Although you will incur a cost, and the Magical Express is free, it might be worth renting a car or taking a taxi to not be on a bus for an hour. Depending on when the last bus left, you may also have to wait up to 20 minutes for another bus. When you add all of this up, you could be looking at two hours between the time you land to the time you arrive at your resort. If you’re using the luggage service, the more people who touch your luggage, the greater opportunity for something to go wrong. Finally, on your return trip, you’ll arrive at the airport much earlier via the Magical Express than if you would drive yourself. This means you might have to kill some time at the airport shops rather than spending a few more minutes in Disney World.

Can anyone use the luggage service?

Not everyone is eligible for this service.

Guests who arrive between 10PM and 5AM cannot use the luggage service since it’s not available during this time. However, you can still use Magical Express since it’s available 24/7. You’ll just have to transport your own luggage.

Also, international travelers must retrieve their own bags and proceed to Customs and Border Protection. You’ll then head to the Magical Express Check-in with your bags. The bus driver will load your bags under the bus and take them to the hotel with you.

Where is the Magical Express Check-in?

The Magical Express is on the B side of the terminal on level one below baggage claim. If you’re flying Air Canada, American, Bahamasair, British Airways, Delta, Icelandair, LAN, Lufthansa, Silver Airways, Spirit, Sun Country, TAM, Thomas Cook, United, or Volaris, you’ll have very little walking involved. Go down the escalator and follow the signs to the Magical Express. If you fly in on Aer Lingus, AeroMexico, Air Transat, Alaska Airlines, Avianca, Azul, Caribbean, Copa, Emirates, Frontier, Gol, JetBlue, MagniCharters, Miami Air, Norwegian, Southwest, SunWing, Swift Air, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, or WestJet, you’ll have to get to the B side then follow the signs. Consider how much walking this will involve and how much luggage you have when deciding whether to use the luggage service or not. Having your bags delivered will save you a lot of time and achy arms if you fly into the A side of the terminal.

Is there a fee for the Magical Express?

No. The Magical Express is free. However, it is customary to tip anyone who handles your luggage in your presence. Since the bus driver will probably help you load your luggage under the bus, you should tip him or her a couple dollars per bag.

I have a young child. Do I need a car seat?

Not only do you not need a car seat, you won’t be able to use one since the bus seats don’t have any way to attach it. Your child can sit next to you or on your lap. If you have a car seat from the flight, the driver will be happy to store it under the bus until you get to your hotel.

If your child being in a vehicle without a car seat concerns you, you’ll want to arrange for alternative transportation like a taxi or a rental car.

You can't use a child's car set on the Magical Express bus.
You can’t use a child’s car seat on the Magical Express bus.

Is the Magical Express handicap accessible?

If you or anyone in your party is in a wheelchair, you can be accommodated, but you’ll have to arrange this ahead of time. Call Magical Express to request this in advance.

I’m bringing my pet with me. Can I take it on the bus?

No pets are allowed on the bus, but service animals are permitted. If you want to bring your pet with you to Disney, you’ll have to arrange another form of transportation. You should also know that no pets are allowed at the Disney resort hotels. However, there are pet resorts available.

Can I go to the parks right away?

Magical Express only provides transportation to and from the resort hotels. They will not take you to the parks or pick you up there. If you want to go straight to the parks or leave from the parks to the airport, you should rent a car or take a cab.

I have other plans before I check in at my Disney Resort. Can I still use Magical Express?

Probably. Some people go to the beach or to visit family before they check in at the Disney Resort. The verbiage on the Magical Express website doesn’t say anything about having to fly, but this can get pretty confusing.

The best thing to do would be to rent a car for the first part of your trip and return that car to the airport. Then, proceed to the Magical Express Check-in area. As long as you can give them a reservation number, they’ll transfer you. However, the Magical Express Reservationists often want to know about what time you’ll be riding so they can have enough buses. If you can find a flight number that coincides with the time you plan to return to the airport and get on the ME, this would be helpful.

If I use the ME, I won’t have a car. Is that bad?

This is a personal preference. Some people never rent a car when they visit Disney and other people rent a car every time. It depends on what you’re doing.

If you plan to stay on Disney property the whole time, you probably don’t need a rental car. The only exception to this could be if you have Advanced Dining Reservations at other resort hotels. It’s difficult to get from hotel to hotel; since buses don’t travel between hotels (unless the hotel is on your bus route), you’ll have to go to a park and take another bus to the hotel.

If you have plans outside of the Disney Resort, a rental car will be more important. If your plans involve visiting Universal Studios, Sea World, the beach, or any of the other destinations in the area, you may need a car.

Not everyone in my party is arriving together. Can we still use ME?

Yes. There are many families who arrive on different flights for whatever reason, and Magical Express will gladly accommodate everyone. All you have to do is give ME the flight info for each person, and they can board the ME independently. This works either to or from the resort hotel.

I’m doing a split stay. Can I still use ME?

As long as both your drop off and pick up hotels are a Disney Resort Hotel, then yes. When you’re making your reservation, you can choose your “to” and “from” hotels. If you need help, call a Magical Express Reservationist.

How do I return to the airport on the Magical Express?

The day before you leave, you’ll receive an envelope either on or under your hotel room door confirming your departure information and telling you what time the Magical Express will pick you up. You’ll catch the bus outside the main entrance (the same place the bus dropped you off). You should bring this paper to the bus with you since it will serve as your ticket. At this point, the bus drivers don’t have a way to scan your MagicBands.

If you’re traveling domestically, the Magical Express will pick you up approximately three hours before your flight time. International travelers will be picked up about four hours prior to their flight.

My flight leaves after the hotel’s check out time. What should I do with my luggage?

You have a couple options here.

You can leave your carry-on luggage with the Bell Services at your Disney Resort Hotel. The friendly Cast Member will tag your bag and give you a receipt. Your bags will be stored in a secure location, but if you have valuables, you can tell the Cast Member and they will keep it in a more secure location. You should return to Bell Services 15 minutes before your scheduled Magical Express pick-up time to retrieve your bags.

You can also use Resort Airline Check-in (RAC). If you’re checking bags, this is the most convenient way to travel. It’s like curbside check-in at the airport but it’s at the hotel. No earlier than 12 hours and no later than three hours before your flight, you can bring your bags to the Resort Airline Check-in desk to check in. They’ll check your government issued identifications, take your bags, and print your boarding pass. You won’t see your bags again until you arrive at your home airport, so pack what you need in your carry-on (which you can store at Bell Services). This service is available from 5AM to noon or 1PM. The best part is you don’t even have to be using the Magical Express to take advantage of this service. However, the only airlines that currently participate include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, Jetblue, SouthWest, and United, and international travelers don’t qualify for RAC. Check with RAC though because this list changes regularly.

If you are using RAC, you should pay your baggage fees online or call 407-284-1231.

Have you used Disney’s Magical Express?  Did it work well?