Disney’s Magical Express is a free service for Disney World resort guests. Simplified, it is a shuttle between Orlando International Airport (MCO) and your Walt Disney World resort. In reality, it is much more than that, and a huge money saver.
Requirements for Disney’s Magical Express
Disney has very few requirements that you must meet to use the Magical Express:
- You must be staying at a Disney World resort
- You must have an advance reservation for the Magical Express
That is it! A few points of clarification might be in order:
- The Magical Express is only available if you have a reservation at a Disney resort, so if you are staying at the Swan, Dolphin, Shades of Green or any of the Downtown Disney resorts, you are not able to use the Magical Express. Just one of the many perks or staying on Disney property.
- The Magical Express only serves MCO. Many people fly into Sanford airport, but the Magical Express does not go there, so you are on your own.
That is it. Just make sure your reservation is booked well in advance. Either your travel agent or Disney can make the reservation for you when you make your Disney reservation, or you can call the Magical Express directly at (866) 599-0951. It is very likely the Magical Express folk will tell you to contact your travel agent, so try them first.
How to use the Magical Express
The Magical Express is a fairly painless, easy to use system. Just make sure your reservations have been made.
About 3 – 4 weeks before you travel, you will receive your Magical Express documents in the mail, either from your travel agent or from Disney directly. Inside the documents will be some instructions on how to use the Magical Express, where to pick it up, and some special yellow luggage tags. Make sure you read through all the instructions carefully, they are important. You will also want to confirm the information printed in the documents to make sure your names and flight information is listed correctly, and update Disney if it is not.
When you arrive at your home airport, put one of the yellow luggage tags on each suitcase you plan on checking with your airline. No need to put them on any checked luggage. These luggage tags do two things: they let Disney know that they need to be picked up once they arrive in Orlando, and second, they tell Disney where you are staying, so your luggage makes it to your resort, and eventually, your room. Once the yellow luggage tags are attached, you can check in your luggage with your airline.
Once you arrive at MCO, head directly to the Magical Express Welcome Center, located on the B side of the terminal, down on level 1. If you are familiar with the Orlando airport, you know that the terminal is long and skinny. Most domestic flights exit near the Hyatt hotel, where the big fountain is right outside security. Of course, this is the wrong side of the airport, so don’t go to level 1 just yet, use the moving walkways to get to the other side of the terminal, then head down to level 1 (remember, B side), it should be right in front of you as you exit the elevators.
Check in with the Welcome Center. You will need your blue documents, as your vouchers are located in there. If you happen to be flying on one of their partner airlines (more below), you just need to check in. If you are not on a partner airline, you will need to tell the Cast Member how many bags you had checked in, so they can go find them.
Once checked in, you will be guided to the bus loading area, and will put on the bus headed for your resort. Most buses serve 2 or 3 resorts, so you may be the first stop, or the last, but there will never be more than three stops before your resort. The bus will deliver you right to the main entrance of your resort, where you can debark and check in for your Disney World stay.
Your luggage will magically show up at your resort, and will be delivered to your room. You do not need to be present to get your luggage, so you can head straight to the parks, your luggage will be there when you get back.
The entire process, from stepping off of your plane until you are checking into your resort usually takes about 60 minutes, though it could be a bit longer depending on traffic, the resort you are staying at or just about anything else that could slow you down. I have never had it take longer than 75 minutes, so still pretty quick.
Returning home on the Magical Express
Remember the talk about partner airlines above, here is where they really come into play. Disney has partnered with several airlines, and possibly could add more in the future. The current partners are:
- Alaska Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- United Airlines
- US Airways
If you are not flying on one of these airlines, then you are not on a partner airline.
Disney resort guests who are returning to MCO, and flying on one of the partner airlines listed above, can check in for their flights at their resort, including checking luggage and receiving any boarding passes. Check in can be done the day of your flight, not before. Please note with the change in excess bag fees at most airlines, including all the partner airlines, we strongly suggest checking with the Resort Check In desk a few days before your departure to confirm policies and to make sure that there are not any additional steps you may need to take.
If you are not on one of the partner airlines (Southwest, for instance), you will not be able to use the resort check in, so no need to worry about it.
The night before you are scheduled to depart for home, you will receive a Magical Express letter in your office, with information on your return bus time, and where you should meet it. Your return should be scheduled for about three hours before your flight time. Whether you used the resort check in or not, make sure you are a few minutes early for your time. If you did not check in at the resort, Disney will put your luggage on your Magical Express bus, and you will fetch them as you get off at MCO.
Why should you use the Magical Express
Well, to save time and money, of course. That is why you are here at MouseMisers, isn’t it? The Magical Express is efficient, convenient, and most important, free. Any tales of lost luggage or long delays have long been resolved.
Alternatives to the Magical Express
There are times when the Magical Express just does not work. There are a few alternatives:
Town Car: Think Limo, but cheaper. A town car company will provide a car and driver for you, and will pick you up at MCO luggage claim and help you out to the car with luggage. Most will also make a stop at a grocery store for you if needed. A town car is great if you want a more personalized service or need the grocery stop. A town car will run you about $100 – $150 for the round trip, more if you want a limo or a 10 passenger van. If you are looking for a great town car service, we highly recommend Quicksilver, we have personally used them many times.
Rental Car: a rental car is great if you want flexibility, whether you plan to visit anything off Disney property (people voluntarily leave Disney?) or if you have a split vacation with a stay outside of Orlando. Rental cars used to be cheap in Orlando due to the volume, but that is not really the case any longer. It is tough to find a rental car for under $200 for a week, much more for anything other than a compact car. We used to rent a car each trip, but we went two trips in a row where our car never left our resort parking lot. I was paying $500 each trip to have the car just in case we might need it, and I found out I was much better off not having one. The Disney bus system is fantastic, so unless you plan on driving off property quite a bit, a rental car probably isn’t your answer.
Was there anything we missed? If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments below.
Thinking of taking a red-eye into MCO and heading to Disney in the morning- I plan to stay at the Hyatt overnight. Any idea what time the first ME departs?
Regina – The Magical Express runs 24/7, so no matter when you arrive, there will be a bus going.
T B says
Im flying in from the UK and I want to keep my luggage and take it with me on the coach as dont want to wait for it upon arrival at the hotel. Can I do this, will disney let me take my suitcase myself or do you have to use their delivery service? Also who will send me ME confirmation disney or travel agent and when am i likely to receive it?
TB – Yes, you can do that. When you check in, do not put the yellow tags on your bags. Once at MCO, go get your luggage and take it to the Magical Express desk with you. You can then put it on your bus with you and get it off once at the resort.
Documents for WDW usually come about 4 weeks before travel. If you use a travel agent, all of those will go to them first, then sent on to you.