Walt Disney World has added ground transportation between its resorts, Orlando International Airport, and several other Central Florida travel hubs as a paid option when booking vacation packages. This post shares details and what else you need to know before buying.
This development comes the same month that the free Disney’s Magical Express service ended, with DME buses transporting their last passengers to Orlando International Airport just 20 days ago. That cut was one of the most controversial decisions of last year, right up there with the introduction of paid FastPass via Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. It actually took the #1 spot in last year’s Biggest Complaints About Walt Disney World.
With that said, it’s not exactly surprising that Walt Disney World would replace the free Disney’s Magical Express add-on during its booking flow with something paid. It has “too soon” vibes as fans still mourn DME, but is nevertheless unsurprising that Disney would want a piece of the pie while raising “awareness” of airport transportation for first timers who are unaware of the options…
In this new announcement, the company indicated that private ground transportation to and from Walt Disney World’s resort hotels is now available as a vacation package add-on through the Walt Disney Travel Company.
As part of this offering, there are several options available. This includes exclusive vans, sedans, SUVs, executive limousines and stretch limousines. Private, direct ground transportation can be booked up to five days prior to arrival.
Round-trip transportation from Orlando International Airport to a Walt Disney World Resort hotel can be added online to a Walt Disney Travel Company package via DisneyWorld.com, by calling the Walt Disney World Reservation Center at (407) 939-5277, or by contacting an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner (travel agent).
For ground transportation at Tampa International Airport, Sanford International Airport, Orlando Amtrak Station, Kissimmee Amtrak Station, Cape Canaveral, Vero Beach, Daytona and Walt Disney World’s resorts, one-way travel at Orlando International Airport and other modifications, please call the Disney Reservation Center. Both one-way and round-trip fares are available.
Up to one complimentary car seat will be available for children five years old and under, with additional car seats subject to availability. Please note that as part of Walt Disney World’s current health & safety protocol, all drivers and passengers are required to wear face masks in vehicles.
If you go to price out a vacation package on DisneyWorld.com, you can now see this as part of the booking flow.
Once you select a resort and add-on tickets, you’ll be given the option of adding ground transportation. (Note that this is not available without tickets. I also didn’t see any way to add it to our existing resort reservations booked with an Annual Pass discount, but the site was having issues–shocker, I know–when I tried.)
On the next screen, you’re given an option to book a vehicle from Alamo, the official rent a car company of Walt Disney World, or ground transportation via Mears, not the official ground transportation of Walt Disney World (apparently).
For those youngsters who read this blog (some teenagers are calling DTB “cooler than TikTok”), please note that you need parental permission to book ground transportation if you’re under 18. This requirement makes sense given the recent plague of pranks involving children booking unauthorized car reservations for their family vacations.
Anyway, here are the various options on the next screen. You’ll notice that there’s no pricing breakdown showing what the transportation itself costs–just the total in the vacation package. If you think I’m going to do the math and crunch the numbers, you’ve got another thing coming. That consumer laziness is probably what Disney is banking on.
Additionally, this is all private transportation. While this will be the more cost-effective option for some larger families, it’s noteworthy that Mears Connect or another shared shuttle service is not included. Perhaps Disney doesn’t want to draw direct comparisons to the now-defunct, once-free Disney’s Magical Express (RIP).
After making a selection, you’re brought back to the checkout flow. See below.
When it comes to commentary, my main thought is don’t use this.
I’d liken this to booking anything directly from Disney that isn’t an actual service or product that the company itself provides. Most specifically, it reminds me of Good Neighbor Hotels, which is not actually a stamp of approval or endorsement by Disney.
It’s marketing, meant to entice vacation planners to book something through Disney rather than directly from the source. I assume the target audience is those who are afraid to use the rest of the internet or make decisions on their own, and want a recommendation from a “trusted brand” like Disney. But it’s not really a recommendation–it’s another revenue stream for Disney, which gets paid by “approved” Good Neighbor Hotels. Presumably, the same is now true with Mears.
I can count on zero hands the number of times when I’ve found Disney’s pricing for vacation packages with a Good Neighbor Hotel to be less expensive than booking with another provider, like Get Away Today or even Priceline/Expedia/Hotwire/etc. Maybe it’s happened for someone, somewhere, sometime–but I stopped checking because it literally never once worked out for us over the course of several years.
My expectation is that booking ground transportation via Walt Disney World will be a similar story. At best, a convenient way to book everything in one place. At worst, an upcharge over what you’d pay by booking directly or via an actual discounted third party site. Additionally, you’re forgoing the ability to buy discount Walt Disney World tickets if you book a package with ground transportation via Disney.
Another potential challenge with booking via Disney or any indirect outlet is making modifications. One of the reasons we do not recommend booking airfare via third parties (see What to Do If Your Flight to Walt Disney World is Cancelled) is because of the difficulties presented by dealing with a middleman.
Exact same idea here. With flight cancellations being increasingly common, you may find yourself having to modify or cancel your ground transportation reservations. We have no clue how (or if) this process will work when booking via Walt Disney World, but anyone who has dealt with their call center recently will likely tell you it’s not a great process. Personally, I’d rather deal with Mears, Sunshine Flyer, etc. directly.
Ultimately, we see no compelling reason for the vast majority of tourists to book airport transportation via Walt Disney World. There will undoubtedly be some obscure use case that someone will share in the comments, but by and large, most people will be better off booking a private car or alternative transportation on their own.
Speaking of which, it’s worth reiterating that Disney only offers a small subset of options. 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.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, 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 clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
What do you think of Walt Disney World bringing back the ground transportation option in the vacation package booking process…but making it paid? Will you opt for the convenience of buying a Mears service through DisneyWorld.com? Will you opt for Sunshine Flyer, Mears Connect, Uber, Lyft, or renting a car? Thoughts on pricing, efficiency, or anything else regarding airport transportation? What do you think about Walt Disney World ending Disney’s Magical Express? Other thoughts on this? Any questions we can help you answer? 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!