Disney World Transportation: The Buses



By Dave Shute

MBTeal Logo 2013Welcome to the first stop aboard the Magical Blogorail! Enjoy the ride as a bunch of us participate in a special edition of the Magical Blogorail: Disney World Transportation!

Disney World Buses Lined up for Park Close from yourfirstvisit.netBecause of my previous bus work I’ve been asked kick us off with some help on the Disney World buses!

The Disney World bus system is both the bane and the savior of a Disney World trip…and for many families of young children, the source of future fond memories.

Disney offers transportation from all of its resort hotels (and also the Swan and Dolphin) to and from all the theme parks, the water parks, and Downtown Disney.

While there are exceptions all over the place–for the Magic Kingdom and Epcot at the monorail resorts,  for the Magic Kingdom at Fort Wilderness and the Wilderness Lodge, Epcot and the Studios from the Epcot resorts, Downtown Disney from Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter, Old Key West, and Saratoga Springs–in general most of the time most of your transport will be by the Disney World bus system.

The Disney World Buses from yourfirstvisit.netDisney’s official Transportation FAQ notes (see above) that the buses to a park generally operate from one hour before opening to one hour after close. In fact the buses typically start much earlier than this, and will run later, but this is a good general point to keep in mind while planning.

Bus frustrations include

  • Unpredictable schedules
  • Full buses
  • Standing room only
  • Waiting for them at park close
  • Getting off at the wrong stop
  • Mistaking for what they are best suited

Unpredictable Disney World bus schedules

The buses run from the hotels to the parks on average every 20 minutes.

Disney World Bus from yourfirstvisit.netBut this is not a schedule, it’s an average.  Vagaries in dispatch and loads mean that your bus could be there when you arrive at the stop or 30 minutes later.  Your average wait really is about 10 minutes, but it is often longer–and often feels much longer as what seems like the fifth Epcot bus goes by while you are waiting, somewhat patiently, for a Magic Kingdom bus.

If something seems wrong, call the resort’s front desk, or better yet, ask the driver of the next bus that stops what’s up–after he has finished the unload and is almost done with the load. The bus drivers are some of the nicest, wisest, and most knowledgeable cast members at Walt Disney World.

Full Disney World buses

You’ve been waiting for an Animal Kingdom bus for what seems forever, you finally see one…and it drives by, because it’s already packed from its prior stops.

This is never an issue at Art of Animation or Pop Century, because they are the only resorts that both have just one stop and also don’t share buses with any other resort.

But it can be a problem at any other resort (unless you are at the first stop for the route at hand) and is particularly common at Port Orleans Riverside and All-Star Movies.

The way to avoid this is to go to the parks when hardly anyone else is–well before open.  Disney will also soon be deploying (for some resorts) articulated buses to and from the Magic Kingdom with 50% more capacity than standard buses, which will alleviate some of these issues–and also help with park closures.

Standing room only

On the Bus at Walt Disney WorldThe layout of the Disney buses is designed to optimize flow on and off them, and to help enable securing wheelchairs and scooters.

As a result, they don’t have many seats, the seats are often taken, and you often have to stand.

There’s nothing to be done about this–except, if you are sitting, to keep your eyes open for someone who may need the seat more than you do

Waiting for the Disney World buses at park close

Even on a less crowded quiet night, tens of thousands of people will leave at the same time after Illuminations at Epcot and on nights when Wishes closes the Magic Kingdom.

You’ll see the same problem to a slightly lesser extent when Fantasmic closes Disney’s Hollywood Studios (lesser because unlike the other two, Fantasmic has a fixed capacity, and it’s slightly less than 10,000).

Hollywood Studios Bus Stop After Fantasmic from yourfirstvisit.netMany of these people head straight for the bus stops, and of course the bus stops become overwhelmed. The image at the right is the Hollywood Studios bus stops after Fantasmic on a really quiet September evening.

The best way to avoid these mobs is to go on nights when the evening shows don’t happen right around close.  This is the single best reason to go to evening Extra Magic hours at Epcot and the Studios.

The other option is to watch the shows from a spot near the exits and walk fast. In Epcot this means near Future World, at the Magic Kingdom it means watching Wishes from Main Street near the train station, and at the Studios it means watching the show from as near the top of the amphitheater as you can.

Some will recommend shopping while waiting for the lines to drop, or eating right at show end. Your family will vary–for mine, that’s too late to dine, and shopping without buying is no fun.  And after 50+ trips to Walt Disney World, I won’t pay for any more souvenirs!!

The new big articulated buses that are coming will help a bit with this…

Getting off at the wrong stop

At the hotels with multiple stops within their own grounds–the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Port Orleans Riverside, Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Old Key West, and Saratoga Springs–it’s really easy to get off at the wrong stop and get yourself a little lost.

Well, at least it’s easy for me.

You would think there would be a simple solution to this–like memorizing the name of your bus stop when you get there to pick up the bus. And that’s certainly recommended.  But too often the bus stop names aren’t announced, especially at Riverside, and if you are not seated on the right side of the bus, you can’t see the stop well enough to read where you are.

The best answer is to ask the bus driver.  If the bus is too crowded for that, ask your fellow passengers. Someone likely will know. But don’t ask me…

Mistaking for what the Disney World buses are best suited

Magic Kingdom Bus Stop from yourfirstvisit.netThe buses are best for trips between the hotels and the theme parks, water parks, and Downtown Disney.

You also can take them from theme park to theme park (not from Magic Kingdom to Epcot–for that, you head first to TTC, then from there get a monorail to Epcot; TTC is also where currently you find the buses to the Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios–though rumor is that soon you’ll be able to find these at the main MK resort bus stop right outside the park).

The buses are not so great for getting from resort hotel to resort hotel for dining.  If you choose them to do this, the best move is to check the park calendars, take a bus from your resort to the open park that’s nearest to the dining venue, and then take a bus (or monorail or boat if you are dining at a Magic Kingdom resort) to the destination hotel.

But don’t do this. Instead, take a cab! You could save more than an hour in the round-trip, and eliminate frustration.  It’s not that expensive compared to the time saved…and if it seems too much, then a couple of skipped appetizers will pay for it!

For years, you’ve also not been able to get to and from Downtown Disney from the theme parks via bus, and vice versa. People have assumed there’s a couple of reasons behind this–to limit the demands on the Downtown Disney parking lot, and to keep people from not paying for parking at the parks.

Recently there’s been an experiment of transportation to and from Downtown Disney from the Animal Kingdom.  This is a smart move, since the Animal Kingdom is usually the earliest park to close, and Disney would like you to spend more money that evening…we’ll see if this continues…

*  *  *

The Disney World buses can be frustrating.  But they save you from having to rent a car–and from getting lost driving around. You may create future fond memories of sleeping children, exhausted by joy, rumbling with you and the bus back to your room in the evening darkness. And the bus drivers are some of the best cast members around!

MORE ON DISNEY WORLD TRANSPORTATION FROM THE MAGICAL BLOGORAIL

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26 comments

1 Heidi { 10.29.13 at 7:37 am }

I have to say, Dave, that this post makes me want to rethink not renting a car for our next trip. Last September was the first time the kids and I flew down and depended entirely on Disney busing. I wasn’t feeling well, so I wasn’t in my normal rush. Now, I’m thinking I might not want to wait and be held back next time. Hmmm . . . to rent, or not to rent. That is the question!

2 Jodi of Magical Mouse Schoolhouse { 10.29.13 at 10:38 am }

Great detail on the buses, Dave! I had not heard about the “stretch” buses coming soon. That’ll be fun!

@Heidi, you should take more Disney buses! Sit or stand near the driver. They’re treasure troves of Disney information, and they love to have a captive audience. :)

3 Mary @Capturing Magical Memories { 10.29.13 at 10:46 am }

Great tips! I like the way you describe why we end up having to stand and how to deal with it.

4 Melissa { 10.29.13 at 10:47 am }

Riding the buses earlier and later than everyone else is a great tip. We love getting to the parks for rope drop and taking photos in the parks after the close. We may be tired in the parks in the evenings but it’s better than being tired and frustrated waiting for a bus. :)

5 Cindy Howell { 10.29.13 at 10:58 am }

Despite all of the possible glitches, I think the WDW bus system is fantastic! I love that, when you stay on property, you never have to touch your own car (if you drive down, like we do). Getting to Downtown Disney from the parks was the only major problem we had.

6 Mouse Fan Diane { 10.29.13 at 11:18 am }

Great tips Dave, It will make me re think some of our strategies when taking the bus, Like leaving after Wishes is done and most of the time we drive to DD to avoid the buses and it’s so much quicker.

7 Jen { 10.29.13 at 11:42 am }

Oh why was this not available sooner! I adore all of you!!
As a very detailed planner I would have memorized this last year before my first trip. We were so confused on how to get to Hoop Dee Doo from the Magic Kingdom, we rode the ferry to the parking lot a few times before we finally got on the right boat!
I cannot wait to finish reading the rest of the posts!
Plus it looks like I have a few more new sites to explore!
Thanks for the info!

8 DIStherapy { 10.29.13 at 1:05 pm }

Oh, the bus stories we have accumulated over the years! The bus is generally our least favorite method of transit, but with the new buses you mention… We may have a change of heart!

9 Deb @ Focused on the Magic { 10.29.13 at 1:59 pm }

Great post Dave! We never rent a car so unfortunately we ride the buses quite a bit. Waiting out the lines in the Magic Kingdom taking pictures is one of my favorite things to do.

10 Beth~ A Disney Mom's Thoughts { 10.29.13 at 4:01 pm }

More great information Dave! We usually start our vacation using the busses, but by the end we tend to use our personal car to get to our destinations. It’s just easier a lot of times!

11 Tricia from Return to Disney { 10.30.13 at 10:48 am }

Great information, as always! We had one bus driver who altered his route (the bus was empty) to get us back to our resort when we got hopelessly lost one day. I’d much rather deal with waiting for a bus than try to navigate the resort and deal with parking.

12 Dave { 10.30.13 at 3:07 pm }

Thanks, everybody!!!

13 Rosanne @ The Disney Point { 10.30.13 at 8:53 pm }

I can’t wait for Disney to implement a system like we have here in NYC, where you can see where the buses are on an app. I don’t leave my house in the morning until I see my bus is approaching. I think it will make it much easier to plan out your day that way! It’s a relatively easy fix for them. Thanks for sharing Dave! I know you LOVE your buses!

14 Dave { 10.31.13 at 1:38 pm }

Yup, Rosanne, on both points!

15 Kuleen @ TheDisneyKids.com { 10.31.13 at 9:26 pm }

I think riding the Disney buses is an essential part of a Disney trip. It is so much fun talking to the other guests during the bus ride.

My personal note: AOA and POP may have their own buses, but they are almost always standing room only. I have also been at Pop and had to wait for a 2nd bus because the first one completely filled and there were still lots of people standing in line. Also some of the resorts that say they share buses actually don’t. During peak hours each of the All Stars will have their own buses rather than sharing. We were far more likely to share a bus coming back from the parks than going to them in the morning.

16 Michelle { 01.06.14 at 3:17 pm }

Hi Dave -

is there any tool for inputting your start and end locations and getting the “options” for transportation? Or just good old fashioned research??? :O)

17 Dave { 01.07.14 at 8:18 am }

Michelle there are a couple out there, but I don’t trust them…

18 Kristi { 03.08.14 at 1:31 am }

Hello Again Dave! If we are staying at Pop and have a 7:20 AM breakfast reservation at Chef Mickey’s will there be bus service that early or are we likely going to have to take a cab? Any other options? Or should I just change the reservation if possible? Thanks in advance!

19 Dave { 03.08.14 at 7:29 am }

Kristi, check with the Pop concierge the day before, and they will let you know when to meet the special early morning breakfast bus…

20 Kristi { 03.11.14 at 7:16 pm }

Pheww! So glad we don’t have to cancel – Chef Mickey’s seemed like a great kickoff for our first day! Thank you, as always, Dave!! :)

21 Dave { 03.12.14 at 6:09 am }

:) Kristi!

22 MG { 05.21.14 at 3:41 pm }

Hi Dave,
I expect that we’ll be mostly utilizing WDW bus service, but there may be times when we’d prefer a taxi. I’ve heard that many taxis have car seats for little ones. I have a 3-year old and I don’t know that I’m comfortable putting him in a car without a car seat (the bus makes me nervous, too, but that is what it is). Do you know whether taxis do have car seats available and how difficult it is to get a cab that has one? Would I need to call in advance to make a request or can I likely find one outside the resort? Thanks!

23 Dave { 05.22.14 at 10:02 am }

MG, since I focus on older kids, I don’t know. I’ll see if I can find someone with more expertise to weigh in!

24 Kuleen @ TheDisneyKids.com { 05.22.14 at 1:54 pm }

Hi MG! Dave asked me to help out since my site http://www.TheDisneyKids.com focuses on visiting Disney World with preschoolers and younger children.

Mears is the official taxi service of Walt Disney World and they have cabs readily available outside of all the Disney World resorts. According to their website, child safety seats are NOT available in all taxi cabs. Even if the taxis outside your resort have a child safety seat, you can not guarantee that it is the appropriate size for your child.

If you would like to use a taxi while at Disney World, I suggest that you call Mears to make a reservation and request a child safety seat in the appropriate size. More information on their taxi services may be found at http://www.MearsTransportation.com.

I hope that answers your questions!

25 Dave { 05.22.14 at 2:12 pm }

Thanks, Kuleen!!

26 MG { 05.22.14 at 2:47 pm }

Thanks, Dave! Thanks, Kuleen! Much appreciated.

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