So, you've made your resort reservations and booked your flights. Now, how will you get from the airport to your resort?
Thankfully, Disney has thought about that and offers their own transportation called Magical Express.
This free service is one of the benefits to staying onsite, but whether or not it is the best option for you and your family depends on a few things.
Check out the information below for all the details on how it works (and whether or not we recommend it).
What is Magical Express?
Magical Express is a service that operates 24/7 and provides free bus transportation between Orlando International Airport (MCO) and the Walt Disney World Resort hotels.
Off-site resorts, like the Swan, Dolphin, Shades of Green, and the Disney Springs-area hotels are not eligible for Magical Express.
In addition to transporting you and your family, one of the big selling points of this service is that they will also transport your luggage so you don't have to.
You could literally check your bags at your home airport and not see them again until they are delivered to your room.
Note: guests also have the option of bringing their bags with them on the bus if they don't want to wait for them to be delivered. More on that below.
What to do before your trip
Sign up for the service
When you book your trip, you can specify that you want to use Magical Express and input your flight info then if you have it.
If you don't specify this info when you book, you can go to Disney's Magical Express website to sign up, at least 10 days before your trip begins (preferably much earlier - weeks in advance if you can).
You can also call 866-599-0951 to sign up.
Get luggage tags and vouchers by mail
If you live in the U.S. or Canada*, you will receive your Magical Express package (an envelope with vouchers and luggage tags) a couple of weeks before your trip.
The yellow luggage tags have a barcode with your resort information and will need to go on each piece of luggage that you want them to retrieve from the baggage carousel and take to your resort.
You'll receive 1 tag per person but if you need more than that, call 866-599-0951 to let them know you need more.
Note: If you want to get your own bags and carry them to the bus, you won't need to use the luggage tags.
People who arrive after 10 p.m. must retrieve their own luggage and will not be able to use the luggage delivery service.
Didn't get the tags in the mail or forget to put them on your bags?
As long as you arrive in Orlando between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., you can provide your baggage claim numbers upon arrival at Magical Express, and they’ll get your bags for you.
Good packing tip: spread items from each member of the travel group among all of the bags. That way if a bag is lost, 1 person isn't at a total loss. That applies any time you fly, but with the added step of being handled by Disney, it's even more important. Anybody who encounters any issues, including lost bags, should call them at (866) 599-0951.
* International guests (outside of the U.S. and Canada) will not receive vouchers and luggage tags in the mail, but can still use Magical Express. These people will find it easier to retrieve their own bags at baggage claim at the airport after clearing customs, but you can talk to the employees at the airport desk if you'd like your luggage picked up and they will be able to help you.
Your MagicBand and the vouchers that come in the mail with your luggage tags function as your tickets to board a bus, but if you don't have your vouchers or MagicBands when you arrive at the airport, you can go to the Magical Express desk and they'll help you out.
On the return trip back to the airport, you won't be able to use your MagicBand but will need your vouchers instead.
Your departure documents will be delivered to your hotel room the day before you depart. More on that below.
If you don't receive them or if you lose them, visit the front desk at your resort and they will be able to provide you with them.
After you land in Orlando
Find the Magical Express area at the airport
Once you arrive at Orlando International Airport, you will navigate to level 1 of Terminal B to get on a bus (stop by your baggage claim first if you want to retrieve your own bags).
Before going down any escalators, check to see which side you are on.
Both sides look very similar and it is easy (even for frequent visitors) to accidentally wind up on the wrong side.
Once you're on the B side of the terminal, then you can go down the escalators.
Look at the graphic below to see which airlines arrive on the A side and which are on the B side.
Get in your resort's line
You will need your MagicBands or vouchers to check in, so make sure you have those on you (and not in a checked bag!).
You will then be directed to the line that corresponds to your resort and you'll board your bus when instructed.
You will likely wait at least a little bit before the bus departs (up to 30-40 minutes), which will include both some time waiting in line and time waiting on the bus.
Take a bus ride
Once the bus departs, a video will play on the screens with Disney World info (this video annoys some people, but it helps you get excited about your trip).
After about 25-35 minutes or so, your bus will arrive at Disney World.
Each bus stops at a few resorts so you could end up stopping a couple of times before arriving at your resort.
You should plan on budgeting up to 90-120 minutes from the moment you enter the line to the time you are dropped off at your resort.
Unload and tip
If you brought your bags on the bus, they'll be unloaded from the storage compartment.
Tips are appropriate for anybody who has helped to handle your bags at the rate of $1/bag.
Cast Members will not ask for tips, but there is a sign on each bus saying that tips are accepted.
For more information, checkout guide on when to tip at Disney World.
Wait for your checked luggage to be delivered
If you used the Magical Express luggage tags for your checked bags, those bags will be picked up and delivered to your resort room, but this process could take up to 4 hours or so.
You do not have to be in the room when your bags are delivered. If you aren't there to answer the door, they will set them inside for you.
Be sure you have things with you that you'll need while you wait for your luggage to arrive.
Tipping is not required or even really possible with the people handling your checked bags because you will likely never see or interact with them.
At the end of your trip
Find out pick-up time
The day before you're scheduled to depart, you'll receive a note in your room telling you what time you'll be picked up to go back to the airport.
The pick-up time is usually about 3 hours before (sometimes 4) your flight departs for domestic flights and 4 hours for international flights.
DO NOT MISS YOUR BUS.
You may not be able to use Magical Express if you miss the one you were supposed to take.
Check in for your flight at your resort (if applicable)
Guests flying on certain airlines have the option to get boarding passes and check their bags for their flights at their resort using Resort Airline Check-In.
This convenient check-in service is available for the following airlines:
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Delta Air Lines (U.S. Domestic Flights Only)
- JetBlue Airways
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
If you are booked on a participating airline, we highly recommend you give it a try.
It makes the entire process of returning to the airport so much easier!
Use luggage bell services
Guests who don't want to check bags at the resort can carry them on the bus on their own.
If your flight departs later in the day and you want to spend time in the parks, you can use Luggage Bell Services in front of your resort to hold your luggage until you're ready to go.
Just make sure you leave yourself a bit of time to pick up your luggage before Magical Express arrives to take you to the airport.
Alternatives to Magical Express
If you don't want to use Magical Express you'll have several other options, including rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, renting a car, and even Minnie Vans.
Check out this comparison of airport pickup options to see what other choices you have.
FAQs about using Disney's Magical Express
Can I take my child's car seat on the bus?
If you have a car seat, it can be stowed under the bus with the other luggage, but it can't be used on the bus seats.
Can Magical Express drop me off at one of the theme parks?
No. Magical Express can only drop you off at the resort where you have a room reservation.
How long does Magical Express take?
It can vary, but it typically isn't super fast. We recommend budgeting up to 90-120 minutes from the moment you enter the line to the time you are dropped off at your resort.
What if I want to only take a bus 1 way and not round trip?
You can do that.
Can I take Magical Express to/from Disney World at a different time than when my flight is scheduled?
Yes, you can do that by either inputting other flight times when you make your ME reservation, or you can call them at 866-599-0951 to let them know what times you prefer. This is especially handy if you arrive late, want to stay at a hotel at the airport, and then take a bus to Disney World the next day.
Can Magical Express drop me off at a different resort than where I am staying?
Nope. Magical Express can only drop you off at the resort where you have a reservation.
What if I only want to have my luggage picked up at the airport and delivered to my resort but I don't want to ride a Magical Express bus?
Sorry, that's not allowed. Many people would like to have their luggage transported to their resort and then head straight to the parks in a rental car or taxi. If that's your goal, I would suggest making a quick stop by car/taxi at your resort and leaving your luggage with luggage bell services right at the front of the resort and then hopping back in your car/taxi to go to the park.
What if different parts of our group are arriving/leaving at different times?
They will be able to accommodate you. Make sure each name is on the room reservation and then give Magical Express the flight information for each person.
I'm flying into an airport other than Orlando International Airport. Can I still use Magical Express?
No, you won't be able to.
What if I need to use the bathroom?
There is a bathroom on the bus.
What if I'm from another country and want my luggage picked up and delivered to the resort?
If Orlando is your first entry in the U.S., you'll need to claim your bags and clear customs. You will then give your luggage back to the airport officials where you can either pick it up at baggage claim or have Disney get it for you. Once you arrive at the Magical Express area, let them know you'd like them to get your bags and they will.
If Orlando is not your first entry into the U.S., you can proceed just as domestic guests do - get your bags from baggage claim and take them to Magical Express, or you can just go straight to Magical Express and let them know you want them to get your bags.
Do we recommend Magical Express?
There are definitely times when it makes sense and other times when it doesn't.
People who benefit the most tend to be those who:
- Are on a strict budget and don't want to add any extra costs for transportation
- Have an interest in checking their bags at their home airport and don't want to handle it again until they receive it at their resort
- Don't need a grocery stop
- Won't mind if it takes a little extra time to get to their resort
People who probably shouldn't use it are those who:
- Want to leave immediately to get to their resort
- Would prefer to have their own car while on vacation (find out about How Disney World Car Rental Works)
- Want to stop for groceries
- Don't mind handling their own luggage
- Are uncomfortable riding without car seats
Video: How Magical Express Works at Disney World
Have other questions or info to share? Please feel free to share in the comments.