There’s no denying many Walt Disney World fans were upset to hear the news that Disney’s Magical Express ended on January 1, 2022.
So … now what? How will guests visiting the most magical place on earth get to and from their Disney Resort hotel and the Orlando International Airport?
Enter Mears Connect from Mears Transportation, the once third-party operator of Magical Express.
Important: Mears Connect and Sunshine Flyer merged on August 1, 2023. The service is now called Mears Connect Driven by Sunshine. The service itself hasn’t changed, but simply has a new name, along with some other updates.
The original Mears Connect service first announced in April 2021, following the news in January 2021 that Magical Express services would be permanently suspended.
And although it is just one of many airport transportation options available, for people looking for a Magical Express replacement, it is the closest you’ll find.
If you prefer not to use a rideshare service, like Uber or Lyft, or to rent a car, Mears Connect might be your next best choice, depending on what you’re willing to spend. Because, let’s face it, the days of free airport transportation are long gone.
Here’s everything you need to know about the new airport transportation service, including how it works, how you can make reservations, how much it costs, and more.
What is Mears Connect?
Mears Connect comes from Mears Transportation (the former third party operator of Magical Express).
But, unlike Magical Express that only went to Disney resort, Mears Connect provides transportation between Orlando International Airport and resorts in the Disney World area, along with many other Orlando resorts. More on that below.
Per Mears Connect, guests can expect the following (to name a few):
- Quick access
- Limited wait times to board
- Entertainment during transportation
- Space and comfortable seating
- Safety measures, including clean and sanitized vehicles
- Limited stops to your resort
- Professional and friendly drivers
- 24-hour service
- Pickup from terminals A, B, and C
You may be transferred in either a motor coach, a shuttle, or a small vehicle, depending on the service you’ve selected, the time, and the number of other guests.
When did Mears Connect start?
Service for Mears Connect began on January 1, 2022, the same day Magical Express ended. Then, on August 1, 2023, Mears Connect and Sunshine Flyer merged their services to create Mears Connect Driven by Sunshine.
How do I make a reservation for Mears Connect?
How does Mears Connect work?
The Mears Connect process is fairly simple.
When it comes to booking, you can choose between two types of service: Standard and Express.
Standard Service (Least Expensive)
This is a shared ride service on Mears Connect bus or van and includes all tolls and other surcharges.
With Standard, the bus or van, will make a limited number of stops along the way. Mears Connect says vehicles depart to the airport to each resort area every 20-30 minutes.
Mears Connect notes, “Based on the distance from the airport to the Disney Resorts, you should expect your travel time to be 30-60 minutes.” But, the amount of time it takes for guests to depart the airport on Mears Connect and head to their resort will depend on several factors and vary for all guests, so be prepared to possibly wait.
Upon departure from your resort to the airport, your return transportation will meet you, at your resort, a minimum of 3 hours in advance of your domestic flight’s departure time or a minimum of 4 hours in advance of your international flight, with the goal of arriving at the airport 2 hours prior to domestic flights and 3 hours prior for international flights.
Express Service (More Expensive)
This provides direct service to your resort minimizing your travel time on the vehicle by making your hotel the first stop after leaving the airport and the last stop before heading to the airport.
Important: Express service is not considered private service, it may be shared service.
Mears Connect notes, “Based on the distance from the airport to the Disney Resorts, you should expect your travel time to be 30-60 minutes.” But, even with Express Service, the amount of time it takes for guests to depart the airport on Mears Connect and head to their resort will depend on several factors and vary for all guests.
Upon departure from your resort to the airport, your return transportation will meet you, at your resort with the goal of arriving at the airport 2 hours prior to domestic flights and 3 hours prior for international flights.
Express shuttle guests may travel in a motorcoach bus or a van. The vehicle may be different for arrival and departure.
You select which service you want. If you want to share a ride and pay less, Standard is for you.
If you’re willing to pay more to potentially avoid riding with strangers and be the first stop, Express is the way to go.
Then, you enter all of the necessary information, including: your drop-off and pick-up location, arrival and departure airline, flight numbers, arrival date and time, departure date and time, number of adults and children, how many bags you have, and if you or anyone in your party has a wheelchair.
Finally, you enter your first and last name, phone number, email, credit card number, name on the credit card, and billing zip code.
Once that’s complete, you check the box agreeing to the terms and conditions and select “pay now.”
Once you arrive at the Orlando airport, after collecting your luggage you’ll board Mears Connect on Level 1 of Terminal A, B, and C, the ground transportation level.
There will be signs to Mears Connect directing you to the reception area. You simply check in using a QR code on the boarding pass you receive 23 hours before your flight via email. You can also utilize the self-service kiosk to scan your QR code.
After you land, you’ll also receive a link to the QR code via text. You can use either your text or email boarding pass to check in.
When it comes to actually checking in, you enter and confirm your Mears Connect reservation via a digital device and scan your QR code.
After you’re all check in, you’re directed to a designated loading zone, where you wait until it is your time to board.
Speaking of QR codes, they are valid for 48 hours.
If your arrival flight is canceled and you reschedule a flight arriving within 48 hours of original flight time, your QR code will be valid and you don’t have to update your reservation. This also applies if you arrive one day earlier than your scheduled date.
If your departure flight is delayed or canceled, click on “Manage reservations” in the reservation box on the home page and you will be able to make your changes. You can also contact customer service at 407-423-5566.
Keep in mind that Mears Connect doesn’t normally adjust resort departure times for delays “as airlines can lift those delays at any time.” For excessive delays or major travel disruptions, contact customer service for options.
When it comes to boarding Mears Connect on your departure day, look for the “Airport Shuttle Departures” sign at your Walt Disney World Resort hotel. Pickup locations for other hotels Mears Connect services can be found here.
You should also arrive to the location 15 minutes prior for luggage loading and as a courtesy to all other guests.
How much does Mears Connect cost?
Price depends on the service you choose and how many passengers are in your party. For Standard, pricing also varies per adult and per child.
Also keep in mind that length of stay does not impact price. Rates are strictly per passenger.
Standard Service Rates
- $20.90 per adult
- $14.85 per child (ages 3-9)
- $39.90 per adult
- $28.35 per child (ages 3-9)
Express Service Rates
- $250 (up to 4 passengers)
Per Additional Passenger
- $55 per additional passenger
Of course, pricing can increase and vary, so keep in mind that the above rates might not always remain the same.
When the service first launched, Standard rates were $16 per adult and $13.50 per child for One Way service, with Round Trip service coming in at $32 per adult and $27 per child.
In January 2022 (right after Mears Connect launched), the introductory rate for Express increased by $50 and went from $200 to $250.
Can I cancel or modify my Mears Connect reservation?
Yes, you are able to modify and cancel reservations.
There is no charge if you cancel or change more than 24 hours prior to your scheduled pick up time. You will be charged fully if you cancel or change less than 24 hours prior to pick up time. Refunds will be processed 24 to 48 hours after cancellation.
Here’s how to do make modifications and cancellations.
On the main website page, click “Manage reservations” in the bottom left corner of the reservation box.
Then, enter your confirmation number, your last name, and your email. Click “Find Reservation.”
On the “Reservation Detail” screen, you can then either select “Change” to make any modifications or “Cancel” to cancel.
Which resorts does Mears Connect service?
Here is the list of current resorts Mears Connect will pick up and drop off.
Disney World Resort Hotels
- Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas — Jambo House
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas — Kidani Village
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort
- Disney’s BoardWalk Resort
- The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
- The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — French Quarter
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — Riverside
- Disney’s Riviera Resort
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
- Shades of Green
- Walt Disney World Dolphin
- Walt Disney World Swan
- Walt Disney World Swan Reserve
- B Resort & Spa Disney Springs Resort Area
- Four Season Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort
- Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center
- Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace — Disney Springs
- Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista — Disney Springs
- Holiday Inn Orlando – Disney Springs
- JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa
- Orlando World Center Marriott
- Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
- Waldorf Astoria Orlando
- Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek
- Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort Area
- DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando Disney Springs
What about my luggage?
You will be responsible for picking up all checked luggage from baggage claim and you must bring it with you when checking in for Mears Connect.
An employee will help you with your luggage, when it comes to both loading and unloading.
There is also luggage assistance at the front of each Disney Resort hotel, along with luggage storage. Bell Services can also transport your luggage for you if or when needed.
Keep in mind that the resort airline check-in service is no longer at available at Disney Resort hotels.
Is Mears Connect wheelchair accessible?
Yes. The website states, “If you need to remain in your wheelchair for travel or need to remain in your wheelchair to board the vehicle, please select the number of wheelchair passengers when adding your party mix.”
If you do not need to remain in your wheelchair for travel, your wheelchair or scooter can be stored in the luggage storage bay of your vehicle (be sure to include them in your bag count).
Most standard size wheelchairs can be accommodated. Contact Mears Connect directly for any further questions.
Is Mears Connect worth the price?
This is hard to answer definitively with a yes or a no. It all depends on what you’re willing to spend and what kind of service you want.
We have a full review on the service, so be sure to check that out. Here are also some pros and cons.
- Most of the time, Mears Connect will be slightly cheaper compared to Uber or Lyft for solo travelers or couples
- Mears Connect is more convenient for families with small children (car seats are not required for both Standard and Express, unlike Uber and Lyft; if you want to use a car seat, Mears Connect will accept any car seat that you bring, but car seats will not be provided to guests)
- Mears Connect offers 24 hour service
- QR codes are valid for 48 hours. If your arrival flight is canceled and you reschedule a flight arriving within 48 hours of original flight time, your QR code will be valid and you don’t have to update your reservation. This also applies if you arrive one day earlier than your scheduled date. If your departure flight is delayed or canceled, click on “Manage reservations” in the reservation box on the home page and you will be able to make your changes.
- Mears Connect doesn’t offer the same convenience, efficiency, and privacy as most rideshare services
- Mears Connect doesn’t make sense for groups with strictly adults and older kids (Lyft and Uber should be more affordable)
- Delays are possible (which could impact park and/or dining plans on arrival day)
- You are picked up from your resort a minimum of 3 hours prior to your domestic flight (a minimum of 4 hours for international flights), which may mean a lot of waiting at the airport
What about renting a car? Well, that’s always an option. You’ll need to decide if a car rental fits into your budget and travel schedule.
If you want to be in control of your own transportation and avoid other individuals as much as possible during an ongoing pandemic, renting a car might be your best bet.
What’s next after Magical Express?
Disney has yet to announce a future airport transportation service. If they do, we expect it won’t be complimentary and guests will most likely have to pay a fee.
We will be sure to keep you in the loop regarding any new Mears Connect changes — and update this post, accordingly.
Disney World Transportation Links
Want to learn more about Disney World buses, boats, monorail, and more?
Check out these handy posts for even more information on how to get around Walt Disney World.
- How to Navigate with Disney World Transportation
- How to Get Anywhere on Disney World Property (WDW Prep Navigator)
- Strollers on Disney World Transportation (Buses, Skyliner, Monorail, Boats)
- Complete Guide to the Disney Skyliner
- How Minnie Vans Work
- How to use Lyft or Uber at Walt Disney World
- Renting a Car at Walt Disney World
- Everything You Need to Know About Parking at Walt Disney World
- How Mears Connect (the Magical Express replacement) works
- Mears Connect review: Is the airport transportation service worth your time and money?
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