Disney World has fantastic transportation options, but now that the parks have reopened things are working a little bit differently.
Here’s what you can expect:
Disney World Transportation Right Now
For the most part, you’ll find that nearly all of your transportation options are still available and operating on regular schedules.
But while things may look the same from the outside, you’ll definitely see some changes on the inside with systems being put into place to increase the safety for the Guests and Cast Members.
Policies and procedures vary slightly depending on the form of transportation, but a few things are universal across the entire resort: reduced capacity, hand sanitizing stations, and masks.
First of all, like everywhere else around the Walt Disney World Resort, capacity inside of all forms of transportation has been dramatically reduced.
No more packed buses filled to the brim with guests. No more sharing gondolas.
Disney is doing a decent job of keeping up with the demand despite the reduced capacity, but as you can imagine park openings can be a little bit challenging. More on that below.
And, just like the rest of the Walt Disney World property, face masks are required aboard all modes of Disney transportation.
Hand sanitizing stations have been installed at most (if not all) spots where you can board and get off.
We did sometimes find that the stations were empty, so whenever possible we recommend you pack your own hand sanitizer as a back-up.
How is Disney World Transportation different?
Every resort at Walt Disney World utilizes buses. Here’s how they are different:
Boarding by group
As we mentioned above, capacity on Disney buses has been greatly reduced.
In the past, the buses could hold 70+ guests but now capacity has been greatly reduced.
And depending on how the groups boarding are made up, it could be even less because parties are sat in their own sections, and even if there are empty seats remaining on the bus, groups are not allowed to mix.
Like before, there are still queues for buses. But, now they include physical distancing markers to aid in keeping parties spread out.
In addition, unlike in the past where you boarded the bus and could sit in any available spot, groups are now sat together with dividers in-between parties and there is absolutely no standing. In fact, Disney has secured all the hand straps just in case you forgot:
As you can see in the photo below, the seats are numbered and unless your group is the only one boarding, the bus driver will likely tell your party which number your group should sit in.
Airing the bus out
If the bus has just dropped off a group of people they will likely spend a little bit of time with all the doors open airing out the bus before allowing the next group to board. This process lasts only a couple of minutes.
Important things to know about how the buses work now
Because of the reduced capacity, park opening and the hour around park closing can be challenging if using the buses.
If your goal is to be on the first bus of the day, you’ll definitely want to show up to the bus stop early. We recommend no later than around 1 hour before the park opens.
The buses have been starting 30-45 minutes before park opening (although that can always change) and it doesn’t take long for a line to form at the resort, but with the reduced capacity you don’t have to be very far back in line to miss that first bus.
The other important thing to know is that waits may be longer. And in some instances, the wait will be a lot longer.
We found this especially true for places like Disney Springs and when traveling during off-peak times. If you need to be somewhere by a certain time, definitely plan ahead and give yourself at least 90 minutes just in case you find yourself waiting an extended period of time for a bus.
Disney World has lots (and lots!) of boat options. There’s ferry boats, friendships, and resort water taxis. Here’s what you can expect for each right now:
The ferries are the giant boats that transport guests from the Transportation and Ticket Center to Magic Kingdom. They are majestic and like the monorail (which we talk about below), they are kind of an attraction themselves.
Right now, if you choose to take one you’ll notice things don’t feel that much different.
Probably the main difference you’ll find on the ferry boats is the use of physical distancing markers.
You’ll find markers both in the queues as well as on the boat itself.
While on board, instead of being allowed to roam about your party will now be directed to stand on a physical distancing marker and you’ll be asked to remain there for the duration of the trip.
In addition, there’s no sitting. All of the available seating has been marked as not available. It is standing only.
Friendships and water taxis
Friendships and water taxis operate very similar to ferry boats, except everyone must be seated.
In our experience, unlike the buses where the Cast Members generally told us where to sit, on the boats we were allowed to choose our own seats.
The queues for both include physical distancing markers and capacity inside is greatly reduced. You’ll find many seats marked as “unavailable”.
Important things to know about how the boats work now
Like the buses, the reduced capacity means that peak times of the day (like park opening) can mean long lines and waits.
But, unlike the bus shelters which frequently have awnings to protect you from the sun, many of the boat docks do not. And the light reflecting off of the water can make it unbearably hot.
Because of that, we recommend you carry an umbrella with you for shade.
Some boats (like the ferry boats) are entirely outside with just a roof overhead, and others have enclosed spaces with windows.
But even most of the ones with enclosed spaces have spots that are totally outdoors if that is important for your group.
The monorail connects 3 resorts (Disney’s Grand Floridian, the Polynesian, and the Contemporary) to both Magic Kingdom and the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) via 2 separate lines: the Express (which only goes between Magic Kingdom and the TTC) and the Resort Line (which makes stops at all the resorts in addition to Magic Kingdom and the TTC).
There is another line that goes from the Transportation and Ticket Center to Epcot, however, the Epcot Line is currently not running.
Physical distancing & boarding
The monorail utilizes the same physical distancing markers that you’ll find across the entire Walt Disney World Resort.
When boarding, your party will be asked to stay together and, instead of you choosing your monorail car, a Cast Member will tell you which number to stand on (much like when boarding an attraction).
Inside the monorail you’ll notice a couple of differences, with the main thing being there are now dividers in place that separate the cars into 2 sections.
In each section, 1 party per bench is allowed, and there is no standing.
Important things to know about how the monorail works now
If you are traveling between the Transportation and Ticket Center and Magic Kingdom and you prefer sitting, your only option will be the monorail. Of course that means you’ll need to navigate up and down the ramps but for some people with motion sickness, sitting is preferred to standing.
The monorail does still go to all of the resorts, but if you plan to board at one of the resorts keep in mind that you’ll still need to go through both the security checkpoint AND the temperature screening before you are allowed to board.
Disney Skyliner (gondolas)
The Skyliner is the newest mode of transportation you’ll find at Disney World.
The gorgeous cars connect 4 resorts (Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach, and Disney’s Riviera) to 2 parks (Epcot and Hollywood Studios).
Read more about how the Disney Skyliner gondolas work.
Physical distancing & boarding
Of course, groups will be directed to stay at least 6 feet apart when waiting.
But, probably our favorite thing about boarding is that now it is 1 party per gondola.
Important things to know about how the Skyliner works now
Of course, the downside to 1 party per gondola car is that the lower capacity means longer lines.
And at no time is that more apparent than at park opening.
Because of the possibility for long lines and the fact that the weather can force the gondolas to pause operations, if you plan to arrive for park opening we typically don’t recommend you use the Skyliner unless you absolutely have to.
Unfortunately, Minnie Vans aren’t running right now. We do expect them to return at some point.
Read more about how Minnie Vans work.
Ride share (Lyft and Uber)
Both Lyft and Uber are still available. We encourage you to review current policies for both companies before riding, and for general information on how ride sharing at Disney World works you can read our post on why we prefer Lyft.
Update: Magical Express will no longer be offered beginning with arrivals January 1, 2022. The below information is still true and relevant for all arrivals prior to that date.
Magical Express is still operating, but expect things to work a bit differently.
Probably the best part about Magical Express was that not only did they transport you to your resort, you didn’t even have to pick up your bags.
Instead Disney would send you bright yellow tags that you’d attach to the handles of your luggage and then instead of you going to the luggage carousel and grabbing your suitcases, your bags would be picked up and delivered to your room for you, almost like magic.
That’s not how it works right now.
Instead, if you use Magical Express you’ll have to grab your own bags before you head to the bus.
In addition, even though you’re not on Disney property when boarding Magical Express at the airport, you’ll still be expected to maintain social distancing (even if the rest of the airport isn’t) and you must wear a mask.
Resort Airline Check-In was a service that was available to all guests, including those that utilized Magical Express.
But, this is another service that has been temporarily suspended. You’ll have to take your bags with you on the bus, however, you can still store luggage at Bell Services if needed.
Just make sure you allocate enough time to snag them from there before your scheduled Magical Express pick-up time.
Read more about how Magical Express works.
Our favorite way to get around Walt Disney World right now
We’ve tried all the different transportation options since WDW reopened and we have to say that our favorite way to get around right now is by car, and here’s why:
Although Disney has gone to great lengths to keep both Guests and Cast Members safe, being inside your own car is still safer.
Driving comes at an expense, though.
But the trade-off is that you’ll be in control of your arrival time to the parks. You won’t have to rely on a bus or boat or monorail or gondola. And most importantly, you’ll be actively minimizing the amount of time you’re in an enclosed space with others.
Right now, our personal goal on trips is to avoid how much time we spend inside enclosed spaces. We still ride the rides and even dine sometimes indoors, but whenever we have a safer option available to us, we use it.
Important things to know about how using a car works right now
If you’ve driven in the past, one of the first things you’ll notice is that currently there are no parking lot trams operating.
That means that you have to walk from wherever you parked to the front of the park.
Now, in some instances that walk won’t be bad at all. But if you arrive later in the day you may find that you’ll have quite a distance to hoof it.
Another difference is that the parking turnstiles aren’t opening as early as they used to. In the past, the parking lots would open quite early (to accommodate those pre-park opening breakfast reservations) and people were allowed to congregate and line up at the turnstiles.
But now things are different and for safety reasons they don’t want lines forming at the front of the park until it is time to let guests in.
And finally, although they will accept cash, for safety reason they now recommend cashless forms of payment.
We have found that the parking lots typically opened up between 30-45 minutes before the park was scheduled to open.
When visiting, our goal is to arrive around 45 minutes before the park opens. If the parking lots aren’t open yet we simply line up and chill out in our nice, cool, air-conditioned car while we wait.
Final thoughts on using Disney transportation
In all likelihood you’ll probably utilize a mix of the different transportation options when visiting – even if you have a car.
Your best bet to avoid frustration is to simply be prepared.
Keep in mind that while wait times for the attractions are way down, you may find yourself waiting a bit longer for Disney transportation than you’re used to.
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