Current State of Transportation at Walt Disney World

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Disney’s implementation of social distancing has reduced the capacity of its transportation network, including buses, monorails, boats, and the Skyliner.  While there are fewer people at each resort, there’s still enough demand around park opening and park closing to result in longer-than-usual waits – Disney owns only so many boats and buses, and Skyliner capacity is fixed. The simplest way to reduce your transportation wait is to walk.

Walking

Currently, only guests at the Contemporary or Bay Lake Tower can walk to the Magic Kingdom. Soon (hopefully by November 1, 2020) the walkway from the Grand Floridian to the Magic Kingdom will be open. Guests at the Polynesian can walk to Grand Floridian and then to the Magic Kingdom. Guests at the Swan, Dolphin, Yacht Club, Beach Club, and Boardwalk can walk to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. There are no options for walking to the Animal Kingdom. The benefits of walking are that you are not restricted by the capacity or schedule of the Disney transportation system. If you arrive too early to a park you will be held back until the temperature screening and security is open, but you will be ahead of other guests.

Boat dock at EPCOT’s International Gateway being used as a waiting area before the park opens.

Buses

Buses are running at reduced capacity. The standard size bus only has room for six groups so social distancing can be maintained. Disney is deploying more buses at peak times but it still takes time to load buses. The official Disney word is that Disney Transportation starts 45 minutes before the parks open. Our experience is that buses start about an hour before park open and guests start lining up more than two hours before the parks open.

Magic Kingdom bus stop at Pop Century, 2.5 hours before the park opens.

At Pop Century, Disney had an army of buses arriving at 8 a.m. to take guests to the Magic Kingdom. They were continuously loading 2 or 3 buses. There were so many buses that there was a traffic jam getting into Pop Century.

Army of Magic Kingdom buses arriving at Pop Century

If there is an alternative mode of transportation for the Disney hotel, buses may not be running or running at a lower capacity. At Pop Century, Caribean Beach, and the Riviera there are no buses to EPCOT or Hollywood Studios. Since park hopping is not available, the park-to-park routes are suspended.

Disney has increased the number of buses running from the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) and the Magic Kingdom. The buses are typically the fastest way to get between the TTC and the Magic Kingdom.

Monorail

The Monorail is running with only four groups per train car. The Monorail only services The Transportation and Ticket Center, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Contemporary, and the Magic Kingdom. The Monorail runs early between resorts to get guests to dining options, but will not stop at the Magic Kingdom until security is open. The EPCOT line is not running.

Watercraft

Boats are only running to the Magic Kingdom. Like all Disney transportation, the boats have limited capacity. A benefit of the watercraft is that all boats have all or some outdoor seating areas. At peak times Disney has employed extra boats to help move guests around Disney World.

A Former Animal Kingdom Discovery Island boat, and current Firework Cruise boat transporting people from Fort Wilderness to the Magic Kingdom

Skyliner

The Disney Skyliner is WDW’s newest transportation option. The system is designed to carry 10 people per gondola but with social distancing rules only one party is permitted per gondola. Service to Hollywood Studios starts one hour before the park opens, and service to EPCOT starts 30 minutes before the park opens. If the system has cleared all morning checks it may start 10-15 minutes earlier. Currently, Caribean Beach, Pop Century, and Riviera are the only resorts with Skyliner service. On November 1, Art of Animation will open and will also have Skyliner access. Delays will increase on the Skyliner system with more guests using it. With lower capacity, the morning and evening rush will cause significant backups.  Just like the buses, people start queuing up more than 2 hours before the parks open. To make things worse, guests from Pop Century and Art of Animation have to switch gondolas and get into a second queue at the Caribean Beach station. Even with arriving early to the Pop/Art of Animation Skyliner station, it can take 30-60 minutes to get a park. When Art of Animation comes online expect longer delays.

Cars

A simple option to avoid Disney transportation is to drive yourself. For resort guests and annual passholders parking is free. There are a few changes in the parking system. First, parking lots are not open until temperature screening and security are open. Disney would rather have a backup of cars at the toll booths in cars, than in lines at the entrance at the parks. Once you park, an empty space is left between cars so guests are socially distanced when leaving their cars. The final change is no trams. Like everything else, people arrive early and there is a backup.

Taxis and Rideshares

Taxi and rideshare have similar restrictions on personal cars. The Disney operated Minnie Van service is unavailable. The best way to use a taxi or rideshare is to have them drop you off at a hotel where you can then walk to a park. Without a dining reservation, a Disney hotel may turn you away. You will have no problem being dropped off at the Swan a Dolphin. For the Magic Kingdom, there is a drop-off area at the TTC.

Thinking Outside the Box

With walking being the best option, but not an option for all parks or hotels, you will need to get creative.  If you have an early dining reservation you can be dropped off by a rideshare at the hotel, eat, and then walk to a park.  If this option doesn’t work for you, there is one more option. To get from one hotel to another hotel it is going to take two buses. The video below documents my experience getting from Pop Century to Hollywood Studios. I took a bus to the Animal Kingdom, then a bus to the Boardwalk, and then walked to Hollywood Studios.

 

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Steve Bloom

By helping TouringPlans.com continue to reach the most accurate crowd level predictions, Steve finally found a way to meld his training in statistical analysis with a lifelong passion for Disney. He first visited the Magic Kingdom in 1972, just a few months after it opened. Now he enjoys frequent trips with his two kids. At age four his son insisted on wearing cowboy boots to reach the height requirement for Test Track, and his daughter believes that a smoked turkey leg and Dole Whip make a perfectly balanced meal. Even though she doesn't quite get it, Steve's wife is supportive of his Disney activities.

18 thoughts on “Current State of Transportation at Walt Disney World

  • October 5, 2020 at 5:59 pm
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    Hi, Steve, this is a timely article. My family and I got back last week from a 10 day stay at Pop Century. I think our experience was a little different than what you describe here, and things may have changed, but there were several times where we waited for over an hour to get a bus to (for example) the MK. During these times, the buses were very infrequent – I did not witness any traffic jams, to be sure. What frustrated me about this is that this was clearly an operational decision by Disney, as management knows who is staying at each resort and what park they have reserved for that day. Despite this, and despite the fact that several resorts, and the buses that would otherwise be allocated to serve them, are offline, it was clear that those buses were not being used, at least not at Pop Century.

    Reply
    • October 6, 2020 at 9:23 am
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      On the three days I checked, the “army of buses” were at Pop between 8am and 9 am. I would expect during the middle of the day Disney would have fewer buses running. What time did you arrive at the bus stop when you have your long waits?

      I did wait 40 minutes, but that is because I got to the bus stop at 7:30

      Reply
  • October 6, 2020 at 9:30 am
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    On the days we went to the MK, from 8:30 am to 9:00 am. The line went on forever, and the buses were intermittent at best.

    Reply
  • October 6, 2020 at 1:05 pm
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    You mentioned parking lots aren’t opening until temperature screen and security checkpoints are open. When is this? An hour before the park opens?

    Reply
    • October 6, 2020 at 2:21 pm
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      When I was there screening at MK and HS opened 50 minutes before the parks open. Screening at EP and AK opened 30 minutes before park opening.

      Reply
  • October 6, 2020 at 2:46 pm
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    Can you tell me where rideshares drop people off at? I was interested in using them to get to the parks well ahead of opening, but I don’t know if that strategy will work if they drop off too far from the park to make it worthwhile.

    Reply
    • October 6, 2020 at 3:31 pm
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      For the Magic Kingdom, drop off is at the TTC. The other parks have drop-off close to the park entrance but are not available until the parking lots are open. For Epcot and HS you can be dropped off at the Swan or Dolphin; the walk is 10-15 minutes to either park.

      Reply
  • October 7, 2020 at 12:25 am
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    Is the boat not open at the yacht club to get to HS then? Trying to think of the best, quickest, earliest way to get to HS from Yacht club.

    Reply
    • October 7, 2020 at 1:17 am
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      The Friendship Boats from the Bay Lake resorts are not operating. Walking is the earliest and fastest way to get to HS from Yacht Club.

      Reply
  • October 8, 2020 at 6:38 pm
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    Steve so in your video you say an Uber is probably your best bet but above they mention that taxis and ride shares have similar restrictions like cars and they can’t drop you off inside the park? So does Uber work different ? Also if we have someone in a wheelchair in our party what is the best transportation to get to the parks?

    Reply
  • October 15, 2020 at 8:23 pm
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    For the Magic Kingdom, drop off is at the TTC.

    Do you walk to MK from TTC? Is that the best way to get to MK the earliest? Can you ride share to the Contemporary and walk? Wouldn’t that be quicker?

    Reply
    • October 16, 2020 at 9:58 am
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      Currently, you cannot walk from the TTC to MK. You have to take the Monorail, Ferry Boat, or Bus. Disney is running extra busses and is typically the fastest way to get to the MK.

      Once the walkway from The Grand Floridian to the Magic Kingdom is open, you could walk from the TTA to the Poly, to the Grand Flo, to MK. The walk will be about 1.5 miles.

      Reply
  • October 16, 2020 at 10:21 pm
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    Steve,
    Would you recommend people staying at Grand Floridian drive to MK, HS, and AK?

    Reply
    • October 18, 2020 at 1:56 pm
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      For MK, you should not drive. You would have to park at the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) and take Disney transportation. Once the walkway to MK is open, you can walk. Currently, you can take the Monorail or boat to MK from the Grand Flo. For EP, HS, and AK I would drive.

      Reply
  • October 23, 2020 at 4:08 pm
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    Good afternoon Steve. Just saw this and timing is everything. Staying at OKW. Not expecting to get to the parks particularly early; would driving still be our best bet? Thank you very much.

    Reply
    • October 23, 2020 at 7:57 pm
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      Even if you are not going at park open, there is always a chance you are going to have to wait for a bus. When I have a car, I will always take it over a Disney bus.

      Reply
  • October 27, 2020 at 10:02 pm
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    What is the best options to travel to the parks from Art of Animation?

    Reply
    • October 28, 2020 at 8:32 am
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      To the MK and AK, almost certainly Disney busses. To EP and DHS, I think it depends on the time of day. First thing in the morning, I’d take an Uber to, say, the Swan, about 90 minutes before DHS opens and 60 minutes before EP opens. Then I’d walk from there. I think the Skyliner gets really busy in the morning, which is why I think Uber is the better option there.

      Reply

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