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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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