This week Disney announced they are discontinuing Magical Express in January 2022. The complimentary service picked up guests at Orlando International Airport and brought them, and their belongings in the pre-COVID era, to their Walt Disney World Resort. Len estimated that roughly 40% of our users used the Magical Express system for travel to and from Walt Disney World.
In our Slack channel, Julia wondered if this made competing hotels look more attractive for guests on a budget. For example, Universal’s new Endless Summer resort rack room rates start at $30 less a day than similar Disney resorts. This question got us wondering, could a family save money staying at Universal and visiting Walt Disney World post-Magical Express?
Disney removing Magical Express decreases the value proposition for their on-site resorts; now guests must pay for their transportation to the resort. Universal on the other hand offers equivalent rooms at a fraction of the cost of Disney.
Disney’s cheapest rack rates are (with tax):
- All-Star Resorts at $112
- Pop Century at $154
- Art of Animation at $180
Universal’s Endless Summer rates (with tax) are:
- Standard room at $89, four-night stay
- Two-room, three-bed suite at $134, four-night stay
Our goal is to determine the different costs in transportation and then find if we can save money traveling to Walt Disney World over staying at Walt Disney World itself.
We at TouringPlans love rental cars – they add flexibility and convenience to any vacation. According to trip booking site Kayak, the average price of a rental car in Orlando is $35 per day. Orlando International Airport charges a $2.50 per day fee for rental cars, plus a 6-7% sales tax, and other fees we approximate to around $7 per day. Assuming you get an intermediate car or similar we’re factoring in $5 of gas per day. Self-parking is $15 per day at Endless Summer and Disney’s value resorts.
|Rental Car Per Day Average:||$35|
|Rental Car Fees & Taxes:||Approx $7|
Additionally, parking at Disney and Universal theme parks is $25 per day. We will factor this in at the end of the article.
- The flexibility to travel whenever you want and traveling to offsite restaurants
- Bring and leave child seats, diapers, toys, snacks, change of clothes, and more in the car
- Expensive, at least $62 per day plus theme park parking fees
Ridesharing has boomed thanks to convenient mobile apps like Uber and Lyft. The gist is you enter a destination in the app and using your phone’s GPS a driver is sent to you. Ridesharing apps offer more flexibility than taxis and at a lower price point. Using Uber’s fare estimator tool we determined that the average cost of a trip from Endless Summer to the Magic Kingdom is $18 one way, $36 round trip. We also included a rounded up 20% tip.
|Endless Summer to MK (avg)||$18|
|MK to Endless Summer (avg)||$18|
|Tips Total (round trip)||$8|
We will also factor in ridesharing to and from the airport: $42 to Pop Century one way and $36 to Endless Summer one way, including taxes, fees, and 20% tip.
- Biggest savings, half the price of a rental car
- Skip having to park, can drop off closer to the park
- “Stuck” at the park for the day unless you spend more to travel back
- Have to wait for rideshare driver to show up
- “Surge” pricing during park closure
Doing the Math
Let us use an example: a five day, four-night trip to Orlando at the end of this month, January 25 – 29, with three days in the parks. All rooms are standard rooms with standard views. I am including the 20% off discount Disney is currently running through early 2021. Here are how they add up (accurate as of January 14, 2021).
|Pop Century (20% Off)||Pop Century (Rack Rate)||Endless Summer|
|Room (w/ tax)||$523.88||$660.38||$367.88|
|Rental Car Total||$310||$310||$385|
|Rideshare (MCO to Hotel)||$84||$84||$72|
|Rideshare (Hotel to Parks)||N/A||N/A||$132|
|Total w/ Rental||$838.88||$970.38||$752.88|
|Total w/ Rideshare||$607.88||$744.38||$571.88|
If a rental car is a must, guests can save up to $220 by staying off-site! Disney’s 20% off rate makes the prices more competitive with a savings of $85. Once All-Star Resorts reopen we expect the price disparity to shrink even more. Renting a car is roughly the same as using rideshare to Disney with the standard rate, while the cheapest option is ridesharing from Endless Summer.
The question then becomes are the savings worth it. With Disney’s upcoming “early entry” to allow admission to on-site guests into Disney Parks 30 minutes early each day, the time saved by not driving from Disney to Universal each day (or not having to driving a rental car on I-4 during rush hour), and the overall vibe of staying in the Disney bubble, some people may feel it is worth $220.
Since we found savings in some scenarios we suggest you plug your room rates into the table above (while adjusting transportation based on length of stay) to see if you can save money. This spreadsheet also works for moderate and deluxe resorts!
Does this all seem too complicated? Need someone to help you through booking your vacation? Look no further than Touring Plans Travel Agency!