TouringPlans is pleased to welcome guest author Shannon Loehrlein.
A few days ago, I was lounging at the Luna Park pool at Disney’s Boardwalk hotel listening to the trivia game. A recreation staff member asked how large Disney World was in comparison to another United States city. The answer was that Walt Disney World is as big as San Francisco. This was not a surprise being that I have visited both places.
When visiting San Francisco, we used multiple forms of transportation including the cable cars, taxis, city buses, the Muni Metro system, and of course walking. (Thank the heavens, Disney does not have as many hills as San Francisco. Can you imagine those hills with a stroller?)
Disney World is very similar in that it also has many modes of transportation including boats, buses, the Monorail, the Skyliner, and walking. In addition, it has many non-Disney transportation options like individual cars, taxis, Ubers, Lyft, and so on. Similar to a large city, Disney World needs many options for transportation because of the vastness of the property and the large population that visits.
Anyone who knows me personally, knows I have a troubled relationship with Disney’s bus system. The Disney buses may just be the true villain of Walt Disney World. Like many parents, I have spent an hour plus waiting for a spot on the bus with hot, tired, and cranky children in the 95-degree humid Florida heat.
The situation becomes more frustrating for all members of the family when our time to board a bus arrives and one of the children has fallen asleep in their stroller. For safety reasons, Disney forces you to collapse your stroller and hold your child. Best-case scenario, I may have to carry my sleeping child while standing in a packed bus. (Sometimes a kind stranger will offer their seat, but this does not always happen.) Worst-case scenario, my child awakes because of the change in positions and transforms from a Sleeping Beauty to a Disney Villain.
Other times we have waited 40 minutes just for a bus to arrive only for it to be full and have to wait until the next bus! Get the picture? The buses can be a really unpleasant experience.
The main reasons I do not recommend using the Disney bus system are time and inconvenience.
The buses can be very inefficient. Usually, I would recommend leaving your hotel room at least an hour or hour and a half before you need to be anywhere on property. Disney will say that buses arrive every 20 minutes. This is usually the case, but not always. We’ve been late to many dining reservations in the past because of the bus system.
During normal years, the bus can be very crowded. For this reason, you may be forced to stand and hold onto a metal bar to stabilize yourself. I will always remember a time riding a packed bus when another guest yelled a warning of “Brace yourself” anytime we took a turn to avoid guests going flying. Though this may be seen as a minor problem to enjoy Disney World, remember you will be returning to your hotel after hours walking around a park and standing in lines. The last thing many people want to do after visiting a Disney park is stand during a ride that doesn’t end with a gift shop.
If you have a child, the bus can be a miserable experience. Picture balancing a kid on your hip, holding a collapsed stroller, popcorn bucket, backpack, toys that your child “had to have,” and your refillable mug while trying to hold the metal bar to stabilize yourself. The Disney magic can dissipate quickly during these times.
Some resorts also have multiple bus stops within the resort making this a much longer process. When we last stayed at Caribbean Beach, they had 8 internal bus stops! Eight! By the time we got to the last bus stop, the bus was already full and people waiting at that last stop had to wait for the next bus. Remember, buses come every twenty minutes. Other resorts that have multiple internal bus stops are Saratoga Springs, Old Key West, and Coronado Springs.
I will say we have used the bus system several times since COVID, and it is actually a much more pleasant experience. It is more efficient and every passenger has a seat.
I have read reports that buses have been much slower since COVID, but at the deluxe resorts where we have recently stayed (Boardwalk, Beach Club, Grand Floridian, and Wilderness Lodge–Copper Creek), this has not been the case.
My best advice to avoid the buses is to drive to Walt Disney World or rent a car. Although you are charged a nightly hotel parking fee, the benefits can outweigh the costs. As a Disney Resort guest, you have free theme park parking.
In addition, during COVID, riding in your own vehicle can give you more personal space and a mask break.
Many people will Uber or Lyft to the theme parks to save time and hassle. We have not personally done this as we are traveling with small children who require car seats and this adds an extra hassle.
The only park that I would recommend regularly using the bus system to get to is Magic Kingdom (if you are not staying at a Magic Kingdom resort) as you can bypass the Transportation and Ticket Center and save time this way. The other three parks have much closer parking lots to the parks if you drive your own vehicle.
My last piece of advice is, if you have the money, stay at a Deluxe resort or a resort that offers Skyliner transportation. Using the Skyliner, Monorail, or boat is much more efficient to get to the parks.
Our family will typically do a split stay where the first half of our trip is at an EPCOT/Hollywood Studios hotel such as Boardwalk, Yacht/Beach, Riviera, Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, or Art of Animation. Then we can easily walk, boat, or ride the Skyliner to EPCOT/Hollywood Studios depending on the resort.
At the end of that stay, we call Bell Services and have them deliver our luggage to the next hotel.
We then pick a Magic Kingdom resort such as Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, or Wilderness Lodge. Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian all offer monorail transportation, and you can even walk to Magic Kingdom! Wilderness Lodge offers boat transportation to Magic Kingdom.
The plan we use typically only has us riding the dreaded buses to Animal Kingdom, or we just drive our car to Animal Kingdom.
If you can spend the extra money to stay at one of these resorts, you will save yourself the headache of the Disney bus system and be able to fully enjoy your vacation!
Are the Disney buses a villain in your story? Let us know what you think in the comments.
Shannon Loehrlein lives in Evansville, Indiana, and is a mom of two young daughters, ages 7 and 2. Shannon’s day job is a school social worker and her husband is a middle school teacher. Shannon is an avid Disney parks and Universal Orlando fan. Shannon is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Passholder at both Disney and Universal. Shannon shares her love of Disney Travel with others as an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner with MickeyTravels. She provides FREE travel planning for anyone looking to book a Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise, Adventures by Disney, or Aulani Vacation. Shannon also runs a travel blog called Mommytravel.net. You can find her on Facebook or contact her through email at Sloehrlein@mickeytravels.com.