Walt Disney World has officially re-opened and is getting back to business!
The current changes have affected the ways guests may experience rides, dining, and park entry. The new guidelines have also made a BIG impact on Disney transportation. Things have definitely changed a bit when it comes to getting around, so we’re bringing you ALL of our best TIPS for using Disney transportation in a reopened Disney World!
We’ve been spending a good bit of our time investigating all of the updates in the theme parks and resorts — and that means we’ve been cruising around in LOTS of Disney World transportation for a few weeks.
Now we’re gonna share a bunch of recommendations, but let’s start strong:
Biggest Disney Transpo Tip So Far
After testing out transportation, our biggest tip is arriving at the theme parks LATER in the morning (crazy, right?). This is especially relevant if you’re nervous about being in crowds.
Most attraction wait times are much shorter than normal and many entertainment offerings have been cut. This means there’s less of a reason to rush to the parks and arrive before the park opens to beat the crowds!
Now that you’re able to secure a Rise of the Resistance boarding group from your hotel room in the morning, arriving Disney’s Hollywood Studios early is less of a concern. Take your time getting to the parks! You’ll still be able to ride everything you want, and you’ll avoid the opening hour transportation crush.
Now, let’s take a look at the various forms of Disney World transportation and how they look following the reopening!
We’ve seen all sorts of changes to the Disney buses recently. The bus queues are spaced with distancing markers and guests are required to sit in designated seats in marked zones. The numbered zones indicate the space where individual parties can sit. Some seats are marked as unavailable to create space between groups and plastic barriers are placed between zones as well. Your bus driver will tell you a numbered zone to head to as well as which entrance of the bus to use to limit exposure to other guests.
Normally, a Disney bus has a capacity of about 130 people (and that’s a crammed to the gills, standing room only bus!). Buses are now seriously restricted due to the physical distancing requirements. The new limited capacity can increase wait times a bit because, obviously, the buses can’t be loaded as full as they were prior. That said, hotel crowds are also considerably lower due to the new capacity limits too. While bus wait times are extended, it’s not as bad as it would be with full hotel capacity.
With the return of park hopping, buses are also used to transport guests between parks. In our experience, these buses start arriving shortly before 2PM, when that park hopping window opens. Buses tend to start running about 45 minutes prior to park opening and lines are usually much longer first thing in the morning. In our experience, there were fewer lines and much shorter wait times after the initial morning rush even just an hour after park opening (depending on where you’re trying go!).
If you’re staying at Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort in particular, you’ll take a charter bus to and from the parks instead of a standard Disney World bus. These are meant to keep wait times low with current COVID capacity limits.
Those of you who wish to arrive RIGHT at the parks’ opening should allow for increased travel time. You can also opt to drive or take a rideshare to avoid crowded bus lines. We’ll get back to all your rideshare options later!
Disney’s Magical Express, the complimentary airport transfer bus, is also operating under slightly different terms. Under typical conditions, guests can have their checked baggage picked up from baggage claim delivered to their hotel room without them having to lift a finger. Now, guests must pick up their own luggage from baggage claim and bring it to the bus where it will be loaded by the driver. Once you arrive, you can choose to have your luggage stored or delivered to your room. Keep in mind that Disney’s Magical Express will be discontinued in 2022, so the service will only be available through the end of the year.
The monorail has had its fair share of updates too! Cars are now split in half using a piece of vinyl meant to create a barrier between the two sides. Those of you who are uncomfortable in crowds should be aware that the fabric barrier is pretty flimsy and there are large gaps around the barrier and seats. It’s a “protective barrier” but in the loosest sense of the term!
Guests are sat one travel group per bench on some monorails. In these cases, you will most likely be seated opposite of another group. There also might be a group seated on the bench behind you, in the other portion of the car. With those 1-2 inch gaps between the seat and the barrier, you’d be well within six feet of that group should one of them cough or sneeze.
Other monorails divide the benches into 4 sections, with 2 parties per bench, using plastic barriers. These barriers allow increased capacity, but they do mean you could have a group beside you. And if you’re traveling in a large party, you may have to split up between these sections.
Check out the ferry if this makes you uncomfortable. Given the crowd levels and time of day, you might have a better chance of distancing yourself on the boat rather than the monorail.
The resort monorail line, and the Express Monorail line between the Transportation and Ticket Center and the Magic Kingdom, are currently running. The monorail between EPCOT and the Transportation and Ticket Center is not running. If you’re hoping to get to EPCOT from the Transportation and Ticket Center via monorail, you’ll need to make alternate plans.
From our experience, the limited capacity seems to mostly affect wait times in the morning. This is especially true for resorts located on the monorail line: Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Keep in mind that the monorail at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is currently unavailable.
On Magic Kingdom’s opening day, we lined up at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort’s monorail entrance when the monorail started running at 8:30AM.
We then watched FOUR monorails filled to capacity pass us before one stopped at the hotel (remember, those monorails stop at the Contemporary Resort AND the Transportation and Ticket Center before making their way to the Polynesian!). And yet, there was hardly any wait later in the day! Once again, it seems counter-intuitive to say AVOID the parks first thing in the morning, but that seems to be best for now. Give it even an hour or so and you should find it easier to hop on a monorail.
The Disney Skyliner has three lines that transport guests from Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, and Disney’s Riviera Resort to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the International Gateway at EPCOT.
Caribbean Beach Resort acts as a transfer station for all three lines. Guests can use this station to take a line to/from EPCOT and the Riviera Resort or to Hollywood Studios. Guests traveling from the Art of Animation/Pop Century can ride to the Caribbean Beach station and transfer to the Riviera/EPCOT line or Hollywood Studios.
The Skyliner has seen a few minor adjustments since re-opening. Only one travel group (up to 10 people) is allowed per cabin and all gondolas are cleaned at least once per day.
Each of the three lines is running at different times due to the differing park opening times for Hollywood Studios and EPCOT. Be sure to check the posted sign outside of each station or ask at your resort for the operating hours when you visit. For instance, the line from Pop Century/Art of Animation began running at 9:00AM when we last visited.
If you plan on using the Skyliner to get to an early breakfast reservation (the character breakfast at the Riviera’s Topolino’s Terrace, perhaps?), you will most likely want to drive or order a rideshare vehicle if you have an early dining reservation before the Skyliner starts running. You want to give yourself at least 45 minutes of travel time to board the gondola, travel to the resort, and make your way to the restaurant to check-in for your reservation.
Overall, our experience on board the Skyliner wasn’t affected too much by the modified hours or operational changes. We took the Skyliner a few times in the last week and we walked on with no wait every time. The only wait we encountered was when the gondolas went down for about 15 minutes. This setback was unplanned and not due to the limited capacity or cleaning schedule.
Ferry and Friendship Boats
The ferry is running frequently between the Transportation and Ticket Center and Magic Kingdom. Social distancing is encouraged by restricting the use of benches, and using distancing markers placed throughout standing areas. The boat felt very crowded early in the morning. There aren’t physical barriers like on the monorails and buses either, so if that’s a concern, be aware. Boats begin running 45 minutes to one hour before park opening, in our experience.
Friendship Boats from EPCOT area resorts are also transporting guests to and from EPCOT. The Sassagoula River Cruise that connects the Disney’s Port Orleans Resorts to Disney Springs also remains closed with no known opening date. The social distancing procedures for both boats will most likely be similar to measures we’ve seen on other forms of transportation once they resume.
Magic Kingdom Resort Water Taxis
The water taxis travel between the Magic Kingdom and the resorts in the area including Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. These boats usually run every 30 minutes from each destination.
These water taxis are running in a limited capacity with access to the Magic Kingdom currently. Note that the water taxis are much smaller than the ferry boat. With limited capacity, you might experience longer lines for the boat. You still have the option to take a bus or monorail if the lines get too long.
Parking and Parking Trams
Guests are directed to park every other row in the parking lots at all theme parks. This allows guests to keep a distance from each other while exiting their vehicles. Once a parking lane is filled and guests have departed their vehicles, the attendants will start filling in the lanes they left empty. (You can park in any available spot at the hotels and Disney Springs since most guests aren’t arriving at the same time.)
Currently, the lines to get into the parking lots are fairly long first thing in the morning and can tack on extra travel time! Be prepared to wait at the toll plazas if you’re trying to head in early. As we’ve said before, if you give it an hour or so, you can usually enter with relative ease.
Trams are currently NOT transporting guests from the theme park parking lots to the front entrance of the parks. Guests should be prepared to walk from their cars to the front gates of EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, or the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) at Magic Kingdom. That said, crowds are lower than normal so your car may not be parked too far from the theme park entrances.
You also have the option of dropping some of your group at the guest drop off/pick-up locations, which are closer to the park entrances and TTC. When you arrive at the entrance, let the toll plaza attendants know you want to drop off your group first before parking.
Minnie Vans and Rideshares
Minnie Vans are a vehicle transportation option on Disney World property operated by the rideshare company Lyft, but using actual Disney World Cast Members as the drivers. Guests can call a Minnie Van using the Lyft app and take the van to and from anywhere on Disney property for a fee. At this time, Minnie Vans are not currently operating. (Although, we did spot one zooming around the property lately!)
While you can’t catch a Minnie Van right now, you can still order a non-Disney-run rideshare car through Uber or Lyft. The rideshare companies each have their own regulations and many currently ask passengers to sit in the back seat, sanitize their hands, and wear a mask.
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort has a walkway that connects guests to the Transportation and Ticket Center. Normally, it’s a huge perk for guests staying at the resort because it allows them to quickly connect to the TTC and use the transportation options from there.
This walkway now appears to open at 8:30AM every morning giving guests 30 minutes to walk to the TTC. This may be a bit of a disappointment for early risers who like to arrive at the TTC bright and early. Alternatively, guests can take the resort bus or monorail straight to the entrance of Magic Kingdom.
Remember, the EPCOT monorail line is not currently running from the Transportation and Ticket Center.
The walkway between Disney’s Contemporary Resort and the Magic Kingdom is open and is also the quickest way to get to Magic Kingdom’s front entrance from just about anywhere. It’s about a 15-minute jaunt from the resort to the park entrance so there’s less of a need to rush out of your resort at an early hour.
Guests are met with a security and temperature checkpoint along the pathway. Given that the pathway is designated for guests coming from the resort, the wait time for this checkpoint is usually much shorter (and less hectic) than the screenings outside of Magic Kingdom’s tapstiles.
Lastly, the walkway connecting Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa to the Magic Kingdom has opened! This is a longer trek than the other paths — it’s about a mile from the Grand Floridian to bag check. In our experience, it takes 15-20 minutes. Keep in mind that this walkway closes an hour to an hour and a half after Magic Kingdom closes.
Guests taking this route will go through security at the boat docks along with those who are docking from Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground.
There you have it! Those are our very best info and tips for getting around in a reopened Disney World. Right now, our BEST tip is to head into the parks later than you normally would. The transportation lines are long and the crowds can feel overwhelming but, in our experience, only really at the VERY start of the day. We haven’t encountered too many long waits despite the limited capacity and physical distancing during the rest of the day (or if you’re caught in a rainstorm — then things can get a little crazy as people exit the parks).
The other factor guests should be aware of are the subtle schedule changes. As noted before, if you have an early dining reservation before 10:00AM, it may be best to drive or take a rideshare to your destination. The morning crowds can increase wait times as well. We will continue to monitor transportation as situations like crowd levels and transportation capacities change. Stay tuned to DFB in the coming weeks as we keep track of all of the reopening changes and updates!
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Have any specific transportation questions? Ask them in the comments and we’ll do our best to get you an answer!