There’s no point in sugar-coating it or pretending like it’ll just go away. Let’s face the facts — getting to Disney World from Orlando International Airport is no longer as “easy” and cheap as it used to be.
At the start of 2022, Disney’s Magical Express concluded its service. A moment of silence, please, for the loss of this iconic service. 😢 Since you can no longer hum your Disney tunes, hop on the Magical Express, and *magically* arrive at your Disney World hotel, you’ll need to figure out what other options you have when it comes to ground transportation from the airport to Disney World. Aside from just what options you have, you may be wondering just how LONG it’ll take you to get from one spot to the other and whether the use of any of these options makes a difference. No worries, we’ve got you covered with EVERYTHING you need to know!
Ground Transportation Options
With the Magical Express gone, note that all of the services discussed below WILL cost you money. None of these are free, so that’s something to keep in mind.
Currently, there are two bus systems that essentially act as Magical Express replacements: Mears Connect and The Sunshine Flyer. Both services can bring you to your Disney World hotel once you arrive at Orlando Airport and they can bring you back at the end of your trip. These offerings differ slightly when it comes to price, theming, and options.
Note that while The Sunshine Flyer only has its shared bus service available, Mears Connect offers a more standard bus service as well as an Express Service. While the Express Service isn’t considered to be a “private” service, it does guarantee more limited wait times and direct (shared) service.
In addition to those methods, you can also look into taxi services or rideshares like Uber and Lyft. There is also the option of renting your own car.
You can also consider using a private car service. Some of these ground transfers can now be purchased as an add-on option when booking your Disney World hotel or vacation package.
In the future (though it might take a while) there will also be a train connecting the Orlando International Airport and Disney Springs.
Curious about learning more about getting from the airport to your Disney World hotel?
No matter which option you choose, knowing how long it will take to get from the airport to your hotel could have a significant impact on your first-day plans. For example, will you have enough time to fit in a trip to the parks on the day you arrive? Or should you instead spend some time at your hotel? How long do you have before you’ll reach your lunch reservation after your flight lands?
How many miles is the airport from Disney World?
The exact route your transportation option will take from the airport to Disney World might differ, so that’s something to keep in mind. There are a variety of routes that they might use. On average, the routes from the airport to Disney World are approximately 17 to 22/23 miles.
Also, keep in mind that Disney World is HUGE — it’s almost like its own city! We ran our directions to “Walt Disney World Resort” as identified on Google Maps. But if you run it to a specific destination within Disney World (say, Magic Kingdom park or the hotels near that), the number of miles will be different.
Depending on what specific hotel you’re staying at, your commute could fluctuate. And if your transportation choice uses toll roads or alternate options that could also impact your commute time.
How long does it actually take to get to Disney World?
Mileage is one thing, but it can be a whole different scenario when talking about how much time it will take to get from the airport to your hotel at Disney World. Let’s go through a few different options (as well as some pros and cons about the services).
Renting a Car
In terms of pros and cons, a rental car certainly gives YOU more control over your vacation in general. You can decide where to drive, when to drive, and what routes to take. The choice is YOURS! Leave early, leave late, drive to Universal Studios for a day, drive all over Disney World property if you want — the world is your oyster!
But rental cars can come with a high cost (especially now!) and you’ll have to pay parking fees at your hotel off-property (potentially), your Disney World hotel, and (if you’re not staying at a Disney World hotel or don’t have a pass with parking included) at the Disney parks.
What about how long it’ll take you to get that rental car and then get to your Disney World Hotel? Well, using a rental car can be great in terms of speed of getting from the airport to your hotel once you have the car itself. When we ran the route at around 5:30PM (ET) on a Tuesday afternoon, Google Maps said that the route from the airport to Disney World would take about 24-28 minutes.
When we changed it to have a departure time of 6PM (ET), it was closer to 20-35 minutes. Leaving at around 8:45PM (ET) got it as low as 18 minutes but up to 35 minutes still.
Ultimately, the time it’ll take you to actually get from the airport to Disney World once you’re physically IN your rental car will, like all transportation options, vary depending on (1) what time of day it is; (2) whether the time or other factors cause an increased amount of traffic; (3) unexpected factors like an accident on the road; and potentially other things.
BUT renting a car gives YOU the ability to pick the roads you want to go on and select what could be the fastest route. You’ll also be able to change routes on the go if a shorter one pops up, giving you some freedom and control. That could mean you will get to Disney World significantly faster than some other options on this list.
BUT with a rental car, you’ll need to factor in the time it will take you to get from your airplane seat to the seat of the rental car. That will generally involve some time (sometimes quite a lot of time) waiting in line at a rental car area in the airport to get the keys to your car and fill out any necessary paperwork. Sometimes the lines are short and you can get in and out in, say, 20 minutes. Other times, these lines can be really long and set you back an hour (or more).
Also note that most of the rental companies are located on-airport, but if you happen to book one that is off of the airport’s main property and you need to use a shuttle to get there (generally, the shuttle is free), that’s additional time you’ll need to factor into your trip.
Using a taxi or rideshare comes with its own pros and cons. It can be relatively fast in some cases (though there can be delays) and you won’t have to deal with parking costs, but you’ll also be dependent on availability and won’t have a lot of control in terms of what routes are used, etc.
Also keep in mind that rideshare services can be subject to surge charging, meaning that your ride could be WAY more expensive during busy times of the year. And you may find that taxi prices will be quite expensive as well. Depending on the cost, sometimes for a few bucks more, you could hire a private car or limo service to get you to your hotel (in the ultimate vacation style)!
Like a rental car, once you’re physically seated IN your taxi or rideshare vehicle, you could get to Disney World in 24-35 minutes. This will (of course) depend on the factors we noted above — traffic, accidents, crowds, etc.
Unlike rental car services, you won’t have to wait in a (potentially long) line to grab your keys. BUT you will have to request the rideshare service and wait for it to arrive or wait until a taxi is available.
You will likely find several taxi cabs already ready to go in the pick-up area at the airport. If it’s an extremely busy day, you might have to wait in line for a taxi to become available. If many other guests are also waiting to hop in a taxi, you’ll just have to wait until you also have the ability to do so too. This could take a few minutes (or potentially a decent amount of time) depending on crowding and availability.
There may also be some waiting when it comes to rideshare services. You will ultimately have to request the rideshare vehicle and wait for it to arrive (though you may be able to pre-book and schedule a trip with some rideshare services, so that’s something to look into). Sometimes the vehicles might be readily available and able to pick you up in 5 minutes or less.
But (if you haven’t pre-scheduled it) sometimes the delay can be significant. If there are tremendous crowds (and we have seen the Orlando Airport be extremely busy lately) or other reasons why rideshare services are less available at that time (less staff and cars operating under the service due simply to staffing issues or bad weather, for example) you might have to wait for a while.
So while the ride from the airport to Disney might only be 25-35 minutes, you’ll want to give yourself extra time to get through the line of other guests waiting to get a taxi or to request a rideshare and get in it.
Private Car Service
When it comes to a private car service, there are again pros and cons. You won’t have to worry about parking costs, but you also won’t be the one driving so there are some limitations that can come with that in terms of choosing routes, etc. Still, a private car service might give you the chance to stop at the grocery store before you arrive at your hotel (something you generally won’t be able to do with a rideshare/taxi) and it’ll give you more direct service to where you need to go.
There also (generally) shouldn’t be much waiting when it comes to Private Car Services. It’s not as though you’re waiting for an Uber driver to become available or for your turn in the rental car line to arrive. Instead, if you have your private service pre-booked, the driver should be there to get you quickly!
There may still be some small delays in terms of finding your private car/driver and getting to them, but if you’ve pre-booked the service and everything is ready to go, it generally should be much quicker than some of the other services. Within just a few minutes of finding your driver, you should be on your way to the Most Magical Place on Earth! Again, actual travel time will depend on what route the driver takes, traffic, accidents, etc.
Another transportation option is Mears Connect. This is essentially a Magical Express replacement service but it has 2 different options that could seriously impact your travel time.
In terms of general pros and cons, Mears Connect may “feel” somewhat similar to the Magical Express since it is being run by the same company that operated the Magical Express — Mears. That might give you a sense of comfort in selecting this option. The pricing is also not subject to surges in the same way that rideshare services are, so that’s good. You also won’t have to deal with parking charges.
Note that Mears Connect goes to Disney World’s hotels as well as some other Orlando hotels.
As we mentioned, Mears Connect has Standard and Express service options. Standard costs $32 round trip for adults and $27 round trip for kids. Standard service is a shared service and it will make a limited number of stops.
The Express service gives you DIRECT service to your resort (and back to the airport) as the guaranteed first stop with limited to no wait time. It costs $250 for up to 4 passengers, and $55 per additional passenger. Note that while it is direct service, it may still be shared with others.
One BIG thing to consider about the services offered by Mears Connect is timing. When it comes to the Express service, you are guaranteed to be the first stop and you’ll have “limited to no wait time” once you check-in at the Mears Connect area in the airport. Note that you will want to factor in some wait time for the Mears Connect check-in, especially if you’ll be traveling during a really busy time.
But, overall, once you’re through check-in, you should be on your way to your Disney World resort relatively quickly. One of our readers shared that they only waited about 5 minutes before getting into their van.
The Standard service, on the other hand, doesn’t give you any of those “limited to no wait time” guarantees. You will have to first check-in at the Mears Connect area (allot some wait time for this). And then you’ll have to wait for your Mears bus/shuttle to arrive.
Previously, the Mears Connect website said that they would get you on your way to the hotel within 20 minutes of checking in to the reception area. It appears that has since been removed from the Mears Connect website.
Once your shuttle/bus does arrive, you’ll have to factor in that this is a shared service. So on top of traffic, accidents, etc. that could make the route to your hotel longer, there will also be other guests that the service will need to drop off. Your hotel might be the first stop or the last. In other words, you may need to wait only a little or you could spend a much longer time waiting to get to your hotel!
Our DFB readers previously shared their thoughts with us about using the service. One shared that they only waited about 15 minutes for the bus and were the first of 4 stops on the route. Success! Another shared that from the time they got in line to the time they arrived at the hotel, it was around 90 minutes, which they felt was longer than the previous Magical Express experience.
We do have to note that we saw far fewer comments from readers with negative experiences over positive ones. If you’re seeking a service that’ll get you to your hotel quickly though, the Express service will be your best bet as it will get you directly to your hotel without any other stops.
The Sunshine Flyer
The Sunshine Flyer is similar to the Standard Mears Connect service in that it is essentially a Magical Express replacement with shared bus/shuttle service to the Disney World hotels.
You won’t have to deal with parking costs and things like that, but you WILL have to deal with getting on a shared bus/shuttle that could make multiple stops.
Unlike Mears Connect, however, The Sunshine Flyer has some specific time “guarantees” on its website. Specifically, they note that “When the guest enters the Sunshine Flyer staging area the guest will not wait more than 20 minutes to board the bus. The ride to the resorts is scheduled so the last stop will not take more than 65 minutes.”
All in all, that’s close to the 90 minutes that one of our readers expressed having experienced with Mears Connect, so there may not be a huge difference there, but it is interesting to see it specifically stated on the site.
With The Sunshine Flyer, you could wait the 20 minutes in line, the 25 minutes to get to Disney World, and then be on the first hotel stop. Or you might end up waiting far longer if you’re the last stop on the bus. So if you choose to use this service, that’s something you’ll want to keep in mind!
The Airport Train
Finally, we reach the upcoming Brightline train. This train is slated to bring guests directly from Orlando Airport to Disney Springs, but it is still a few years off from completion. Previously, we had shared a news story that noted that the train might not begin service to Disney Springs until 2026.
Also, some key decisions on the route it will take from the airport to Disney World are still in discussion (and were at one point delayed indefinitely). So things are still a work in progress, though we have seen some general construction achievements met when it comes to the Brightline path in Florida in general.
The Brightline train may wind up being a pretty “direct” option in the sense that it will be a train, not a regular car on the roads. It should be able to bypass some of the Orlando traffic. But, you’ll have to presumably go to a train check-in area, wait for a train to arrive, get on the train, wait for that train to take off, and then potentially wait through several other stops the train may have to make before it reaches Disney Springs. Then you’ll have to find your way from Disney Springs to your Disney World hotel, which will be a whole other matter.
Plus, it’s several years out from completion and there are still a lot of unknowns about its path. Still, it might end up being an economical and unique option to get to Disney World. We’ll just have to wait and find out once more details are released!
Unfortunately, you can’t magically step off of your airplane and onto Disney World property (wouldn’t that be neat, though?!). It takes some additional travel time to reach your final destination. We mentioned things like traffic, accidents, crowds, etc. that can affect a number of transportation options we listed above. But there are some other things you’ll also want to keep in mind when it comes to the timing on your arrival day:
- Once your flight lands, give yourself and your family at least 30 minutes to disembark the plane. That might sound like a lot, but it can take a while for your plane to actually pull into the gate and then allow guests off of it. And if you’re on a large plane and are seated WAY toward the back, you might be staying put for a while. Then you’ll have to make your way to the baggage claim.
- Factor in at least 30 minutes to collect all of your luggage. Again, this might be way more time than you’ll need, but it’s better to factor in more time and give yourself some wiggle room. Sometimes luggage is unloaded faster than other times, but you never know if your bag will be the first one or the last on that conveyor belt!
- Whether it’s a shuttle service, a rental car, or other option, sometimes it can take between 30-60 minutes to actually get on your chosen method of transportation. Give yourself enough time for that. If you can, do whatever is available to check-in early, complete any paper ahead of time, or reserve that pick-up time in advance to help streamline that process as much as possible.
- Once you actually have your luggage and your ride situated, remember that it can take around 30 minutes or more to get to your hotel. That can be impacted by traffic, accidents, crowds, shuttle services that make multiple stops, what route you take, where you’re headed on property, etc.
It’s a lot to take in. We know. But we hope that this helps you get a better idea of how long it could take you to get to Disney World and how much time you should set aside for travel to your hotel. Be sure to follow along for more tips and tricks to help you plan your next Disney World vacation.
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Are you planning to fly to Disney World in 2022? Which ground transportation option are you considering? Let us know in the comments!