For countless Walt Disney World diehards, the Magical Express ride from Orlando International Airport to their resort was an easy, enjoyable kick-off to amusement park vacation heaven.
But sadly, the free service for resort guests, complete with luggage arriving in the room without the hassle of lugging Disney-goers, ended earlier this year.
So what can park visitors do if driving to and from the airport isn’t part of the Disney dream?
There are options – maybe not so magical, or with Mickey or Minnie waving in the window, but definitely available.
While the Express farewell was announced last year, the last hurrah took place in early January.
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Pamela and Bill Skaar of Grand Prairie, Texas, are among those who will miss the Express but say they will be back at Walt Disney World as soon as possible. Their last Express ride was January 8 from the Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa to Orlando International.
The Saars joined the Disney Vacation Club after traveling in 2007 to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
“We started to enjoy the convenience and ‘magic’ of getting to and from the airport on the Magical Express buses,” said Pamela, a retired speech therapist.
“They would get our luggage for us and it magically appeared in our room at our resort just a few hours later! They were beautiful Disney themed buses too, complete with funny, entertaining, well-mannered drivers and adorable Disney videos while we drove to or from the airport.”
Now they say they will take Mears Connect, operated by Mears, whose drivers navigated the Magical Express from 2005 until its retirement. But unlike Magical Express, Mears Connect will not be free. Also, at least for now, Mears will not be collecting and delivering passenger luggage to their resort rooms. The guests will have to arrange this themselves.
Still, the Skers will cherish the memory of that last trip on the shift, when they were the only two people on the bus, posing for photos with the driver.
“We have so many fond memories of using the Magical Express just the two of us, and other times with our grown children and our grandchildren,” Pamela said. “A year ago we brought my dear mother, who has now passed away… she rode with us on the Magical Express and enjoyed her first time in her life when she was in her 70’s.”
Transportation to Walt Disney resorts options
For those who need a lift from the airport to Disney resorts, here are some options.
Mears Connect, with standard and express options.
One Way Cost The standard shared ride service is $16 each way for adults, $13.50 each way for children.
For $250, travelers can book the Express direct-to-resort service for four passengers. Add $55 each for additional passengers. It could be a shared service, according to the site.
For information and reservations: mearsconnect.com. For a private car you need to book at least one day in advance and for the shuttle 24 hours in advance. Taxis are also available 24/7 through Mears. Passengers must stop at the baggage claim before proceeding to the Mears location in Orlando International, where they will board at Terminal B, Level 1, Ground Transport Level, in the old Disney location.
Taxi, Uber or Lyft: All of these options are available at Orlando International, with choices such as UberX, UberXL and, on the pricier side, Uber Black.
Sunshine Flyer: This direct airport-to-resort bus service hasn’t started yet – launching is scheduled for February 1 – but bodes well for those seeking the kind of on-demand entertainment that endeared them to the Magical Express. Rather than Disney-centric, it’s touted as a reminder of 1920s train travel, complete with buses packed as locomotive or passenger cars and drivers and staff dressed as conductors and engineers.
The cost for adults is $17 for a one-way ticket and $34 for return tickets. For ages 3-9: $12.50 one-way; $25 round trip. Children under 2 years old can sit on an adult’s lap for free. View details from sunshineflyer.com.
car rental: While this may be the best option for those who want the freedom of having a vehicle at their disposal during a trip, keep in mind that not only will you be entertained, but there will be tolls as well. Plus, there’s the parking fee at Disney resorts, up to $25 per night.
Get in touch with Britt Kennerly at firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter: @bybrittkennisly Facebook: /bybritkennisly.