This is a guest post from @RobertDwyer
If you’ve ever visited Walt Disney World you probably know the busses are one of the worst parts of the experience. They’re free but you kind of get what you pay for. They depart at unpredictable times, they’re often crowded and they don’t always take you directly where you want to go.
Although they’ve tried to improve the standard bus experience with signs that say when the next bus is arriving, in my experience they’re not reliable:
Disney recently introduced an Express Transportation Option that greatly improves the experience of getting around the parks. I had a chance to try it on a recent visit and found it to be absolutely awesome.
Why hop between parks?
If you’ve ever been on Small World and thought “man, it would be cool to get over to World Showcase”. Or been on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and thought “this is fun but I’d love to do Toy Story Mania next”. Or been in Adventureland and thought “I’d love to check out Animal Kingdom now” – then park hopping is for you.
Park hopping is also great when you’re only visiting Disney Parks for a day or two and you want to hit all the top attractions.
But with standard Disney transportation you waste so much time and energy getting between the parks it’s often not worth it.
How the Express Transportation Option works
With the Express Transportation Option you pick up a Disney bus from within one park and get dropped off within another park without having to clear security. To take advantage of the service you must have tickets with the Park Hopper option.
The busses leave at scheduled times. For example if you’re at Magic Kingdom and you want to get to Animal Kingdom the busses leave promptly at :00 and :30. The bus for Epcot departs at :10 and :40. And Hollywood Studios is at :20 and :50.
You arrive at the pick-up location (there’s one within each park) a couple of minutes before the departure time and you’re escorted by a cast member out to the bus that’s waiting for you. It then takes you directly to the other park you want to visit and drops you off backstage.
Current cost is $19 pp per day or $29 pp for up to a 7 day stay.
How is this better than other options?
The combination of in-park pickup/drop off, reliable departure times, and lightly loaded busses make this option far superior to the standard free busses in my opinion.
It’s even better than Uber because you don’t have to leave the park, find an Uber (a non-trivial maneuver especially at Magic Kingdom where right in front of the park isn’t a viable pickup location), then re-clear security and wait in line to enter the next park.
My experience using the service
I recently planned a short-notice midweek visit. I wanted to make the most of our day, and I wanted to check out the top attractions at all the parks.
We started the day off in Magic Kingdom, hitting a few rides from park opening at 9a to 10:30a. Then we took advantage of 3 Fastpasses we’d scheduled and enjoyed lunch at Skipper’s Canteen. Magic Kingdom was very crowded at that point and it was starting to rain so we hopped to Hollywood Studios at 1p.
Hollywood Studios is a one-attraction park for us at this point (Toy Story Mania) so we tolerated the always-long wait there. At least it was indoors and out of the rain. Then we got a Fastpass for Kilimanjaro Safaris and hopped to Animal Kingdom.
While arriving at Animal Kingdom via the backstage route the busses take the park had a decidedly Jurassic Park kind of feel. The combination of the rain, seeing the back side of the park with the barbed wire fences that keep the animals in, and the park being empty due to the rain was amazing. For a Disney fan this alone made the Express option worth it.
We walked right on to Kilimanjaro Safaris, did Kali River Rapids twice, and then holed up at the outstanding Nomad Lounge for some pressed coffee and hot chocolate while the storm was most intense.
After that the sun came out and Animal Kingdom was hauntingly beautiful. It felt like an actual rain forest.
We then hopped to Epcot/World Showcase on a empty bus to complete our 4 park day. The rain came back with a vengeance but thanks to ponchos and a lot of good spirit we had an absolutely amazing, unforgettable time.
The money Disney charges for this service might sound like a money grab, but this was probably the best $19 I ever spent at Disney.
For our situation it was totally worth it. That said, if you’ve got young kids and you don’t spend more than a few hours in the parks without diminishing returns and you don’t park hop it’s obviously less appealing.
If you’ve been playing the points & miles game for a while and find yourself taking more short trips and fewer long trips, and a visit to Disney World is in your future I highly recommend checking out the Express Transportation Option. For us, it gave us a chance to maximize our enjoyment by hitting all of our favorite things at Walt Disney World in an enjoyable manner in just one day.
Questions on how this works? Ping me on Twitter (@RobertDwyer) or leave a comment.