Since you may not be familiar with how to get around Disney’s complex transportation system. I decided to write about how it works, the best way to get from one point to another, and how to best utilize each and every system. I’m going to break down each of the five major modes of transportation offered at Walt Disney World.
To be clear I’m not going to be talking about transportation inspired attractions such as the Walt Disney World railroad. This is a practical guide explaining how guests traveling without a car can get around the resort with ease.
- Water Taxis (Boat Transportation)
- Disney World Buses
- Minnie Vans
First up we’re going to talk about Disney’s newest form of transportation the Disney Skyliner. Today I’m just going to be giving you the key facts where the system travels to and a few tips to know before you board the gondolas. The Disney Skyliner opened just a few weeks ago on September 29th, 2019. The manufacturer of the system is the same company that developed the Emirates Airline that travels over the Thames River in London.
To understand all the different route options of the Skyliner we’re going to start at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort because this is the central hub station. From here guests can travel on three different lines, there’s one that goes directly to the front entrance of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a second that goes to Disney’s Art of Animation Resort and Pop Century Resort, and then a third line that travels to Epcot, which passes through the Riviera Resort on the way.
This means depending on where you start and where you are going will determine if you must transfer or not. For example, if you’re starting at Pop Century and want to get all the way to Epcot, you’ll take the first line from Pop Century to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and then get on the second line that goes through the Riviera and then finally to Epcot.
It’s important to know that right now the Riviera Resort is a little bit tricky because guests have the option to just stay on the gondola and keep going to Epcot or just get off. Unlike at Caribbean Beach where everyone will have to disembark and then board another line, so keep that in mind when you’re trying to factor in your travel time.
Each gondola can hold up to ten guests and that all depends on your travel party and if you’re using things like a stroller. In fact, those using a stroller, wheelchair, or even an ECV can remain in those vehicles and board the sky liner. The only limitation is that double strollers must be folded up before you board.
The gondolas themselves can travel anywhere between thirty and fifty feet up in the air. So I have a little bit of a word of warning if you’re scared of heights this might be an intimidating system to travel on. If traveling inside a large glass box on a wire thirty feet in the air is scary for you, I would suggest using one of the buses.
Some people have expressed concern over how comfortable it is to ride the sky liner because the gondolas don’t have an air conditioning system. I did manage to ride this on the opening day of the system, and I can say that whether you’re riding at night or in the middle of the day when it’s hot, the overhead window ventilation system is pretty good. Honestly, the ride time between places is so short that you won’t think much about it.
However, if you get stuck on the system for some reason in the middle of the day it can get hot in one of these things. If you’re scared of heights or worried about getting stuck on the Skyliner for an extended period, I don’t think this would be the mode of transportation for you. However, I must admit that it’s the most relaxing way to get back to your hotel from the theme parks. The fact that there are only ten people per gondola keeps things nice and quiet and the views are pretty spectacular.
In terms of operating hours, the Skyliner has seen a different schedule since opening, so in this case, it’s best to ask a cast member when the gondolas start running and when they stop at the end of the night. You can pretty much bank that they’ll start about an hour before the opening time of the theme park, and a good hour after the parks have closed.
Now let’s talk about the most iconic mode of transportation, the monorail. This has always been my favorite mode of transportation at Disney the Walt Disney World. The monorail travels between three Resort Hotels and connects guests to two theme parks, the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Let’s take a deeper look at how the monorail works.
The Walt Disney World monorail system opened on October 1st, 1971 along with the Magic Kingdom, The Polynesian and Contemporary Resort. There are three different lines of the monorail system that connect guests to three different resort hotels and two theme parks. Now to understand the roots of the Disney World monorail we have to start at the ticket and transportation center (TTC); because it’s from here where guests can board all three lines of the system.
First, we have the resort monorail line, which makes the greatest number of stops and works clockwise around Seven Seas Lagoon. If you’re starting at the ticket and transportation center your next stop will be the Polynesian, then Grand Floridian, then Magic Kingdom, then the Contemporary Resort and back to the TTC.
Next, we have the Magic Kingdom Express line; this is the one that you’re going to use if you’re traveling to the theme park in your own car. You’ll park at the ticket and transportation center and then board a monorail directly to the front entrance of the park, and at the end of the night, you’ll just loop back to the TTC. It’s important to note that this line will not make any stops at the hotel, they’ll just pass right on through those stations. So, if you’re traveling to Magic Kingdom and hopping to a hotel for a meal, you’re going have to use the resort monorail line.
Lastly, we have the Epcot line. This travels directly from the ticket and transportation center to the front entrance of Epcot and loops right back at the end of the night.
The good news is that all types of people can ride the monorail. Kids can stay in their stroller even if it’s a double and guests using wheelchairs or an ECV can remain in those vehicles comfortably inside the monorail cars.
As far as operating hours the monorail will usually start 30 minutes prior to the park that opens first. Usually, that’s the Magic Kingdom and they will run for a good hour after the last closing time. This means that technically if the Magic Kingdom is opening at 8 a.m. then the entire system will start at 7:30 Am and if Epcot closes at 9:00 PM and yet the Magic Kingdom closes at 10:00 pm the monorail will keep going until 11 pm.
So technically if you parked your car at one theme park and you’re hopping between the two you should still easily be able to get back to your car at the end of the night. The best thing to do in this case is to ask a cast member at the start of your day when the monorail will stop at the end of the night. But don’t worry, Disney will always make sure there’s a way to get back to your car.
Water Taxis (Boat Transportation)
If traveling up in the air is simply too intimidating for you then consider a more relaxing way to arrive at the theme parks aboard one of the many different water taxis. You may be surprised to know that you can get to over a dozen places at Disney World by traveling on a boat. For example, you’ve got obvious things like the giant ferry boats traveling to the Magic Kingdom.
But guests staying at Saratoga Springs, for example, can board a boat directly to the heart of Disney Springs and even travel to three more resort hotels. so, let’s take a look at the many routes across Walt Disney World that glide across the water. In terms of the routes of the water taxis, there’s a lot of different ways to get around so stick with me.
Magic Kingdom Area Boats
Let’s once again start in the Magic Kingdom resort area between Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. There are five different routes for boats so let’s start with Seven Seas Lagoon. Like the express monorail, you can also get an express ferry boat from the ticket and transportation center to the Magic Kingdom and then back again at the end night. There’s also a water taxi route that travels from the front entrance of Magic Kingdom to the Grand Floridian, Polynesian and back to the theme park again. This one’s great for those of you staying at those two specific hotels.
From the front entrance of Magic Kingdom guests can also take a direct boat to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and a separate boat line that will run from the Magic Kingdom to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and campground. So technically these are starting in seven seas Lagoon and crossing over to Bay Lake, which takes us to our final water taxi route in this area. From Disney’s Contemporary Resort there’s a water taxi that travels to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground followed by Wilderness Lodge and then back to the Contemporary Resort. This will come in handy if you’re a guest staying at the Contemporary and hoping to get to the Hoop-Dee-Doo Review at the campgrounds.
As far as accessibility, those traveling in strollers and wheelchairs will have different roles depending on where they’re starting and where they’re traveling to. That’s because each of the boats used in these routes is very different. If you’re using the ferry boat from the Ticket and Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom this is very easy and everyone can stay in their strollers, wheelchairs, and ECV’s.
Smaller water taxi routes like the one that goes between the Magic Kingdom, Grand Floridian, and Polynesian will require strollers to be folded and sadly those guests using things like ECV’s won’t be able to board the boats because these are very small, so you’ll have to stick to the monorail. The same applies to the water taxi route between The Contemporary Resort, Wilderness Lodge, and Fort Wilderness.
Operating hours for all these routes really depends on the park opening times at the Magic Kingdom. Usually, these boats will start 30 minutes to an hour before parks opening time and up to an hour after the park closes.
Epcot Area Friendship Boats
Next, let’s explore water transportation in the Epcot Resort area because this one is a lot simpler. Over at Crescent Lake, there’s a water taxi route referred to as the “friendship boats” that will start at Epcot and then travel to Disney’s Boardwalk. Then it crosses over Crescent Lake to Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club, moves on over to the Swan and dolphin, and ends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Then the boat will basically turn around and do the same route in reverse.
Some Ifs and Tips…
- If you’re staying at the beach club getting a water taxi to Epcot is pretty pointless it’s an easy walk to the back-door entrance of the park.
- If you’re starting your route at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and getting to Disney’s boardwalk, it’s a little bit quicker to walk from this one and dolphin directly to your hotel that all depends on the exact location of your room.
- If waiting for a boat is simply too long for you there’s also a walkway from the boardwalk all the way to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
- If you’re staying at any of these hotels you can basically access this pathway easily. The whole route will take about 20 minutes in each direction and the boats will arrive every 10 to 15 minutes depending on the time of day you’re traveling.
I really like these friendship boats because they’re a little bit more comfortable than the boats over at the Magic Kingdom area. Depending on how many guests have strollers you might not have to fold it up because there’s a section at the back of each boat where you can comfortably park a stroller. Technically this area is reserved for those guests using wheelchairs and ECV’s, so it all really depends on who’s traveling at that exact moment when you’re boarding now.
In terms of operating hours, the friendship boats can get a little bit tricky. Like everything else, everything is based on the opening times of the theme parks. Here’s a good example I can give you… if Hollywood Studios closes at 8:00 p.m. the last boat all the way back from Epcot to Hollywood Studios will usually stop at 9:00 p.m.
If Epcot is open until 9:00 the boats will still run until 10:00 p.m., but keep in mind they won’t all go back to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Like I always say the best thing to do is to ask a cast member on the day you’re traveling when the boats will stop.
Disney Springs Resort Area Boats
Let’s finally move on over to the third section of the resort that uses water taxis, which is technically the Disney Springs Resort area. Now water taxis in this area can connect guests between four different resort hotels to three different stations at Disney Springs. This one can get complicated depending on where you start and stop because there are four different flag routes in this area.
Let’s start with the red flag route, this one travels exclusively around the different docks at Disney Springs. Technically this will start on the marketplace side tucked away behind Rainforest Cafe. From here the boat will then travel to the west side and then make its final stop at the landing which is right smack in the middle of Disney Springs. From this point it will go back to the marketplace area and just keep doing that loop counterclockwise.
Also, from this dock, guests can board the yellow route which goes from the marketplace area of Disney Springs to both Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside. So, if you’re staying at one of those hotels and having dinner on the west side of Disney Springs, you’ll take a boat first to the marketplace where you’ll transfer to a second boat.
Next, we have the green and blue route which both start at the landing. The green route will travel exclusively from this section to Old Key West resort and back again. Whereas the blue route will go from The Landing to Saratoga Springs. Like with everything else always double-check with a cast member before you board where your boat is traveling to.
As far as accessibility, these boats are very similar to those friendship boats over by Epcot, where there are designated spaces for wheelchairs and strollers. However, given that these boats are a lot smaller it’s very likely that guests with a stroller will have to fold those up.
All of the water taxi routes will usually start at 10:00 a.m.
The last boats from the hotels to Disney Springs will usually be at 11:00 p.m.
The last boats back to the hotels will be 11:30 p.m.
Of course, Disney Springs has a lot of offerings that stay open past that time. So, if you’re planning to have a late night at Disney Springs, you’ll have to take a bus back to your hotel.
Disney World Buses
It may seem a lot less glamorous than a highway in the sky or traveling in your own water taxi, but Disney World buses can actually get you to the highest number of destinations across the resort. However, riding a Disney World bus can be a little bit more complicated than you might think. Where you start your journey, the time of day you choose to travel, and where you’re trying to get to can determine a lot, so let’s break this down a little bit further.
There are buses from all the resort hotels to the four theme parks, the water parks, and Disney Springs. But there are two main exceptions here, all of the hotels on the monorail line will not offer a bus to the Magic Kingdom. That’s because some of them are close enough for you to walk to the park; case in point, the Contemporary Resort. Both the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian Resort offer the monorail service and the boats. To be clear both Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness will offer a bus to the Magic Kingdom.
There’s also a weird rule over in the Epcot resort area. Since the boardwalk, Yacht and Beach Club and Swan and Dolphin all connect to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot there’s no bus service to these two theme parks because resort guests can use the water taxis.
Please keep in mind that if the weather’s bad and the boats are not running or the monorail has broken down for some reason, Disney will offer a replacement bus to these theme parks from these hotels.
If you’re staying at one of the hotels that use the Disney Skyliner; these hotels still offer buses to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. So, don’t think that if you’re staying at the Art of Animation you have to use the Skyliner to get to Epcot.
In terms of accessibility, all of those guests using ECV’s and wheelchairs can board a bus comfortably however everyone using a stroller will have to fold those vehicles up.
As far as hours of operation, the buses from the hotels to the theme parks will usually start 45 minutes to an hour before park opening time. Buses returning to all the resort hotels will keep running until two hours after park closing time.
So, if you’re staying at the Magic Kingdom well past closing time because you’re shopping at the Emporium don’t worry there’s always plenty of time to get a bus back to your hotel.
So we’ve discussed different modes of transportation at Disney World that are completely free. Whether you’re Disney World hotel guests or staying off property you can use the monorail, boats, buses, and Disney Skyliner all in the same. However, there’s one more mode of transportation that will cost you a little bit extra if you want to use it, those adorable Minnie Vans.
This can either be a big time-saver or a complete waste of money it all depends on how you use it. So let’s take a look at some of the best and worst ways to use the Disney Minnie Vans. Disney started testing out Minnie Vans back in 2017, originally it was only open for guests staying at a Disney World Hotel. But now everybody can use Disney Minnie Vans whether you’re staying on property or not. The trick is your starting point and endpoint have to be within the Disney property. So, it’s not like you can get a Minnie Van from Universal Studios all the way to the Magic Kingdom. That’s a different story altogether.
The Minnie Vans fleet is compromised of 50 operating Chevy Traverse vehicles. These crossovers can seat up to six guests and they come equipped with two car seats. If you’re using something like an ECV or wheelchair there are Minnie Vans out there that will accommodate you. To request a Minnie Vans guests will have to download the Lyft app because that’s where you can request the specific vehicle.
The price you pay to use a minivan will completely be based on the distance you’re traveling. I’m going to use the example of requesting a minivan from Disney Springs to the front entrance of Epcot. You’ll see that when you open the lift app and request a ride to this destination a standard list for four people will probably cost you about $12. If you need a little bit more space you can get extra seats in the lift XL, this will cost usually around $15. You’ll also notice the Minnie Van option which is priced at nearly $30… that’s double the price.
Now Disney says the reason you’re paying a little bit extra to use a Minnie Van is because you’re going to get a cast member who’s knowledgeable about the property. So, if you’ve got some questions about anything in Walt Disney world these drivers are trained to know the answer.
There are only two occasions when using a minivan will become useful. The first is if you’ve got little ones who need a car seat. Currently, both Lyft and Uber only offer the extra service of requesting a car seat in select cities. The only way to get a car seat in one of these rideshare services is by getting a Minnie Van on the Lyft app. That extra cost you’re paying is really for that service, in my opinion. The only other time where using a minivan can become helpful is if you’re traveling to the Magic Kingdom. Primarily because a regular Lyft or Uber will only be allowed to drop you off at the ticket and transportation center or you’ll have to get the monorail to get to the theme park.
If you want to be dropped off right at the front entrance of the Magic Kingdom at the bus loop a minivan is going to be your only option. I think it’s a little expensive for that but if you’re in a real big hurry you need to get somewhere fast it can come in handy. If you’re just a couple traveling without children, I would say stick to the regular lyft and uber options. Only go for those Minnie Vans if you need those car seats AND if using a bus, monorail, or boat is just too complicated, or you’ve not got enough time.
You can also check out my full review on how to use Minnie Vans for more information about that as well.
Well, that’s our complete deep dive into the complex transportation system at Walt Disney World. I know that it can seem complicated at first. But hopefully this guide lays it all out in an easy to understand way for your next trip to Walt Disney World.