For countless Walt Disney World diehards, the Magical Express ride from Orlando International Airport to their resort offered an easy, enjoyable kickoff to theme park vacation heaven.
But alas: The free service for resort guests, complete with baggage that showed up in one’s room with no lugging and tugging on the Disneygoers’ part, ended earlier this year.
So what can parkgoers do if driving from and to the airport was not part of th Disney dream?
There are options – maybe not as magical, or with Mickey or Minnie waving in the window, but definitely available.
While the Express’ goodbye was announced last year, the final hurrahs happened 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 ride on the Express was from the Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa to Orlando International on Jan. 8.
The Skaars became Disney Vacation Club members after a 2007 trip to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
“We began enjoying the convenience and ‘magic’ of being transported to and from the airport via the Magical Express buses,” Pamela, a retired speech-language pathologist, said.
“They would get our luggage for us and it magically appeared in our room at our resort just a few hours later! They also were beautiful Disney-themed buses, complete with funny, entertaining, well-mannered drivers and cute Disney videos as we rode along to or from the airport.”
Now, they say, they’ll take Mears Connect operated by Mears, whose drivers navigated the Magical Express from 2005 until its farewell. But unlike Magical Express, Mears Connect won’t be free. Also, at least for now, Mears won’t be picking up luggage for passengers and delivering it to their resort rooms. Guests will have to handle that on their own.
Still, the Skaars will treasure the memory of that last trip on the service, when they were the only two people on the bus and posed for photos with the driver.
“We have so many happy memories of using the Magical Express, just the two of us, and other times with our adult children and our grandchildren,” Pamela said. “One trip years back we brought my sweet mother who is now passed on … she rode the Magical Express with us and enjoyed WDW for the first time in her life in her 70s.”
Transportation to Walt Disney resorts options
For those needing a lift from the airport to Disney resorts, here are some options.
Mears Connect, offering Standard and Express options.
Cost for a one-way 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 apiece for additional passengers. It could, the site advises, be a shared service.
For information and reservations: mearsconnect.com. For a private car, you’ll need a reservation at least a day in advance, and for the shuttle, 24 hours in advance. Cabs are also available through Mears, 24/7. Passengers will have to stop by baggage claim before heading to the Mears location at Orlando International, where they will board in Terminal B, on level 1, ground transportation level, in the old Disney location.
Taxi, Uber or Lyft: All of these options are available at Orlando International, with choices including UberX, UberXL and, on the more expensive end, Uber Black.
Sunshine Flyer: This direct-from-airport-to-resorts bus service hasn’t kicked off yet – the launch is set for Feb. 1 – but shows promise for those looking for the kind of entertainment-filled offerings that endeared them to the Magical Express. Rather than Disney-centric, it’s being touted as reminiscent of rail travel in the 1920s, complete with buses wrapped as locomotive or passenger cars and drivers and staff dressed as conductors and engineers.
Cost for adults is $17 for one-way and $34 for round-trip tickets. For children ages 3 to 9: $12.50 for one-way; $25 round-trip. Children younger than 2 may sit on an adult’s lap for free. Get details sunshineflyer.com.
Car rental: While this can be the best option for those who want the freedom of having a vehicle at their disposal during a trip, remember that along with not being entertained, there are tolls along the way. On top of that, there’s the parking fee at Disney resorts, up to $25 per night.
Contact Britt Kennerly at [email protected] and Twitter: @bybrittkennerly Facebook: /bybrittkennerly.