Disney’s Magical Express Replacements – Mears Connect & More
Before you can hang out with the princesses and Mickey Mouse, there’s one much less exciting ride you’ll have to take first: your luggage-laden bus/van/car trip from the Orlando airport to Disney World. While the Disney Magical Express is officially at an end (and any complimentary Disney World transportation from the airport along with it), there are still a variety of options to suit everyone – from a private car service with a pitstop for groceries to spots on a Disney airport shuttle.
If you’re wondering how to get to Disney World now that Disney’s Magical Express has taken its last trip, read on as we go over each of your transportation choices, including Magical Express replacements, rideshare services and more.
Is There a Free Shuttle from the Orlando Airport to Disney World?
Once upon a time, Disney did offer a free shuttle from the Orlando airport to Disney World. Aptly named Disney’s Magical Express, this complimentary offering was a favorite of budget-minded Disney World fans everywhere, marking the start of both the Disney magic and their vacation while also saving them some cash. The shuttle’s luggage service was almost as magical as the savings, which would pick up guests’ suitcases from the baggage claim, then deposit them directly in their Disney World hotel room.
That is until Disney nixed it at the end of 2021. Because, you know, there’s no such thing as a free, well, anything at Disney World. *Cough* Disney Genie+ *Cough*
Anyway, with Disney Magical Express ending service from the airport to Disney World on December 31, 2021, and the return route from the resorts back to MCO stopping on January 10, 2022, guests must find another way to get to The Most Magical Place on Earth – and they’ll need to pay for it too.
How to Get from MCO to Disney World
While you can’t take official Disney transportation from the airport to the hotels anymore, that doesn’t mean you have to pay for an expensive rental car to get you there, although you certainly can. You’ll find several different options to get you from MCO to WDW, whether you’re looking for a (paid) Magical Express replacement shuttle, thinking of calling an Uber or wanting to splurge on a private town car. There’s even something that’s almost as cheap as the Walt Disney Magical Express (hint: it’s the public bus).
Disney Airport Shuttles
With easy-to-find locations on the ground transportation level, relatively reasonable rates and convenient drop-off and pick-up at your Disney World hotel, airport shuttles are a popular choice with thrifty travelers. There are two different companies vying for your choice of replacement for Magical Express: Mears Connect and Sunshine Flyer.
The Walt Disney World Magical Express may be no more, but its stable of buses and taxis are still alive and well with Mears Connect. Disney World’s free airport shuttle was actually operated by Mears Motor Coach, not Disney itself. So, the Mears Connect service should run much the same way as its more magical predecessor, albeit without the included luggage handling.
As of January 1, 2022, guests can choose between two different service options: either Standard or Express. The Standard offering looks similar to what Disney’s Magical Express offered in the past and features shared vehicles (usually buses, but not always) running on a loop between the Orlando airport and the Disney World resorts.
Keep in mind that you could have to wait up to 20 minutes once you’ve checked in at the airport to get on a shuttle. Additionally, unless you get lucky, there will probably also be a few other stops on your way to your hotel.
If you’d rather not wait around at the airport or for other hotel shuttle stops, then the Express option is for you. Once you get checked in, you and your group will be whisked away directly to your resort so you can get to the excitement that much faster.
Rather than being priced per person, the Mears Connect Express service covers up to four people round-trip for one flat fee. However, that doesn’t mean you’re paying for a private vehicle. So, while you may get a van to yourself, you could also need to share with other riders.
Whichever option you choose, you will need to provide your flight details at the time of booking. The rates below are introductory and subject to change.
Mears Connect Disney Prices:
Standard Service – $16 per adult, $13.50 per child (ages 3-9) one-way; $32 per adult, $27 per child round-trip (no round-trip discounts are available)
Express Service – $250 for up to four riders (adults or kids) round-trip, plus $55 for each additional passenger (no one-way trips are available)
Looking to start your Disney vacation even sooner? Turn your mundane bus ride into a slightly more whimsical journey on the Sunshine Flyer, a newly announced Disney airport shuttle. Designed to look like old-fashioned trains from the 1920s, complete with staff members decked out like engineers and rail conductors, Sunshine Flyer hopes to elevate guests’ ride experience when it launches on February 1, 2022.
Each premium, late-model motorcoach will sport a unique design, giving riders a different photo and experience to “collect” every time they ride, as well as a bathroom. There will even be onboard entertainment and souvenirs for the kids.
If those sound like some worthwhile upgrades, then you’ll be happy to know that the price is only slightly higher than what you’d pay for Mears Connect – about $1. Plus, although they don’t provide a luggage handling service just yet, they hope to have one up and running by summertime.
Unlike Mears Connect, your specific flight information is optional when booking your reservation. Instead, you’ll choose from a one-hour time slot. The Sunshine Flyer website directs you to select a window based on the “hour in which your flight arrives” and that “your exact bus departure time will be based on your hour of arrival and flight information.” So, if your flight got in at 1:30 PM, you would reserve the 2-3 PM time slot or, if you want some extra time, the 3-4 PM window.
Like the Mears Connect Standard Service, you won’t wait longer for a shuttle than 20 minutes. And once you’re on board, you can expect about a 65-minute ride at most from start to finish.
Sunshine Flyer Disney Prices:
$17 per adult, $12.50 per child (ages 3-9) one-way; $34 per adult, $25 per child round-trip (no round-trip discounts are available)
Private Transfers and Rideshare Services
For those who would rather not share a shuttle bus or van, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, or don’t want to wait around long to leave, then a private airport transfer or rideshare services like Uber or Lyft could be for you. Best of all, depending on how many people you’re traveling with and when your flight comes in, they can even be cheaper than taking a Disney shuttle from the airport.
Before the pandemic, you could even arrange private transportation through Disney as well. Of course, this option came with its fair share of pixie dust or, in this case, polka dots.
Known as Minnie Vans, these colorful cruisers cost $155 each way for airport service and fit up to six guests, as well as each of their suitcases. They even came equipped with two car seats for guests traveling with young children. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the Disney Minnie Van Service is temporarily unavailable.
Arrange a Private Car Service
For a bit of Disney luxury, consider arranging a private airport transfer. Not only will it save you from having to wait for the next shuttle, but it can be very affordable if you’re traveling with a large group.
Some private car service providers will offer grocery stops between the airport and your hotel. Dining at Walt Disney World can get incredibly expensive, especially if you’re feeding several people for multiple meals a day. So, you could literally save hundreds of dollars by swinging past a grocery store before check-in and picking up a few things for breakfast, snacks and some bottles of water.
Depending on how many people you’re traveling with, guests can choose from town cars or minivans up to giant, 10-person vans. Of course, if you want to live like a Disney VIP, you can even reserve a limo and truly arrive in style. Plus, car seats can also be provided for those that need them.
Several private car service providers offer airport transfers to Disney World. To make sure you get the best rate possible, be sure to do some shopping around.
Private Airport Disney Price:
Happy Limousine – $93 one-way/$186 round-trip for a four-person SUV, $98/$196 for a six-person minivan or $108/$216 for a ten-person van; free 15-minute grocery stops based on availability or pay $25 for a guaranteed stop
Quicksilver Tours – $105/$195 for a four-person sedan or $120/$230 for a ten-person van
Call an Uber or Lyft
Assuming that you’re traveling at the right time and all the transportation stars align (no surge pricing, enough drivers nearby, etc.), taking an Uber or Lyft to Disney World can be quick, easy and surprisingly affordable. An UberX for three people can run you as low as $35 to $40 one-way, depending on which resort you’re staying at.
We especially love taking a Lyft or Uber to Disney World for a few different reasons. Aside from having the car (or minivan, SUV or van) to yourself, you can:
Monitor your ride’s arrival time and location
Request a ride in advance (like even from your gate, if the wait time is long)
Customize the vehicle’s size and your ride experience (to an extent), like one with a car seat or a fancy Uber Black
All that being said, taking an Uber or Lyft from the airport to Disney can have its downsides:
Sometimes your advance request falls through
If you need a vehicle with a car seat, you could be waiting a while
Dynamic pricing can mean sky-high rates during peak travel times
So, we suggest you do your research before you arrive if you plan on taking an Uber or Lyft from MCO to Disney World. Check out what the rates are like at the same time on another day. If they’re steep, you may want to consider something else so you’re not stuck with outrageous surge pricing rates you can’t afford.
Uber Disney Price:
UberX (up to three people) – From around $35-$40 one-way and up
UberX Car Seat (up to three people) – From around $45-$50 one-way and up
UberXL (up to five people) – From around $50-$55 one-way and up
Uber Black (up to three people) – From around $75-$80 one-way and up
Uber Black Car Seat (up to four people) – From around $85-$90 one-way and up
Uber Black SUV Car Seat (up to six people) – From around $99-$105 one-way and up
Hail a Cab
Like jumping in an Uber or Lyft, guests can also get to Walt Disney World by grabbing a taxi. Local cabs are easy enough to call or hail and can be a decent option if you don’t need a child seat or a vehicle with a lot of space or can’t reserve a rideshare service.
However, you should expect to pay more than you would with Lyft or Uber. Use this handy-dandy fare estimator to plug in your hotel and determine how much you could spend.
Taxi Disney Price:
Averages roughly $66-$72 one-way before tip depending on which resort you’re staying at
Other Ways to Get to Disney World from the Airport
Still not sold on any of the ideas above? These next Disney World Magical Express replacement options run the gamut from super cheap to incredibly expensive – and not even in existence yet.
Hop on the Lynx Orlando Public Bus
There’s nothing thriftier then taking public transportation, and in Orlando, that’s Lynx. Operated by the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority, the Lynx bus system sprawls across the Greater Orlando Area, including Orlando International Airport and Walt Disney World. Best of all, with fares as low as $2 per adult, you can’t get much cheaper.
Sure, you’ll have to plan it out and time it right. Yes, it will probably take you at least an hour and a half, and that’s if everything works in your favor. And remember that to go as low-cost as possible, you will need to take the Lynx bus to Disney Springs, then take one of the free Disney buses to your hotel from there. But, what you lose in time, you will make up for in money.
Public Bus Disney Price:
$2 per adult
Get a Car Rental
For the ultimate freedom (and price tag), there’s no better transportation option than a rental car. Many rental car companies have outposts at Orlando International Airport, with some vehicles located right there at the airport.
Of course, while you will be able to drive your rented ride to your hotel and back again – and everywhere in between – you will also need to pay not only the rental fees (which can vary considerably based on when you’re traveling), but parking fees as well. Guests staying at Value Resorts pay $15 per night for parking, while those at Moderate Resorts pay $20 and Deluxe and Deluxe Villa resort guests pay $25. Fortunately, this fee does include parking at each of the Disney World theme parks.
Car Rental Disney Price:
Enterprise (for February 18-22, 2022, as of January 3, 2022)
Chevy Malibu (five people, four bags) or similar – $723.22
Chrysler Pacifica (seven people, five bags) or similar – $922.68
Hertz (for February 18-22, 2022, as of January 3, 2022)
Chevy Malibu (five people, four bags) or similar – $529.96
Dodge Grand Caravan (seven people, four bags) or similar – $934.56
Coming 2026…Maybe?: Take the Brightline Train
While a disagreement over its route has derailed (sorry, we couldn’t resist) its construction indefinitely, once it’s finally complete, the near-high-speed Brightline Train will connect Disney World guests not just to the airport and Disney Springs, but throughout Florida as well. Its last-known completion estimate was 2026, so it remains to be seen when it will actually open.
Well, that’s all there is when it comes to Magical Express replacements and other ways to get to Disney World. What’s your favorite way to get to Walt Disney World? What will you do now that Disney’s Magical Express is gone? Let us know in the comments!