The most recent of our Disney vacations began with a trip on the Disney Magical Express.
I took this trip with our two youngest children and did not plan to rent a car while in Orlando. A perk of staying at one of the Disney Resorts is this FREE (included in your vacation package) bus service that will transport you from Orlando International airport to your hotel.
Actually this service is so much more that just your standard Orlando Airport shuttle.
The highlights of the Disney Magical Express in a nutshell are as follows:
Luggage service direct to the Disney Resorts guestrooms,
Disney shuttle service from Orlando International Airport to your Disney Hotels.
On your return trip, baggage check in at your hotel,
The ability to get your boarding pass for your return flight at your Disney hotels,
And, of course, return transportation from your resort back to the airport.
The magic began before we even left home. Once I made the decision to forgo the rental car, I called Disney Reservations to let them know that our family would be taking advantage of the Disney Magical Express. I am glad that we did this at least a month before our trip because Disney sent us a package of very important materials that made traveling a breeze - very sensible actually!
In this package were some luggage tags, a confirmation paper, and airport luggage stickers as well (the long stickers that the airport personnel stick through the handles of your checked luggage that list the destination airport). All we had to do was follow the directions to label our checked baggage correctly. We said good-bye to our checked bags at our home airport and they magically appeared in our guestroom later that afternoon.
Once we arrived at Orlando airport, we went directly to the Disney Welcome Center.
It felt funny not having to pick up our bags at baggage claim. Being the worrier that I am, I wanted to make sure that our bags were taken care of. But I trusted in Disney and our bags arrived in our room just as planned.
At the Disney Welcome Center, there was a HUGE line! You know that sinking feeling in your stomach when you feel like you will trapped for hours - that is what I felt.
But again, I should have had more faith. the Disney cast members kept the line moving quickly, and before we knew it we were on the bus.
One thing that I will keep in mind for the next trip is that the Disney Magical Express bus is not operated by Disney itself but rather by Mears Transportation, an outside bus service. So it is a nice gesture to tip the driver (ours was very friendly).
Here a few more things to consider when it comes to the Disney Magical Express:
Not all airlines participate in this service and it is only available to Disney Resort Guests - not including independent hotels like the Swan and Dolphin. I found the people at Disney Reservations to be helpful in guiding us through.
International travelers will need to collect their own bags and go through customs.
Leave lots of time for the Disney shuttle service. The Disney Magical Express bus will stop at up to four resorts. On our trip we were the last drop off. Allowing for this extra time was a small sacrifice for the convenience!. The same thing applied on our trip home. Our bus stopped at one other resort to pick up passengers.
It now costs money to check baggage. Newsflash for 2008: many airlines are charging passengers for each checked piece of luggage, don't get me started on that one! Anyway, for the trip home the folks at Disney require that guests pay these charges in advance - before they check in the bags. Otherwise, they will need to check the bags in at the airport. Asking about how to handle this payment at the front desk when I check in, seems to be the best route - rather than waiting until the last minute. Also, I am sure that Disney Reservations will have the answers as well.
All guests at the Disney Resorts can use the boarding pass, and baggage check in services whether or not they plan to take the Disney Magical Express.
Here is a link to the page at Disney.com with answers to frequently asked questions about the Disney Magical Express service that I found to be very helpful.