Thursday, April 18, 2024
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WDW Transportation: History and Options

Transportation is critical to Disney’s infrastructure. It’s the means of moving Guests throughout the parks and resorts seamlessly and efficiently. I’m going to share the history of Disney transportation, why it continues to be an important part of Disney culture, and the various transportation options available to you at Walt Disney World.

Welcome to the Disney 100 Series! This year, in honor of The Walt Disney Company’s 100th Anniversary, I’m going to share with you a series of articles highlighting special moments in Disney history, as well as provide useful information and helpful tips for planning your next Walt Disney World (or Disneyland) vacation.

Let’s dive in!

Disneyland Railroad

Planning a Trip to Walt Disney World?

Planning a trip to Walt Disney World is complicated, there are no two ways around that. Doing as much research and preparing ahead of time can help ease some of the stress before your magical vacation begins. Understanding transportation options is just one part of the planning process. It may seem silly, but there are so many choices, it will be helpful to know what is available to you and what might work for your family’s needs. 

Getting around the Walt Disney Resort is actually rather easy, if you are aware of your transportation needs and the various options. And depending on the time of year you visit, the mode of transportation you choose may vary. 

But before we explore all of the choices, let’s take a walk down memory lane and look at the history of transportation at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. It really is quite fascinating to learn of its origins and how far it’s come over the years.

History of Disney Transportation

Disney has a long-standing history with transportation and various ways of moving their Guests throughout the resort. And truly no one does it better. I marvel at Walt Disney’s transportation system. It is quite phenomenal how they can effectively and efficiently get thousands of Guests transported around the resort without issue on a daily basis. The next time you are visiting, pause and watch when standing at any one of the bus depots (most specifically Magic Kingdom) and watch it happen before your eyes. From the Magic Kingdom bus depot you’ll see the buses, monorail, ferries, and Minnie Vans all in motion at the same time moving people to their final destination. It’s such a cool thing to watch. Disney has it down to a science.

The Early Days

The history of Disney transportation dates as far back as 1955, when Disneyland Park first opened its doors in Anaheim, California. From the very beginning, Disney recognized the need for convenient and efficient transportation to move Guests around the park.

One of the opening day attractions on July 17, 1955 was the Disneyland Railroad, built to take Guests on a grand circle tour of Disneyland Park, but also serve as a handy way to get around the park. We can credit Walt Disney himself for that. His love and passion for trains as a young boy inspired the railway system to be built and he insisted a train be included in the original theme park plans. Nowadays, you can find rail transport in almost every Disney theme park, both nationally and internationally. It is a staple at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California and Magic Kingdom Park in Orlando, Florida.

In the very early days of Disneyland, Disney offered horse-drawn streetcars, omnibuses, and fire engines as transportation options for Guests. Then, while traveling overseas in October 1958, Walt Disney discovered the German monorail system created by the Alweg Research Corporation. Inspired by his dedication to continuously innovate, Walt Disney decided to bring the monorail system to Disneyland Park. Soon after in 1959, Disney introduced the Disneyland Monorail System, which was the first daily operating monorail system in the Western Hemisphere. This was a major transportation innovation and has since become an iconic feature of Disney Parks worldwide.

Walt Disney World Opens

In 1971, Walt Disney World opened in Florida and introduced a number of new transportation options, including bus services. Walt Disney World had a much bigger footprint than Disneyland, even at the very beginning, so the need for a wide range of transportation alternatives was critical. In the 1980s, Disney introduced the Disney World Transportation System (DWTS), which was a comprehensive transportation network that included buses, monorails, boats and more. The vast array of transportation resources available to Guests allowed Disney to get everyone quickly to their respective destinations without issue or delay.

Over the years, as technology continues to advance, Disney continues to expand and improve its transportation systems. 

Disney Monorail

In more recent years, Walt Disney World has introduced new transportation options such as the Disney Skyliner and Minnie Van service (operated by Lyft), which provides Guests with a personal, on-demand ride around the resort.

Disney continues to improve and innovate in the way Guests can move around the Walt Disney World Resort, with the one goal of creating a seamless and enjoyable experience during their visit to the parks.

So before your next visit to the Walt Disney Resort, let’s summarize the many ways you have for getting around.

Walt Disney World Transportation – Overview

Once on property, getting around Walt Disney World is probably one of the easiest things to do. There are however tons of options in their vast transportation system, so it’s great to have some familiarity with all of the choices. It’s also good to be aware that not all options go everywhere on property. In those cases, there are plenty of alternatives.

Let’s take a look at how to effectively get around the resort and which transportation options are available to you.

Transportation Options

  1. Monorail: The Walt Disney World Monorail System provides a scenic tour around the Magic Kingdom, as well as transport to and from the Transportation and Ticket Center, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.
  2. Buses: Disney World operates a comprehensive bus system that provides transportation to and from all Disney World theme parks, water parks, and Disney resort hotels. Buses run frequently and offer air-conditioned comfort for guests.
  3. Boats: Disney World also offers boat transportation, including water taxis and ferry boats, to connect guests between theme parks, resorts, and other areas around the resort.
  4. Minnie Vans: This is a new on-demand, point-to-point transportation service that provides guests with a personal, comfortable ride around the resort. Minnie Vans can be reserved through the Lyft app.
  5. Disney Skyliner: The Disney Skyliner is a gondola transportation system that provides a birds-eye view of Walt Disney World Resort as it transports guests between select Disney resort hotels and theme parks (Art of Animation, POP Century, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Riviera Resort, EPCOT and Hollywood Studios).
  6. Cars and Taxis: For guests who prefer to drive, self-parking and valet parking options are available at Disney World theme parks and resort hotels. Taxis and ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft are also available. If you choose to rent a car or drive your own, parking fees are waived at all theme parks and hotels. Your Magic Band will be scanned at the parking lot entrance as proof you are staying on property.
  7. Walkways and Pedestrian Bridges: Walt Disney World Resort also has a well-developed system of walkways and pedestrian bridges that connect parks, resorts, and other areas for guests who prefer to walk.

Disney Skyliner

Transportation Between Parks and Hotels at Walt Disney World

If you are traveling between any of the four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom) and the hotels at Walt Disney World, below outlines all options available to you. 

  • Deluxe Resorts to Theme Parks
      • Magic Kingdom Resort guests can take the monorail or ferry to Magic Kingdom; monorail to Epcot; and buses to Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.
      • For Guests staying at the Contemporary, you can also walk to Magic Kingdom.
      • Boardwalk Resort guests can walk to Epcot or take the Friendship boats to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Buses can be taken to Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom.
      • Guests staying at Disney’s Riviera (Deluxe Villa) have the option to take the Disney Skyliner to Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
        • Note: Bus service is reduced to once per hour to Epcot and Hollywood Studios from these resorts. Guests are encouraged to use the Skyliner.
      • All other Deluxe Resort guests can take buses to the parks.
  • Moderate and Value Resorts to Theme Parks
      • All guests staying at a Moderate and Value Resort can take buses to all parks.
      • Guests staying at Caribbean Beach, Art of Animation and Pop Century can travel to and from Epcot and Hollywood Studios via the Disney Skyliner
        • Note: Bus service is reduced to once per hour to Epcot and Hollywood Studios from these resorts. Guests are encouraged to use the Skyliner.
  • Off-property Resorts/Hotels
    • Many hotels in the surrounding Walt Disney World area offer shuttle service to and from the theme parks. Be sure to confirm with your hotel if this service is offered.

I recommend allowing at least 60-90 min travel time if using the buses, depending on the crowds and time of year.

Transportation Between Hotels at Walt Disney World

If you are traveling between any of the hotels on property at Walt Disney World, below outlines all options available to you. 

  • The best (and quickest) way to get from one hotel to another is by taxi/Uber or Minnie Van. 
  • Buses do not travel from hotel to hotel.
  • Guests can travel to a theme park and then onto a resort as an option.
  • If you are traveling between Pop Century, Art of Animation, Disney’s Riviera Resort and Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, you can use the Disney Skyliner option.
  • If you are traveling between Disney’s Polynesian, Contemporary or Grand Floridian Resort & Spa Resorts, you can access each of these via the monorail using the Monorail Resort Line.

Disney Monorail

Transportation Between Parks at Walt Disney World

All four parks (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom) have Disney World transportation available that will very easily get you to another park.

Magic Kingdom to the following parks:

  • Epcot – Take the Magic Kingdom monorail or ferry to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) and transfer to the Epcot monorail
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios –  bus
  • Animal Kingdom – bus

Epcot to the following parks:

  • Animal Kingdom – bus
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios – bus, boat, Skyliner (gondola), or you can even walk
  • Magic Kingdom –  Take the Epcot monorail to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) and transfer to either the Magic Kingdom monorail or take the ferry

Hollywood Studios to the following parks:

  • Animal Kingdom – bus
  • Magic Kingdom – bus
  • Epcot – bus, boat, Skyliner, or you can even walk

Animal Kingdom to the following parks:

  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios – bus
  • Epcot – bus
  • Magic Kingdom – bus

Disney's Minnie Van ServiceMinnie Van Service at Walt Disney World

These adorable red and white polka dot minivans are an effective (and adorable) way to travel around the Walt Disney World resort – especially during busy times!

  • The Minnie Van private transportation service is provided by Walt Disney World and available by using the Lyft app. Drivers are Walt Disney World Cast Members.
  • The Lyft app is available for download on iOS and Android. In order to request a Minnie Van, you must do so via the app.
  • The cost per trip varies depending on the destination, but can cost from $20 – $40.  
  • The service is currently available between 6:30 AM and 12:30 AM. They typically continue running until all Guests have been accommodated and taken safely to their destination(s). So it is possible that they run later.
  • When you create an account on the Lyft app, you will need to enter a credit card as all costs associated with the service. Payment (and tip) is made directly through the Lyft app via a credit card, so cash is not necessary.
  • Each Minnie Vans fit 6-8 guests, have up to 2 car seats available, and can now accommodate wheelchairs and EVCs, if necessary.

Minnie Van User Tips

  • I would set up your account ahead of time so if you decide to use a Minnie Van during your stay, you are good to go!
  • I suggest requesting a Minnie Van via the app at the time you are ready, as it can show up within minutes. There may already be a driver in your area, so be ready and waiting.
  • It is not required that you tip your Minnie Van driver, since they are Cast Members employed by Walt Disney World. However, I personally prefer to tip a few dollars for the service. It’s a personal preference and up to you. There is an option on the app itself to include the tip when paying for the service

So there you have it, the many options and ways to travel around the Walt Disney World Resort. No matter which one you choose, you are bound to get to your destination seamlessly and on time! I look forward to the future to see how Disney continues to innovate and bring to Guests even more quick and efficient ways to get around the Walt Disney World Resort.

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Marnie Raimondo
Marnie Raimondo
Hi there! I'm Marnie, Disney blogger and writer. My passion is helping people plan magical Walt Disney World vacations. I love sharing Disney tips and advice based on my personal experiences from many, many magical trips over the years. I hope through my writing I can help you navigate your way through Disney news, the parks, dining, resorts and so much more! Happy planning!
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