The elation over the reopening of Walt Disney World last July was quickly abated by further news of crazy cutbacks Disney planned to make in the coming year. The initial cuts made some sense in light of COVID and safety precautions. Even though it wasn’t the same magical place, we understood and we were happy to take what we could get. What we could not understand was Disney’s Magical Express. Why in the wonderful world of Disney would they get rid of Magical Express?
At first, it was just the luggage aspect that they took away. It used to be that Disney would whisk your bags to your hotel. You could skip the baggage claim to go straight to your coach. It was the best. Now you can’t do that anymore, but it soon won’t even matter because come January, Magical Express as a service will cease to exist entirely. We’ve all asked why Disney is doing this, but as 2022 quickly approaches, the question is quickly becoming how are we as guests going to replace this experience?
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I think for a long time, I was in denial about the whole thing. I, like other Disney fans, felt sure that Disney would announce a new option. One that is similar and perhaps even better. Sadly, no. There’s no replacement from Disney to help make our trip from the airport easier, more fun, or more economical. Disney’s Magical Express was a free service. One that in my opinion went a long way in justifying some of the other costs of a Disney trip. Now as January vacations loom heavy on the horizon, the practicality of getting to your hotel room once your terminal is now a very real problem to solve– and to budget for.
Alternatives to Disney’s Magical Express
Without the Disney-run service taking guests on a complimentary hassle-free trip from the airport to their resort, We need to rethink how we do a Disney vacation. The downside is that there will be a cost. The upside is that this change could open up more possibilities in Orlando and leave you less tied to the Walt Disney World property.
If the Disney park ticket prices have you budgeting your time, you can spread out your trip by visiting other places in Orlando. Now that there are so few additional benefits to staying at a Walt Disney World resort, you could find a high-quality and far less expensive lodging option nearby. Both of these changes can easily offset the cost of transportation to your hotel. Having said that, there are three main alternatives to Disney’s Magical Express that will get you wherever you need to go: Meers, Uber, and renting a car.
Mears is actually the company that Disney operates Disney’s Magical Express through. Even the drivers are employed by Mears. That means that if you use Meers to get to Walt Disney World, it could be essentially the same experience, or at least very similar to what you might be used to. I used Mears once to stay at a non-Disney resort and while I did not have the same experience, it was professional and reliable. It was a good way to get to my hotel from the airport and it wasn’t too expensive either.
Mears offers a variety of services to meet your specific needs. The bus charter service may be closest to what you’re used to, but you would have to have a group of passengers large enough to warrant the 55 seat capacity. There are also 25 seat mini buses and executive vans that seat 13. Outside of the bus charter service, there are taxi and shuttle services to meet any group requirement you have on your trip. There is even Mears Luxe if you really want to lean into the extra cost of travel.
When booking your reservation, you can choose between standard service, which you share with other guests as you would with Magical Express or the Express service which takes you directly to your destination. Although prices may vary depending on when you have your reservation, Mears does not charge surge rates, which is helpful in comparison shopping when you consider Uber as an alternative.
Depending on when you arrive and depart, Uber may be a better deal for you. It’s a reliable way to get from the airport to the hotel, but you never know the Uber driver you will get or the level of service you receive. I use Uber at Disney World often and I’m never disappointed by the service. However, it is definitely a grab bag of personalities and nothing like you would expect from Disney professionalism. Disney has temporarily suspended their Minnie Van service which was a Lyft-powered alternative to Uber that employed Disney cast members. The option is much more expensive, but if it does return in 2022, You may consider paying the premium for a seamless Disney experience if you aren’t still bitter about losing Magical Express.
The other way you could go for transportation is to rent a car. Car rentals in Orlando are pretty inexpensive. However, the downside is that you have to pay virtually everywhere you park in Walt Disney World. If you use the car a lot you will also be on the hook for gas. However, this option affords you the most freedom to get around and explore the area, if you don’t mind dealing with traffic. Another benefit of renting a car is that you can make trips to Target or Walmart to buy food and necessities for much less than you would on Disney World property.
All of these options are viable alternatives to Disney’s Magical Express after they cease operations on January 1, 2022. While the pricing is always in flux and value will vary depending on how many are traveling in your party You can easily compare the pricing across these platforms when you have your dates secured and your flight info handy. Just make sure to leave room in your budget by saving money on your hotel, or by buying less food and merchandise at the Disney parks! Remember, Disney Genie is going to make park experiences more expensive on top of the increased ticket prices, So consider that as well when you are planning your next vacation.