Affordable Disney Vacations: Saving Time AND Money with Disney’s Magical Express
Many people travel to Walt Disney World by flying. For some, there is no other realistic way to get there. Others, who could drive, often choose to fly anyway. My family is in the second group: while I personally don’t mind driving, my family feels otherwise.
So we typically fly these days. But the challenge here, if you are trying to have a Disney vacation that is as affordable as possible, is that airfare is way expensive. So unfortunately, a major portion of any Disney vacation budget ends up being spent on transportation.
But the good news is that Disney does make things easy here, by providing complimentary transportation to and from Orlando airport, for guests of any of the Walt Disney World resorts. The better news is that Disney’s Magical Express will save you money AND time….and it’s fun to use too!
With that in mind then, if you are staying in a Disney resort, and have never used Magical Express before, what do you need to know?
To start, once you have your flight information, you will need to contact Disney (407-WDW-MAGIC or 407-939-6244) and provide them with that information. It is recommended that you do this at least 6 weeks prior to your trip. Several weeks before you leave, you will receive Magical Express luggage tags for each person that will be traveling, along with a booklet that has information for when you arrive, as well as a voucher for boarding the bus when you arrive at Orlando airport. (Note that you will receive only 1 tag per person, which assumes you will not be checking more than one bag per person. If you need more, contact DME to request additional tags.)
Place the tag on your luggage at home, and then check it as usual at your home airport. When you arrive at Orlando Airport, there is no need to go to baggage claim: Disney does that for you. You will instead go to the DME boarding area (there are signs, and a map in your booklet), and you will be directed to the correct line. Note that there is not a separate DME bus for each resort, so you will “share” your bus with guests of several nearby resorts. With this in mind, you should allow for up to an hour from the time you are boarding your bus, until you arrive at your resort. But the time goes so fast on the bus: they show a video to, you know, get people excited about arriving at Disney World…which works pretty well.
And this is the best part. Once you get to your resort, check in (and if you did online check in before you arrived, this will take only a few minutes), and then you are on your way to the parks. Meanwhile, Disney’s Magical Express is handling your bags, and when you arrive in your room later on, they will be there waiting for you. (Be aware, however, that DME does say that it can take up to 4 hours for your bags to arrive in your room, so keep that in mind and pack your carry-on accordingly….more about this in a minute.)
It should be noted that you always have the option, if you wish, to not put the luggage tags on your bags, and when you arrive at MCO, you will then proceed to baggage claim first to retrieve your luggage. Once you have them, you can then go to board the Magical Express bus. It should also be noted that if have a late night arrival (after 10 p.m.) you do not have a choice: you must claim your own luggage before boarding the bus. Even so, while you may not be saving time here, you still have the benefit of complimentary transportation.
Now I will be honest: the system doesn’t always work flawlessly, and I have to share that on one trip we returned to our room in the evening, to find not the two suitcases that should have been there…but one. My husband’s was there, but mine was MIA…
As it turns out, the fault was with our airline that apparently felt my luggage should not go to Walt Disney World, but to some other destination. To the credit of DME, they handled it all: found out when my suitcase was supposed to arrive at MCO, when it did in fact arrive at MCO, when it got on the truck headed to Disney World, and then they let me know when it showed up at our hotel. I was a wreck…but they couldn’t have been nicer. (And I learned a BIG lesson, especially if you will be arriving in the evening: ALWAYS pack what you need for overnight in your carry on. Just In Case. )
All in all, I really believe that DME is a pretty good system, and offers some real savings to folks who fly into Orlando. Not so long ago, once you landed at MCO, you then had the expense of either renting a car, or paying for a taxi or limo service to get you to your hotel…which adds to your already high transportation budget. And if you are staying off property, that is still the case. This is why you want to always compare ALL the costs of staying on Disney property vs. off property, to see what the most affordable option for your family is. Perks like Disney’s Magical Express go a long way in making a Disney resort stay more affordable than you might think!
So, you might be asking, what happens when it is time to go back home? How do you get back to MCO?
Well……That is a post for next week!
Note: If you have never used Disney’s Magical Express before, be sure to read the FAQs on the Disney website to help in your planning.
Nancy, her husband and college-age daughter live in the Baltimore MD area, but consider Walt Disney World their second “home”. She started her site The Affordable Mouse, as a way to share ideas about how to plan affordable Disney vacations. Her favorite things at Disney World (in no particular order) are Soarin’, most of the food in World Showcase, Illuminations…and that special brand of Disney magic that you can’t find anywhere else.
- Learning to “Let Go” With Disney’s Magical Express (theaffordablemouse.com)
- Best Things I Love About Disney – Disney’s Magical Express (chipandco.com)