Disney's Magical Express -- A Quick Overview

Walt Disney World offers free ground transportation from Orlando International Airport to its resorts and back for its resort guests. It does not matter what airline you are flying on, or even if you are flying.

Last updated 5/24/10

Quick Tips

Using Magical Express

Orlando International Airport Hints

Frequently Voiced Concerns

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Special thanks to "Chip n Dale Express" on the forums of the Disney Information Station

Magical Express hot line number:  toll free 866-599-0951

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Quick Tips:

"Disney's Magical Express" may be seen abbreviated as "DME" or "ME".

New! No late evening automagical delivery of baggage to your room. If you arrive after 9:45, go to the airport carousels. More.

If you are unsure of whether you will need Magical Express, make the reservation anyway. Reservations are required although you can cancel at any time.

If there is a mistake in your reservation for going home, wait until you get to Orlando before trying to correct it. This reduces confusion and possible additional mistakes.

Try not to schedule a restaurant reservation or some other event that depends on prompt arrival at the resort. Magical Express cannot expedite your ride when your plane into Orlando is delayed.

Please, please, don't yell at the Disney representatives at Orlando Airport. There will be peak periods and activity may be disorganized. There will be times when there are more guests than Disney folks helping out and waiting lines may develop.

Let's start a fad! Make up stick on labels, at least 3 x 5 inches, with any three digit number in large numerals on it and the words "check name tag also" in small print underneath. (Everyone in the family uses the same number) Plaster two of these on each suitcase. Makes baggage easier to find at the carousel.

Get the name and city of any person you talk to on the phone and also try to get a written confirmation.

Bring as carry on baggage things (such as toothbrush and swimsuit) you will need for at least the first 24 hours after you arrive.

Bring pencil and paper to copy down baggage claim check information during your flight.

At your resort if not sooner, get return bus tickets with specific return time as soon as you can.

Don't give up! Things may be chaotic at Orlando Airport but Magical Express will get you there.

What Is Disney's Magical Express?

Walt Disney World offers complimentary transportation to and from Orlando International Airport to its resort guests. It is possible that a small charge may be applied in the future but notice will be published months in advance.

Note: The following resorts in particular are not included: Swan, Dolphin, Shades of Green, resorts at Bonnett Creek south of Buena Vista Drive, and the hotels just past Downtown Disney on Hotel Plaza Blvd. Occasionally a Magical Express bus may stop at one of these resorts for Disney Cruise Line guests or Mears Transportation paid customers. Hint: Eligible resorts have "Disney's" (possessive form) in their full names; the resorts named in this paragraph do not.

Magical Express reservations are required and should be made at least ten days in advance, 21 days in advance is recommended. But reservations on short notice can be handled for guests who booked late or who had to make last minute changes. Except for last minute reservations, guests should receive in the mail a package with instructions and yellow baggage tags. As with all over the phone or on line reservations, guests should get the name and city of the person they spoke to, and preferably also a confirmation number or code in case the package does not arrive in time. (For vacations booked on shorter notice, Magical Express has taken reservations but yellow tags might not arrive.)

One way Magical Express reservations are okay.

"Going To Disney"

Magical Express works the same for all airlines' flights into Orlando International Airport (MCO). Most of the day, checked baggage can be delivered directly to the resort room without the need to wait at the baggage carousel and without the need to wait in the room.

You may use Magical Express only on or after your check in day. For members of your party/family arriving at different times, be sure to make or modify reservations in advance. Each person must be registered as a room occupant.

If you will arrive in Orlando before check in day, for example the night before, give the Magical Express reservations agent the flight number of any airplane flight arriving around the time you will be back at the airport on check in day ready to go to your resort.

Don't cut tags in half crosswise.

Carry-on Baggage

Must be hand carried all the way to the Magical Express bus.

Checked Baggage With Yellow Magical Express Tags

Claiming at carousel is not possible most of the day.

Will be delivered to your resort room most of the day and evening.

Arriving after 10 PM, you must claim it at the carousels..

Checked Baggage Without Yellow Tags

You may choose to claim it at the carousel and bring it to the Magical Express bus.

Most of the day you may choose to let Magical Express deliver it to your resort room. You will need to show your airline baggage claim checks.

Arriving after 10 PM, you must claim it at the carousels..

At Customs Station at Orlando Airport (some foreign guests)

You may choose to attach the yellow tags here if you did not already do so, and then put the baggage on the other conveyor belt for resort delivery.

Occasionally the agents let passengers hand carry their baggage out of the customs station and onto the airport trams.

Most Canadians and residents of some other countries will pre-clear customs within their country and not also need to clear customs in Orlando.

Exception: Guests who need to claim their baggage at a intermediate connecting airport must do so and re-check it as usual. The baggage with Magical Express tags will still be delivered to the resort room.

Exception: On rare occasions, foreign guests who pre-cleared customs elsewhere may have to clear customs again in Orlando as part of secondary security screening.

The Magical Express welcoming area is on the lowest level on the "B" side at the end away from the Hyatt hotel.

The resort bellhop is still available to handle and/or store baggage that is hand carried.

Late Evening Arrivals

Guests arriving in the main terminal after10 PM must get their own baggage from the carousels and bring it to the welcoming area.

Currently we advise you to go to the carousel immediately if the clock shows "ten of ten" or later as you exit security (since you would arrive at the welcoming area after 10).

If your baggage does not appear on the carousel, file a baggage claim with the airline unless you are sure the baggage has already been taken by Magical Express.

At the welcoming area, do the normal paperwork and go ahead and board the bus. Your baggage will be delivered after dawn by Magical Express or handled by your claim with the airline whichever happens first.

(Disney may publish simpler procedures to substitute for the immediate preceding.)

Going Home

You may use Magical Express only on or before your check out day. For members of your party leaving at different times, be sure to make or modify reservations at least a day in advance of the bus trip needed.

If you will not be leaving town immediately, give the Magical Express reservations agent the number of any airline's flight leaving about three hours after you want to leave your resort.

Find out where the Magical Express buses back to the airport load up, especially if you are using Magical Express one way, just to go home. Usually buses load where they drop off arriving guests and not where park buses load.

Be sure to get your return bus tickets or return bus time at your resort as soon as you can. (You can make changes up until a day before you check out.)  Typically you need to be ready to board the bus a little over 3 hours before your flight time for domestic flights and 4 hours for international flights. If you delay making return reservations, you may be scheduled to leave on a bus earlier than you expect to leave. Specifically you need to be ready to board 15 minutes before the bus time on your confirmation paper.

Be sure you have a sheet of paper confirming your Magical Express bus back to the airport. This is normally delivered to your room the morning of your second to last day. If you don't receive it or if you need to make changes, do so  at the front desk on that day before check out before going off to the parks.

Remove the yellow cardboard Magical Express tags from your baggage before going home. These tags are no longer needed.

Guests returning home on domestic flights on a few airlines may check baggage with their airline at the resort immediately after resort checkout, enjoy the parks if they have a few free hours, and then come back to board the Magical Express bus. The airlines currently represented at the resorts are: Air Tran, Alaska, American, Continental, Delta, Jetblue, Northwest, Southwest, United, and US Airways. (Old Key West and Caribbean Beach guests cannot check baggage for Southwest at the resort yet.)

Caution: Standing in the line to check baggage with airlines does not count as being punctual for your Magical Express bus home. If you are cutting things close and still have your baggage, bring it to the bus platform.

Caution: Be sure to get a claim check when checking baggage and be sure the proper destination is shown. If you have problems, take back your baggage to go to the bus and to the ticket counter at the airport.

If your airline is not represented at the resort, or if the baggage check stand is not open (before 5 AM), or if your baggage must go through customs, you would bring their baggage to the Magical Express bus and check the baggage at the airport in the usual fashion. Depending on departure time you can store baggage with the bellhop for the few hours after resort checkout and before departure.

If you are departing immediately after resort checkout and the resort baggage check in station has a long line, you may (and should) skip that step and bring your baggage to the bus for normal airport check in.

Important -- Be on time. Allow time for transportation back from the parks, especially from the Magic Kingdom. We recommend aiming to be back at the resort an hour before your bus departs. Some resorts require that you give as much as 45 minutes' notice for the bellhop to get your baggage, or there may be a line of people waiting for baggage service. If you miss your return bus it might not be possible to get you on a later bus that will make your flight.

Magical Express buses do not always have "Magical Express" painted on the side. If what might be a Magical Express bus arrives 20 or so minutes in advance, do not sit back and assume it is not yours. Get up and eavesdrop and find out for sure. When you show your paperwork, the driver will tell you if his bus is not yours.

Do not give up your seat on the bus to another passenger. Standing is technically not allowed and you don't want the bus driver to tell you to get off.

The Magical Express bus stops once on each side of the airport  (A and B). Guests who don't have baggage put under the bus and who don't mind walking a little more will find getting off at the first stop to be quicker.

Other Comments

Magical Express is not a totally new operation. The same operation, although on a much smaller scale, has been used for years for Disney Cruise Line guests.

The Mears company owns and operates the Magical Express buses. Mears will continue to offer their normal shuttle service to area hotels but as of 2007 do not take advance reservations to and from Disney's resorts. Magical Express guests must be careful to board buses as directed by Disney representatives and personnel.

Guests have reported difficulties in getting written confirmation of Magical Express reservations (as posted on Disboards.com, Transportation Forum). If you run into this, at least call more than once to ask, and get the name and city of the person you talked to each time.

All of the current airline, airport, and security rules still apply. Baggage should not be locked. Valuables, unused film, undeveloped film, loaded cameras, medicines, keys, should not be in checked baggage including Magical Express tagged baggage.

We suggest that you not use Samsonite and similar suitcases with latches that pop out diagonally. These suitcases may open accidentally in transit as well as catch toes and clothing while in a cramped hotel room. It is also not good to snap the latches closed with the lid ajar, you could pick up the suitcase by mistake and the lid flies open spilling everything.

On rare busy occasions you may be required to "check your bags" again at the Magical Express welcoming area for delivery to the resort on a different vehicle. Remove valuables before checking any bag.

If a bag does not arrive at your resort, see the resort staff. In the rare event resort staff tells you that you need to go back to the airport to resolve baggage problems, have them give you Magical Express bus tickets to do this. (We have not found any recorded instance of this happening.)

Magical Express will "remain open" until all known guests checking in that night have arrived on late evening flights.

There have been some concerns about buses back to the airport not showing up or being filled causing people to be left behind. Your return reservation should include a time to show up for the bus. You need to be there 15 minutes in advance of this time. Should problems occur (not including your being late) feel free to ask Disney staff to arrange alternate transportation when it gets to 2 hours 30 minutes before flight time (3 hours 30 minutes for reservations 4 hours in advance).

Reference:  http://www.disboards.com  Transportation forum and Theme Park Attractions forum.

Orlando International Airport hints

After you get off the tram at the main terminal and after you exit security, you are entering the main terminal  Level 3 in the fashion of entering an oversized football field from near the goalpost. The security screening area is the middle of each end zone. The A side is one grandstand and the B side is the other grandstand. (You cannot see all the way downfield, it's as if there are concession stands and concert stages all over the field that you have to go between.)

The Magical Express welcoming area is on the B side at one end down at the lowest level (Level 1) , near US Air's carousels and diagonally opposite the terminal building from Southwest's carousels.

If you came from gates 1 to 59, turn to the right as soon as you exit security out into the area where the stores are.

If you came from gates 60-129, when you come out into the cavernous Hyatt hotel atrium, turn to the left.

Regardless of what gate you arrived at, upon exiting security at the main terminal, when you look sharply to the right or left and slightly upwards, you will see a big neon A or B on the wall just overhead indicating A side or B side respectively.

From the A side carousels you have to come back up to Level 3 (security, ticketing, stores), go across "the field" and down the other side.

If you go downstairs on the B side first, walk along the corridor with the windows to the outside on your left.

"OIA" is the airport's name abbreviated. "MCO" (for McCoy Field) is the airport's code.

Frequently Voiced Concerns

1.  My Magical Express yellow baggage tags haven't arrived.

You don't absolutely positively need them. You can check your baggage normally at the beginning of your trip. Disney suggests putting two or three brightly colored ribbons (all the same color) on each suitcase, not with too long loose ends. Also have two firmly attached or firmly stuck on tags or labels on each suitcase with: your name, your travel date, "MCO" in big capital letters, your Disney's resort name, and "Disney Magical Express". Remove all other old baggage tags and also labels and bumper stickers with other destinations or names.

When you get to Orlando, go to the Magical Express welcoming station (lowest level, "B" side). There, they will give you directions on how to handle the baggage, typically you pick out the shape of the baggage items from a chart and they will find it and deliver it after you have boarded the bus. In rare cases: they may send a Disney representative with or without you to the carousel to get the baggage. You will have to give the rep. your baggage claim checks. Or they may send you alone to go get the baggage.

2.  I reserved Magical Express but the resort confirmation paper I received does not say Magical Express.

(Generally) Call the hot line (1-866-599-0951) and get the name and city of the person you talked to and tell him you wanted Magical Express. Also request a Magical Express confirmation in writing. If you booked through a travel agent or through a Disney Vacation Club owner (point rental) contact them to arrange Magical Express.

3.  I don't feel comfortable giving the Disney representative my baggage claim checks.

Unfortunately this may be necessary whether or not you had Magical Express baggage tags and whether or not you fetch your baggage yourself from the carousels. This is why you should copy down the numbers and codes on the claim checks while you are in the plane. You must still check in at the Magical Express welcoming area but if it is before 11 PM you can go to the carousel first. You may still be required to "check your baggage" again for Magical Express at the carousel or at the welcoming station or at the bus platform.

4.  Our baggage might not get to the resort until hours after we do.

Unfortunately this is the rule. Baggage typically arrives in your room three hours after you got to the check in desk. Even if you fetch your baggage from the carousel yourself you may be required to "recheck your baggage" for Magical Express at the welcoming station or at the bus platform or even at the carousel.

5.  What if we get to Orlando and Disney does not have the reservation we made?

Don't ask about your reservation or whether you have a reservation. Simply smile, follow the procedures for dealing with baggage and getting on the bus, and ask as few questions as possible.

The best thing I can suggest is to "not freak out" and do give them some time to resolve any problems. Magical Express is subject to strict rules prohibiting carrying guests without reservations and it is occasionally necessary to do "secondary screening". You and your carry-on baggage will probably not be touched but you will have to answer questions and listen to their spiel about "if we cannot find your reservation bla bla bla...". Stay at the counter and wait several minutes before asking the agent to summon a manager . The agent should go off to "verify things" which may include calling the resort to verify your room reservation, and should return in several minutes with the correct paperwork. It is very unlikely that a decoy from a limo service will hang around this long to pin down Magical Express on a rules violation but if after a half hour the decoy finally gets an "illegal" walk up ride, the decoy will almost certainly lose his case and even get pinned down himself for deception and entrapment after spending legal fees.

We will have to keep track of occurrences of reservation problems. Because failure of written confirmation to arrive is a known issue you should at least argue long and hard that Disney should transport you anyway. Disney did advertise that all of its resort guests are eligible. While advance reservations are required, Disney developed the reservation system, therefore any doubts or problems should be resolved in the other party's (the guest's) favor. A printed copy of this web page may help but don't show it early. If worse comes to worst and Magical Express turns you away, when you finally get to your resort go to Guest Relations and ask for some extra pixie dust to be sprinkled your way. Like some extra perks or fast passes or even an extra room or meals discount or transportation reimbursement.

6.  Whom do I tip?

Drivers, skycaps, and bellhops all appreciate tips for handling your baggage. However you don't have to wait in your room when you arrive. If you are not there, Disney will tip the bellhop who leaves your Magical Express baggage.

7.  Our flight gets into Orlando close to midnight.

This is one reason why it is important to give your flight number and get the name of the person you talked to when making your reservation. Magical Express runs until all known passengers have arrived.

8.  Our flight home leaves really early, like 7 AM.

Yes, Magical Express will be there for you, at the resort at 4AM* for a 7 AM flight. Make sure you make your return reservation in advance, get bus tickets or vouchers, and be on time.

9.  We were told to be ready 4 hours before our plane leaves but the bus didn't come for another hour.

When you made your return reservation the only bus available was 4 hours in advance but at the last minute there was room on the bus 3* hours in advance and the 4 hour bus was cancelled. (If similar problems occur but closer to flight time or if you are on an international flight, immediately ask the resort manager for help.)

10.  We were told to be ready for Magical Express back to the airport 5 hours in advance.

You can ask for a different bus but never ask for a bus less than 3* hours in advance. Also see question #9 above.

11.  Our Magical Express bus did not arrive and someone got us a taxi instead. Our "free" trip to the airport cost us $20.

I won't give you direct advice but here are some facts (source: disboards.com): Magical Express drivers are not forbidden to accept tips themselves. Yellow Cab and Checker Cab are both owned by Mears which owns and operates the Magical Express buses. Any Mears driver may be assigned to (pressed into) Magical Express service and is expected not to display his "tips appreciated" sign although he may forget. Taxi drivers covet long rides and are disappointed by short rides (just 1 or 2 miles), and Disney to Airport is a nice long ride. It is Disney's policy not to reimburse for tips.

12a,.  Our Magical Express packet has a return voucher for just one family member. 12b. We are changing resorts halfway through our vacation and the return vouchers have the first resort name on them.

You can remake or change Magical Express homebound reservations at any time, at least a day before checkout (preferably as early as possible after you get to Orlando).

* Your Magical Express bus back to the airport may be scheduled earlier during times of tight security at the airport.

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