How to Get Around the Walt Disney World Resorts & Theme Parks
When visiting Walt Disney World, there are many different transportation options: bus, boat, monorail, walking or the use of your own/rental car. To know when to use which mode of transportation at Disney, you must know what is available and when it is available.
When You Can Use a Car
You can use a car at anytime. A car will travel freely from any resort or hotel at or near Disney to any part of Disney World property without any problems. Parking at Disney theme parks is free to any Walt Disney World Resort guest. For those visiting Disney not staying onsite, there is a charge of $14 per day at the major theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom). A parking receipt will get guests from one park to another on the same day without additional charges. Additionally, guests not staying on property at Disney World that have an Annual Pass also do not need to pay for parking. Parking at the minor theme parks (Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, Disney Quest, ESPN Wide World of Sports) or Downtown Disney is free. Don’t expect to be able to park at the minor parks and travel to the major theme parks though, Disney doesn’t offer transportation from free parking to lots where paid parking is the norm. Resorts have a three hour limit on parking if not a guest at that resort.
Use of Disney’s Monorail
Disney’s monorail is available from the Ticket and Transportation Center to Epcot, Magic Kingdom, The Grand Floridian Resort, The Contemporary Resort, or The Polynesian Resort. There are three options: (1) The Express from the Ticket and Transportation Center to Magic Kingdom, (2) The Epcot Line from the Ticket and Transportation Center to Epcot, and (3) The Resort Line that runs from the Ticket and Transportation Center to The Polynesian Resort to The Grand Floridian Resort to Magic Kingdom to The Cotemporary Resort back to the Ticket and Transportation Center in a continuous loop.
If you drive to Magic Kingdom, you will park in the Ticket and Transportation Center parking lot. One of your options to get to the Magic Kingdom will be the monorail. (Note: If you want to go to Epcot, you may either park in the Epcot parking lot or at the Ticket and Transportation Center and take the monorail to Epcot.) Heading to Magic Kingdom by monorail, you may choose either The Express Line or The Resort Line. The Resort Line makes sense if you are traveling to one of the three resorts for some reason, like a meal, or if you are staying at one of those three resorts.
If you are a guest at The Grand Floridian Resort, The Polynesian Resort or The Contemporary Resort and wish to go to Epcot, you must first go to the Ticket and Transportation Center by either walking or using the Resort Line of the monorail. Hopping parks from Magic Kingdom to Epcot by monorail requires taking either the Resort Line or the Express Line to the Ticket and Transportation Center and then getting on the Epcot Line. Additionally, you may use a boat from Magic Kingdom to get to the Ticket and Transportation Center (either directly or via the monorail resorts) before taking the monorail’s Epcot Line over to Epcot.
Use of Disney’s monorail may be limited. All of Disney’s monorail lines will stop running one hour after the closing of regularly scheduled hours at Magic Kingdom. This means, if there are extra magic hours or a hard-ticket event, the monorail will not be available for use to Disney guests, including those staying at a monorail resort. Other transportation options will have to be used.
The Disney Bus System
Explaining the Disney bus system is fairly easy. Every resort has a bus that runs to every major and minor park and Downtown Disney and each major theme park has a bus that runs to each other major theme park. The only exceptions is between Magic Kingdom and Epcot, which has transportation via the monorail only, and the monorail resorts do not offer bus service to Magic Kingdom unless the monorail has shut down. Most buses will stop at multiple resorts (Pop Century Resort and Animal Kingdom Resort being the exceptions), and sometimes multiple parks. If you want to get from one resort to another and they do not share a bus route, you will need to go to a theme park to make a transfer or use another mode of transportation, if available. Sometimes, in the mornings, special buses will run between resorts for character meal dining; check with your resort during your vacation for availability.
The number of buses running will adjust by how crowded Walt Disney World is. Generally, a bus will run every 20 minutes. Buses will start running to theme parks 60 – 90 minutes prior to park opening and keep running 60 – 90 minutes after park closing, including extended hours. Bus transportation to Downtown Disney will start at 8:30 AM. Note: sometimes buses will skip a loading only stop because the bus is full. It is possible, especially at the end of the night, that buses will have standing room only. If you find this unacceptable, step to the side and allow others to load the bus and you will be first in line for the next bus, but you might have to skip the next bus also. If you miss the last bus, you will need to take a cab at your expense. Signs for buses stating where they are going are clearly marked at bus stops and on the bus. Remember, buses do not run between any theme park and Downtown Disney.
Disney’s Boat System
Walt Disney World offers limited boat services as part of their internal transportation system. There is a large ferry boat that runs between the Ticket and Transportation Center and Magic Kingdom that can be used instead of the monorail. There are also water taxis that run from The Polynesian Resort, The Grand Floridian Resort, The Wilderness Lodge, and Fort Wilderness Campgrounds to Magic Kingdom. There is also a boat that runs a loop with The Wilderness Lodge, Fort Wilderness Campgrounds and The Contemporary Resort.
Magic Kingdom and its area resorts aren’t the only places that offer boat service. The Boardwalk Inn and Villas, The Beach Club, The Yacht Club, The Swan Hotel, and The Dolphin Hotel all have boat service to both Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This means, it is also possible to take a boat from Epcot to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and vice versa.
Lastly, Downtown Disney is also accessible by boat from certain Walt Disney World Resorts. Old Key West Resort, Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, Port Orleans Riverside and Port Orleans French Quarter all offer launch services to Downtown Disney.
Walking at Walt Disney World
It is possible to walk from certain parts of Walt Disney World to other parts. There is a path for walking between Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness Campgrounds. It is also a mere 5 minute walk from The Contemporary Resort to Magic Kingdom. Walking to the Ticket and Transportation Center from The Polynesian Resort takes only a few minutes. Lastly, it is easy to walk from Epcot to Disney’s Hollywood Studios via The Boardwalk in about 20 – 30 minutes. This also means that all the Boardwalk area resorts and hotels can walk to Epcot and/or Disney Hollywood Studios. The Boardwalk area resorts include: The Boardwalk Inn and Villas, The Beach Club, The Yacht Club, The Swan Hotel and The Dolphin Hotel.