For countless Walt Disney World die-hards, the Magical Express ride from Orlando International Airport to their resort provided an easy and enjoyable kick-off to theme park vacation paradise.
But alas: the free service for resort guests, with luggage that showed up in their room without dragging or pulling from Disneygoers, ended earlier this year.
What can park visitors do now if driving to and from the airport wasn’t part of their Disney dream?
There are options – maybe not quite as magical, or with Mickey or Minnie waving at the window, but certainly available.
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While the Express’s farewell was announced last year, its last trips took place in early January.
Pamela and Bill Skaar of Grand Prairie, Texas are among those who will miss the Express. Their last trip was from Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa to Orlando International on January 8.
Pamela, a retired speech-language pathologist, and Bill, a minister at First Baptist Church of Grand Prairie, became members of the Disney Vacation Club after a 2007 trip to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
“We started enjoying the convenience and ‘magic’ of being transported to and from the airport via Magical Express buses,” Pamela said.
“They collected our luggage for us and they magically appeared in our room at our resort a few hours later! They were also beautiful Disney-themed buses, with funny, entertaining, well-mannered drivers and cute videos Disney while we were driving to or from the airport.”
Now, they say, they will take Mears Connect operated by Mears, whose drivers sailed the Magical Express from 2005 until its farewell. Unlike Magical Express, Mears Connect will not be free. Also, at least for now, Mears will not be picking up passengers’ luggage and delivering it to their resort rooms. Guests will have to handle this on their own.
Still, the Skaars will treasure the memory of that last trip on the service, when they were the only two people on the bus and posed for photos with the driver.
“We have so many fond memories of riding the Magical Express, just the two of us, and other times with our adult children and grandchildren,” Pamela said. “A year ago we brought my sweet mother who passed away…she took the Magical Express with us and enjoyed Walt Disney World for the first time in her life in her 70s.”
For those who need an elevator from the airport to the Disney resorts, here are some options.
Mears Connect, offering Standard and Express options.
The cost of standard one-way shared transportation service is $16 per ride for adults and $13.50 per ride for children.
For $200, travelers can book the Express direct to resort service for four passengers. Add $55 each for additional passengers. It could, the site advises, be a shared service.
For information and reservations: mearsconnect.com. For a private car, you will need a reservation at least one day in advance, and for the shuttle, 24 hours in advance. Taxis are also available through Mears, 24/7. Passengers will need to stop at baggage claim before proceeding to the Mears location at Orlando International, where they will board in Terminal B, Level 1, Ground Transportation Level, at the former Disney location.
Taxi, Uber or Lyft: All of these options are available at Orlando International, with choices like UberX, UberXL and, on the more expensive side, Uber Black.
Sun brochure: This direct bus service from the airport to the stations hasn’t kicked off yet – the launch is slated for February 1 – but holds promise for those looking for the kind of entertainment-filled offerings that endeared them to the Magical Express. Rather than Disney-centric, it’s presented as reminiscent of train travel in the 1920s, with buses packaged like locomotives or touring cars and drivers and staff dressed as conductors and engineers.
Cost for adults is $17 one way and $34 round trip. For children 3 to 9 years old: $12.50 one way; $25 round trip. Children under 2 years old can sit on an adult’s lap for free. Get details at sunshineflyer.com.
Car rental: Although this may be the best option for those who want the freedom of having a vehicle at their disposal during a trip, remember that in addition to not being entertained, there are tolls along the way. . On top of that, there’s parking fees at Disney resorts, up to $25 per night.
Contact Kennerly at 321-242-3692 or [email protected] Twitter: @bybrittkennerly Facebook: /bybrittkennerly.
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