Disney’s Magical Express is a service that provides free bus transportation to and from Orlando International Airport and Disney’s resort hotels, for guests staying at those hotels. While the word “FREE” always sounds good, there may be some situations where using Magical Express does not make sense. There are also some tips and tricks that can make your Magical Express experience better if you do choose to use it. Here’s what you need to know.
Sign up for Magical Express when you make your room reservation.
Who can use Disney’s Magical Express?
Registered guests of Disney-owned hotels are eligible for Magical Express Service. These hotels are:
Art of Animation
All-Star Movies, Music, & Sports
Animal Kingdom Lodge & Villas, Jambo & Kidani
Beach Club & Villas
BoardWalk & Villas
Fort Wilderness Cabins & Campgrounds
Contemporary & Bay Lake Tower Villas
Old Key West
Port Orleans French Quarter & Riverside
Wilderness Lodge & Villas
But I’m staying at the Swan! Isn’t that on Disney property? Don’t I qualify for Magical Express?
Sorry, no. While the Swan, Dolphin, Shades of Green, and a few Disney Springs area hotels are quite close to the action, only guests staying at the hotels actually owned by Disney qualify for free Magical Express transportation.
So – as usual – we took a page out of our old college playbook, chugged down a case of 5 Hour Energy, and pulled an all-nighter, cramming as much information as we could into our tiny brains so that we could report back to you, Dear Reader, with all the relevant facts (and before we forget it all tomorrow). So sit back, know that you are getting all the news that’s fit to print (and plenty more that’s not), and let’s begin our countdown starting with…
# 6 – That sound you hear? KONG IS COMING.
As Donald Trump would say, it was a yuge week of King Kong news over at the Universal Orlando Resort. As theme park merchandise fanatics, we loved that a whole bunch of new merch arrived for the upcoming Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction. Then, Universal dropped a bombshell with their reveal of the incredible ride vehicles along with a couple other tasty tidbits: This would be Universal’s first trackless ride system, and the vehicles would be “driven” by one of five characters. While Universal hasn’t released an official opening of the attraction yet, we have a sneaking suspicion we may hear something around the time the Syfy show Face Off features an entire episode (the season finale no less) dedicated to creating characters for the attraction. Stay tuned Wednesday, March 30th at 9PM EST on Syfy.
Universal’s Kong is almost here, but Disney has Avatar and Star Wars in the near future…. (photo by Matt Cleary)
# 5 – SeaWorld Admits to Ordering Employees to Spy on Animal Rights Groups
Readers of the SATURDAY SIX may remember one of last year’s annual Turkeys of the Year awards went to a SeaWorld employee who was caught spying on the animal rights group PeTA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). At the time, SeaWorld management was shocked, SHOCKED at this behavior and put out the story that the employee had gone rogue. Fast forward to this month and during another disastrous investor’s conference, SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby admitted that employees did go undercover in animal rights groups and, more importantly, did so per order of the company.
Believe it or not this was the most “wow” SeaWorld story of the week until the atomic bomb the company dropped Thursday morning announcing they were ending the breeding of Killer Whales and will also be ending all the theatrical shows featuring orcas (to be replaced by exhibits).
Disguised as famous YouTube personality Tim Tracker, Shamu himself was able to go completely unnoticed within the PeTA ranks. (photo by Michael Sheehy)
As a major U.S. city, Washington can be a little overwhelming to new visitors. One of the ways to make it more manageable, though, is by utilizing the D.C. subway system–called the Metro. Using the Metro, however, can itself be intimidating, especially to visitors who do not have a mass public transportation option in their hometown. Fear not intrepid readers, the Metro is fairly easy to understand and, after reading this guide, you will surely be riding like a local.
What Is the Metro
Okay, technically the Metro system is all bus and rail under the authority of WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority), but whenever someone says “the Metro,” they mean the subway. Of course, the Metro isn’t always underground either. Once it gets out of the urban areas, it often pops its head out and begins to scamper above ground.
Metro gets a lot of grief from locals, and as a former local I certainly shared in that grief quite often. The system has frequent delays, occasional mechanical issues, and seemingly constant escalator and elevator outages. On top of that, the weekend track work and station entrance closures can make a well-designed plan meaningless. Even with all that, now that I am no longer a Metro-commuting local I can step back and compare it with other cities subway systems more easily.
The result: It’s not bad. In fact, it’s pretty darn good. Yes, all of the problems listed in the above paragraph are real, forever annoying, and–if you have to ride it every day–maddening. Luckily, as tourists to Washington, we do not have to deal with the Metro’s flaws every day so can take it for what it is, a very efficient way to move about a very congested city. I’m not alone in this either, Smart Asset recently did a statistical analysis of major U.S. cities’ public transportation and concluded that D.C.’s was the best. (Much to the derision of locals, by the way.)
A frequent area of confusion for Disney guests is the topic of tipping. International guests may be unfamiliar with American tipping in general. There are some Disney travel situations where guests tip differently than at other travel destinations. And some folks are just plain miffed that they have to tip at all. Nonetheless, gratuities are a part of life when you travel in the United States.
To answer all your Disney World tipping questions in one place, here’s an overview of all the situations where you have to tip, and where you don’t have to tip, on your Disney vacation.
Disney table service restaurants provide information about tipping.
SITUATIONS WHERE YOU NEED TO LEAVE A TIP
Luggage Handling: At the airport, at your hotel, and throughout your trip, you should tip anyone who handles your luggage for you in your presence. The rule of thumb is that you tip about a dollar per bag, or two dollars if the bag is extra heavy. Round up, and don’t ask the porter or valet for change. If you’re claiming your bags yourself at the airport carousel and taking them to a cab, rental car agency, limo service, or Magical Express bus on you own, then you won’t need to tip anyone while you’re in the airport. If you use a porter to assist you with moving your bags from the luggage carousel to ground transportation, then you tip the porter. If you’re at a Disney hotel and using their Resort Airline Check-In service, tip the luggage handler their just as you would a porter at the airport. If hotel bellman assists with bringing your bags to/from your room, tip a dollar or two per bag. If a hotel bellman also provides you with a resort tour or other help, tip a bit extra. If you’re looking to economize, you can avoid a lot of tipping if you transport your bags yourself. This may not be feasible for guests with medical challenges, copious amounts of luggage, more small children than adults, or owners of non-wheeled luggage. However, if you’re able-bodied and each member of your party can handle their own rolling bag, then by all means deal with your own luggage and circumvent the tip stream. This is an easy way to save cash.
Transportation, Magical Express Drivers: You’ll see a sign at the front of the bus telling you that driver will accept tips. If you’re just hopping off and on the bus, you shouldn’t feel obligated. However, if the driver is helping your store luggage under the bus, go by the dollar per bag rule. If you’ve used the yellow Magical Express luggage tags and had Disney take your bags directly to the hotel for you, then you won’t see the person who’s doing your luggage transport. In this situation, you’re off the hook for tipping.
Transportation, Limo or Town Car Drivers: Depending on the agency you’re using, the tip may be included in the price. Be sure to ask this when you set up your booking. In general, plan to tip about 15% of the fare. If the driver has done something extraordinary for you, such as making an extra stop or assisting with car seats or colossal amounts of luggage, tip more.
A lot can change in 10 years. In part one of our peer into the future of the Walt Disney World resort, we looked at changes in the theme parks and ticketing (hint: ticket prices will rise). In part two, we look at the resort hotels, Disney Springs, and Disney transportation, which has a more exciting future than you might imagine. We know that the Disney company is planning to develop more land on property, due to this report on a request to increase the amount of land it will restore on its preserve to offset wetlands development. Ultimately, any additions will be focused on accommodating ever-increasing crowds and growing revenue.
Expect more well-themed value and moderate resorts in the image of Art of Animation. (Photo Courtesy Brian McNichols)
New resort hotels: Rising attendance and demand will continue to drive the development of new resort hotels in Disney’s never-ending quest to keep as many travelers in the Disney bubble as possible. Recently, high-end additions such as the Polynesian bungalows have stirred talk that Disney is catering to the “1 percent,” and neglecting middle-class travelers. To counter that notion, future development will include well-themed value or moderate resorts along the lines of Disney’s Art of Animation. The new resorts will offer more variety in room sizes, responding to a demand for larger family suites. As more “Star Wars” sequels are released, a Star Wars-themed resort will capitalize on the success of Star Wars Land and become an attraction that draws visitors beyond the parks. The success of Pandora-The World of Avatar expands attendance at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, creating demand for additional rooms near that park. Perhaps an Asian theme would complement the African-themed Animal Kingdom Lodge, though likely without the live animals of that resort. Alternately, if next year’s animated feature “Zootopia” is a big hit, Disney may opt for a more cartoony version of an animal-themed resort.
While much of the focus of lodging when talking about Disney is upon the experience staying at Walt Disney World hotels, there are still throngs of people every year that for one reason or another choose to stay in off-site accommodations. There are several considerations in play with off-site lodging, both in terms of whether it is a good fit for you, and then what you should look for in selecting off-site accommodations. Let’s jump right in!
Hey everyone! This will be the first in what I expect to be a series of articles providing little tips and tricks to make your Disney trips go more smoothly — a random smattering of bits of advice that might not individually warrant their own articles that I call “Disney hacks.” So, without further ado, let’s jump right in!
Stroller Tip #25: Making Your Stroller Visible
For many Walt Disney World Visitors, strollers are a necessary part of a trip, and a necessary part of having a stroller is leaving it somewhere once you get to where you’re going. Unfortunately, even if you know exactly where it is, finding your stroller afterwards can be challenging, especially at night. You’ve got to pick it out of a sea of very similar-looking strollers, a problem that is compounded if you rented it from Disney or one of the more popular vendors. Moreover, Cast Members routinely rearrange and shuffle strollers to tidy them up over time, so even if you think you know where it is, there’s a decent chance it has been moved. The solution is to make your stroller stand out so you can look for something unique that happens to be attached to your stroller rather than looking for the stroller itself.
Sometimes I need a vacation after my vacation to Disney. Up at the crack of dawn for rope drop, running from one end of the park to another for fastpasses and character meets, staying up late for the fireworks or even the Kiss Goodnight; It can really tire me out sometimes. Luckily for me, all I have to do is take a breath and realize that this IS a vacation. I can go at a slower pace and not spend all day, every day in a park. The resorts and Disney Springs nee Downtown Disney area have just as much to offer if you merely look.
After a few days of hitting the parks hard on our last trip, we decided to slow it down and spend a day enjoying our favorite resort area: the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness Campgrounds. The night before our “break” we checked with the front desk at our resort for reservations for horseback riding at the campgrounds. They had two openings so we signed up.
My husband and I had wanted to go horseback riding for quite a while; It was part of my bucket list in fact. We had researched places in our home state to go, but why settle for an ordinary horse, when you could go horseback riding on a Disney horse? It just seems even more magical.
You’re going a Disney Cruise AND you’re going to Walt Disney World – lucky you!
Land/sea combination Disney vacations are quite common; They’re a nice way to balance the frenetic excitement of a theme park visit and the mellow relaxation of a cruise. Here are some things to think about as you plan how to get from Part A to Part B of your vacation.
Should I take my cruise first or visit Walt Disney World first?
In the Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line, we recommend that guests experience the land (WDW) portion of their land/sea trip first. A visit to the parks is typically more tiring than a cruise (thus, the common refrain “I need a vacation after that vacation”). Most guest enjoy having the rest and recovery time that a cruise provides.
OK, I’ll go to Walt Disney World first. How do I get from the airport to my hotel?
If you’re going from Orlando International to a Walt Disney World resort hotel, use Disney’s free Magical Express service.
From Disney’s perspective, there’s no difference in transportation procedure between a Disney World vacation and a land/sea vacation starting at Disney World. At this point, use Magical Express and pretend that the Disney Cruise Line (DCL) portion of your trip does not exist. This is particularly important to heed when you’re getting your luggage ready for transportation. If you’d like to have your bags transported by Disney from the airport to the hotel, then use the yellow Magical Express luggage tags. DO NOT put the DCL tags on your bag now.
Is there a charge to get from the airport to my Disney World hotel?