Posts Tagged ‘transportation’

The Walt Disney World Road Trip: Tips, Tricks and What Not to Do

by on January 14, 2015

Photo - Michael Dahlgren

Recently, my family decided to make a last minute trip to Disney World the week of New Year’s. Before everyone faints at the heresy of going during the busiest week of the year, my brother’s school was playing in a bowl game in Tampa, so my family decided to kill two birds with one stone. Quickly putting aside the loud warnings in the back of my head about the massive crowds, I couldn’t turn down a pseudo surprise Disney trip. The resort reservation was all set (we would be staying at a Finding Nemo Suite in Disney’s Art of Animation Resort), and I already had my annual pass, but the flight fares were absolutely insane from Baltimore, which is the closest airport to me. Being a more intelligent person than I, my girlfriend suggested a simple alternative. Why don’t we just drive down? So we did. I hope everyone who is considering the possibility of driving instead of flying finds this useful.

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Universal’s Cabana Bay Transportation Guide

by on April 16, 2014

Cabana Bay transportation guide

When you get tired of relaxing by Cabana Bay’s pool, use this transportation guide to get to Universal’s theme parks (photos by Seth Kubersky).

Cabana Bay Beach Resort, the newest Loews-operated on-site hotel at Universal Orlando, only opened at the end of March, but if you’ve been following our coverage – from my mega-sized photo gallery from opening day to Derek Burgan’s Saturday Six devoted to the property – you may feel like you’ve already stayed there. One aspect of Universal’s first moderately priced hotel that many readers have asked for more information about is the transportation options available to guests of Cabana Bay. As you may have heard, Cabana Bay does NOT offer water taxi service like Universal’s original 3 luxury properties. So I spent a recent sunny afternoon testing various methods of getting from the hotel to the parks (and vice versa), in order to bring you this comprehensive Cabana Bay transportation guide.

Parking at Cabana Bay

Cabana Bay doesn’t offer valet parking, but that deficit is offset by a $10 daily self-parking rate for hotel guests, which is significantly cheaper than parking at the other Universal hotels. Parking lots ring the hotel, so you can park right alongside your room. Unfortunately, high parking rates for non-guests ($8 for 5 to 30 minutes, $20 for 30 minutes to 24 hours) make it expensive for locals to drop in and knock down some pins at the Galaxy bowling alley.

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Universal Orlando Cabana Bay Pedestrian Bridge Construction Begins

by on February 11, 2014

Cabana Bay pedestrian bridge

All photos by Seth Kubersky

The first phase of Cabana Bay Beach Resort opens on March 31, 2014, and while Universal Orlando‘s first value-priced hotel will have plenty of amenities (like a 10 lane bowling alley) it won’t have water taxi transportation to the theme like the original three Loews-operated resorts. Universal will provide bus transportation from Cabana Bay to the main parking hub, but many guests will find it quicker and more convenient to walk to the attractions. In order to accommodate them, construction began last week on a new Cabana Bay pedestrian bridge, which will permit safe passage across Hollywood Way at Adventure Way.

 

This bridge sparked a bit of controversy in Orlando last year when the city council voted to fund the project’s $9 million dollar construction cost from a special taxing fund in the name of “public safety.”

Universal Orlando Cabana Bay pedestrian bridge

This corner will soon be the site of Universal Orlando’s Cabana Bay pedestrian bridge.

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A Few Transportation Notes For Walt Disney World

by on December 18, 2013

Walt Disney World Buses

©Rikki Niblett

A couple of things have been brought to my attention in regards to transportation at Walt Disney World that I thought you should all be aware of since they could potentially impact your 2014 vacations.

First off, a brand new bus loop at the Magic Kingdom opened about a month ago. Because of  this third bus loop, there has been some shifting in regards to which bus stops are where. Make sure to check the directory for the load zone you are looking for.

With the addition of the new loop, Disney is providing direct transportation from the Magic Kingdom to the other three theme parks. This means that a transfer to a bus at the Transportation and Ticket Center is no longer required.

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The Not-So-Magic Bus: Walt Disney World and Orlando’s LYNX Public Transportation System

by on December 17, 2013

The LYNX route 50 bus from downtown Orlando to Walt Disney World.

The LYNX route 50 bus from downtown Orlando to Walt Disney World.

Most visitors to Walt Disney World must decide between renting a car at Orlando International Airport for the length of their vacation, or relying on Disney’s free Magical Express and internal transportation system if staying in an on-property hotel. But a small number of guests, and a much greater number of employees, rely on Orlando’s public transportation system — known as the LYNX bus — to get to and from the theme parks each day.

I’ve lived less than thirty miles from Walt Disney World’s main gate for almost 20 years, but in all that time I’d never taken public transit to the parks. That changed last month, when I participated in the Transit Interpretation Project (or TrIP) an educational experiment organized by arts activist Patrick Greene, curator of downtown Orlando’s Gallery at Avalon Island. Greene gathered a diverse cross-section of Orlando’s artists, writers, and performers to each dedicate a single day in November to riding LYNX buses and documenting their experiences.

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Do I Need to Rent a Car at Disney World?

by on December 13, 2013

There are few things that make Walt Disney World visitors as passionate as the question of whether or not to rent a car during their vacation. Some folks claim that you absolutely MUST rent a car. Others are horrified by the thought of spending money on a rental when there is perfectly good FREE transportation at Walt Disney World. The reality is that, as with most Disney questions, the answer to “Do I Need to Rent a Car?” is a resounding “It depends.”

If you're staying on Disney property, you qualify for free transportation from the airport to your hotel.

If you’re staying on Disney property, you qualify for free transportation from the airport to your hotel.

I was 100% in the no-rental camp for many years. During my first 20 or so family WDW vacations, we only rented a car twice, and those rentals were just because my husband was attending conferences on site and his company paid for it. I secretly laughed at folks who said that a car was necessary at Disney World. And then I stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge for the first time, where I learned that having a car would have saved me hours of frustration and waiting.

Staying at a different resort, one a bit further afield, made me realize that the car rental question really has many answers depending on a number of factors. Here are some things to think about to help you decide whether renting a car at Disney World makes sense for your family’s vacation.

What is my budget?

If you’re staying on Walt Disney World property, free transportation via Magical Express is included with your stay. This will get you back and forth from the airport to Disney World. Once you’re on property, there is free transportation to the theme parks, resorts, Downtown Disney, and the water parks via an extensive system of monorails, boats, and buses.

This means that if you’re on a super strict budget and don’t want to allot any money toward in-vacation transportation, then you can certainly get around Walt Disney World without renting a car. No additional expense is required.

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Will Saving Money Hurt My Disney Experience?

by on October 2, 2013

While scanning a recent Quora feed, I came across the question, “What are some ways to save money at Disney World without taking away from the experience?”

Over the years, I’ve seen countless requests for money saving tips and read scores of articles proffering advice on how to save money on Disney travel, but very few of them address the quality-of-experience topic. So I’m here to discuss whether saving money will negatively impact the quality of your Walt Disney World vacation. I’ll preface my discussion by saying that almost all of this is subjective. One man’s minor sacrifice will be another man’s major drag.

The main areas of potential savings are: transportation, lodging, food, souvenirs, and tickets. Here are my thoughts on whether utilizing common money saving tips in these areas will negatively impact your trip.

Saving money by not renting a car can be no big deal or a giant drag, depending on where you're staying.

Saving money by not renting a car can be no big deal or a giant drag, depending on where you’re staying.

TRANSPORTATION

  • Common Savings Tip: Drive instead of fly.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: Maybe. Depending on the number of people in your party and the distance you’re traveling, driving instead of flying can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars. However, if you’re driving for more than 8 or 10 hours, you’re losing a day of vacation time on both ends of your trip. You’ll also likely arrive at Walt Disney World somewhat tired from the concentration of driving or the frustration of dealing with “Are We There Yet” children.
  • Common Savings Tip: Use Disney’s free transportation instead of renting a car.
    • Will This Hurt My Experience?: It depends on where you’re staying at Walt Disney World. If you’re at one of the monorail resorts (Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian) or one of the Epcot resorts (Boardwalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club), your travel time to more than one of the theme parks will be shorter using Disney transportation than it would with a car. If you’re at these hotels and spending most of your touring at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot (plus DHS for BW, YC & BC), then not having a car will be no imposition at all. However, if you’re staying at a Saratoga Springs Treehouse, which requires two steps just to get to one theme park, or at one of the larger moderate resorts (Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs) with multiple internal bus stops, then having a car will be a big plus for you.

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Get to Know the Disney World Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC)

by on June 19, 2013

If you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World, chances are you’ll encounter the term “TTC.” TTC is the Transportation and Ticket Center and we’re here to tell you what it’s all about.

TRANSPORTATION

The TTC is, not surprisingly, a major transportation hub at Walt Disney World, serving as a transfer point between boats, buses, and monorails, as well as the parking center for guests driving to the Magic Kingdom.

Take a look at this map of Walt Disney World and you’ll see the TTC in the lower center of the blue blob. It doesn’t look like much, but it can be a big help in getting you from point A to point B. And knowing how navigate the TTC can mean the difference between making the trip from A to B pleasant and efficient or making it a looong night of waiting around.

IMG_0574

Here are some of the transportation related things you can do at the Transportation and Ticket Center:

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Disneyland Debate: How To Enter The Resort — Hike, Bus, or Cab?

by on February 25, 2013

All photos by Seth Kubersky

Owing to its expansiveness and isolation, most visitors to Walt Disney World in Florida basically have their options for arriving at the attraction dictated by where they are sleeping: on-site guests get to use WDW’s Byzantine system of busses, boats, and monorails, while those staying off-site drive their rental cars into the theme park parking lots.

Anaheim’s Disneyland Resort, on the other hand, offers more entry options by virtue of its more accessible design. While there are advantages to staying in one of Disneyland’s three Mouse-owned hotels (early entry to DCA’s Cars Land being chief among them), many off-site properties are nearly as close (or closer) to the Happiest Place On Earth than the official accommodations.

On my recent trip to California I tested three methods for getting into the Disneyland Resort, and I hope my experience will help you in planning your next trip. So, with deepest apologies to The Muppets, let’s look at whether to “[hitch]hike, bus, or yellow cab it.”

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Deciding Where To Stay At Walt Disney World, Number Crunching Part 2: Spending The Least Amount of Time In Transit

by on February 15, 2012

Last week I spewed a lot of crazy talk about resort choice decision making. To briefly recap, in order to decide where to stay, you must first choose which resort characteristic you value the most. There is no right answer. Depending on your needs, you might decide to prioritize low price, good view, variety of dining options, or any of a number of other possibilities.

Can where you stay influence how much time you can spend in the parks?

Here I’ll be discussing how to decide which resort is right for you if your number one priority (or value criterion) is reducing time spent in transit. In other words, where should you stay if you want to spend the least amount of time in a bus/boat/monorail/car during your precious vacation?

Defining Terms

Lucky for me, wacky Uncle Len Testa has already provided a handy-dandy analysis of Walt Disney World travel times on pages 388-389 of the 2012 Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. Thanks Len!

In performing my analysis, I’ll be running the numbers twice: the UG’s AVERAGE travel time using Disney’s free transportation, and the UG’s AVERAGE travel time driving yourself in a car. Yes, those are just averages; your actual experience may be slightly better or worse, but we’ve got to start somewhere.

To evaluate which resort necessitates the least amount of travel time, you must determine to where you’ll be traveling. Thus, your first step will be to create a trip itinerary. Let’s take my hypothetical Smith family. These imaginary guests will be at Walt Disney World for a seven day visit with Park Hopper tickets. Because they’re sensible souls, they often heed the common-sense rule to take a mid-day nap/swim break. Their imaginary travels will take them to each of the four theme parks at least once, Downtown Disney, a water park, and two evening meals at resorts. In other words, a typically busy Disney visit.

Here’s their sample itinerary:

  • Day 1: Arrive at WDW mid-day. To Magic Kingdom. To Chef Mickey’s for dinner. Back to resort.
    • 3 transportation moves: Resort to MK, MK to Contemporary, Contemporary to Resort.
  • Day 2: Resort to Epcot. Back to Resort for nap. To Magic Kingdom for fireworks. Back to Resort.
    • 4 transportation moves: Resort to Epcot, Epcot to Resort, Resort to MK, MK to Resort.
  • Day 3: Resort to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. DHS to Resort for nap. Back to DHS for Fantasmic. Back to Resort.
    • 4 transportation moves: Resort to DHS, DHS to Resort, Resort to DHS, DHS to Resort.
  • Day 4: To Blizzard Beach. Back to Resort for nap. To Downtown Disney for dinner/shopping. Back to Resort.
    • 4 transportation moves: Resort to BB, BB to Resort, Resort to DD, DD to Resort.
  • Day 5: To Animal Kingdom. Back to Resort for nap. To Epcot for Illuminations and dinner. Back to Resort.
    • 4 transportation moves: Resort to AK, AK to Resort, Resort to Epcot, Epcot to Resort.
  • Day 6: To Downtown Disney (forgot to buy a gift for grandma). To Magic Kingdom. To Hoop Dee Doo Revue for Dinner. Back to Resort.
    • Variable transportation moves: Resort to DD, DD to MK, MK to FW, FW to Resort.
      This is the trickiest day. There is no direct free Disney transportation from DD the theme parks. Therefore, in order for the Smiths to get from DD to the MK using Disney transport, they’ll need to make a transfer. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the first logical bus that arrives at DD is heading to the Grand Floridian. The Smiths will take the bus from DD to the GF and then transfer to the monorail to get to the MK. At the end of the day, the trip back to the resort may have more than one leg depending on the hotel we’re considering. This is noted on the spreadsheet footnotes.
  • Day 7: To Disney’s Hollywood Studios for another spin on Toy Story. Back to Resort. Depart.
    • 2 transportation moves: Resort to DHS. DHS to Resort.

Obviously this is exactly not what your family’s itinerary will look like, but my guess is that will be similarly messy, with pockets of sanity (scheduling the Hoop Dee Doo on a Magic Kingdom day) and pockets of insanity (was that extra trip to Downtown Disney really necessary?).

How much time will you really save by renting a car?

And just so we get this out of the way, I’m also assuming that the Smiths are relatively new to Disney travel and are in “see it all” mode. A frequent Disney visitor might be able to optimize the travel time factor by concentrating their touring based on attraction proximity to resort. For example, personally, when I’m staying at the Contemporary, I spend most of my time at the nearby Magic Kingdom, and when I stay at the Beach Club, I spend the bulk of my time at nearby Epcot. The Smiths are more conventional guests.

Crunching the Numbers

With all their transportation moves in place, I’ve created spreadsheets of the Smiths’ time spent in transit during their vacation depending on where they stay. The first analysis looks at vacation travel time assuming that the Smiths decided not to rent a car and are using only Disney’s free transportation.

Vacation Time Spent in Transit During Sample Vacation, Using Free Disney Transportation

When I looked at the results, I was shocked. Like many Disney veterans, I’ve had firmly rooted opinions about the transportation situation. There were some hotels that I was 100% were the “good” hotels with the best transportation, and others that I’ve avoided because of perceived transportation insufficiencies. My preconceived notions were wrong.

Looking at the “Using Disney Transportation Only” chart, you’ll see that the time spent on internal Disney transportation, given this sample itinerary, ranges from a high of 14.8 hours to a low of 7.6 hours. That’s a difference of 7.2 hours – nearly an entire day’s worth of park time you’ll forfeit in travel depending on where you stay.

The transportation situation here isn't obvious.

The “loser” was Fort Wilderness where, given this sample itinerary, the hypothetical Smiths will spend 14.8 hours on transportation getting from place to place. Not far behind was the Wilderness Lodge, with an average of 14.4 hours spent in transit.

The Wilderness Lodge is my DVC home resort. I’ve stayed there many times. Never in a million years would have said it was one of the worst for transportation. It’s in the Magic Kingdom area; it’s got to be good. Right?

Um, sorry, not right at all. Clearly, when you’re measuring time spent in transit, there is a significant difference between boat and monorail access to the Magic Kingdom. For example, the Contemporary clocked in with about 4 hours less time spent in transit than the Wilderness Lodge. When following a good touring plan, that could mean you’ll have time to see as many as a dozen fewer attractions if you stay at the Wilderness Lodge instead of the Contemporary.

And who was the big transportation time winner? That’s a resort that I would never have guessed – Saratoga Springs. On the sample itinerary, the Smiths would spend only 7.6 hours of their vacation time getting from place to place. I, for one, am going to take a much closer look at Saratoga Springs when I make my next Disney travel plans.

On average, the majority of the other resorts clocked in somewhere between 9.5 and 11.5 hours of travel time per vacation. Depending on what your issues are, that may or may not be enough time to influence your choice of resort. Is a sacrifice or gain of two hours worth compromising on based on other resort advantages or disadvantages?

Let’s See if the Transportation Picture Changes if You’re Renting a Car

Vacation Time Spent in Transit During Sample Vacation, Using A Car

With access to a vehicle, the three monorail resorts come out as clear winners. Guests at the Contemporary, Polynesian and Grand Floridian can take advantage of the quick monorail access to the Magic Kingdom and can also use their cars for efficient access to the other parks. Of monorail hotels, the Polynesian comes out the winner by a nose, with the guests on our sample itinerary spending just 6.6 hours in transit during their vacation.

On the high end, guests with a car would spend the most time in transit at the Pop Century and the similarly-located, soon-to-be-opened Art of Animation resorts. My big takeaway from the with-car analysis is that having a vehicle is the great equalizer in terms of time spent in transit. While there was more than a seven hour difference between the high and low resorts for guests using only Disney transportation, there was just over a three hour difference for guests with a car. If you have a car, transportation time is more of a non-factor.

Making Your Decision If Reducing Travel Time is Your #1 Priority

Based on the sample itinerary and analysis, I’ve come to the conclusion that my previous assumptions about travel time were not valid. If you had asked me a week ago, I would have said that the Polynesian has a much better transportation situation than the Pop Century. The numbers show that if you’re only using Disney transport, you may be better off at the Pop, from a transportation time standpoint. It would take some real creative thinking to justify the significantly higher cost of the Poly over the Pop based on a Disney transportation argument. (Remember that the Poly has other advantages – view, dining, room size, etc. We’re only talking transportation here.)

These numbers have also made me revisit the ever-popular no-car/car topic. With this itinerary, guests will save, on average, about two hours of travel time if they rent a car versus if they don’t, no matter where they stay. You can change the argument if you dine off site or visit other area attractions, but if you’re not going off-campus, you’ll have to do some real thinking about whether a possible savings of two hours is worth however many hundreds of dollars the rental car will cost. The answer will vary from guest to guest.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the Saratoga Springs anomaly again. This was the only resort where, using this itinerary, the guest was better off using only Disney transportation rather than making use of a car. I’ll leave it to a braver soul than I to run more sample vacation schedules to see if this holds true with other itineraries. Let me know how it goes if you choose to run your own numbers.

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