OL 007: Disney Transportation – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Understanding Disney Transportion Benefits and Issues is Important
Hello, and thank you for listening to episode 007 of The Photo Flunky Show about Disney Transportation. We really appreciate you and your feedback.
Walt Disney World transportation is a massive undertaking to help guests get from place to place. Remember that the Walt Disney World property is as large as the island of Manhattan. Instead of subways, they have monorails. The view is much better and it avoids the issue of Florida's water table being only a few feet underground.
We talk about the different kinds of transportation you can experience while on property at Walt Disney World, as well as when you could expect them to be busy or not.
In some cases, the best Disney transportation may be your own feet. We'll point out the times and places where it's better to walk from one point to another so you can avoid delays or overcrowded transportation.
For the most part, Disney transportation is efficient, robust, and reliable. There are few exceptions, which we'll mention.
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THE ORLANDO LOCAL SHOW
William: Welcome to the Orlando Local show, episode number seven.
Hi, thanks very much for joining us on the Orlando Local Show. My name is William Beem.
Lee: Hi, I am Lee Beem.
William: Today we’re going to be talking about Disney transportation: the good, the bad and the ugly.
It might sound strange to say the ugly, but you know what? Wait until we get into this a little bit. There are going to be certain parts of Disney transportation that you are going to say, why in the world are they doing it this way? And isn’t there a better way to do some of it?
But for the most part, Disney transportation is pretty reliable, it’s robust and there are a lot of options out there.
Before we get into that though, I wanted to give you a couple of little details.
If you like to follow us online, we would be happy to have you. On Twitter we are @orlandolocal and on Instagram we are orlando_local so you can go out there and take a look at some of the photos we’ve been posting out and Lee’s got quite a little combination of food photos, showing you what’s good to eat around here.
Lee: I like my food photos!
William: A lot of people seem to like your food photos.
So why don’t we go ahead and jump into this. Disney transportation.
And let’s start off. Why do you need to use Disney transportation?
Lee: It’s just so convenient. I mean it saves you the hassle and the expense of renting a car, it saves you driving and parking. We’ve always used it. Until we lived here I never considered anything else. I mean there have been times we have taken a taxi because of specific circumstances or maybe leaving Disney property; or we had scheduled something where we needed to move luggage or we were traveling somewhere outside of the Disney scheduled operating hours. Other than that, it’s wonderful.
There have been a few frustrations, but they are so few and far between that you just don’t remember them.
William: I think other than the buses that take you back and forth from Orlando International Airport and also for the Cruise Line that take you back and forth there, Disney transportation really doesn’t leave Walt Disney World property, does it?
Lee: Oh, no! They hold you hostage. We learned that the first time.
William: Something to keep in mind is Walt Disney World, if you consider all the property, is about the same size as the island of Manhattan.
Lee: It’s huge.
William: It’s huge. I mean you can’t walk everywhere you want to. It’s not like Disneyland in California where everything is right together within walking distance.
I mean you can leave Magic Kingdom in Disneyland and within steps you are going to be at Downtown Disney there. That is not the same case over here in Orlando.
Lee: No, there are not a whole lot of places. Well, there are places where you can walk, but in the noonday sun they almost practically make themselves not really a great option [for walking].
William: Yeah, it depends upon the time of day and also the time of year.
Here are a couple of good things about the transportation. It’s free. It’s included in your whole experience there, whether you are staying at the resort of not or if you are going into the parks. Honestly, you don’t even have to go into the park. I suppose if you wanted to, you could drive in. You pay for parking, unless you’ve got an Annual Pass. You can go to the Transportation and Ticket Center, hop on the monorail or the ferry and you can just kind of ride around all day long.
Lee: You can do that. Yeah.
William: I don’t know why you’d want to, but you could.
Lee: No, for some people it’s a day’s experience. It’s a break from the parks and it’s actually quite fun going around in the Disney transportation. A lot of people with little kids do that. I mean not many people have a monorail that they ride around!
William: You don’t have to stay onsite, but one of the things we were talking about is it can save you time and hassle, but also occasionally it has some hassles at times. I mean, generally speaking, it’s a reliable service.
Lee: It is.
William: But there are occasions when it doesn’t seem to quite make sense.
Lee: Well sometimes just the process of getting from one place to the next is a bit difficult. Not so much not making sense, but for example, to get from a resort to a resort, I can understand that it just isn’t feasible for Disney to have a bus from each resort to each other resort. It would just be an absolute chaotic lot of craziness.
That is something that you need to factor and take into consideration if you are planning to go from your resort to a different resort for a dining reservation and you hadn’t planned a park day in between leaving your resort and getting to that meal. You’ve got to allow extra time for it.
William: And see, that one surprised me a little bit, because one of the central points when they first started Walt Disney World was the Ticket and Transportation Center. You’d think that would be a central hub to get everywhere.
Lee: But can you imagine the chaos though? I can kind of see practically why they almost didn’t have an option. Well, not the way things are set up right now. Be aware of it. It can be a minor inconvenience and I do know people who were surprised by this and they kind of got themselves into a bit of a pickle with running short on time and had to call a taxi.
William: OK, so we talked about resorts, we talked about the parks. What about the water parks?
Lee: Oh, dear lord! Shall we get onto that later? There are buses to the water parks – well kind of, yeah.
William: Let’s just save that for the ugly.
Lee: Yeah that is the ugly! It’s probably really the only ugly. But despite little issues, on the whole, I’ve got good things to say about the transportation.
William: And generally speaking, so do I. Except for when the monorail doesn’t work.
Lee: I don’t really know what to say about that. We kind of quit on the monorail as a transportation means. We started using it as a recreational means.
William: Well, there are a couple of things about it. First off, most people seem to want to opt for the monorail and when you are going in and out of a park it’s crowded. It’s like opening and closing, everybody is going on the monorail. You can be packed in there like sardines. On some days it kind of smells like bathing suits and Band-Aids.
Lee: The Band-Aid smell. Yes.
William: I don’t know if that’s the cleaning solution they use or not, but you’re right, we don’t even take the monorail anymore.
Lee: Well, honestly I love the monorail. If it were still working and functioning as efficiently as it was six or seven years ago – which was much better than what it is right now – it was pretty much servicing all the park hours and it was great. And it was fun to ride the monorail.
William: Oh, when I was a kid that was a big thing for me, because the monorails were being built at – it’s Lockheed Martin now – it was Martin Marietta back then and my dad worked there. It was kind of cool, you know, I get to go ride something that my dad was working on.
Lee: Oh, that is fun as a kid.
William: It was! And you know, when you go in there and you’ve actually go room to sit down and you don’t have to stand up and hold onto a pole or you don’t have to squeeze between a bunch of strangers, the monorail is a nice way. You’ve got a great view going along and seeing everything. That’s the part when the monorail is fun, but when it’s crowded I don’t even want to look at it. I would rather ride on a crowded ferry than a crowded monorail, because I can have a little bit more personal space.
Lee: Ah, see to me it doesn’t matter, because I’m used to the buses and I really don’t have complaints about the buses.
William: Well why don’t we go ahead and get into what types of transportation we’ve got? And since you mentioned the buses, why don’t you go ahead and start with those. Where can you get to on a Disney bus?
Lee: Well, you can go from park to park. There are dedicated bus stops outside the park at the bus drop off and pick up points and they are marked. You can go, for example, from Magic Kingdom to Hollywood Studios and from Epcot to Animal Kingdom so they’ve got the park to park buses.
You can travel between all the Disney resorts and the parks. Now the monorail resorts don’t do buses to the Magic Kingdom; you’ve got the monorail. And in the case of Bay Lake Tower and the Contemporary you have the option to walk, which is better. It’s actually going to save you time, even if you take a slow stroll, unless it’s just horribly hot or pouring with rain that’s the way to do it.
William: It’s a nice little paved pathway and it’s an interesting little walk and you’re not going to be crowded out there. Most people aren’t walking.
Lee: No, they’re not. But it’s actually a really nice walk and they say 10 to 15 minutes; it really is more like five or six. So it’s not that far.
And then you’ve got the buses between Disney Springs and the resorts. Sometimes – actually a lot of the time – the Disney Springs buses will be shared buses so it might not just be your resort. Or your resort might have more than one bus depot where they drop off and pick up.
William: But that’s kind of what you expect with a bus anyways. There is going to be more than one stop.
Lee: There is. Well, I’ll come to the next point about the boats when we get there, because I think that’s next up.
William: Well why don’t we go there. Actually, I’m going to back up a minute. I’m going to confuse you already.
So we’ve got the buses and we mentioned also there are bus routes going back and forth with Orlando International Airport and also to Port Canaveral if you are taking a Disney Cruise or coming back. But beyond that, everything is on property and it’s going to be park to park or resort to park or Disney Springs to resorts, but not from resort to resort.
Lee: Not resort to resort and also, now that you mention it, Disney Springs only takes you to resorts. It does not take you to the parks.
Parking is free at Disney Springs, so you don’t get to park there, waive the parking fee and then use the transportation to get elsewhere.
William: Ah, that’s actually pretty good to know. You don’t park there for free and then…. I mean if you really, really wanted to do it, I guess you could park there, take the boat or a bus to a resort and then take a bus from the resort to the park. But you are going to waste a lot of time doing that.
Lee: Yeah, to me that is worth twenty bucks to park. It really is. And also with park hours, if you are not on top of your game with that, you can come horribly unstuck in terms of trying to get back to where you need to go.
Lee: So just be careful with that.
William: Yeah, we’re not recommending anybody tries to get around the system by parking for free and then going off over to a park.
Lee: I don’t care about the for free or not benefit. To me, the disadvantage is in the inconvenience and time wasted.
William: It would be an incredible waste of time.
William: OK, we talked about boats and honestly, I like boats.
Lee: I like boats, too!
William: I like boats better than buses or monorails.
Lee: I like the boats.
William: I’m, going to turn this around on you. Usually we have this saved for last, but I really enjoy the ferry.
Lee: The ferry is fun. The first time I went on the ferry was with you, because I’d never used the TTC to the Magic Kingdom.
William: No, because you were staying at resorts you could go directly there and since we live here – I’ve always lived here – my thought was that’s the only way I know to get in. I go park at the TTC and then I’ve got a choice: Am I going to take the ferry or am I going to take the monorail? And now that the monorail is something I don’t really want to go on anymore, it’s the ferry. But I’ve realized that’s kind of nice. You’ve got two levels up there. There is seating up there if you want it, but there is a nice little breeze. Even when it’s as hot day you get a bit of a breeze.
Generally speaking, unless it’s park closing time, you are not really jammed in there with everybody else.
Lee: No, you do have a lot more breathing space. Actually I was just thinking the first time I took the ferry, we were still dating and then we had arranged to meet in the park the night that you proposed to me at the Magic Kingdom and you took the monorail and you got stuck on a beam and I stood outside the park while you were texting me. And I was thinking, where is he?
Lee: And you were forty-five minutes, maybe?
William: I’m stuck forty-five minutes over there and I’m supposed to be getting engaged and instead I’m on the monorail texting.
Lee: Well, I didn’t know we were getting engaged, otherwise I would have probably climbed the beam? I don’t know.
William: So there’s one more reason that kind of drives a nail in the monorail for me!
Lee: Yeah, my Beem was stuck on a beam. That was no good!
William: The ferry is just old fashioned transportation and I don’t know why… some people may not enjoy it, especially if it’s a hot and muggy day or night, but I do. There’s something about it. It’s just nice to slowly see everything go by. You’ve got a nice view of the resorts; the Polynesian and Contemporary and the Grand Floridian as you go on by.
You know what? You can also see the people stuck on the monorail as you’re going by!
Lee: And it’s also the way that you head in toward the Magic Kingdom. You see the castle getting closer. You almost come straight in at the castle, which is nice.
William: Yeah. I don’t know, for some reason it’s relaxing. I like being on the water. I like that little breeze. It’s a simple thing, but I really do enjoy that.
Alright, what else have we got for boats?
Lee: OK, where do you want to go because you skipped to the end so I wasn’t sure where you wanted to be?
William: You can tell we are reading off of notes here! Why don’t you start off with Disney Springs and the boat service there?
Lee: OK, well Disney Springs has an internal boat service which will take you from one side to the other. The boats are marked with signs.
William: They can get you from Marketplace to West Side.
Lee: They are identified with flags; with different colored flags.
William: Oh that’s what you’re talking about.
Lee: Identified! The word was just gone!
If you know what flag color to look for, that’s fine, but honestly, people always say “Know your flag color.” Just go and ask somebody. I think it’s on the maps as well and they let you know, but you will be able to find that out and check the signs.
William: They are marked on signs, but sometimes you go to the parks and you are just dead tired and you could be standing next to the sign and leaning on it and not even notice that it’s there.
Lee: Or there’s a crowd of people leaning on it so you don’t see it’s there.
William: Yeah, so simple thing to do if you’re not sure, look inside the boat and wave at the captain and say, “Where does this go?”
Lee: Disney Springs boats also serve the resorts along the Sassagoula River. So that would be Saratoga Springs Resort, Old Key West, Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside and the Treehouse Villas. I don’t think I’ve missed any on there.
William: Well, if you have, someone will let us know in the comments.
Lee: Yes, please! And then you touched on the Magic Kingdom? Oh that was from the TTC, but you’ve also got the Magic Kingdom area resorts.
William: Well, exactly. There are boats going back there. We were actually watching these on YouTube the other day and we were having a good laugh because it was a really windy day and the poor pilot of the boat just kept missing his dock.
Lee: Every time he tried to throw the rope over he would kind of get blown away.
William: It took him three or four times to get in there and he was a good sport about it and so were the passengers, but it was just one of those really windy days and the way they come in with the launch, he’s got a rope with a little loop on it that’s got to go on the … now I’m missing my words… what do they call it?
Lee: The little metal thing.
William: The little metal thing. I used to know this stuff when I was a Boy Scout. He was trying to tie it up and they come in with the engine still running and kind of pushes them in there and he just hooks it on and then they reverse it so that it doesn’t go away.
But when the wind kept blowing him away from the dock, he couldn’t make it!
Lee: I know. I think the third time he went, “Oh you have got to be kidding me!”
William: And they’ve got those nice little horns so as soon as he finally got it on there he honked that horn!
Lee: Oh yeah.
William: Sorry for that little tangent there, but it was just one of those wonderful things.
Something else about it. I just brought it up since it was on YouTube. If you are curious about what any of this transportation looks like, go on YouTube and take a look. There are plenty of videos where people have recorded to show what it is like to get on a boat from maybe Magic Kingdom to one of the resorts and you’ll find that one we are talking about.
Lee: I love virtual tours on YouTube!
William: There are plenty of virtual tours on YouTube, so if you’ve got nothing to do or there is really nothing good on TV, pull out YouTube and take a look at that.
Lee: Yes. Then you’ve also got the boats between Epcot or Hollywood Studios and the resorts in that area. So you’ve got your Boardwalk, Yacht Club, Beach Club and Swan and Dolphin are also served by the boats.
Some of these sometimes make quite a few stops so factor in a lot of extra time to get there. They are not as big obviously as the ferries. These are smaller boats.
William: Yeah they are little launch size. They hold maybe what, two dozen people at the most?
Lee: Probably a bit bigger than that, but it is not huge considering the volume of the crowds that need to be moved at park closing, so take that into consideration if you are leaving from the International Gateway. You might want to position yourself very carefully near to the exit at the end of Illuminations, if that is going to be your return route.
William: Or stay really late until they kick you out of the park!
Lee: Yeah, we’ll get onto that. That was my thing.
William: And just hope that you don’t miss the last boat!
Lee: You won’t. Well, you’d better not! Well, then you have to walk to the other side. They will make sure they sweep the park to get you out. They will send you to a bus.
William: That’s true. They know you’re still in there.
And you brought up the Yacht Club. Imagine how horrible it would be if you stayed at a place called the Yacht Club and there was no boat service!
Lee: Oh, damn, I’d complain!
William: Alright, so we’ve gotten past the boats. Where are we at now? Oh, the monorail!
As you can tell, I am not a fan of the monorail anymore. I used to love it, but it’s just too crowded and it has occasional delays that just kind of ruin the experience for me.
Lee: When it’s running.
William: Well, every day I go there, I see the monorail. When I’m in Epcot, I like seeing the monorail coming right through the middle of the park.
Lee: There are some days where it’s having down time now though, during certain hours. You are there on the weekends. It’s not always running.
William: To me, the monorail is better for watching that using.
Lee: See, I don’t dislike the monorail. From the TTC it’s not really my choice. If I’m needing to get somewhere …. We’ve actually missed a couple of dining reservations because we’ve been stuck on a monorail that stopped, often due to something else that stopped in front of us and nobody could move. At the time we had international cell phones so we weren’t even able to call.
William: To say you can’t make it. The thing with the monorail is you are at the mercy of the guests who are at the station and if somebody is having a difficulty getting on the monorail or getting off or heaven forbid, there is some kind of medical emergency, they are going to stop everything. It’s a track. It’s not like a boat that can go around another boat.
Lee: It’s all on a loop.
William: It’s all linear so if there is a train or monorail stopped somewhere, the ones behind it have to stop at a safe distance.
As Disney World gets more crowded, the monorail becomes a less and less endearing means of transportation as far as I’m concerned.
Lee: It does. But if you haven’t ridden it before and this is a first trip …
William: Go and ride it.
Lee: Go and ride it, because I do really like the monorail. It’s just that it hasn’t proven the most reliable means in the past years if I need to get somewhere by a particular time. If you are chilled out and relaxed, I would actually say that would be my preferred choice.
William: I would do it during times that it’s not really going to be peak transportation time. So when everybody is trying to get into the parks in the morning or in the evening when everybody is trying to get out of the parks back to the TTC, those are going to be the most packed and probably the worst times to get on it. But if you are showing up there at an odd time in the middle of the day, when people aren’t necessarily coming and going that much, you are not going to crowded and I’d say it’s probably a more enjoyable time to ride the monorail.
Lee: Yes. OK, what else do we have?
William: You mentioned parking shuttles on here.
Lee: Well, it’s kind of part of the transportation because some of these parking lots are really big.
William: You’re thinking of the tram.
Lee: The tram!
William: You’ve got to call it a tram. You can’t call it a parking shuttle. You’ve got to call it the tram!
Lee: My brain is not here today.
William: Well that’s OK because, again, you were coming from an international perspective. You never really had to park a car and then take any transportation.
Here is the good and the bad about the tram.
There are always a couple of them running so you get out of your car, you walk up to the line there; there are all these little yellow poles and there is a little yellow painted line there. They tell you don’t step over that.
So first off, don’t go out there beyond the yellow line and get hit by the tram. That would be bad.
Lee: It would ruin your vacation.
William: These are big, diesel engine trucks that are pulling just a bunch of cars behind them. There’s a roof on it, but it’s open bench seating. Honestly, you can usually walk from your car to the gate in about the same amount of time as it takes for the tram to run.
William: Alright, quicker. There has been an occasional time, maybe because I timed it the wrong way, that the tram got there just as I was walking up to the gate. They beat me by a minute or so. Not everybody can really walk. Sometimes people are carrying a lot of stuff, maybe they’ve got a family with small children that really just can’t make the walk or they just don’t want to walk. And that’s OK. You can go on the tram. You wait for it, so you’re going to spend a little time waiting, you get on the tram and you’re going to spend time waiting for everybody else to get on. Just because you’re on doesn’t mean they are ready to go. They want to try and fill these things up if they can. So if there are other people that are still parking and walking up, they will hold up there for a while until at least the next tram comes up ready to take a position.
Lee: It’s quicker to walk.
William: It’s quicker to walk. And then the tram goes. And then there are the recordings. They always have the same little thing. There is a recording going on and you think, oh good. We’re going to go! Then you realize that the person who works at the back of the tram that does all the announcements is walking up and down alongside the tram and they are looking for people who are not situated properly. They want to make sure that nobody is going to fall out or have an accident or anything like that.
But they also tell you no further boarding. Then they do the walk. And as they are doing the walk, someone else comes up and they try to get boarded. Now they’ve got to play the recording again.
Lee: I don’t know why anyone wants to take the tram.
William: Finally they get moving and they will tell you, remember where you parked. You are either on the Villains side or you are on the Heroes side. You are in row number whatever it’s going to be. And they’ve got the rows in groups. So you might be in Aladdin.
Lee: I hate the Hero side.
William: She doesn’t like the Hero side.
Alright, you might be in Zurg.
William: And trust me, Zurg is kind of up towards the front I think. So if you are in Zurg, you may as well walk.
Generally speaking, unless it’s miserable rain or really miserable heat and sweltering and you just don’t want to walk, go ahead and walk. Don’t worry about the tram.
Lee: Yeah. I just don’t find it to save time.
William: There is one other time. If you are doing one of those little virtual tour videos.
Lee: Yes, then you’d have to do it, otherwise you’d have no footage.
William: Here’s my last tip. Don’t sit up front near the diesel unless all you want to hear is the diesel engine. You can’t hear any announcements. All you are going to hear is that engine droning on for the length of your trip, which is only a couple of minutes.
Lee: Take some Tylenol for that.
William: We mentioned the tram and we mentioned walking. The walk itself is really not that bad from any of the parking lots. As a matter of fact, I’d say if you are going to go to Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom, it’s really short. You may as well just walk, no matter what. Unless you’ve got some kind of difficulty walking or you’ve got toddlers or….
Lee: Are you talking about from the car park?
William: Yeah. If you’re in the parking lot and you are capable of walking, it’s not that long of a distance. If you are capable of walking, just go ahead and go. If you have got some other issues going on, that’s fine. Take the tram. But for most of us, I would say go ahead and walk. It will be quicker, it will be easier and you’ll feel a little smug when you get there before the tram does.
William: Alright, last thing I’m going to bring up is if you want to take a taxi or Uber.
Lee: I’ve never used Uber. But we have been quite happy to use the taxis and we’ve done that a few times. There have been times where we were shifting from French Quarter to Bay Lake Tower and we had some luggage that we wanted to take with us. You cannot take luggage on the Disney transportation.
There wasn’t enough really to … actually we didn’t want to get the luggage transferred because we didn’t check out of the French Quarter. We were going back there and we went to Bay Lake Tower for the weekend.
William: You were double dipping!
Lee: We were kind of. Well, no. We paid for two. Disney scored. They don’t actually want you to do that and when I tried to book it that way they said you are not allowed. So anyways, the short story is we got a taxi because it was just easier to deal with the luggage and then once or twice we’ve done that because we had a really early breakfast dining reservation and we didn’t want the stress of wondering if the bus was going to get us there on time.
William: The other thing is if you want to go to some place off site. And this can get a little bit pricy! But if you want to go and do some shopping at the outlet mall, what was it? Like $40 there and then back?
Lee: Yes, I used to budget – now I haven’t done that for about three years – but I used to budget about twenty bucks with tip each way.
William: So just keep that in mind. And that’s not too far from Walt Disney World property. If you want to go into Orlando like Downtown or you want to go someplace beyond that, cabs are really going to get expensive so it would probably actually make more sense to rent a car for the day than to get a cab once you go beyond, I’d say at least up to International Drive area.
So if you are going to go beyond International Drive, I would seriously look at the budget and say how much am I going to spend on a cab versus how much is it going to cost to rent a car for the day?
Lee: Yeah it’s going to cost you some bucks on a taxi.
William: Now we’ve got a few tips for you as far as using Disney transportation. The first one is give yourself some time.
Lee: Yes, anyone who has used Disney transportation and stayed there – all the Disney vets know this – the general advice is to allow yourself about 60 minutes from resort to the park and at least 90 minutes from resort to resort.
In reality, it very rarely takes as long as this. This is the worst case scenario. There have been some times where something unforeseen has happened and people get stuck and it’s taken longer. But if you do that, you’ve left yourself a comfortable buffer that you should not be stressing. So 60 minutes resort to park, 90 minutes from resort to resort. There might not be space on your bus. Sometimes a bus pulls up and it’s already full.
William: It’s also going to depend on which resort you are at and which park you want to go to. If you are close to your park, like we talked about Bay Lake Tower or Contemporary, you probably want to walk there because it’s just easy to take that nice little path. You don’t necessarily want to take the bus from there to the park.
But if you are at Contemporary and you want to go to Animal Kingdom, you don’t want to walk!
It’s going to take a little bit longer to get to some of the other resorts, depending upon where you are. So the 60 minutes, like she said, is the worst case scenario. It depends on the time that you’re there, how big of a crowd there is and how far you are from the park that you want to get to. And resort to resort is a bit more of a crap shoot because you’ve got to go to a park and then get back to another resort.
Lee: Yes you do. That’s a little bit more roundabout.
William: Probably the only exceptions to that are going to be the monorail resorts, which are the Contemporary, the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian.
Lee: Yes, if you want to go on the loop there, you are fine. And you’ve got the boats as well so you’ve got ways to do it. But on the whole, the majority of guests getting from one resort to another are going to have to transfer at a park and there are different ways you can do it.
William: Well let’s talk through this. You are at a resort. Where do you start?
Lee: I think knowing how the buses work at your resort will set you up with some realistic expectations. There are some resorts that have multiple bus stops. Some of them have one bus stop for the resort instead of the bus stopping at various points going around the resort. But they may very well share buses with adjacent resorts or other resorts. Especially in the quieter seasons or the quieter times of the day, if there is such a thing at Disney these days, expect to share buses somewhere.
William: It’s almost like a school bus. It’s going to have multiple stops. It’s running a circuit.
Lee: There are little signs up at the front, at the top of the bus; little LED signs that tell you which route it is or where it’s going. The bus stops are laid out so you can see where you need to be. So there are signs. You are not going to stand there waiting for whichever bus. You go to the area where you are expecting the bus for the park you are going to.
William: See you can tell as a local that is not my area of expertise!
Lee: I’ll have to teach you! I’ll take you bus riding.
William: I just drive up to the parking lot. I don’t do buses. I just drive up to the parking lot and say, “Here I am.”
Lee: Now when it gets busy, obviously the buses are really crowded and they get full. I mean we haven’t even touched on leaving the park, which I think has got to be the worst. Because for the resorts you’ve got all the guests spread out.
William: And I think it’s going to be the same with all the modes of transportation. For example when Magic Kingdom empties out it’s going to be busy on the monorail, it’s going to be busy on the ferry, it’s going to be busy on the resort launches – the boats that go to the resorts – and the buses are going to be loaded up too.
Lee: Yeah. So these buses get full. But Disney is pretty good at sending out lots of buses. They kind of try and keep it moving. It’s just that sometimes it doesn’t feel that way when you go out and there are just thousands of people in front of you.
I mean there have been times where we’ve lingered in the park for maybe forty-five minutes to an hour after the official park closing and figured, OK now it’s probably safe, and we’ve ventured out. We knew where our bus stop was, but we couldn’t see where the line was, not because it wasn’t marked, but because there was just such a mass of people you couldn’t tell where one line ended and the next one started.
William: Yeah, that doesn’t sound pleasant.
Lee: It’s not exactly a line. British people have a lot of a problem because we are very orderly and we like to see a line. American people just kind of show up and are a little bit more laid back.
William: We are a bit more sloppy about how we line up for things. Especially when on vacation.
Lee: Laid back. It’s kind of nice because nobody is stressing about it.
William: No, we’ll just show up and say, “Hey, I’m on vacation! Where’s the bus? I don’t care where it’s going. I’ll just get on.”
Lee: I’m a little bit more laid back, so that’s why I saw the humor in it, but anyways…
William: When you are going from site to site and let’s say that you have got a park hopper and you want to go from Magic Kingdom to Epcot.
Lee: OK, now you’re not going to use a bus for that because you’ve got the monorail that connects you to Epcot.
William: Not directly to Epcot.
Lee: Not directly from Magic Kingdom.
You’re going to go to the Transportation and Ticket Center.
William: So should you do that or should you take a bus? Because there’s no boat.
Lee: I think that depends on whether you want the speed of the experience. I’m not going to suggest that it’s always going to work out that the bus is going to be quicker than the monorail. When the monorail is functioning fine, I would say it’s more fun to take the monorail. You’ve got the quick transfer, the service is pretty regular when it’s up and running as it should be; it’s pretty good. I would prefer the monorail. The bus is an option.
William: OK. Sounds good enough then. And if you want to split the difference, you can take the ferry over to the TTC and then take a monorail over to Epcot.
Lee: You can do that.
William: OK, what else have you got for us?
Lee: The advantage of the monorail is that they are more frequent. We mentioned that the service is sometimes a little bit hit or miss, but they are more frequent than the ferries for getting to the TTC. The ferries don’t run as regularly as the monorails. They are not running on the same schedule.
William: No, there are three ferries and usually I’ll only see two of them.
Lee: I’ve only ever seen two running. But they also have a really large capacity so they will swallow up that crowd very quickly and be able to get you across. So really, I don’t know that one is necessarily quicker than the other. It just depends on how you time it.
William: You know, the Disney folks always announce that they both take the same amount of time, whether you take the monorail or you take the ferry, so I think it’s just a matter of preference.
Lee: I believe that and sometimes you win some, other times you lose some.
William. Alright, we talked about dining reservations earlier and one of the things that we were wondering about is if you’re at a resort and you want to go to Chef Mickey.
Lee: Chef Mickey is a little bit of a different one to most of the other resort dining experiences. Your park dining generally starts inside the parks, if you’re going for character dining, maybe an hour before the park opens.
You are not going to have a problem getting a bus to the park for an early dining reservation. There are buses. Disney’s website actually says that they start about 45 minutes before the park opens. That’s absolute nonsense.
They start … why are you laughing at me?
William: I’m laughing at you.
Lee: Well, it’s not true. They [the buses] start running at about 6.30 am, or at least for the Magic Kingdom area, because that area is going to have the dining reservations where people need to go. So you can take a bus. What you are going to have to do for Chef Mickey is, their first seating is 7 am. Actually I think technically it’s 7:05 am if you want to be perfectly correct, for the first reservation. That is a long time before the Magic Kingdom opens. You need to still get a bus to the Magic Kingdom and then it’s probably going to be quicker to walk than to worry with the monorail just to get over to the Contemporary, if that’s going to work for you. I don’t know if you’re walking with little kids – maybe then the monorail is going to be better.
William: Are the monorails running at that time?
Lee: That also depends on when you are going. As far as I know they are not at this time. I mean, years ago when we were doing this, when Tové was younger, it wasn’t a problem. I think we did it once and we found out that walking was or would have been quicker.
The other time – actually twice – we got lucky, where the bus driver looked around at the few of us on the bus and said, “Are you guys all going for breakfast at Chef Mickey’s?” And we said yes. He said, “I’ll just take you right there.”
William: That’s kind of a cool thing, but you can’t guarantee that is going to happen.
Lee: No, don’t count on it because we have also been dropped at the Magic Kingdom for an early reservation. So build in the extra time, but we ended up sitting around for a while because we had given ourselves at least an extra thirty-five, forty minutes to get there.
William: And the nice part is, as we’ve said before, it’s a short enough walk from where the bus would drop you off at the Magic Kingdom back over to the Contemporary. But if you are relying on the monorail, I don’t even know if they are running that early.
Lee: Now that you mention it, I don’t think that they are, but I am not sure. This also depends on when. When are you going? What day of the week? What time of the year? And the monorail, they keep changing the schedule and they keep updating it, so I don’t really want to say something now, because you listen to this in two months time and it’s going to be wrong.
William: That’s something we found out from our own experience and then checking with Walt Disney World about this stuff. It changes all the time. The schedules change, how they are going to work the transportation, so what we are telling you works for today.
Lee: It works for today. And also if you are the kind of person who worries about being late, Disney puts a hold on your card now when you make a dining reservation, so you don’t want to be late and then be marked as a no-show and have to go and try reverse those charges and say, look we did show up. Because they do. They charge you if you don’t show now.
William: And if you’re really concerned about it, take a cab.
Lee: Take a taxi. Just get a taxi if you are worried. I’m a little bit more laid back about things. I tend to get annoyed rather than panic about being late for something like that. Stuff happens.
William: It’s a vacation.
Lee: But you know, for some people, they have planned this really well and if it’s important to you and you’ve got little kids … it’s important! I think the first trip those kind of things mattered a lot more to me than what they did in the years that followed. So whatever works for you, whatever is going to give you the better peace of mind. You’re probably looking at about $15 to $20, depending from where to where you are going within the Disney resort.
William: Alright that sounds good. Let’s go back to Disney Springs again. So we talked about the boats that take you from one side to the other; from the Marketplace to the West Side. Honestly, I prefer just to walk back and forth.
Lee: We walk. I’m not going to stand around and wait for a boat. If you have issues with walking or if you are just absolutely dead on your feet, there is an option there.
William: It’s nice that there is an option there. You may be loaded down with stuff that you’ve bought and just can’t lug all this stuff over to where the parking garage is or over to where you catch the next bus. So it is good to have it there, but if you are kind of walking around through there anyways and you’re not lugging a lot of stuff and you’re not dealing with children who are cranky, then just walk. It will be faster.
Lee: It probably is. Also, I mentioned earlier about the boats to the resorts on the Pascagoula River. We love French Quarter! And we stayed there and one of our favorite things was going on the boat to Disney Springs. It was Downtown Disney, I think, the last time we went there.
They tell you it’s going to take about twenty minutes; it’s really much quicker than that. So you’ve got the resorts that I mentioned earlier and you’ll know if you’re on a Pascagoula River resort. It’s in the Downtown Disney area and you’ve got the boat as an option for transportation. Just check where your boat is going to drop you and where it’s going to pick you up and if you are coming back in the evening, make sure that you know what time the last boat is. My recommendation is never bank on being there for the last boat, because if it’s full, you go get the bus. My experience with buses from Downtown Disney to the resort have varied vastly from where we didn’t wait too long and we got lucky to “This is ridiculous! I’m calling a cab.”
William: So the nice part about the boats is they are going to run faster from point to point than the buses are. The down side is they are not going to start as early and they are not going to run as late.
Lee: They don’t. They stop usually somewhere between 11:00 and 11:30 in the evening and this is also going to depend on the day of the week and if it’s a holiday.
William: And the weather.
Lee: That’s the other thing. They don’t run in the storms. If there is thunder or lightning, they are not going to run; or if there are strong winds as well I would think. I’ve never experienced that.
William: I did. Or at least, I saw the video.
Lee: Yeah, but I don’t know how that affects it. I’m guessing here.
William: But there is a point where they say this is not safe; it’s not a good experience. They are going to call it off.
Lee: Just keep that in mind. Also, the boats start running later than the buses do, so if you want to get a head start and get into Disney Springs first thing in the morning, before everybody else shows up, have some breakfast, maybe do the Characters in Flight first launch. It’s the tethered balloon. Lots of fun, by the way, but that’s for another show.
But then you are going to be stuck with the bus. Add some extra time because these buses to Disney Springs tend to run less frequently than the park buses do. They also have a tendency to make multiple stops.
William: One of the things you probably picked up on is we often recommend walking rather than taking some of the transportation for short hops. We’ve got a couple of examples like that. For example, if you are in the Epcot area resorts, it’s easier to walk, I would say, going to the International Gateway than it is to get a bus to go back around the front and then come in and see Spaceship Earth.
Lee: Even the boats, if it’s really busy. You are probably going to be waiting some time for a boat.
William: It doesn’t always work though. For example, you cannot walk from Grand Floridian or Polynesian over to the Magic Kingdom. But you can walk from Polynesian over to the TTC. I’ve never bought a ticket there. At least not since I was six.
Lee: So your mom bought it, didn’t she?
William: Actually, no.
Lee: Her hairdresser bought it.
William: Her hairdresser bought it. That’s another story. My first trip there was a month after it opened, with my mother’s hairdresser.
Lee: Mom couldn’t go.
William: Mom had to work, but hey, I could go.
If you can walk, sometimes it may be quicker or an even amount of time at the worst case, I would say. I have only been beaten by the trams in the parking lot by thirty seconds to a minute, and usually I’m ahead of them.
Sometimes it’s just much more convenient to get moving rather than standing around in the hot sun waiting for something to take you.
Lee: It’s a psychological thing though. I feel like I’m doing something. I don’t mind if the tram beats me, because I kept moving. But standing waiting? I don’t like standing and waiting for things.
William: It’s like you’re wasting your precious time in Disney World.
Lee: You have to wait for stuff at Disney. You know that. But when you’ve got the option not to wait and to just get moving, I want to take that one instead.
William: I get it though. Right now we are recording this in August. It is incredibly humid right now. And you just may not feel like doing this. Particularly midday, you might be drenched with sweat by the time you get there and decide, you know what? I’ll stand here in the sun.
Lee: Yeah, that ten minute walk might feel a whole lot worse than what you though it was going to be.
William: So I’m going to give you an 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the time I’d walk. Twenty percent of the time I’d say not today!
Lee: Maybe not in the peak of the noonday sun, but that again depends how far the walk is; what the distance is.
William: The next thing we are going to talk about is transportation to the water parks.
William: Well I had to play this music because this is Lee’s theme song when she’s got a little something on her mind.
Lee: I know, but this is ridiculous!
William: I know it’s ridiculous, and that’s why I wanted to play the music. Alright, sweetheart!
Lee: OK, we loved the water parks. Actually I didn’t really care that much about the water parks, but I had a little kid who loved the water parks, so it was very important to us. So we always ….
William: I loved the water park when it was River Country.
Lee: Well, the other two are really great. I know you haven’t been to them, but they really are fantastic. We always put aside at least two days for water parks on every trip. And then ring in the year 2014. We had two water park days scheduled, one day at each. We headed out to Typhoon Lagoon. Now this didn’t catch me by surprise. I had heard about it and I think they changed it about a week before we were there so fortunately I knew. I was slightly ticked off, but I figured how bad could it get?
At the time to get from your resort you had to make your multiple stops. I think we went to Disney Springs first, we went through all the Riverside stops so it took us some time to get there. We got dropped off for 10 o’ clock. Because we were leaving after lunchtime, past 1:00 in the afternoon, the people leaving the water park were all taken to Epcot and then you had to get your resort bus from Epcot. So there we were, in our bathing suits with a towel around our waist, because we didn’t want to rent a locker so we really just took what we needed with our water park shoes on, standing there feeling like absolute dorks waiting with all these people who at least have shorts and t –shirts on, who were staring at us. It was ridiculous. But it gets worse.
William: Oh, please, go ahead!
Lee: Well it’s changed again now. I think it was in May this year? It’s been like this for a few months and for all I know Disney has changed it since we put the notes together for our recording. But now if you want to go from your resort to the water park, if you are going to Typhoon Lagoon you have to get a bus to Downtown Disney and then they tell you that you are probably going to have to change buses. So just count on making a bus change.
William: So Disney Springs is your new hub.
Lee: Disney Springs. I called it Downtown Disney. It’s always going to be that to me.
William: We’ll forgive you.
Lee: I know, I’m doing the Hollywood Studios MGM thing. And then for Blizzard Beach you are going to take the bus to the Animal Kingdom.
William: And that’s really where you want to go in your bikini; the place with lions and tigers to eat your face off.
Lee: Leopard print bikini.
William: Ooh, I hadn’t thought of that. I’ll have to go shopping.
Lee: I look at it now and if somebody asked me, would you add a water park ticket on, I’d say to them without a car, hell no! To me it’s just not worth the amount of time. You are setting aside a good chunk of time in your day just to get those water park hours. You are probably going to be spending well in excess of an hour.
William: Well, hang on a minute. Let me play Devil’s Advocate again. Did you have fun at the water park.
Lee: Well I don’t have ‘fun’ at the water park. I’m a sun person. Tové is the swimming person so my fun was sitting in the sun.
William: So you would have been just as happy by the pool at your resort.
Lee: I was happier at the pool at my resort where I could have something to drink. I had my refillable mug.
William: But you did it for your child.
Lee: Well, I did it for her. I mean, vacation you give and take a little bit. That was something important to her. She stands by while I set up my tripod and take photos, so it’s all part of it. I look at it now and it’s an extra cost for the water parks. Is it worth it for the fun you have? Absolutely. If you are using Disney transportation, I would just say be aware of this. It’s a royal pain in the rear end.
William: In hindsight, would you take a cab instead of going with the buses?
Lee: No, because that just makes it a really expensive day when I’ve already go whatever kind of park ticket I’ve got for the theme parks. I would have to really want that water park for the few hours.
Your water park time is also limited. It’s not like the regular park days where you can get in at 9 am and leave at 9 pm or later.
William: And then of course, if a storm comes around your water park time is going to be …
Lee: Yeah, out you go.
William: Alright. So we told you there was a little bit of ugly in this.
Lee: Yeah, that’s really my only rant. I only have good things to say about Disney Transportation because we have, in almost a decade, found it to be for the most part, almost flawless. I think they have a really well organized thing. They have no control over the behavior sometimes with some of the guests. You suck it up. That’s what happens when you are around other people.
William: It does. And honestly, there are going to be thunderstorms in central Florida. It is the lightning capital of the world, is what I’ve always been told. But they don’t last a long time, generally speaking. The storms come in, they blow over. Thirty to forty-five minutes later, it’s gone.
William: So you may be inconvenienced for a while if you want to take a launch and if it happens at the moment that you want to do it, and then yeah, that’s not a good deal.
The ferry on the other hand, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that one not go.
Lee: See, I don’t know. You’ve got more experience with that because I can only speak for the last couple of years.
William: I can’t recall really, so I would honestly still rather take the ferry even in a storm than the monorail, because if that sucker gets hit by lightning you’re going to be up there for a while.
William: Let’s start wrapping things up here. So you’ve got kids in strollers. What are you going to do?
Lee: If you are getting on a bus, you are going to have to disturb the little kids. Unfortunately you have to take them out of the stroller, but that is the law. You’ve got to have the thing folded up before you board. I think that applies to the boats, the trams and for the buses.
Now if you are getting on the monorail, it’s not a problem. And also if you are going out to the parking, I would say don’t put them on the tram. If you are able to walk, leave them asleep. Then you only have to disturb them once. I’ve done it. I’ve carried an exhausted kid over my shoulders and a six year old .. They are heavy when they are deadweight! And you’re tired already. Your feet are sore and you just want to get out.
William: Exactly and if you just want to get out, you don’t want to stand there and wait in a crowd of other people that are anxious and ready to go. I would say just go ahead and start walking to your car.
Lee: If you are able to do it, I would say don’t disturb them.
OK so that goes for the other parks as well, not just for the Magic Kingdom. If you are going from the park exit to the parking, you might want to just avoid the tram. William said earlier that it might be quicker than walking and again, kids in strollers, or if you’ve got somebody in a wheelchair, it might just be easier for all of you and less hassle to just keep moving and get to the car.
William: Imagine a whole park load of people just walking instead of taking the tram.
Lee: Not everybody is going to do it.
William: No, they are not. And for good reason, too. I understand that. But the fact that most people aren’t going to walk, to me, makes it more enticing to go ahead and walk to your car simply because you are not going to have a crowd in your way. You are not going to be stepping on someone’s heels who is going slower like you might experience sometimes in the park.
You can walk at your own pace. You are not going to bother anybody else and you will probably still get to your car faster than if you took the tram.
Lee: That’s true.
And bear in mind that a lot of people who are in the parks when they are leaving are first time or one-time visitors. You get that. Or they just don’t know that there are other options available. So they may think that the tram is there because they have to take the tram.
William: And that’s why we are telling you otherwise.
Lee: Well, yes and some of our listeners will already know this.
William: Let’s say that you have late dining reservations in one of the resorts or the parks close earlier. What are you going to do then.
Lee: OK, remember you need to get to a park and then back to your resort. You’ve got to use that park in between for your transportation back to your resort, assuming that you are staying on site.
William: Alright. Let’s make this a bit more specific then. You like staying at French Quarter. But you want to have a really nice dinner at California Grill at the top of the Contemporary.
Lee: And I’m going to do the last seating.
William: Yeah, because you’re there, you see the fireworks, you have a nice time and you end up sitting at the bar for way too long and now it’s time to get back to your resort.
Lee: It’s time to get back to the resort and Magic Kingdom closed early because it’s really quiet and one of the very rare, slow parts of the season and might have a problem getting a bus back to my resort. It’s probably just going to be easier to call a taxi.
What I would actually rather do is not make the reservation so close to the cusp by trying to keep in mind the season.
William: So you try to plan for it.
Now let me ask you this. If you do get caught like that, can you go to a cast member at the resort that you’re at and say I need to get back to here; how do I do it? Will they arrange transportation for you?
Lee: I have never tried that, so I can’t really say. I am confident that they would give you advice and help you. I don’t think that they can guarantee that they can do something for free for you. I think that also depends on who you speak to. That’s always the case with Disney.
William: So in other words you need to plan and understand when the buses and other transportation stops running.
Lee: That’s right.
William: Or else you run the risk of getting stuck and walking.
Lee: Well, no! That’s not an option!
William: Some of these resorts you really cannot walk. I mean if you go out there trying to walk on some of these roads there are no sidewalks between all of these places, you are going to get run over in the dark.
Lee: I don’t think you are allowed to walk if there is not a …
William: It would not be advisable for anybody. And trust me; you don’t want to walk around on dark Florida roads at night.
Lee: You don’t want to walk around through the lawns either.
William: No. If you’ve missed everything and they can’t help you, call a taxi. But better option is plan ahead and make sure that you are out of your experience before the last bust runs.
Lee: I think most people don’t have too much of an issue with this. Usually they have the times relatively well synced, but things happen and you can be delayed.
William: OK, let’s do another one. Let’s say you are in a park, closing time is coming, do you want to leave early and get ahead of the crowd or do you want to hang back.
Lee: OK. You got two camps for this one.
William: I know.
Lee: We actually befriended a couple some years back. They were at French Quarter for ten days that coincided with our stay and they did the exact opposite to us. We used to sit and have some drinks together some evenings and laugh about it. The husband did not want to be caught in the crowds and he used to get his position to watch the fireworks show as close to the park exit as possible. And man, as those last burst were going up for the finale, he was like, come, come, come, get out! And he was hustling her out to the bus.
Tové and I tend to seat ourselves well into the park and then as soon as everything is over we dig ourselves deeper into the park so that we can take a slow stroll getting back. And we really take our sweet time. We have been swept from the parks a number of times. We have been the last people out.
William: But you know, if you are into photography that’s when you can get some nice shots without a whole bunch of people in the way.
Lee: Well, that’s why I did it. Not necessarily to that extreme, because that is really extreme. Just hanging back for thirty minutes or so. Let the worst of the crowds get out there. Let the people with the little kids get home or if your kids are up and awake or maybe comfortably asleep in a stroller, hang back if you can. If you are able to manage it, just take a seat.
William: That makes sense.
And you want to make sure you understand what the park hours are because they are going to change with seasons, but also with their special events. So for example, we are going to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party pretty soon and we get in there for the evening hours, but for everybody else, Magic Kingdom is going to be closing about 7 pm. So obviously there should not be any transportation problems then. Even during the week, sometimes they may be open for longer hours or there may be Extra Magic Hours and if you are not staying at a resort and not allowed to have that …
Lee: Well, you can be there, it’s just that you can’t participate.
William: You can’t do anything so you may as well leave.
Lee: Unless you want to soak up the atmosphere.
William: Atmosphere is wonderful. The nice part is they know how many people are in the parks and if they haven’t seen enough people exit, they are going to have transportation available to take you.
Lee: Yeah. And also with the hours they tend to usually extend hours and not reduce them. I just wanted to add that in because we were talking about altering park hours. Do not panic. It’s very rare – actually I don’t think it’s happened to us or happened that I am aware – that they have cut hours.
William: It’s not a common complaint that I’ve heard about where there are people in the park and then they missed all the transportation. They give you plenty of warnings about it. The trams to the parking lot and other transportation run long after the parks close; like an hour and a half, two hours, or so.
Lee: They’ll get everybody out and where they need to be. I wouldn’t worry about that. The only thing that you may need to consider is your choice of the means of transportation that you get. You may not be left with any options afterwards. So if you were planning on the boat you might be stuck with a bus.
William: And the last thing we wanted to share with you is if you are looking for information and you go to the Disney website and you go to the call center, that’s probably the least reliable place that you can get your information.
Lee: Yeah, if you make five calls, take the best two if you’re lucky enough to get two answers that are the same.
William: Yeah, you are going to get an answer. It’s just that from call to call we have found that they are not the same answer.
Lee: You make five calls and ask the same question to a different cast member and you get something different. So you are better off checking on forums, some of the blogs that have got comments and discussion sections; go there first.
William: Yes. Thank you. We hope this has been helpful for you. We appreciate you listening and we will see you again next week.
If you would like to get a transcript of today’s show, that’s easy. Go to orlandolocal.com/7 and we will have our show notes available for you there. You can get the transcript for free. And of course we have comments there. If you would like to give us some feedback on the show, ask a question, please let us know.
Lee: Or a suggestion.
William: Suggestions are welcome too!
See you next week!