There are certain questions that, when posed to the SavEar family, elicit many opinionated responses. And we love it! The best part of having such a varied group is that every viewpoint is represented. Every family has their own preferences and pitfalls, every Disney lover has their best practices.
We wanted to gather those great, diverse opinions on the big Disney questions and explore them in our newest series….drumroll….
The Great Debate!
Every week I’ll be digging into the complex answers of an often asked Disney question using everyone’s favorite high school debate tactic: point/counterpoint. There is no one “right “way, only the best way for your situation. We hope that by presenting the two (three, four, five) sides of an issues, it will enable you to make the best choice for your perfect vacation.
The inaugural Great Debate is an issue that comes up constantly and that I myself am a recent convert on….
Should I Use Disney Transport?
Point: Disney Transport is free. Disney transportation is a free amenity offered to every guest staying onsite at the Walt Disney World Resort. The Magical Express transports you from the Orlando airport to your Disney resort in style (and air conditioning!) Buses at Walt Disney World start running 1-2 hours before the park opens, and continue running 1-2 hours after they close. As one bus driver once told me, “We will never leave you stranded.” That kind of assurance can make the difference between an enjoyable end of the day or a frenzied rush to the bus stop that results in crying kids and frazzled parents. During the day buses run every 20 minutes, or so, from resorts to the parks. Each bus goes to only one park, but depending on your resort, you may have to stop and pick up others along the way.
Counterpoint: Disney Transport is free, but not worth it. The most cited reason for this opinion is Dining transportation. Buses do not run from hotel to hotel. So, if you’re staying at Coronado (which I always am) and you’ve got a breakfast reservation at 1900 Park Fare, you take a bus to the Magic Kingdom, then the monorail to the Grand Floridian. Dinner at Flying Fish? Take a bus to Animal Kingdom, then another bus going to the Boardwalk Inn. Disney restaurants will tell you to plan on an hour of transportation time, which is about right. The consensus with some is that while the buses may be free, they eat up valuable time during your day, and so are not worth it.
My 2 Cents: Plan table service meals on pool/rest days, so that the travel time doesn’t feel like a waste. If you’re doing a resort table service on a park day, plan to stay in the area. For example, if you’re at Magic Kingdom, stick to Ohana (the Polynesian), 1900 Park Fare (the Grand Floridian), or Chef Mickey’s (the Contemporary) as they’re all on the monorail line and very easily accessible from the Magic Kingdom. Make sure to reference a map of WDW when making your touring schedule and dining reservations.
Point: Having your own car at Disney gives you more freedom. If you’ve got your own car, or a rental, you can easily venture off site and hit up Universal or the outlet malls. The Disney buses only run between Disney properties, which includes the theme parks, resorts, and Disney Springs. If you were hoping to hit up the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or a nearby beach, you’ll either need your own car or pay out of pocket for a taxi or Uber. Guests staying at a Walt Disney Resort receive complimentary parking at the resorts as well as the theme parks for the length of their stay, so you are not penalized if you choose not to use Disney transportation.
Counterpoint: Having your own car intrudes on the Disney Bubble. Have you heard of the “Disney Bubble”? The Disney Bubble is the state of mind you enter when you stay on site: free from worries and responsibilities of daily life. Every need is only a bus ride away: theme parks, shopping, food, pools, spas, you name it. Ya’ll, the Disney Bubble is REAL and for some people (this author included) it is everything. Not having to worry about parking, directions, and even doing your own driving, are very real perks of the Disney Bubble. When someone else deals with your luggage and you are spirited away to a castle in an air condition coach, it’s hard not to feel like a princess. Small children who aren’t yet in school find the buses almost as delightful as the Disney Railroad, so even a routine transportation to get to the parks becomes part of the magic.
My 2 Cents: If you are driving to Disney, this is a moot point for you. You can use both your car and the bus system to your advantage on a case by case basis. Friends who are flying, this is your choice to make. Even fans of the bus transportation system cannot deny that being able to drive to your dining reservation is more convenient than having to take two buses. It really depends on your vacation style. If you love being in the Disney Bubble, this might be a trade off you’re willing to make. If you’re looking for an multiple attraction Orlando vacation, the Disney buses might not be able to get you to all the places you want to go.
Point: Disney Buses take too long. The length of each bus ride will vary depending on where you are staying, its location in respect to each park, and if there are multiple pick up stops. You also need to factor in the time of year you are visiting. The buses run every twenty minutes (or so) on the way between the parks and the resorts. You may find the wait is a slightly longer in the middle of the day, for those planning to take a mid day rest at the resort. Planning on a 20-30 minute ride and a 20 minute wait puts you in the travel range of an hour. In my experience, it is often less time than that, and rarely ever more.
Counterpoint: Disney buses are so fast. Consider the size and scope of the Walt Disney World Resort. To It is roughly the size of San Francisco. And you can still get from one end to the other in less than an hour. The Disney transportation system is a well oiled machine. The cast members who drive buses at Walt Disney World are highly trained and excellent at their jobs. They are highly motivated to be considerate of your time, your vacation, and most importantly, your safety. Doing anything takes time, but as with most things Disney, the extra time makes the experience stand out.
My 2 Cents: My last trip I had a lovely conversation with a bus driver named Dave, who opened my eyes to just how much training and work goes into being a bus driver. He closed with, “It’s all worth it, to get you to the magic.” Here is how I met Dave. My dear friend had run the Princess Marathon and over dinner at the Boardwalk, dehydration just got the best of her. As we waited for a bus to Animal Kingdom, to catch our bus back to Coronado, my head was swimming with worst case scenarios. Would the bus be crowded? Would she get sick again? Why so many buses?
A bus pulled up, and instead of having its location on the front it said “Chip and Dale.” What was this? The door opened. A Santa Claus looking gentleman leaned out and said “where can I take you ladies?” I asked if he could take us straight to Coronado Springs, and he said he could. We were the only ones on the bus and it took us 5 minutes to get back our resort. The Chip and Dale line isn’t always running, but it’s one of those little perks Disney sprinkles on occasionally. The bottom line for me is that the Disney company wants you to have a great vacation. They want you to enjoy every minute. That’s what keeps you coming back. So even their bus system is going to have a little bit of pixie dust.
In Conclusion: Your decision on the Great Bus Debate is dependent on so many variables. Do you have small kids? Teens? A big group? Are you planning on visiting other attractions? Is this trip mostly about food? Mostly about one particular park? Is this your first trip? Your tenth? But the most important questions is: What is best for your family, at this particular time, for this particular trip? Whatever you decide, I’m sure your trip will be spectacular and one of a kind.
If you’ve got more questions about your Disney vacation, don’t hesitate to reach out to our exclusive Couponing to Disney Travel Specialist, Kari O’Dell. She will help you plan that perfect vacation faster than you can say “a dream is a wish your heart makes.”
I know you’ve got thoughts on the Disney buses. I want to hear them! Do you have a question you’d like us to feature in The Great Debate? Ask it below!
Kristen B. is wife to the best Prince around, mama to the spunkiest little princesses, and lover of all things Disney. She started her savings journey three years ago and is now dedicated to making her family’s wishes come true one coupon at a time. She is so excited to take her love of saving to the next level and share her journey with you! Click here to catch up on Kristen’s Savings and join in on your own savings adventure!