The Magical Express is the free bus transportation that Disney provide between Orlando International Airport and all of the Walt Disney World resort hotels.
So, first and foremost - if you are not hiring a car, there is no need to pay for an airport transfer if you are staying at a Disney hotel. Most travel agents, including the biggies such as Virgin Holidays, will try and sell you a transfer, without obviously telling you of the existence of the Magical Express. Decline this and book Disney’s Magical Express instead.
Worth noting, this only applies to the Disney resort hotels - not those in the vicinity. Most notably, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotels are not eligible as they are not owned by Disney.
Why book the Magical Express?
Well, in case we haven't made it clear yet - it is free. So why wouldn't you use it? But there are two other benefits.
For us, it is a great start to our Disney holiday. Through out your journey you'll be shown videos of Disney World, with tips for your stay, as well as trivia and classic Disney cartoons. It is a fun start on what is otherwise a boring journey, and part of our personal 'we are finally here!' moments.
And, if you choose, Disney will also take care of your luggage and deliver it right to your room. One less thing to worry about!
Can I book Magical Express once I arrive?
NO!! It is essential that you pre-book the Magical Express transfer, so make sure you do it once you know your flight details.
How do I book the Magical Express?
Easy - fill in the online form.
If you live in the United States or Canada, you will be sent luggage tags, that means once you drop your bags off at the departure airport, you can forget about them entirely until they turn up in your room after you arrive.
In the UK, this works differently. As we are travelling internationally, you will NOT receive luggage tags, because you have to pick up your bags initially, when you arrive at Orlando International Airport, so you can go through customs. You can still have your bags delivered to your room though - keep reading to find out how this works.
Should I have my bags delivered to my room and how does this work?
A benefit of using Magical Express is that Disney will deliver you bags directly to your room for you - this is typically within 3 hours of you checking in at your hotel.
If you want to have your bags delivered to your room, as we are travelling internationally you MUST collect your luggage when you arrive, so you can take it through customs. However, if you'd like Disney to take care of your luggage from this point forwards, you simply place it on the luggage carousel after customs, and provide your airline baggage number to the desk when you check in for Magical Express.
Should you do it? Well this is entirely a personal choice. We never do - by the time we've arrived we've been travelling for a long time. It might only be late afternoon in Florida, but thanks to the time difference, it is late in the evening according to our bodies and all we want to do is get unpacked and go to bed. Last thing we want is for the bags to be delivered 3 hours after we arrive - waking up the kids and probably us too. So we keep our bags with us, and the bus drivers are happy to load and unload these for us. However it is purely a timing thing - if we were planning to hit the parks or go for a meal once we arrived, we'd definitely take advantage of this perk.
Where do I find the Magical Express at the airport?
Magical Express is on B side, Level 1.
When you arrive at the airport you go through customs and collect your luggage. You then have a short train ride to the main terminal - you can either take your bags with you on this ride, or return them to be delivered back to you at the main terminal (or by Disney to your room.)
So when you arrive at the main terminal, if you have kept your bags with you or are having them delivered, you will head directly to B side, and get the lift or escalator down to Level 1 and follow the signs to the Magical Express.
OR, if you need to re-collect your bags, you will head to the side where your airline is (Virgin will be A, British Airways and Thomas Cook will be B), to pick these up and then head over to B side. Orlando International Airport is not huge - side A and B are separated from each other by a shopping concourse - you simply walk across to get from one side to the other if you need to do this. We personally keep our bags with us on the train to the main terminal, to save this extra step.
Once you get to the Magical Express desk, you just check in and go where directed to wait for the next bus.
Should I tip the Magical Express driver and how much?
Yes - and this is unusual for bus drivers in Disney. The on-property bus drivers are one of the few people you do not usually need to tip. However, the drivers of the Magical Express are actually employed by Mears, who run this for Disney. It is customary to tip the driver, especially if they are handling bags for you - $1-2 per bag.
If you have your bags delivered to your room, you would tip the bell hop the same amount, $1-2 per bag, if you are in the room when these arrive.
You can read more about tipping in Disney here.
How do I get back to the airport at the end of my holiday?
The day before you are heading home, you will receive an envelope in your room, with the details of when the bus will be picking you up the following day and a voucher that you will need to give to the bus driver the next day (don't lose it!) It is always sad to see that envelope appear!
On the day of departure, you have a couple of options, depending on your airline. If you are flying with Virgin, you can check-in and leave your bags at Disney Springs - in Westside, in the valet area for Cirque du Soleil®. This means you can forget about your bags until your back in the UK. If you plan to spend your last day in Disney Springs, this is a great option - but remember anything you buy will have to become hand luggage. Personally, we like to do one last trip to Magic Kingdom, so never utilise this option as we do not gain anything by an extra trip to and from Disney Springs.
If you're flying with any other airline, or simply don't want to go over to Disney Springs, you can leave your bags with Bell Services in the hotel. They will give you a ticket, you go off and enjoy the parks, returning in plenty of time to collect your bags (tip $1-2 per bag), and wait for Magical Express to arrive.
Wait outside the hotel for the bus at the time indicated, and hand over the voucher to the bus driver. The Magical Express will then deliver you to the airport, complete with a good bye video encouraging you to try out Adventures by Disney and Disney Cruise Line, and telling you to come back soon: M-I-C - See Ya Real Soon! K-E-Y - Why? Because we like you! M-O-U-S-Eeee!!!!