by Beth Keating
December 30, 2021
With the end of 2021 comes the end of “Disney’s Magical Express,” the complimentary transportation service that whisked guests from the airport to their Disney Resort hotels in the blink of an eye, and without ever having to touch their luggage after they dropped it at their home airport. Indeed, it was, especially for families with small kids, one of the best perks of staying on site.
But now that perk has flown away, leaving guests to ponder how to efficiently and cost-effectively get where they need to go. There are several alternatives to Magical Express that can fill the gap without the need to rent a car (which, these days, is not only enormously expensive, but generates additional nightly parking fees at your Disney hotel).
The most obvious option is to take a Mears shuttle. Mears operated transportation back and forth to Disney long before the Magical Express came into being, and has been serving the Orlando area since 1939. (They operate in other cities as well). In fact, in the old days, a Mears voucher was sometimes included in our Disney travel package. Other times, when no voucher was part of the package, our family called Mears directly to book a ride.
Beginning New Year’s Day, Mears will operate Mears Connect, a transportation service between Orlando International Airport (MCO) and the Disney Resort hotels in two different categories: Standard and Express.
Standard service is a shared ride on a Mears Connect vehicle with a limited number of stops. Vehicles will have guests on their way within 20 minutes of arrival at the reception area.
Introductory rates for Standard service are $16.00 per adult and $13.50 per child ages 3-9 (one way) or $32 per adult and $27 per child ages 3-9 (round-trip). Children under three ride free.
Express service is direct service to the resort and back to the airport (guaranteed first stop), with limited to no wait time. Express service is not considered private service, though, and may be shared. Introductory rates for Express service are $250.00 for up to four passengers and $55 for each additional passenger.
Mears is planning to add additional locations in Orlando in the coming months; they also offer charter bus, car services, limousines, and taxi services throughout the area.
Contact Mears directly for more information and to book rides.
A second shuttle opportunity arrives on February 1, 2022, when “The Sunshine Flyer” begins operations. A series of very cool looking motor coaches themed to look like 1920’s-era passenger train cars and locomotives will also greet guests at MCO and transport them to their resort. Even the drivers and staff will be dressed as 1920’s rail conductors and engineers, and every coach wrap is distinct in its style. The Sunshine Flyer is operated by Transportation Management Services, Inc., which has, over the last 26 years, organized transportation for clients such as the National Basketball Association, United States Golf Association, and Major League Soccer.
As of now, tickets are $17 per adult and $12.50 per child ages 3-8 (one way) and $34 per adult, and $25 per child ages 3-8 (round-trip). Children under two can ride on an adult’s lap for free.
The Sunshine Flyer pledges that guests will not wait more than 20 minutes to board their bus, and the ride to the resorts is scheduled so the last stop will not take more than 65 minutes. The service will also be adding new locations in 2022, including Orlando Hotels, International Drive Hotels, and other Disney Partner Hotels.
Another big bonus? In honor of Disney’s 50th anniversary, The Sunshine Flyer is donating 50% of their sales during the first 50 days of service to the Make a Wish Foundation of Central & Northern Florida.
Contact The Sunshine Flyer for more information, or call 866-FL-FLYER.
If the shuttle bus routine is not your jam, there are also ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft operating in the area. Prices for Uber and Lyft will vary based on surge pricing, pick-up and drop-off locations, etc.
And if your trip is still a few years off, there may be an opportunity to take the “train from the plane,” when Brightline eventually opens a station at Disney Springs as part of their planned extension of the high-speed railway’s route from the airport. That option is likely to be many years down the road, however. You might want to reserve Mears or The Sunshine Flyer in the meantime.
Beth Keating is a regular contributor to DisneyBizJournal.
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