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Brian Bennett

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How to use the Walt Disney World Transportation System

The internal transportation systems

Walt Disney World's transportation is one of the things that make a vacation at WDW so carefree, relaxing, and magical. Simply put, Walt Disney World's transportation network is among the most efficient, easy to use, and convenient of any mass transit system in the world. The system includes the famous Disney monorail, as well as busses and watercraft, to move guests from resort hotel to park and back, park to park, and from any other location to another within the 30,000+ acres of the complex. The vehicles are always clean, loading and unloading of passengers is simple and well-thought-out, and the wait for transportation (except during the very busiest of times) is minimal.  It's hard to over-emphasize the convenience of the internal transportation.

Monorail zipping through the Contemporary Resort (photo by Sue Holland)
Monorail zipping through the Contemporary Resort (photo by Sue Holland)

Who can use Disney Transportation

Whether or not you can "legally" use WDW's transportation system depends on two things. First, all "park hopper" admission media permits the bearer to use WDW's transportation. Annual Pass holders, for example, are permitted full use of the system. Second, guests of Disney-owned and operated resorts are permitted full use of the system during the duration of their stay. It is possible, literally, to use airport shuttle transportation to take you to and from your Disney resort and use only Disney transportation during your entire visit. With the WDW transportation system at your beck and call, and the fact that all Disney resorts are located right on the grounds, you are normally within forty-five minutes of your room no matter where you are in WDW.

An Overview of the Whole Disney Transportation

The massive extent of the transportation can be overwhelming. Here's some pointers for getting around the complex:

  • Parking (if you have your own car) is abundant at the parks and the resort hotels.

  • If you drive your own car to the Magic Kingdom, you'll park in a huge parking lot and either walk or ride a tram to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC), the central hub for Magic Kingdom transportation.

The Ticket and Transportation Center is the Magic Kingdom Hub
The Ticket and Transportation Center is the Magic Kingdom Hub

  • From the TTC, you can travel to the Magic Kingdom via monorail or ferryboat.

Magic Kingdom ferry docked at the TTC
Magic Kingdom ferry docked at the TTC

  • The Magic Kingdom is serviced by two monorails. One is an express train that runs directly to and from the TTC. The second monorail services the "monorail resorts" and travels to the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian, and the Contemporary Resorts as well as the TTC.

Monorails run from the Ticket and Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and the Magic Kingdom Resorts
Monorails run from the Ticket and Transportation Center
 to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and the Magic Kingdom Resorts

  • The Magic Kingdom is serviced by ferryboat to and from the TTC.

  • The Magic Kingdom is also directly serviced by a fleet of buses and boats to and from the resorts that are not served by the monorail. You'll have to check your individual resort transportation schedule for specific details for that resort.

Many of WDW's resorts have bus transportation to the Magic Kingdom
Many of WDW's resorts have bus transportation to the Magic Kingdom

  • Several of the Magic Kingdom resorts, including Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness Campground, have boat service to and from that park.

Boat from Wilderness Lodge to Magic Kingdom
Boat from Wilderness Lodge to Magic Kingdom

  • If you drive to EPCOT Center or the Disney/MGM Studios, you may still have to ride a tram, but the parking lots at those parks are directly adjacent to the parks, so intermediate transportation is not necessary.

Many of WDW's resorts have bus transportation to the Magic Kingdom
The parking lot tram at the Studios

  • EPCOT Center is serviced by an express monorail to and from the TTC.

  • EPCOT is within walking distance of the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, the Swan and Dolphin, and the Boardwalk Inn and Suites resorts.

  • EPCOT is also served by buses to and from the resorts that are not served by the monorail or within walking distance.

Many of WDW's resorts have bus transportation to Epcot
Many of WDW's resorts have bus transportation to Epcot

  • The Disney/MGM Studios is serviced by boat to and from the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, the Swan and Dolphin, and the Boardwalk Inn and Suites Resorts.

A "friendship" on Crescent Lake
A "friendship" on Crescent Lake

  • The Disney/MGM Studios is serviced by bus for the other resorts.

  • There is no monorail service to the Disney/MGM Studios.

  • Animal Kingdom is serviced by bus and parking lot tram only (there is no monorail or boat service to Animal Kingdom).

One of WDW's newest buses at Animal Kingdom
One of WDW's newest buses at Animal Kingdom

  • The water parks, Pleasure Island, and the Village Marketplace (the Marketplace serves as a bus system hub) are serviced by bus to and from many of the resorts.  (Note:  There is no longer a bus stop at the far West side of Downtown Disney's West End.)

  • Guests at the Monorail resorts have to ride the monorail to the TTC and catch a bus connection from there to the water parks, Pleasure Island, and the Village Marketplace.

  • Port Orleans and Old Key West have boats that run from those resorts to Downtown Disney.

Sassagoula River Steamboat
Sassagoula River Steamboat

This is, of course, only an overview. I highly recommend that as soon as you check into your Disney resort that you ask for the WDW Transportation brochure.  This is a multi-page document that explains how the transportation system works specifically for that particular resort. A call to the Disney resort at which you will be staying might allow you to get a copy of that brochure before you leave home. If you've never been to WDW before, it would be worthwhile to study up on this information before your arrival.

An Overview of the Whole Disney Transportation

Keep in mind, though, that although the transportation system is large, varied, and complex, it is not difficult to navigate your way around. Buses and all loading areas are well marked (each bus has an electric marquee in the window that displays the buses' destination) and Disney cast members are ALWAYS able and willing to answer any questions. Don't hesitate to ask any of them for advice on how to get from "here" to "there". They'll be more than happy to help.

Magic Kingdom ferries on Seven Seas Lagoon
Magic Kingdom ferries on Seven Seas Lagoon

A Special Treat to be Aware of...

Something that is fairly well known among WDW regulars, but is not advertised at all by the Disney folks (for obvious reasons) is that guest can, under certain circumstances, ride in the front (the compartment where the driver actually sits) of the monorail.  All you have to do to pull off this feat is ask when you get to the monorail station. You might be turned down, depending on a number of factors, but you don't need any special credentials... you just have to have good timing.

Here's how it works...

Something you have to "sit up front" to see... the monorail controls
Something you have to "sit up front" to see... the monorail controls

  1. When you get to the monorail station, just ask one of the cast members if you can "ride up front."
  2. If someone has already made that request, they'll be standing (or sitting, at some of the stations there's a bench there) in a location near where the front of the monorail stops at that station. However, if no one has asked, and there are no reasons why you can't ride up front, you'll likely be given the instructions as to where to stand to wait.

Monorail at the Contemporary Resort station
Monorail at the Contemporary Resort station

  1. Now, the kicker is this... when the monorail stops, that train may or may not already have a group riding in front. If it does, then you can't join them... you'll either have to wait for another train, or give up and just load into one of the regular cars. Sometimes, too, a train is scheduled for a driver switch, new driver training, or some other issue that means that they are not allowing guests up front. In that case, too, you'll be turned down (it seems that the monorail drivers make the call as to whether or not guests are permitted).
  2. Just remember that this privilege is much less likely to be granted during very busy times on the monorail.  During the morning and during the post-park-closing rush times, your odds of being allowed are very slim.  For one thing, the odds are against you just because of the larger number of people that may be asking the same thing.  Also, the monorail crews may be more harried and less likely to permit guests up front.  I've had a lot of good success, though, when I've asked mid-evening on the monorail resort loop when we've been going out for dinner or just visiting the resorts.

Two final words of wisdom:  First, remember that at most only three or four people can ride up front at any time, so you may have to split up your group. Plan accordingly.  Second, remember that at any time your odds of being granted permission are slim.  You may want to ask permission without even letting any kids in your group know what's up.  That way, if things don't turn out you won't be dealing with disappointment... at least in the kids.

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