Airport Transportation to Disney World Guide
There are multiple transportation options between Orlando International Airport and Walt Disney World, including shuttle buses, Uber and Lyft, private car services, and more. This guide covers MCO to WDW ground transportation, pricing, comparisons, and more. Plus, updates on supply/demand and price increases. (Updated February 5, 2023.)
In case you missed it, Walt Disney World ended the Magical Express airport shuttle service. In place of that free bus service between MCO and resort hotels, two paid services have filled the void. One is Mears Connect, which was the operator of Disney’s Magical Express (DME) and now uses the same buses and drivers. The other is Sunshine Flyer, a totally new service with a fun railroad theme.
The elimination of Disney’s Magical Express was big and surprising Walt Disney World news, and continues to anger fans. It even took the #1 spot in our List of Biggest Guest Complaints About Walt Disney World, ahead of Genie+ and other cutbacks. Fortunately, there are plenty of viable alternatives, including several that are superior to DME, and we’re here to give you a rundown of the alternatives for airport transportation. First, let’s start with an update…
By this point, you’ve likely heard the stories of supply chain disruptions, staffing shortages, and other ripple effects from the pandemic and resulting economic circumstances. It should thus come as no surprise that this impacted airport transportation services, rental car companies, and rideshare services. Suffice to say, there were plenty of horror stories about supply and demand imbalances for airport transportation at Walt Disney World over the last couple of years.
Fast forward to 2023, and things have almost entirely normalized. We’ve used both Mears Connect and Sunshine Flyer, and have found both to be economical and reliable ways to get between MCO and WDW. They’re basically Disney’s Magical Express. Minus the “Disney” part…and the “Magical” part…okay, and the “Express” part, too. (In fairness, DME was never actually “Express,” either.)
Our experiences with both have been entirely uneventful. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but they’ve been solid for airport shuttle buses. Neither will win any awards for speed, but that’s par for the course. We have no complaints.
If you’re planning on visiting Walt Disney World during peak travel weeks in 2023 (or any year, really)–think Presidents’ Day/Mardi Gras, Spring Break, Easter July 4th, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, NYE, etc–and plan on using an airport shuttle service or renting a car, we’d encourage you to book early.
This is good practice, in general. Airfare and hotel prices increase, availability worsens, and so forth. Well, same applies to ground transportation between MCO and WDW. It’s possible that Sunshine Flyer or Mears Connect will sell out ahead of the busiest dates in 2023, and rental car prices will almost certainly increase.
We’ve also used Uber and Lyft a lot for getting to and from MCO. This has been easy and efficient, and we’ve never had any issues whatsoever with availability or wait times at the airport or on-property at Walt Disney World. That hasn’t always been the story at Flamingo Crossings–where wait times are usually longer–but it’s also out in the middle of nowhere. (It’s an odd dynamic–middle of nowhere, and yet, tons of people live in that booming area.)
Pricing with Uber and Lyft is all over the place, but the range is definitely above what we experience in 2019. We’re primarily traveling between the Orange Counties (Florida and Southern California), which tends to put our MCO arrivals late at night. For whatever reason, MCO is often slammed late at night, which leads to surge pricing. We’ve paid as much as $70 for a ride to Walt Disney World via rideshare. That’s not even as bad as it gets–we’ve heard of some people paying $100.
We usually depart Walt Disney World early in the morning or in the middle of weekdays, and rideshare prices are almost always significantly lower. In the last two months, our range has been $30 to $40 before tip for these trips. On that note, a couple of suggestions.
First, pull up both Uber and Lyft and compare prices. The vast majority of the time, we’ve found cheaper (sometimes significantly so) rides via Lyft–but not always. Second, opt for the “Wait & Save” option if you’re not tight on time. We did this once, got an immediate pick-up time, and have done it ever since. If you’re traveling at an off-peak time, this is usually easy savings and minimal inconvenience.
With that update out of the way, let’s turn to our normal Orlando International Airport transportation guide…
MCO-WDW Shuttle Services
Sunshine Flyer – The latest option for MCO to Walt Disney World shuttles is the Sunshine Flyer, a themed motorcoach bus experience. Offering a convenient and cost-effective mode of transportation, the Sunshine Flyer allows guests to start the themed magic of their Walt Disney World vacation from the moment they step off the plane.
The Sunshine Flyer’s buses are late model, premium buses with themes that center around old-fashioned passenger cars and train engines. From the bus designs to staff dressed as old timey rail conductors and engineers, the motorcoaches effectively serve as time-machines, offering a glimpse into 1920s train travel.
The buses service all Walt Disney World resort hotels and offer with a restroom, USB chargers, and three-point seatbelts. Ahead of travel, guests will book their tickets online and receive a QR code to scan at MCO, which will ensure smooth timing and departures. For the return trip, a confirmation email will be sent advising of the bus departure time the day before checkout out. It’ll be approximately 3 hours prior to scheduled departure time for domestic flights and 4 hours prior to departure time for international flights.
The Sunshine Flyer currently offers transportation to all Walt Disney World resorts, from Value Resorts to Deluxes–and will be expanded to off-site accommodations in the future. Tickets for the Sunshine Flyer must be booked at least four days ahead of arrival. Tickets are $19.50 per adult and $11 per child each way. The Sunshine Flyer offers a full refund if cancelled 72 hours in advance, or credit towards future tickets if cancelled under 72 hours.
We’re incredibly excited about Sunshine Flyer, as it offers a fun theme—trains are undeniably awesome, as is the golden age of rail travel after which the Sunshine Flyer is modeled. There’s also a clear “Disney connection” to the Sunshine Flyer’s theme, as Walt Disney was an avid railroad enthusiast.
The only downside is that the Sunshine Flyer is new and still finding its footing. It doesn’t have the fleet or resources as Mears in Central Florida. While it’s by an established company (Transportation Management Services) with extensive experience in the events space, that’s not quite the same as operating a daily shuttle service at this scale for decades.
Mears Connect – Similar to Sunshine Flyer, this is a shuttle service by the company that operated Disney’s Magical Express. This makes Mears Connect the “true” spiritual successor to Disney’s Magical Express. It literally uses the exact same drivers and buses, just minus the Disney-branded wraps.
Mears Connect offers transportation service for visitors in high occupancy vehicles, including buses and vans. The company advertises Mears Connect as the “same reliable, safe service guests have been using for decades to Disney area hotels” with scheduled service, luggage handling, convenient airport terminal staging, and return trips from resorts to the airport.
Mears Connect has two options: Standard and Express. Standard is a shared vehicle on Mears Connect (bus or van) that is economical. Standard makes a limited number of stops and will have you on your way to your resort within 20 minutes of your check-in to the Mears Connect reception area. The Express level offers direct service with limited to no wait time.
Pricing could vary depending on date and hotel, but the current rate on the standard service is $16 for adults and $13.50 for children for a one-way trip or $32 for adults and $27 for children for round trips. Express is currently priced at $250 per round trip for up to 4 passengers, plus $55 for each additional person.
Mears is a transportation company with coach buses and taxis that enjoyed a virtual monopoly on Orlando for decades. Historically, we have not been fans of Mears. We had several negative experiences with them in the pre-rideshare days–enough to arrive at the conclusion that it was a poorly-managed company doing the bare minimum and not caring about customer service given their aforementioned monopoly.
To the extent that Disney’s Magical Express offered good service, our suspicion is that it was due to contractual requirements with, and oversight from, Walt Disney World. Without the Disney monitoring and mandating service quality, bus frequency, dispatch times, etc., we fear the “spiritual successor” could be worse. In our experiences with Mears Connect thus far, this has not been a problem–but we’ll continue to use the shuttle service and provide periodic updates.
Alternative Airport Transportation
Luxury Car, Limo & Private Van Service – Honestly, we’ve never used private van service for traveling between MCO and Walt Disney World. There are only two of us, so it has never made sense. It also felt of little value from a research perspective, since Disney’s Magical Express, rideshare, or rental car served the needs of 98% of readers.
Obviously, the end of Disney’s Magical Express changes the equation. Now, many families of 4-6 will be find private car service to be a superior and more economical option than the aforementioned shuttles. Moreover, depending upon how things play out with rental car and rideshare prices and waits, private vehicle service might be better than those, as well.
I’ll level with you again: researching private car service in putting together this article has been overwhelming. There are a lot of advertorials and it’s almost impossible to tell what’s objective advice. Fortunately, we’ve gotten a lot of feedback from readers in the months since DME’s demise was announced, and I’ve cobbled that together here. (On that note, please offer more recommendations–I’ll continue to modify this with your top picks!)
Quicksilver Tours – Far and away the “most recommended” option, we’ve heard nothing but good things about Quicksilver from our readers. Many praise the pricing, noting that it worked out to be cheaper for them than Mears Connect or Sunshine Flyer. (Just keep in mind that prices will likely go up with demand, which will assuredly increase with the end of DME. So book sooner rather than later!)
Orlando Transportation by Mike – Readers have recommended this service (including in the comments to this post!) and online reviews elsewhere are likewise overwhelmingly positive. Mike’s transportation company gets high marks on communication, courtesy, and cleanliness.
Happy Limo – Based on our research, this is one of the most well-established and largest luxury vehicle services in Orlando. It’s definitely not the cheapest, but appears to offer good customer service, with fewer issues than many alternatives. From our perspective, there’s something to be said for a larger scale operation with years of experience–especially as all of these transportation options adjust to a post-DME environment.
Tiffany Town Car – Readers who have used Tiffany have unanimously praised their service and recommended this luxury limo. However, we’d offer the caveat that online reviews are more mixed, with some red flags from guests with disabilities.
Again, we cannot vouch for any of these services as we haven’t used them. Generally speaking, we’d recommend checking policies on luggage handling (included or do drivers assist?), car seats (included or do they cost extra?), airport meet & greet policy (does the driver greet you with a sign in the pickup area of MCO?), grocery stops (whether they’re included, discretionary, and duration), and whether gratuities are included or recommended on top of the base price.
Public Bus – Orlando International Airport has bus stops that are serviced by LYNX local buses. This public transportation is available not only to Walt Disney World, but also Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, International Drive, Downtown Orlando, and a range of other destinations in Central Florida.
We haven’t used the LYNX buses in Central Florida, but are not averse to public transportation. Judging by Google Maps and LYNX’s route map, this seems like a much better option if you’re staying near downtown or I-Drive, which offer more direct routes. (Really, anything to the east of Walt Disney World is better for bus service.) With that said, transit times seem relatively reasonable (~90 minutes from MCO to Disney Springs) but just be aware that you’ll likely have multiple transfers to get to your resort. Probably not ideal with kids in tow, but that’s the nature of public transportation.
Taxi – Available on a walk-up basis at the Arrivals Level (Level 2) on both sides of Orlando International Airport. Taxis may carry up to 9 passengers, and charge the same rate regardless of the number of passengers. All taxicabs picking up at the MCO are regulated by Orlando’s Vehicle-for-Hire Ordinance, which requires fares to be determined by a taximeter. This means there are no flat rates–you’re paying by distance, which typically amounts to $60 to $70 each way depending upon the location of your hotel.
This is another example of where the Mears monopoly comes into play, but there are a handful of alternatives to Mears at MCO. Given the wealth of alternatives, I would not take a taxi from the airport unless really desperate. There’s a decent chance desperation will creep in for some visitors if problems play out with rental car and rideshare services, though…
Rental Cars – This one is pretty self-explanatory, so we’re not going to fixate on the ‘basics’ of it too much. We have an entire post titled Tips for Renting a Car at Walt Disney World that covers the ins and outs of renting a car, along with money-saving tips. If you don’t like waiting at all, like to be in control, and don’t mind driving while on vacation, renting a car is probably for you. This is doubly true if you ever want to leave Walt Disney World property.
When we rent a car anywhere, we typically use either AutoSlash or Hotwire for car rentals and book one of their “blind” Hot Rates. Renting a car can reduce waits and commute times, but we’ve found that sometimes not renting works better for us. Consider your circumstances, how much you want to drive while on vacation, whether you’ll be staying off-site or on-site at Walt Disney World, and how frequently you’ll want to venture beyond the bubble.
Without question, there will be strong demand for rental cars at MCO during peak travel dates. The unknowns are to what degree, whether it’ll exceed supply of available rental cars (and how often), result in more overbookings, and the long-term impact on pricing. If you plan on booking a rental car, it’s wise to lock-in rates as early as possible.
Rideshare – Similar deal here as with the rental car section. Now that they’re reasonably well-established in most cities, we assume most people are familiar with Uber and Lyft–even if you’ve never used them. If not, you can read some of our advice for using Uber and other ride-sharing services in the post Uber & Lyft at Walt Disney World Tips.
In general, we are huge fans of Uber and Lyft, using rideshare services whenever possible rather than renting a car. We’ve almost exclusively switched from renting cars to Uber/Lyft when visiting Walt Disney World. For us, it just makes more sense, is more convenient, and cost-effective.
Using rideshare in tandem with Disney transportation works out really well for us. As with renting a car, you’ll also want to consider your circumstances to determine whether relying on rideshare is right for you.
Ultimately, the end of Disney’s Magical Express has been disappointing to many Walt Disney World visitors, but the good news is that great alternatives exist. Equally as important, there largely are no longer issues with supply and demand imbalances or regular roadway congestion between Orlando International Airport and Walt Disney World. Mears Connect and Sunshine Flyer are absorbing most displaced DME riders, with rideshare and rental cars picking up the rest of the slack. The bad news is that all of these options cost money.
Even though the last couple years have been a roller coaster of supply and demand imbalances, this outcome isn’t all that surprising. After all, Disney’s Magical Express didn’t exist until the 2000s–before the days of Uber and Lyft–and people managed to get to and from the airport just fine, and without issue. However, Walt Disney World attendance is up significantly since then (Magic Kingdom alone has increased by ~6 million guests). Suffice to say, a lot has changed since Disney’s Magical Express debuted and Disney attendance still hasn’t recovered to 2019 levels, so there could still be disruptions during peak travel dates. Just something of which you might want to be mindful if visiting Walt Disney World during a particularly busy travel time–it doesn’t hurt to hedge your bets and get something booked sooner rather than later.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
What do you think of the announcement of the Sunshine Flyer? Will you use the service, or is it too expensive for shared transportation? Will you opt for Sunshine Flyer, Mears Connect, Uber, Lyft, or renting a car? Thoughts on pricing, efficiency, or anything else regarding airport transportation? What do you think about Walt Disney World ending Disney’s Magical Express? Other thoughts on this? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
As of now, Sunshine Flyer doesn’t service Terminal C. I flew JetBlue into C and had to take a shuttle to Terminal B.
They use Mears shuttles that hold about 10 people.
Adds about 20 minutes to get to B if you get a shuttle right away.
Mears says they’ll pick you up at Terminal C.
The APM is too far a walk.
Extra steps to keep in mind for Sunshine Flyer & Terminal C.
Is there any wheelchair assistance between these destinations.
Two years ago I was left sitting outside in a bus loading area sitting in a wheelchair for an extensive length of time. I was told there was no assistance outside of the terminal.
The shuttle I was on could not accommodate wheelchairs. Don’t know if they have any that can.
Wheelchairs may have to go all the way to the train station and use the APM.
Didn’t notice anything on the website.
Probably best to call/email MCO.
A note about rental cars – if you rent from either Alamo or National, you don’t have to rent the car for your entire trip. The World Car Care Center at Disney has Alamo and National at the location, so you can rent a car at the airport and turn it in at Disney the next day. Then rent another car to get from Disney to the airport when it’s time to go back home. Going to Disney will be more expensive than going to the airport because vehicle demand will be bigger at the airport than at Disney, but it’s still not bad. All told, it was less than $200 for both rentals in September. That’s a more than Mears, but at least with the rental, we can stop on the way to Disney and do some grocery shopping (which will be cheaper than ordering through InstaCart) and we’ll have it to go off property for lunch and dinner on arrival day (which will be cheaper than eating on property).
This is an excellent point!
It also makes doing a day or two at Universal or SeaWorld at the front or back of the trip easier in addition to everything you mentioned.
Quicksilver tours is definitely not a cheap solution.
Cheapest option i see is 110 each way. Not sure how that beats mears or sunshine by any imagination.
Thanks for sharing. I really appreciate it that you shared with us such informative post, great tips and very easy to understand.
Good article, I appreciate the dated info so I knew it’s up to date.
Honestly, I found all the images of resort & theme park decor to detract from an otherwise good article. Keep the buses, etc, loose the cars characters.
I have used Orlando Ultimate Town Car, i was searching on google to find for car service in Orlando. when they came up on the list, i was really impressed with their reviews, didn’t hesitate to book a reservation online. After i got email confirmations with my trip and also got a Text on my arrival date that my chauffeur was on location when my flight landed. My first perception of this service was telling my husband about it, and we all relaxed knowing that company was there waiting for us. We met driver at baggage claim, our driver was prompt, professional, and made us feel like we were the most important people in Orlando. Return back to MCO we had a free upgrade for and suv and also driver was better than the other one. lol, with service like that, I wouldn’t consider hiring another service!! Top Notch Service!!!
We were there Sept 18-24 2022. Lyft was a few bucks cheaper than Uber. We paid about $50 before tip on Lyft for a one way from MCO to the Contemporary around noon. I got an XL since we had a party of 5. Our bags barely fit! That was a concern of mine which turned out to be valid. Keep in mind while these vehicles are meant for 6 people bags are not considered. Kudos to the driver who made it work! On the way back we booked Mears bus due to having even more luggage with souvenirs. Mears got the job done for $75 total. The driver was extremely rude and unprofessional but he was on time. 3 stops and the departure time was chosen based on our flight time. Long walk to baggage drop off but there are guys there with carts. I prefer ride share for the convenience but please be aware of luggage!
Used Sunshine flyer for first time last week and paid $4 more for the two of us round trip. Have used Mears the past two trips this year. We were kept outside under a concrete bunker in the heat and humidity around 8:30pm. Our bus finally came and we departed MCO around 9:15. Trip to resort was okay. Our return trip pick-up (11:35am) was on time but was not what I call safe by any means. Speeds were close to 80mph at times and you could feel the vibration of the tires. Cut from one lane to the other multiple times and we were not running late. Will not ride this bus again. I have never in the many years I have ridden Magical Express/ Mears now, ever been concerned about how the bus was driven. It is also nice to wait inside the terminal where the temperature is somewhat controlled.
I’ve used Orlando Airport Towncar Service, which doesn’t seem to appear on anyone’s “top” list, but have found them to be excellent. I’ve had the same driver a few times which is fun. In February I paid $60 one way (before tip) which was likely more than Uber or Lyft but the best priced flight from Seattle arrives at 11:59 PM, and at that time of night, the extra expense of having someone waiting for me at baggage claim and leading me to the car is worth the extra cost.
I am pretty sure the sellout on Sunshine Flyer is directly related to their promotion for kids riding free with a paying adult. The purchase by date was Labor a day weekend but your trip could be anytime in the future.