Walt Disney World has unveiled a new bus wait time feature in the My Disney Experience mobile app that shows real time bus stop departure times. With this feature, Disney will provide up-to-the-minute estimates for when the next buses will depart from their Disney Resort hotel and arrive at their destination. In this post, we’ll provide a quick summary of the announcement, along with extensive commentary on this news.
These real time bus waits will provide current estimates for buses heading to all four theme parks, both water parks, and Disney Springs. The feature can be accessed in My Disney Experience by tapping “See Bus Times” when viewing an active hotel reservation. (In other words, unlike attraction wait times, these bus waits are not available if you’re not presently staying at Walt Disney World.)
In addition to the new bus wait time feature, My Disney Experience has a new design for the app, offering improved navigation and functionality. In playing around with MDX for a few minutes, I found it to be snappier in loading, and also much more intuitive in terms of navigation.
During the past year, Disney has added several features to My Disney Experience that allow guests to view room charges, track Disney dining plan credit usage, check into resort hotels online, make mobile orders at select counter service restaurants, and use their mobile devices as a digital key.
Anyway, here are our thoughts on the addition of bus wait times to MDX…
As might be evident in us writing a blog post about an update to the My Disney Experience app, we view this as fairly significant news in terms of the quality of our Walt Disney World trips. We lauded the debut of the wait time boards for buses a couple of years ago, and begged for those times to be incorporated into the MDX app.
Here we are over two years later, and wait times for buses are finally in My Disney Experience. Calling these a game-changer would be hyperbole. It is a significant upgrade that will make getting ready and leaving our hotel in the mornings a smoother process, and will save us a decent amount of time over the course of a trip. Just as importantly, it adds predictability to the transportation experience.
Now, the current system is not perfect. There have been a handful of situations when the wait times have not been accurate for us, or have increased a couple of times while we’ve waited. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of traffic and other delays. Given the nature of bus transportation and extraneous variables, we’ve found the wait times to be about as good as can be expected.
The increased transparency with regard to buses in the past several years is not just a step forward, it’s a leap forward. Inconsistency in bus deployment was a serious issue for a while, and one we regularly lamented in trip reports. I still vividly recall multiple occasions of waiting for a bus to one park while 4-6 (that is not hyperbole) for a different park would pass.
While there are still times when we see a couple of buses for one park before a single bus for a different park, gone are the days when you might see 4 Disney’s Hollywood Studios buses and 0 for Magic Kingdom. I cannot even recall the last time we experienced that, but it has been at least 4 years.
Shortly before the wait time boards were introduced, we began noticing that bus transportation became more consistent. Wait times could still be a bit too high (in my opinion) at times, but the incredibly frustrating imbalance of buses was corrected, and I’d assume that’s thanks to backend software that makes bus allocation smoother. Whatever the explanation, the bus service at Walt Disney World is lightyears better today than it was around 2010.
Predictability and transparency in bus transportation are something I really value–perhaps overvalue. Even more than a long wait until the next bus, uncertainty over how long the wait will be is something I absolutely hate. It can make even a 5-minute wait excruciating, and is one reason why I always prefer to walk whenever possible. I just prefer being in control of my own destiny to the greatest extent possible (and I’m cognizant of the fact that this is odd).
However, this desire to be in control does not outweigh my hatred of driving. I also recognize this is odd, but I dislike driving, and especially dislike having to deal with it while traveling. (In my ideal world, I could get 90% of where I want to go via my feet and rail.)
Setting that aside, I think the leaps forward that Walt Disney World is making in terms of transportation coupled with the ubiquity of Uber and Lyft really call into question the need for a rental car at Walt Disney World. To be sure, there are some visitors who will spend a lot of time off-property, and it’s advantageous from that perspective to save money.
Historically, the more compelling argument in favor of renting a car at Walt Disney World has been to save time. At one point, this was unquestionably true. Now? I question that. There’s nothing convenient about trudging through a parking lot, having to deal with the Ticket & Transportation Center to get to Magic Kingdom, or being redirected to another lot (an infrequent occurrence now, but expect that to change once Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens).
There have been a number of times when friends have offered to give us a ride from Magic Kingdom to Epcot or our next destination, and I’ve politely (but awkwardly) declined, saying I want to ride the monorail or take another form of transportation instead. This is in part because I love the monorail, but also in part because I hate dealing with the parking lot, looking for the car, and then getting into a 150º vehicle.
In addition to being a more pleasant experience that maintains the ‘Disney Bubble’, I think the monorail or even the buses are more efficient, anyway. (P.S. If any of our friends who have had one of these awkward encounters with me in the past are reading this, I swear it was nothing personal!)
I know there are some Walt Disney World regulars who are staunchly pro-rental car based upon experiences a decade or more ago, but I’d encourage you to rethink that perspective. For some people, renting a car is absolutely the best move. For others, it might just be a relic of conventional planning wisdom from years past, such as October being a great month to visit or that the Disney Dining Plan is a good deal. I’ve digressed pretty far from the point here, though… 😉
What do you think about this new feature in My Disney Experience? Are we a bit too excited about it? Do you think we’re underestimating the value of a rental car at Walt Disney World, or do you agree? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!