Disney World Reopening Transportation Info
During Walt Disney World’s phased reopening, not all transportation will run as normal. This info post covers monorails, boats, buses, and the Skyliner gondola operations. We also provide tips for efficient transit between the resort hotels and theme parks, including what we recommend using and avoiding. (Updated October 25, 2020.)
Before even arriving at Walt Disney World, you’ll need to take some form of transportation just to get to Florida. One common question is whether you should fly or drive if visiting from out of state. Initially, we were skeptical of flying. However, this ‘epidemiological investigation’, plus this commentary by a Harvard public health professor, plus this research showing the low odds of in-flight transmission, and this recent report on the efficacy of face masks on planes has changed our perspective.
We’d now fly rather than drive. The safety of air travel is predicated on the in-flight experience itself. In particular, the plane’s filtration system and air replacement rate. Mask policies also help, as do the policies on some airlines to block off middle seats. The longer a flight, connections, whether in-flight meals are served, and individual risk factors impact those odds. Your mileage may vary, in a quite literal sense…
If you do opt to fly to Walt Disney World, you’ll have three transportation options upon arrival at Orlando International Airport (MCO): rental car, Uber/Lyft, or Disney’s Magical Express. Our top recommendation would renting a car, followed by using Uber or Lyft. This is our advice both on the basis of health safety and convenience. The first part of that should be obvious, given that it’s shared transportation in a confined, indoor space with minimal ventilation.
Equally as important is convenience. During Walt Disney World’s phased reopening, transportation capacity has been reduced. At present, only 6-8 parties are allowed per bus, which has resulted in long lines and wait times for bus transportation at peak travel times. If you’re trying to take a bus to one of the parks at opening or closing, you could wait 30+ minutes for a bus. (Off-hour waits are much more bearable.)
Accordingly, we recommend saving yourself the headache and renting a car at Orlando International Airport (ideally in-terminal). The upsides to this are total control–in addition to not having to hassle with WDW transportation, you can also dine off-site after the parks close, get groceries, etc. The biggest downsides to this is the cost of renting a car at the airport, and parking fees at Walt Disney World resort hotels.
Consequently, you might save money and headache by using ride share services for rope drop or other strategic times when you see long lines at the bus stops. Our Tips for Using Uber & Lyft at Walt Disney World offer strategic advice to help you bypass the worst transportation woes at WDW.
If you do choose to use Disney’s Magical Express for airport transportation right now, it’s worth noting that luggage delivery is not currently offered for those arriving at and departing from the airport.
If using Disney’s Magical Express, you will be responsible for picking up your own checked luggage from the airport’s baggage claim area and having it loaded onto the bus to your hotel. Otherwise, Disney’s Magical Express is operating as normal.
Next, some general changes to transportation at Walt Disney World. Physical distancing measures are in place across all forms of transportation, including in the load zones and queues, as well as aboard buses, monorails, and watercraft boats.
Face coverings are required at all times while boarding and using Walt Disney World transportation. There are some unique wrinkles to Disney’s policies—see our FAQ & Guide to Face Masks at Walt Disney World for more on that.
Additionally, Walt Disney World has added physical barriers in select places where it is difficult to maintain strict physical distancing guidelines, such as partitions inside buses and monorails.
No such barriers have been added to the Skyliner. Instead, Walt Disney World is currently loading only one party per gondola. This has resulted in significantly longer lines for those (see below), but the “private” gondola is nice.
Now, let’s take a look at the current and future operating status of the monorails, buses, boats, and Disney Skyliner gondolas…
Known as Walt Disney World’s Highway in the Sky, the monorail has partially resumed service. At present, the Magic Kingdom monorails–both the Express and Resort beams–are operating.
Due to upcoming refurbishment work at the Great Ceremonial House, monorail service to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort will be temporarily suspended beginning November 2, 2020. However, it’s actually fastest to walk to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) and take the monorail to Magic Kingdom from there.
The Epcot monorail line has not yet reopened, and does not presently have an opening date as far out as the released schedule goes. (Our expectation is that the Epcot monorail line won’t reopen until Park Hopping resumes–likely sometime around Spring 2021.) Guests staying at Magic Kingdom monorail loop resorts will need to utilize bus transportation for getting to Epcot.
Dubbed the Most Magical Flight on Earth, the Skyliner services two Walt Disney World theme parks (Hollywood Studios and Epcot) plus four resorts (Art of Animation & Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, plus Caribbean Beach (again) & Riviera Resort) via 5 stations. Art of Animation is the last of these resorts to reopen, and it will do so on November 1, 2020.
It’s worth noting here that the Skyliner to DHS or EPCOT connects via the hub station at Caribbean Beach Resort. See our recent Caribbean Beach Transportation Report for our experiences with that. Long lines at both the Pop Century station and the Caribbean Beach Resort hub are occurring with regularity for rope drop. Since Pop Century and Art of Animation share a station, the latter reopening is only going to exacerbate that problem.
We’ll monitor the situation, but there’s no logical reason to expect improvement absent the Skyliner operating earlier. Without that, it’ll only worsen in the coming months, especially with occupancy rates ticking up for the holiday season. Accordingly, our strong rope drop recommendation is using a car—whether that be your own, a rental, or Uber/Lyft—to get to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s also recommended for EPCOT, but not as strongly.
The good news is that aside from around park opening and closing times, the Skyliner gondola service is the most convenient and efficient form of transportation. Midday lines are virtually non-existent, with great views and a smooth flight to the parks.
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, plus Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness have resumed boat transportation to and from Magic Kingdom. Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort no longer offers boat service, presumably due to the refurbishment project taking place through Summer 2021 that’s also resulting in the temporary closure of the monorail station.
Other boat routes are also non-operational, including those between and among various Walt Disney World resorts. Additionally, the Sassagoula River Cruise, which goes to and from Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside from the Disney Springs Marketplace Dock, is not in service. As neither Port Orleans Resort has a reopening date, this should be unsurprising.
Finally, FriendShip boats will resume service among the Crescent Lake Resorts, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios on November 1, 2020. This one also makes sense. The DVC Villas at Beach Club and BoardWalk have been open for months, and Disney’s Yacht Club Resort plus the Swan & Dolphin Resorts have more recently reopened.
As always, guests staying at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort or Beach Club Villas are best off walking from their respective resorts to Epcot’s International Gateway. From BoardWalk, it’s fastest to walk to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. From Beach Club Villas, it’s likely fastest (and easiest) to take the Epcot Skyliner to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
All bus service is operating as normal (albeit with reduced frequency between the parks and resorts), with one exception. There is no bus service from Skyliner resorts to Epcot or Disney’s Hollywood Studios (except when the Skyliner is down).
You might recall that early this year (which feels like a decade ago), Walt Disney World reduced bus service from Skyliner resorts to these parks. It now appears to be discontinued entirely, at least on a temporary basis. It’s worth noting here that bus service to the parks from Skyliner resorts was/is considerably less efficient, but was offered as a courtesy for guests with fears of heights.
Finally, trams from areas of the parking lot to the front entrance of the theme parks are not operating at the start of Walt Disney World’s phased reopening. This also means that guests parking their cars at the Transportation & Ticket Center must walk from the parking lot to take the Monorail or Ferryboat to reach Magic Kingdom.
With the parks operating at significantly reduced capacity, this should not be a major problem. On a normal day, it’s just as fast to walk as to take the tram. With parking lots at ~50% of their normal capacity, that should remain true for the foreseeable future.
Ultimately, this is actually more transportation operating during the phased reopening at Walt Disney World than we anticipated. This is particularly true of the boat launches to Magic Kingdom, which we figured would not be in use. Honestly, we are slightly to see the monorails in use. With incredibly low occupancy rates, those resorts probably could’ve gotten away with just offering boat and/or bus service.
Speaking of monorails, it’s actually a bit unfortunate that Walt Disney World didn’t pull the trigger on a new monorail order (like Tokyo Disney Resort did) and work on installing that during the downtime. The next several months would be the best possible time for the monorail to go down for upgrades. Unfortunately, present circumstances being what they are, it instead seems more likely that the current monorails will hobble along for another decade-plus.
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 about these Walt Disney World transportation changes? Pleased by the amount of non-bus options available, or disappointed that the Epcot monorail and some boats won’t operate? Do you have plans to visit Walt Disney World this summer or fall, or have you cancelled? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? 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!
I stayed at Pop Century last week and was shocked by the lines for the buses and Skyliner. However, the lines do move quite quickly. I never lined up super early like most people seemed to be doing. I didn’t jump in line until the transportation actually started up and then only had to wait less than 30 minutes rather than 90+ or however long those people were there.
As for the Skyliner seating one party per cabin, it’s not strictly true. Both of my Skyliner days had me riding with a couple. Of course the cast member asked each of us if we were okay with that and gave us very specific instructions to stay on opposite ends of the cabin. This also allowed me to skip much of the line, since a Cast Member is patrolling to look for single riders to pair with couples at the front of the line. Obviously, if you want a cabin to yourself, that is allowed.
Any talks when the boat service will start again between bay lake hotels? What is the best way to get from resort to resort if making dining plans?
Tom, do you have any suggestion for those with limited mobility or on ECV (electric scooters) trying to get to and from the parks ? Thank you for the info that the trams are not running. Thanks
Hey Tom, any updates here? We plan to come to WDW in September and would love to know what transportation options we will as we will be flying. Thanks!
Also looking for updates, especially on how the bus service is running. Specifically whether or not the “20 minute window” is much longer now due to capacity limits. We’re hoping to squeeze in a few days at WDW right before Christmas, at Pop.
You didn’t mention the boat from OKW to Disney Springs. We have a two night stay coming up soon and really hope that the boat is running. We were planning on just swimming and shopping at DS. Taking the bus to/from DS is not something I ever looked forward to from any resort…even on a ‘normal’ visit.
Any feed back on this. Were the boats going from OKW to DS? We have a trip planned in Oct and were hoping to use the boats and not the bus as you noted. I would hope are are running as they are open air versus the bus.
Unfortunately they were not, we had to take the bus. I agree with you, and that’s one of the reasons we chose OKW over SSR originally (we thought we could take the boat to DS). Buses to/from DS are awful take forever, even longer now because of limited capacity. I regretted our decision going there.
A good point. When see stayed in January, the skyliner did not start early enough for rope drop. We also found they only posted their hours for the current day. We were planning to use skyliner to get to topolinos at Riviera for an early morning reservation. Found out they had changed hours since the prior day and from what staff confirmed were their hours for the following morning. Ended up with a taxi to make our reservation.
Is the magic bus picking up at the airport and transporting to resorts?
I was surprised to receive an email about the pass holder preview and transportation. Apparently there will be no trams from the parking lot to the ticket and transportation center so get there early or you will have a long walk.
mportant Information About Your Event
Restaurants, attractions, experiences and other offerings may be modified and will be limited in capacity and subject to limited availability or closure, based on direction from health experts and government officials to promote physical distancing.
Face coverings are required for all Guests (ages 2 and up) and Cast Members; temperature screenings are required in some locations.
Reservations are nontransferable and may not be sold or bartered.
No modifications to reservations.
Valid, activated eligible Walt Disney World annual pass and photo ID are required at check-in for each Passholder and each Passholder Guest.
Activities and attractions subject to change without notice.
Registered Passholders may experience wait times for popular attractions during this event.
If you are staying at a Disney Resort hotel, Disney transportation will not be available for this limited event. You will need to provide your own transportation to the theme park parking lot.
Tram service will not be available from the Guest parking lot to the main entrance of the theme park. (For Magic Kingdom park, there will be no tram service from the parking lot to the Transportation & Ticket Center, but the Express Monorail and the Ferryboats will be available from the Transportation & Ticket Center to main entrance).
Is it possible to go from Animal Kingdom straight to Disney Springs? Or do you have to go from AK to a resort and then to Disney Springs from said resort?
If you have to go a resort first, will they allow you to go to a resort that you are not a guest at just to catch a connecting bus/boat?
Tom, I read your blog constantly to stay up on all things Disney related. What I am most curious about and would love to know what your thoughts are on, is about resort hopping during the holiday time when decorations are up. We have a trip planned for Christmas and one of the main things we were looking forward to do is resort hopping to see all of the decorations…especially the gingerbread houses and the most famous one at the Gran Floridian. Do you think they will put these up this year????
I heard in several blogs that resort hopping will be allowed and that only guests staying at that resort will be allowed inside the lobby. Is that correct? We gave up our idea of one night in Orlando on our beach trip to visit Animal Kingdom, but are still mulling coming over for outdoor walk though Disney Springs and a trip on the Skyliner, which we haven’t ridden yet. Would love to still play golf at WinterSummerLand if it’s open just to get a little Disney after being disappointed at missing a day at the Parks we had planned for months.
Does anyone know if the Resorts are going to less occupancy, it seems like a lot of people are staying at Pop Century, if not this could cause a mess with transportation, pools and quick service restaurants for social distancing.
Is the Magical Express going to run from the airport?
Yes, it’s already running for folks staying at the resorts.
“On a normal day, it’s just as fast to walk as to take the tram.”
I suspect that agreement with this statement may vary with the composition of individual parties. Now that I have teenagers, I agree with you (although in August it may often be more pleasant to take the trams anyway). When I had 3 kids under the age of 7, only one of whom was still using a stroller, I would have fallen off my seat laughing at this assertion. Even were it the case that it was similarly fast for some reason, it would have been a distinctly less magical experience.
You only mention the Sassagoula River Cruise not operating from Port Orleans. Is it still running from Old Key West or not at all? We will have a car but I’d rather not drive if I don’t have to and I’m not riding the bus.
I hope the skyliner starts running earlier if there are no bus options. Of course who knows if making rope drop will even be necessary at the moment? I will certainly be following this blog to find out before my September trip.
It would be awesome if Disney waived the parking fees at resorts. I’ve never been a fan of Disney transportation, but those parking fees add up!
We’re all in for 7 days early Fall. It’s going to be whatever it’s going to be. Curious if they’re going to be cleaning the gondolas between riders. Looking forward to your report!
In my opinion, given what we know about the spread in small enclosed spaces, you’re better off in your own transportation, even if you fly to Orlando and survived the flight risk, a rental car over buses and mono rails, even if not crowded, will significantly increase the odds in your favor. The only place I might not use my own transportation to get to is MK, but I might consider a Minnie Van if they’re available just to reduce who I’m in contact with.
Crazy how 1 little pandemic completely wiped away all the advantages onsite reservations gave you…
Another Disney blogger is reporting a “Rumor” that Minnie Van service is being terminated, vehicles leases are being terminated, etc. I have found that that this particular source (which shall go unnamed here) isn’t always credible, but I will be very disappointed if this is true. We use the service frequently.
Beautiful Monorail picture at the top of the article!
Going this fall. Wish we knew whatit would be like then. Masks, transportation, restaurants. Can’t wait. Am counting on you Tom to keep us up to date.
Is DW allowing Uber on property for out of state AP’s who are staying at resorts during the 2 preview days?