Minnie Vans are a new private vehicle service at Walt Disney World, operated in the same manner as Uber or Lyft, except operated by Cast Members in cute vehicles reminiscent of Minnie Mouse. In this post, we’ll share our experiences using the Minnie Vans, whether we recommend them, and tips for making the most of Minnie Vans. (Last updated September 15, 2018.)
After an initial test/preview period, Minnie Vans are now being rolled out around Walt Disney World. The vehicles can be requested at every resort via the Lyft app (except for the All Stars), and it would seem that Disney is making a significant investment in the program’s future, adding more vans (well, SUVs) to the fleet. It also seems that this will be the main ‘priority’ transportation option going forward, as Walt Disney World has discontinued Express Transportation.
I have to admit, when the Minnie Vans were first announced, and their initial price was released, I didn’t have much interest. The service was–and is–significantly more expensive than Uber or Lyft, so I thought “what’s the point?” After using the Minnie Vans on a recent trip to Walt Disney World, I have a more favorable opinion of the service, albeit one that has been tempered significantly by recent price increases…
September 2018 Update: Minnie Van pricing has changed from a flat fee of $25 per ride no matter the distance to a base rate of $15 per pick-up, plus a per mile fee that varies based upon demand, but will typically be around $2.75 to $3.00 per mile.
With most park to resort trips being between 6 and 8 miles, this means the average cost for a Minnie Van will now be in the neighborhood of $30-35, with some trips being over $40. With an average Lyft or Uber ride costing around $10-15, you’re now going to pay a significant premium for the Disney-branded Minnie Vans. For us, the price difference is simply too much to justify going forward.
In terms of older updates to the service, Minnie Vans are now available at every Walt Disney World resort hotel, as well as to and from Orlando International Airport. The airport service is offered to guests with airline flight departures out of MCO between 9 a.m. and midnight and flight arrivals 7 a.m. until 10 p.m.
For a flat rate fee of $150 (!!!) per trip, airport Minnie Vans can accommodate up to 6 people per vehicle, including up to three car seats for guests. Guests wanting to request a Minnie Van to get to MCO are advised to use their hotel’s Resort Airline Check-In for additional information. (For what it’s worth, we regularly use Uber/Lyft to get to MCO, and our cost rarely exceeds $20/trip.)
Even before using Minnie Vans myself, I knew Minnie Vans would be useful for those who still currently use taxis. As I’ve learned from reader comments to our Tips for Using Lyft & Uber at Walt Disney World post, there are many people who are distrustful of these ride-sharing services. There are a variety of reasons for this; some valid, others based on anecdotal fear-mongering (if you think taxis are safe, I have a documentary for you to watch). Regardless of the logic of the rationales, that’s how it is.
When it comes to Minnie Vans versus taxis, there is no comparison. Minnie Vans are (on average) cheaper, offer better service, are more reliable, and more comfortable. There are also accessible Minnie Vans, which is a huge selling point for those who might otherwise have challenges using other services, be it taxis or ride-sharing services.
With Uber or Lyft versus Minnie Vans, the scale tips in favor of the former–at least for us. On average, Minnie Vans are much more expensive. With the new per mile pricing, you’re looking at rates that are around triple the cost of Lyft or Uber. If price is your bottom line, it’s a no-brainer. You should stick with those ride-sharing services.
There are a few scenarios when Minnie Vans will arguably be better. For families, it’s also noteworthy that car seats do not incur an additional fee with Minnie Vans.
The most notable of these is that Magic Kingdom drop-offs actually take you to Magic Kingdom instead of the Ticket & Transportation Center. In the past, we’ve recommend guests heading to Magic Kingdom be dropped off at the Contemporary and walk to Magic Kingdom. This obviates the need for such a ‘hack.’
There are other situations where the Minnie Van drop-off point offers a distinct advantage. If you’re going to Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue or Trail’s End at Fort Wilderness, you will be dropped off at Pioneer Hall (no internal bus system!). At Disney Springs, there are drop-off points beyond those for Uber and Lyft.
Tipping is a trickier topic here. When Minnie Vans launched, there was no tipping (Cast Members would decline tips). At some point in early 2018, the internal classification for these Cast Member roles changed to tipped positions. We’ve heard stories of Cast Members accepting tips and declining tips…your mileage may vary.
However, price is not what makes Minnie Vans a closer call as compared to Uber/Lyft. Instead, it’s the caliber of the service Cast Members offer. In the past, I’ve praised Uber and Lyft for offering better service than taxis. I think that’s definitely true, but those ride-sharing services can still be hit or miss.
Uber and Lyft drivers usually engage in polite conversation, and the vast majority of the time this is either interesting or enjoyable. About 10% of the time, I’d say it’s uncomfortable or mildly irritating. Some of our most “notable” experiences with Uber in Florida have been a driver explaining to us how awful California is after we told him that’s we live, the nitty-gritty lowdown on a driver’s child custody dispute, and almost any time a driver brings up politics. (Made-up Walt Disney World trivia is another common one that might bug some people, but I legitimately love hearing stuff like that. So much creativity out there!)
Again, this is a small minority of the time we use Uber or Lyft, with most rides being pleasant or uneventful. In deference to the drivers, they are not professional conversationalists (whatever that means) and not trained in the art of polite conversation. Many are driving as side gigs, and it wouldn’t surprise me if in the culture of their normal workplace, the topics they bring up are perfectly normal.
Every Minnie Van ride is like the very best Uber experience. If our encounters with drivers thus far are any indication, these are the creme de la creme of Cast Members, of a similar caliber to those you’d have on a VIP tour or when dealing with Guest Services. One of our drivers also worked in entertainment, which was unsurprising given her friendliness and affability.
I strongly suspect the drivers for the initial rollout of Minnie Vans were cherry-picked, and the result is like a mini-VIP tour during your ride (no joke!). The dynamic of this type of intimate interaction with a Cast Member is great, and is a reminder of just how much of the Walt Disney World experience is built upon the exemplary qualities of Cast Members. (I could honestly see Walt Disney World trying to use the Minnie Vans as a way to pique curiosity about private tours in the future.)
As the Minnie Van program is still being rolled out across Walt Disney World, one question we have is whether it can maintain this high degree of service as it’s scaled. Right now, the Minnie Van fleet is still small and has the feel of an upstart program. Cast Members are clearly proud to be a part of the nascent program, and the guest experience is seriously good as a result.
I’m optimistic that this can remain the case. The price point is going to make it prohibitive for the majority of guests who will elect to either use the free bus (or other) transportation, or opt to save money with Uber or Lyft. Unless those ride-sharing apps are banned from Walt Disney World (unlikely given that they’ve partnered with Lyft on this, and banning only Uber would run afoul of the FTC Act), there’s only so big the Minnie Van program can get. Keeping it relatively small-scale will prevent the type of quality-erosion that would inevitably occur if the service becomes bloated.
Alright, now let’s cover some tips and info about the Minnie Vans. The vehicles used as Minnie Vans are brand-new Chevy Traverse mid-size SUVs. (Plus other Chevrolet vans for guests with wheelchairs or ECVs.) One nice perk worth mentioning is that these cars feature USB charging ports.
Minnie Vans can seat up to 6 guests, versus the 4 people that can be seated in the lowest tier of Uber or Lyft vehicles. Definitely a selling point for guests with larger parties, and factor to consider if ‘doing the math’ comparing the services.
As of right now, Minnie Vans have been rolled out to all Deluxe Resorts at Walt Disney World. We also were able to request a Minnie Van at Coronado Springs, so you might have luck with a pickup beyond the “official” resorts.
To use the service, you need to have the Lyft app on your smartphone (Minnie Vans are “powered by Lyft). From there, you either need to visit the front desk of your resort to have the Minnie Van service activated within the app, or activate it yourself via My Disney Experience.
We did the latter upon seeing a pop-up notification in the app. This did not occur on the first day of our trip, so it’s unclear how that’s triggered. (It’s worth re-iterating that the Minnie Van program is still in its initial roll-out stage, and a lot of this is going to change as the program evolves over time.)
Once activated, you can use the Lyft app to request a Minnie Van pick-up. It works the same way as the standard Lyft or Uber experience, with available vehicles being shown on the map, and time/price estimates being given. (You can get free ride credits on Lyft via this link.)
In terms of logistics, Minnie Vans are nearly identical to Uber and Lyft. You are picked up and dropped off at designated locations identified in the app(s), albeit with some differences between Minnie Vans and the “traditional” ride-sharing companies.
There are other quirks to the pick-up and drop-off locations, but those are the significant ones (to our knowledge) on Walt Disney World property. Beyond that, there is one restriction with Minnie Vans: drivers can only take you to on-property locations, and the service only operates between 6:30 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. That means you’ll need to stick with Uber or Lyft when visiting Universal or the Waffle House on Vineland at 2 a.m.
In terms of efficiency, it’s too early to tell. There were several times when a Minnie Van was simply parked in front of our resort, and pick-up was (or could have been) immediate. At Coronado, our wait was under 5 minutes. In a few situations, no vehicle was available at all.
Right now, average wait times (ignoring the no availability instances) are shorter than Uber or Lyft averages in Orlando–and both services are incredibly efficient in Orlando. However, the Minnie Van program is still in its infancy. Aside from super-fans who read the Disney Parks Blog or third party blogs, this is something that has not been promoted by Walt Disney World. The true test of wait times will be once the service has fully rolled out, and when (if?) it’s promoted heavily to the general public.
Overall, the Minnie Vans score very high marks from us. To be frank, we used them for the sake of writing a review, and but for that, we would have never considered Minnie Vans for personal use. We are more “bottom line price” type of people, so Minnie Vans did not seem targeted at us. After using Minnie Vans at Walt Disney World, we not only see some value in this for our personal use, but also an air of light-luxury that justifies them over Uber or the buses. This is especially true on longer routes, or at the end of a long day when we don’t feel like rolling the dice on a potentially uncomfortable conversation and just want high-quality Disney Cast Member service.
Due to the cost, we will never use Minnie Vans as an exclusive form of transportation. In fact, with the switch to per mile pricing as of Fall 2018, it’s unlikely that we’ll use Minnie Vans for personal use ever again, as they are simply so much more expensive than other ride-sharing services. Instead, we will continue to use Uber and Lyft as a supplement to Walt Disney World’s buses, monorails, and other Disney transportation, using whatever the situation might warrant. However, that doesn’t mean Minnie Vans are a poor choice, especially for those with large budgets or families wanting a more “Disney” experience than Lyft. Likewise, those doing an early-morning ADR, transferring resorts, or in other point-to-point situations, might find Minnie Vans to be a worthwhile option.
If you’ve used a Minnie Van, do you agree or disagree with our review? What do you think of the pricing–too high, or fair for what’s offered? Any questions about Minnie Vans 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!