Guide to Mears Connect Airport Shuttle to Disney World
Mears Connect, the spiritual successor to Disney’s Magical Express, is accepting reservations. This post covers pricing, hotels serviced by the shuttle, transportation options, and everything we know now that the new bus routes between Orlando International Airport and Walt Disney World area resorts have started service! (Updated February 2, 2022.)
Let’s start with a quick recap. Walt Disney World’s free shuttle service from MCO to the company’s resorts, Disney’s Magical Express, has now ended. Guests now need to find their own transportation from the airport to their hotel, and we cover the range of options in our Guide to Airport Transportation for Walt Disney World. There is no one-size-fits-all perfect solution; it depends on your party size, budget, and other factors.
Mears Connect is one of the options, and it’s actually a shuttle service by the same company that operated Disney’s Magical Express. In fact, Mears Connect literally uses the exact same drivers and buses, just minus the Disney-branded wraps. Some of the buses look very similar to the old ‘ocean-liner’ DME buses, with only Disney logos and characters removed.
Mears Connect is now operating, promising provide fast and convenient transportation service for visitors in high occupancy vehicles, thereby reducing traffic and lowering environmental impacts. Guests can expect scheduled service, luggage handling, convenient airport terminal staging, and return trips from resorts to the airport.
The company advertises Mears Connect as the “same reliable, safe service guests have been using for decades to Disney area hotels. Service is now available as of 2022.
Here are some of the benefits of Mears Connect:
I don’t know about you, but I’m most looking forward to the “arrival souvenir.” Here’s hoping for Alf Pogs!
Mears Connect has two options: Standard and Express. Pricing could vary depending on date and hotel, but the introductory rate (available for a limited amount of time according to the press release from Mears) 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.
The Standard level of service is a shared ride service on Mears Connect (bus or van) that is economical. The Connection will make 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 Premium level is a direct service with limited to no wait time. Both include all tolls and other surcharges.
February 2, 2022 UPDATE: Mears Connect quietly removed the “within 20 minutes” language with the strikethrough above from its site. This comes as many guests complained of longer wait times for departure, with many Walt Disney World fans on social media saying 30-45 minutes has been the norm for them.
This is not a huge surprise, as waits longer than 20 minutes occurred with Disney’s Magical Express. Our suspicion is that service will get worse, not better, without Disney offering “oversight” to the transportation offering. Mears doesn’t exactly have a reputation for sterling service, and guests likely benefited from contractual requirements and Disney’s monitoring.
Unfortunately, this will likely only get worse now that the Sunshine Flyer has launched. That will dilute the guest pool for each service, and Mears might be disinclined to dispatch buses that aren’t a certain percentage full, as it’s less profitable to do so. We plan on doing a head-to-head test of both services and will have reviews very soon.
Additionally, premium Service’s round-trip price has already increased to $250. While we haven’t used the Premium Service, we suspect you can do better price and service-wise by hiring a private car or limo. See our Airport Transportation Guide for more info & recommendations.
In addition to that pricing update, we also headed out to Orlando International Airport recently to check out the Mears Connect terminal, check-in process, and motor coaches.
If familiarity is of paramount importance, Mears Connect should be your shuttle service of choice when flying into MCO and staying at one of the resorts below near Walt Disney World. This is literally the spiritual successor to Disney’s Magical Express in every regard–right down to its location on Side B.
The check-in process is incredibly simple, with guests arriving at this kiosk and scanning a QR code in their email and then being assigned to one of the lanes behind the podium. From there, guests are assigned to buses based on demand and locations.
Here’s one of the Mears Connect buses outside in the loading area.
When were here, everything was being done incredibly efficiently with no line whatsoever for the check-in podium and minimal wait to board a bus. With that said, there were times when Disney’s Magical Express was equally efficient, and other times when the lines stretched through the terminal. It’s impossible to judge this service based on one experience–the true test will be during a peak travel time, and this was not.
In pricing out Mears Connect, I searched for a variety of hotels and travel dates, including peak season (e.g. Easter, Presidents’ Day, Mardi Gras) and the pricing was the same for all dates and hotel combinations. Presumably, the introductory rate is across-the-board pricing and it’ll increase and vary along with the popularity of the service.
For some guests, Mears Connect will be perfect. However, in the “age of Uber,” that seems like a limited audience. Basically, people who have heard horror stories about ridesharing services and fear them as a result. That makes me wonder how much prices can actually increase from here.
For solo travelers or couples, the math works out on Mears Connect. It’s going to be slightly cheaper than Uber or Lyft transportation between the hotel and airport most of the time. However, the convenience, efficiency, and private ride offered by Uber or Lyft mean we’d take one of those ridesharing services over Mears Connect every single time. (Then again, we frequently took Uber over using Disney’s Magical Express even before this.)
For families with small children, Mears Connect might be a great option as it avoids hassles with car seats and provides more convenient transportation. For groups with only older kids or adults, the economics of Mears Connect won’t work out. Even if they’re unconcerned about convenience or efficiency, Uber or Lyft will win handily on cost.
For others, a rental car will make more sense. As with anything, there are undoubtedly additional personal considerations we aren’t taking into account in the Uber/Lyft v. Mears Connect v. rental car comparison. Your mileage may vary.
With that said, let’s take a look at hotels at and around Walt Disney World that will be serviced by Mears Connect…
ELIGIBLE DISNEY OWNED HOTELS (SPOILER: IT’S ALL OF THEM)
- Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
- Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort & Gran Destino Tower
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — French Quarter
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — Riverside
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort
- Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (Listed as Fort Wilderness Lodge on the site)
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas — Kidani Village
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Riviera Resort
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
ELIGIBLE ON-SITE THIRD PARTY HOTELS
- Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
- Waldorf Astoria Orlando
- JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort
- Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek
- B Resort & Spa Lake Buena Vista
- Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace
- Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista
- Holiday Inn Orlando
- Wyndham Lake Buena Vista
- Four Seasons Resort Orlando
- Shades of Green
- Walt Disney World Swan Hotel
- Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel
- Walt Disney World Swan Reserve (Listed as “the Reserve”)
Eligible Off-Site Hotels
- Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center
- Orlando Marriott World Center
You can view pricing, FAQ, other info, and book reservations for Mears Connect here.
As we’ve been saying for a while, Walt Disney World’s on-site advantage is disappearing. This should be yet another reason to look at third party hotels before booking your 2022 Walt Disney World vacation. Some of the on-site options, like the Swan & Dolphin, Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace, Waldorf Astoria, Signia by Hilton, JW Marriott, and others–offering considerably better value for money, superior amenities, and nicer accommodations than what you’ll get for the same price from Disney-owned hotels.
If you’ve never even considered venturing outside the “Disney Bubble,” we would strongly encourage you to rethink that and check out our Off-Site v. On-Site Walt Disney World Hotel Comparison for a balanced assessment of the pros & cons.
Ultimately, we think it’s great that Mears will continue offering transportation between Walt Disney World and area hotels. Meas Connect serves an important role for many guests; it’s good to see that the service is now operating smoothly and without any major issues.
As we’ve said since Walt Disney World announced the end of Magical Express, we maintain that this is an incredibly shortsighted and guest unfriendly decision that will have unforeseen negative long-term consequences for Disney. No point rehashing all of that here, though. Kudos to Mears for continuing the service in spirit–it’s not their fault that Disney discontinued Magical Express.
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 Mears Connect? Will you use the service, or is it too expensive for shared transportation? Will you opt for Mears Connect over Uber, Lyft, or renting a car? Thoughts on pricing, efficiency, or anything else regarding Mears Connect? 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!
@Christine that’s opposite for us. The DME 3.5 hours was waaaaaaaay too far out and wasted a lot of time. Usually valuable park time that morning. I know somw folks claim TSA lines over an hour at MCO, but thank goodness I’ve never seen that. Even at first week of October it wasn’t bad.
Did you notice pick up return times are rather short. Up to 3 hours before for the regular service and up to 2 hours before for express. Considering it can take 30-45 mins to drive to MCO without traffic, and the lines for security, never mind checking a bag. Seems like they are cutting it close. We always got picked up 3.5-4 hours before our flights with ME. While I don’t want to sit around MCO we don’t want to be running for our flight either.
Your graphics are too small to read and they cannot be zoomed.
Are guests guaranteed a charter bus? Because “van” implies there are seatbelts, and where there are seatbelts, car seats are required. It would be an incredibly unsafe surprise to show up thinking you don’t need a car seat and then end up in a van.
I’m sure you already saw this Tom, but Sunshine Flyer is apparently in the ring now as well. Fun theming if you like trains…
@Ben Sweeney breakfast? You mean like the traditional chilled pickle and a beer in the parks?
So now Nickle and Dime Disney World has gone a little to far. I am paying $235 a night at Arts and Animation Little Mermaid Room. I just found out that they do not have a coffee maker or microwave in the room!!! So now I either pay $2.50 for a cup of coffee or buy the $20 mug and then I will have to walk down to the cafeteria every time I want to get some coffee. Can you imagine the rooms you could get off site 2 miles away from main gate for half the price and get a free breakfast on to of that? Plus you will have the option of hundreds of great restaurants at half the price.
Mears should contract with Bags Inc and work with Disney to continue to allow luggage handling. Paying $160 or so for bus transport isn’t insane. Given what we pay for shuttle services anywhere else. But I’d more than happily pay for integrated bag services. Even if it’s an up charge. However at this point, it begs the question why Disney wouldn’t keep operating MGE and just charge for it like they have been doing for cruise transfers.
Alf pogs!! I was always looking for Leonardo to complete my Ninja Turtle set. I would use Mears if they gave out pogs 🙂
I am very disappointed in this decision. We are DVC members as well as Annual Pass holders. We always take advantage of the dining plan. This is just an added unnecessary extra expense. Not to mention the several hundred dollars we spend on gifts. I hope management gives this a second look and will correct it.
@Dawnya. It’s only cumbersome if you need to retrieve the luggage from baggage claim and transport it yourself to the resort. And that is why DME being discontinued was disappointing for so many. My family would normally take 2 small-medium sized suitcases and 1 large suitcase for our trip and that will likely increase as my kids get older. It was a nice perk to be able to immediately check our luggage when we arrived at our departing airport and not have to worry about it since it would be delivered to our room. It was a great perk when staying onsite.
Do u really need that much luggage? We travel with a backpack each with enough for a week and a tide pod for laundry if need be. All that luggage is cumbersome
It’s sad and very disappointing to see so many changes with Disney. We have chose in the past to invest in a Disney vacation because of the experience from beginning to end which started with Disney’s Magical Express. It was one of the services that was offered that made going to Disney a unique experience from choosing other destinations as a holiday. The Disney brand seems to be heading in the wrong direction and I fear that with all of the unique Disney experiences being eliminated, going to Disney will no longer bring the excitement that we always looked forward to.
Remains such a nutty decision from Disney. The baggage service loss is the most disappointing to me.
We will be using Uber Car Seat or hopefully Minnie Vans when they return. For our luggage we’ll use a luggage delivery service to get it to the hotel. This will cost us money, which Disney could have had if they wanted it by just making it an upcharge (something they seem to love lately). Oh well.
You can still go to the parks right away. Just check all your stuff at bell services. Pretty sure they bring it to your room or you can retrieve when you get back.
It’s not even the add’l cost of paying for transportation from the airport that bothers me the most. It’s the loss of having our luggage taken from the airplane to our room without having to worry about it. And the loss of the Disney branding and welcome videos are disappointing as well.
We always visit WDW in Nov/Dec and we are coming from the Northeast where it’s cold that time of year, so we would usually take 1 carry-on with us. We would book the earliest non-stop flight available and arrive in MCO by around 8:30 am. We then go directly to the ME bus and head to the Boardwalk Inn resort. We would then change in the lobby bathroom since our room was never ready in the 9:00 AM hour and leave our carry on with the front desk. From there, we could walk to Epcot or HS or take the bus to MK or AK and be in a park between 10:00 – 10:30. It was great. And we knew our luggage would be delivered to our room later that afternoon. For a family with 3-4 suitcases, that was a nice perk. And we always had the carry-on with extra clothes just in case our luggage was delayed. But we never had an issue during any of our annual trips. Having to now wait to secure and transport our own luggage when we arrive in MCO just adds another layer to our arrival time to the parks.
The discontinuation of the luggage service makes traveling with young children a nightmare.
We arrive in MCO terminal A , we go down and escalator to lugage area to retrieve all of our luggage, ( need to spend $6 for a wagon, or use a redcap because of the volume of luagage needed for a family of four) Afte you have your luggage you go back up an elevator to the concourse level, walk across the entire concourse to another set of elevators im terminal B.
From the elevator to the Mears/ Magic express is a sizable walk. You’d think Mears and Disney could have a meeting of the minds to correct this? Oh and by the way, You can no longer check your luggage at the resort. You must complete the entire process in reverse to go home.!!!!!!!!!!! VERY VERY VERY DISAPPOINTED IN THE “HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH”
@Bill – we also had issues with Uber and luggage. Called 2 XL’s for our party of 6 in Dec. one guy shows up and has the back of his larger SUV basically no space and balked at putting bags in the passengers seats on his leather. We were like “dude, this is an airport, we are going to Disney, u put your vehicle as the XL price, move your stuff so we can put our 3 medium suitcases somewhere or we’re canceling u and calling another”. He wasn’t happy but did it. Then the guy goes and rates me a 1 on Uber guest rating. Sheesh! Ditto on regular Uber’s we found in Orlando they are Corolla or smaller and often had half their trunk full already.
Anyway, yes, might be worth it for large parties with baggage just because of the hassle.
When you arrive at MCO, you will need to retrieve your luggage from baggage claim and take it with you when you board the Mears bus. Mears will load the luggage on to the bus for you and they will return it to you when they drop you off at the resort. The perk of having the luggage waiting for you in your room after you return from the park is sadly over. The bus will have no Disney branding or the welcome video. There is no longer any affiliation between Disney and Mears and they are just transporting you to and from the resort. The difference between the standard and premium service is the number of stops your bus will make and the amount of time you need to wait for your bus when you arrive at the Mears check-in.
Mears does not provide car seats and you are not required to have one when you’re on a charter bus. The standard seats on a bus do not have the proper locking mechanisms in place to secure a car seat and due to the size of the bus and the number of people being transported, a car seat is not a legal requirement. It’s no different than the car seat rules on a plane.
Did I miss luggage handling? Will MEARS still provide that? I’m also confused about car seats in the upgraded option. Help a mother out!