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!
Any idea what hotels get dropped off first, and what are last, for both Mears and Sunshine?
I will always stick with Mears… they have always worked out great for me whether I’ve gone alone or with my kids or grandkids… Thanks for the update!
I’m going to be a solo traveler and I opted for the Sunshine Traveler. I’m hesitant of Lyft alone and I want to give the new service a try!
I arrived on 01/12 at 7:30. Booked Uber for $55 plus tips for 2 adults 2 kids (no car seats and XL car) once we picked up luggage. Waited 8 minutes and quick trip to the Beach club resort. We might have been lucky as airport was not crowded at the time we arrived. But I love the flexibility offer by Uber or Lyft. If you plan for reservations ahead of time, that’s more costly.
There are already built-in designated areas (or gates) for pick up in the menu, so made it easier to choose according to where we picked up our luggage. I hope this helps other visitors.
Also, I did mocked up pick up times prior to arrival and data was consistent.
We’ve decided to go with Mears for send week March trip for family 5 with 2 kids no car seats. Haven’t booked yet in hopes prices will go down but now I’m thinks should book in case prices go up
If we use Mears express service, will we be allowed to use the car seats we bring with us?
@Tracy we’ve stayed at several of the Disney Springs hotels over the last several years and while there are shuttle buses to and from the parks, they are more sparse and less reliable than those for the onsite WDW resorts. I would plan to use them about half of the time, and Uber the other half so that you can better control your on-the-fly decision making needs. Uber rides form that area are only around $11-15, not bad at all.
I really do wish Mears would provide a more substantial discount for families with multiple children. This would make their prices more comparable to ride-shares and would probably work out to their advantage financially as well. They are sure to lose a considerable amount of business from families who refuse to pay full price for 5 or more people to travel.
If we would stay at one of the eligible on-site 3rd party hotels or eligible off-site hotels, can we still get connections back and forth to the parks? Does this cost extra? Are there buses running all the time back and forth between them? Thanks for any replies or comments to this!
We booked with sunshine flyer for Feb 28 and March 9, due to your previous posts about how awful Mears is. This was article seems to be more positive about Mears though? Would you still recommend sunshine? It’s $6 total more than Mears for our family of 5
I would absolutely take Sunshine Flyer over Mears Connect.
Kudos to Mears for their flexibility in refunding. Our January 3rd (which I think would have been their 3rd day of this service) visit ended up being pushed back a day, and then cancelled altogether due to the rash of weather and Covid problems leading to a large number of flight cancellations. We were unable to rebook a flight South to fit into our other obligations and availability, leading to the necessity to cancel our trip. As a result we cancelled our reservations with Mears for their regular, round trip service. Since we did this less than 24 hours in advance of our planned arrival trip, I expected to not be refunded for that part of our reservation, as per their stated regulations. I was pleasantly surprised then to discover that my credit card had been fully refunded for both our arrival and return planned usage of their service. That will certainly lead to our use of their services in the future. Good job by Mears.
Mears Connect is basically the same service that got you to the resort for free except now you have to pay .
I don’t know how Disney can keep “nickel and dime-ing” its customers before people start rebelling.
It seems to be that bean counter VPs of various cost centers now run Disney, which is unfortunate. Walt would be rolling over in his grave.
But it is still cheaper than taking an Uber.
Where do they drop you off on the return from Disney.
Angela – they drop you off at the exact same area where you board the busses at MCO!
I have heard mixed Mears reviews from others that participated in the WDW marathon weekend. Definitely a hit or miss situation. Some early or just a few minutes late OR 35/45 minutes late to not coming at all. Others mentioned that they had several other stops to make and opted to use other services to get to MCO. We chose to Uber for this weekend and probably will be our choice going forward for convenience and health reasons.
@Babs, remember that DIsney is anticipating a veritable flood of foreign visitors soon. In my experience, a lot of foreign visitors from Europe, South America, Asia appear to be quite wealthy in comparison to us po working folks. I still to this day cannot fathom how my Mom figured out how to save enough money for the trips we took as kids, first when they were in college on my Dad’s GI Bill (drove old Ford van in ’78 that I ‘helped’ my Dad convert to have a convertible dinette/bed in the back but no A/C!) then 3 times in an old Dodge/Brougham motor home when they were just regular school teachers in a small NM town. Remember travelers’ checks?
But these foreigners seem to have plenty of discretionary income to spend, and these endless, pointless lockdowns are ending in most places as their utility is shown false. Travel is opening back up despite omicron which thankfully is as the experts have said all along much weaker despite its ease of spread. My electrical engineer is flying to Jordan today to go back to Iraq to see his fiance and all he needs to do is a series of negative tests. But I digress…
Club level also had the lounges, with food and drinks including alcohol, so there’s that. But yes, you can rent a nice house or AirBNB for a lot less. We paid I think about $1700 total for 8 nights in a 7 BR, 5BA house in October! And since I had renewed my AP during the window, parking was free. We also lucked out on renting a 15-passenger van for only $700. Regular folks can still do WDW, but I am thinking the Disney beancounters are really counting on foreign visitors for the next couple years to drive attendance more than ever.
I remain utterly befuddled by Disney’s current approach to its guests. In the past, I paid an enormous premium to stay at Club-level rooms at Disney properties for the following reasons: (1) Fastpass availability (I could get up to 6 Fastpasses per day on any attraction); (2) ability to walk and/or monorail to two parks (MK/Epcot or Epcot/HS); (3) included parking flexibility at all resorts and parks (I always rent a car); and (4) dining availability (I could reserve the restaurants that I wanted with sufficient time to plan without any problem).
All of these benefits have (mostly) evaporated. The monorail is unreliable, leaving walking to resorts as the only advantage of an on-property stay. I am not going to pay an enormous premium for this one advantage.
My kids have gotten older. Universal offers a far superior product with its deluxe resorts. At Universal, the three deluxe resorts offer as nice or nicer rooms than Disney deluxe resorts, they are within waking distance to two of three parks, and they include Express Pass access to two of three parks.
In addition, off-property offers far nicer hotels with more amenities for a far lower price point. Right now, I would never pay the enormous premium for a deluxe on-property resort at Disney. As long as people will, however, the situation will not change.
I’m not sure, however, that longer term, driving a well-established and loyal on-property customer base to off-property alternatives makes business sense.
Premium has been $250 a while – I booked it at that price on December 30 for my February trip. I didn’t price it beforehand to know it was only $200 before.
So no luggage service? I thought that was promised by Mears when this was announced.
Since I am obscenely wealthy, I use a private helicopter service to land at any of my chosen parks or resorts (you can land at all of them except Animal Kingdom Lodge, where the best you can hope to do is parachute somewhere down into the hopefully vegetarian section of the safari grounds and wait for a bus). HOWEVER, I have heard of people taking the non-Mears black car services (Quicksilver comes to mind), with a round trip at $200 or so for two people, which seems reasonable. Or possibly only one person, traveling solo, if such a thing happens, I wouldn’t know. Don’t have to stop at anyone else’s resort, just your own, don’t have to land your parachute next to the bongos, who might spit at you, etc. Plus you get a free stop at a Publix for some water bottles since the Florida tapwater bouquet packs quite a wallop for out-of-staters. Can’t start right in with the Willie Nelson stuff, you have to work your way up to that level of potency or you’re in for a miserable time. Anyway, so I’ve heard.
Note I was just checking the website & the Premium is now $250 to start.