Sunshine Flyer Airport Shuttle to Disney World: Info & Tips
The Sunshine Flyer is a new themed airport shuttle service to Walt Disney World, replacing Magical Express. This covers pricing, transportation info, and everything we know about the bus between Orlando International Airport and resorts, plus commentary on this v. Mears Connect. (Updated January 10, 2023.)
Let’s start with a quick recap. Walt Disney World’s free shuttle service from MCO to the company’s hotels, Disney’s Magical Express, ended early last year. Guests now need to find their own transportation from the airport to their resort, 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.
The first option to launch was Mears Connect. That offers airport transportation service via high occupancy vehicles, including buses and vans. This is the “spiritual successor” of Disney’s Magical Express, using the exact same buses as its predecessor (Mears was the operator of DME and owned the buses). We have more up-to-date details, in Reservations & Pricing for Mears Connect, Disney’s Magical Express Replacement.
Another alternative for Walt Disney World airport shuttle buses from MCO is the Sunshine Flyer, a themed motorcoach bus experience. Offering a convenient and cost-effective mode of transportation, the Sunshine Flyer allows guests to start the themed magic of their Walt Disney World vacation from the moment they step off the plane.
We’ve used Sunshine Flyer since launch, and generally found the service comparable to Disney’s Magical Express. Both are economical and reliable ways to get to Walt Disney World, albeit not particularly efficient. That was also the case with Disney’s Magical Express, where the last word in the name was always a bit dubious. For its part, the Sunshine Flyer does a better job at replicating the “Magical” part of that name, with a fun theme–albeit minus any Disney IP.
January 10, 2023 UPDATE: Sunshine Flyer announced the launch of Sunshine Flyer Direct, its private transportation service from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to Walt Disney World resorts.
The Sunshine Flyer Direct will provide exclusive, private transportation for guests, and it will be able to pick-up guests at any terminal including the new Terminal C. Guests will have the option to select their preferred vehicle: sedan, luxury SUV, or van; they will also be able to choose their preferred pick-up time. Sunshine Flyer Direct drivers will handle all luggage including meeting guests at the baggage claim to assist with bags.
Like the company’s regular bus transportation, the Sunshine Flyer Direct is well-equipped for kids, including three-point harness seat belts for safety. Plus, a variety of fun offerings to start the trip off on a well-themed foot with free conductor hats, stickers, and coloring/activity books for kids.
Turning back to the buses, above is a look at the range of wraps that the Sunshine Flyer offers on its main fleet. Just like the variety of themed Disney Skyliner gondola designs, it’ll be fun to spot the different train models. Should be a good time for kids with a degree of “re-rideability.”
The Sunshine Flyer’s buses are late model, premium buses with themes that center around old-fashioned passenger cars and train engines. From the bus designs to staff dressed as 1920s rail conductors and engineers, the motorcoaches effectively serve as time-machines, offering a glimpse into 1920s train travel.
Upon entering the Sunshine Flyer staging area, guests will not wait more than 20 minutes to board the bus, and the ride to the resorts is scheduled so the last stop will not take more than 65 minutes.
Originally, Mears Connect made this same 20 minutes promise, but has since quietly dropped it from their website as guests have reported waiting up to 45 minutes to depart. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Sunshine Flyer can do a better job dispatching buses more frequently.
The buses service all Walt Disney World resort hotels and offer with a restroom, USB chargers, and three-point seatbelts for the comfort and safety of all guests. Ahead of travel, guests will book their tickets online and receive a QR code they will scan once arriving at MCO, which will ensure smooth timing and departures to Walt Disney World resorts.
For the return trip to Orlando International Airport, you’ll receive a confirmation email advising you of the motorcoach departure time the day before you check out from your Walt Disney World hotel. It will be approximately 3 hours prior to your scheduled departure time for domestic flights and 4 hours prior to your scheduled departure time for international flights.
The Sunshine Flyer officially started service from Orlando International Airport last year. The Sunshine Flyer offers transportation to all Walt Disney World resort destinations in Orlando, from Value Resorts to Deluxes.
Tickets for the Sunshine Flyer must be booked at least four days ahead of arrival. The cost is $19.50 per adult and $11 per child each way. There is no round trip discount–prices are $39 and $22, respectively, for round trip adult and child fares.)
The Sunshine Flyer offers a full refund if cancelled 72 hours in advance, or credit towards future tickets if cancelled under 72 hours. For more information and to book tickets, click here.
Sunshine Flyer does have some limitations as compared to Mears Connect. For one, Sunshine Flyer reservations are only accepted up until 4 days before service, whereas Mears Connect allows last-minute reservations.
Additionally, the Sunshine Flyer service starts at 4:00 am and services flights starting at 7:00 am. The last bus leaving Orlando International Airport is at 11:00 pm. By contrast, Mears Connect runs 24/7.
Finally, the Sunshine Flyer does not pick up or drop off guests at MCO’s new Terminal C. However, there is a tram that takes guests from Terminal C to Terminals A/B where the Sunshine Flyer is located. Mears Connect offers service from Terminal C.
For most Walt Disney World tourists, none of these differences will matter. The bulk of visitors book airport transportation far in advance, don’t do red-eye flights, and fly into Terminals A or B.
However, this will impact maybe ~10% of you, especially those flying internationally or from the West Coast, and last-minute travelers. To of those things describe us, and as such, we’ve had more challenges using the Sunshine Flyer than Mears Connect. That doesn’t diminish its service or quality–just makes it less suitable for us. As with anything, your mileage may vary!
To its credit, the Sunshine Flyer has a passionate team offering a quality transportation option that immerses Walt Disney World visitors in a themed experience from the moment they land at MCO. “We’re incredibly excited to launch The Sunshine Flyer and give Disney guests the chance to kickstart their vacation with a fun, unique travel experience,” said Frank Sherman, CEO of TMS, the parent company of the Sunshine Flyer.
“Everyone knows the magic of Disney once they’re inside the park gates. But, through The Sunshine Flyer, we’re able to give guests the chance to start their vacation from the minute they step off the plane and turn what used to be a procedural drive into the beginning of an adventure to remember.”
With 25 years of experience as a large events transportation company working with world-class events such as the FIFA World Cup, NBA Finals, and PGA TOUR Tournaments, TMS contends that their company is primed to offer a streamlined and well-executed service.
“By combining our storied expertise in mass transportation management with a creative, themed experience, we have the unique opportunity to offer an experience that’s both stress-free and engaging,” added Sherman.
“After all, Disney guests deserve a trip to remember, right from the start. Whether they’re young or old, travelling in a group or solo, we hope The Sunshine Flyer sparks the imagination and excitement of all of our guests from the moment they step on the bus.”
In celebration of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, the Sunshine Flyer will donate 50% of all revenue from the first 50,000 passengers during the first 50 days of business to Make-A-Wish Central & Northern Florida to support their mission of creating life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses.
As a part of the Sunshine Flyer’s commitment to giving back, all Make-A-Wish children and their families will receive complimentary service from the Sunshine Flyer for their Disney wishes indefinitely.
In terms of commentary, this is awesome. Well, at least as “awesome” as going from the free (or at least included in the cost of hotel stays) Disney’s Magical Express to something that costs extra. With that said, the Sunshine Flyer is not to blame for Walt Disney World’s shortsighted decision to eliminate Magical Express. Can’t exactly fault another business for Disney’s ill-advised cutbacks.
What’s awesome about this is that it’s themed–and to something objectively cool. Trains are awesome, as is the golden age of rail travel after which the Sunshine Flyer is modeled. Perhaps I’m biased as a railfan who visits museums, enjoys railroad simulators, and far prefers train travel to all other forms of transportation–but you know who else loved trains? Walt Disney. Even setting aside my own interests, there is a clear “Disney connection” to the Sunshine Flyer’s theme.
Another reason this is awesome is because the Sunshine Flyer is not operated by Mears. For those who are otherwise unfamiliar with it, Mears is a transportation company with coach buses and taxis that enjoyed a virtual monopoly on Orlando for decades–before Uber and Lyft arrived on the scene. Since then, Mears has been extensively involved with rideshare lawsuits over the past several years.
Historically, we have not been fans of Mears. We had several negative experiences with them in the pre-rideshare days–enough to arrive at the conclusion that it was a poorly-managed company doing the bare minimum and not caring about customer service given their aforementioned monopoly.
If you’ve read our posts about the Disney’s Magical Express saga, you might find this surprising. We’ve been fairly sympathetic to Mears, which is largely because we have reason to believe they got “done dirty” by Disney (as the kids say). I also don’t like some Time Warner properties, but nevertheless feel pity for how they got screwed over in the AT&T acquisition. Beyond that, Mears was filling a void left by the end of Disney’s Magical Express and would be the default “best” option for many tourists. With the arrival of the Sunshine Flyer, that is no longer the case.
Granted, I have absolutely zero knowledge of or experience with TMS. For all I know, they could somehow be responsible for the plight of Florida’s manatees. I’m guessing not, but it is possible they offer similarly poor customer service. However, I’m willing to take my chances on pretty much any transportation service over Mears. Any company with such an affinity for the golden age of railroads can’t be all bad.
Ultimately, more competition and alternatives for transportation between Orlando International Airport and Walt Disney World resorts is a good thing for consumers. Even if you’re a monster who hates trains, it’s hard to deny this as positive news from that perspective. As past precedent has demonstrated, Mears having a monopoly is not a good thing. We strongly recommend booking one of these shuttles rather than relying on Uber or Lyft if you’re visiting this year or in 2023.
Without Disney’s Magical Express, rideshare demand has increased, and at times there’s an insufficient supply (or drivers) in the Orlando market at times when travel volume is high. We’re used Uber and Lyft when traveling between the Orange Counties (Florida and Southern California) this year, which tends to put our MCO arrivals late at night. For whatever reason, MCO is often slammed late at night, which leads to surge pricing. We’ve paid as much as $70 for a ride to Walt Disney World via rideshare. That’s not even as bad as it gets–we’ve heard of some people paying $100. Unless you have a large party, using an airport shuttle service is going to be much more economical than that.
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 the Sunshine Flyer? Will you use the service, or is it too expensive for shared transportation? Will you opt for Sunshine Flyer, Mears Connect, Uber, Lyft, or renting a car? Thoughts on pricing, efficiency, or anything else regarding airport transportation? 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!
If you are planning a trip to Disney World and need to arrange transportation from the airport, here are some tips for using an airport shuttle:
Book in advance: It is always a good idea to book your airport shuttle in advance to ensure availability and avoid any last-minute hassles. Many shuttle companies offer online booking options, which can be convenient and save you time.
Check the shuttle schedule: Make sure to check the shuttle schedule to ensure that it aligns with your flight arrival and departure times. If you have any special requests or requirements, such as a car seat or wheelchair-accessible vehicle, make sure to mention them while booking.
Confirm the pickup location: Double-check the pickup location and instructions provided by the shuttle company. This will help ensure that you are in the right place at the right time to catch your shuttle.
Be prepared for the journey: Depending on the distance between the airport and Disney World, the shuttle ride can take some time. Make sure to pack snacks, water, and any other items you may need to make the journey comfortable.
Tip your driver: If you are happy with the service provided by your driver, consider tipping them as a gesture of appreciation.
Overall, using an airport shuttle to Disney World can be a convenient and cost-effective option. By following these tips, you can ensure a smooth and stress-free journey to the happiest place on earth!
Made a short trip for the Tron preview and booked Sunshine Flyer with their $12 special.
Waiting is inside now, but there’s no seating.
There wasn’t a mad rush of customers and they were able to handle the line. Took about 20 minutes to get boarded, but there were 2 buses before me.
If you fly JetBlue, you’ll have to take the shuttle from terminal C to B. Adds about another 20 minutes.
The shuttle is just a Mears parking shuttle that holds about 10 people. They say it runs every 10 minutes.
Walk to the APM seemed really far.
At least they drop you off at the same spot in B so you’re fairly close to the check in.
Mears website says they have a desk at C and the driver told me last time that they have to check if they’re picking anyone up at C.
Sunshine Flyer has improved since last August.
But I wouldn’t use them if I arrive at Terminal C.
They still work off an Excel printout.
They just check the number on your QR code.
It never gets scanned.
I also didn’t get an email the day before the trip, like they said they would.
Mears texted a QR code within minutes of landing and actually scanned it.
Just took this service again for our early January trip. They now have an indoor counter, and you wait inside for a conductor to come get you. We couldn’t have waited more than ten minutes, and they put us in one of their little shuttles which still had a cute train car theme. I’ve been very happy with the service each time – they’re clearly still finding their footing, but the employees are all very pleasant.
Sunshine Flyer is no longer $32 round trip. I just priced it this morning and it’s $39 round trip it $19.50 one way.
Tom, (or anyone who can answer)
Have you heard anything about them moving a desk to terminal C? I know Mears now has one in terminal c that’s why I ask?! I’m flying JetBlue and I don’t want to go over to terminal B if I don’t have too. Thank you!
We used Sunshine Flyer service for our 12/28/22-1/4/23 trip to WDW and were very happy with the service. We went to and from POR, and we waited about 15 minutes at MCO, drove straight to POR and the driver was super pleasant. On the way to MCO at the end of our trip, the email arrived the day before, the drive was on time, and we stopped at POFQ after our pick up, and one more resort – maybe OKW? Arrived at the airport in plenty of time, and again the driver was very pleasant. Would definitely recommend for convenience and price point as compared to a ride share or MEARS.
The biggest loss is having to go pick up and transport luggage to the Sunshine Flyer. I really liked the free sevice amd how it was set up where you check in your luggage from your home airport and did not see it again until it was inside your hotel room. I hope that could be a free feature and part of a package that is offered.
I admit I have greatly underestimated how much families with tiny kids relied on this for the luggage and car seats. For us it was kind of a convenience from MCO to the resort, but their fanatical insistence on picking you up way, way, way too early to head back to MCO was a waste of valuable park time for us. No, I do not need to leave 4 hours early… We would often take Uber to the airport for return instead. And once we flew into Sanford instead of MCO and how easy that is with private security vs TSA, etc, going to MCO was a nightmare!
Say what you want about the Magic Express, but the ability to check you luggage at your departing airport and not have to touch it again until it arrived at your accommodations was indeed MAGICAL. Especially if you have kids in tow,
You may want to doublecheck your Sunshine Flyer prices. Their website has them at $19.50/$39 for the airport to WDW trip/roundtrip.
Thanks for all the work you do. It great to have a voice of reason regarding all the the Mouse has to offer.
We took the sunshine flyer 11/28 & 12/3. Waited 20 minutes for our bus to the resort. We were the first of 3 stops (riviera, GF & poly). Less than 10 people on the bus. The way home there was a stop before our pickup and pick up at Caribbean beach after ours, but was pretty full but plenty of empty seats. Both directions played old cartoons during the ride. The driver to the resort was engaging and my children were given stickers. Overall it was a good experience!
We flew with JetBlue into the new terminal C at MCO. Mears would NOT drop off there, only terminal B. We literally got to our gate as they were boarding. Our Mears pickup time was 2:15 for our 5:20 flight. It didn’t arrive until 3pm. Then we had another resort pickup before heading to the airport. Got to our gate at 4:45. We’ll be using Lyft or Uber next time.
Wow, I’m so sorry about your experience. We took Mears to Terminal C from POR on 12/2. Pickup was scheduled at 7:20 AM and the driver was right on time. We were dropped off at Terminal C with no problem.
I took the Sunshine Flyer last Sunday (8/21/2022).
Waiting area is outside at the opposite end of the lower level from Mears Connect. Outdoor waiting area with no fans is not a good idea in the Florida summer. Got there around 10am.
There’s only 1 check-in stand and they have a binder with a printout of all the passengers. Short line and only took a few minutes to check me in. But after 15 minutes, a rush of passengers came in and their 1 check-in stand was overwhelmed.
3 buses came within 20 minutes.
The first bus came at about 6 minutes and left around 17 minutes. The second bus came at 14 minutes and was still loading. Mine was the 3rd bus and came at 20 minutes. I boarded at 23 minutes and the bus left at 28 minutes. Had about 15 people and only 3 destinations: CBR, AKL, and Coronado.
I think they let the buses go because it would take too long for them to process the line. Hopefully they have more buses and weren’t waiting for these to come back.
No videos on the bus. Driver didn’t announce the stops. One couple didn’t realize they were at their stop.
I was the second stop and the driver wasn’t going to get off the bus until I told him I needed my luggage.
I wouldn’t use them again. I got lucky that I got there before the rush, but it would be extremely frustrating to have to wait on a long line and then wait for the buses outside in the heat.
I would wait for them to get an indoor waiting area or at least 2 check-in stands to process everyone.
Planning on using Mears for my October trip.
I used Lyft for the airport return trip. Read too many horror stories from both Mears and Sunshine Flyer for the return trip. Only took 30 minutes to get to MCO from French Quarter. Got there at 7pm for a 9pm flight.
how much did your left cost?
$44 before tip.
I’m sitting in MCO reflecting on our first Sunshine Flyer experience thinking it will likely also be our last. It was difficult to locate the bus area, attendant stood at a nearly unmarked stand at the far end, there was a small “Sunshine Flyer” sticker at the base that was already peeling and not very visible. She quoted us a 20 minute arrival, bus showed up within 30 so that was pretty close. Driver was all business, no conversation or greetings, no conductor outfit or hats for the kids just the train decal outside. TVs in the bus remained paused on the way to the resort. We did go directly to Caribbean Beach which was nice, but maybe not surprising considering there were only 2 other passengers on the bus.
Trip home was weird, they confirmed a departure time of 6pm via text the day before and again a few hours before. As we were flying back from EPCOT on the Skyliner at 5:42 the driver called my wife to ask where we were? We told him we were on the way and he fairly rudely replied “I guess I will wait for you.” Umm… yeah dude, that’s what a 6pm departure would imply, see you like 5 minutes. When we arrived he grabbed our luggage without a word and was pulling out of the bus stop at 5:59. Again only 2 other folks on the ride back in silence and darkened TVs. Ride back took about 40 minutes, driver didn’t announce our arrival or say goodbye or thanks or anything. Really a disappointment compared to our last ride on the Magical Express, may it rest in peace.
Disney should have kept Magical Express!!! It set the mood…….they are penny-pinching everything there now and they certainly have been making enough to more than make up for this service (especially to time share people). Even their CEO’s had a very good year. Less $$ spending on premises this time around I decided.
In Dec it was Logan Airport in Boston. Delta not happy, black car service not happy. Was on every flight before 8:30am. Interesting thing is Logan doesn’t open until 6am. Got there Delta open got us through check in, Security to gate, plane there no one around (no cleaners, food service, only security & passengers). Oh couldn’t buy snacks nothing open.
Pilots, other crew didn’t show till 6:30. So not earlier for them.
Personally morning doesn’t start till at least 9am.
Notice warned might be stopped if not there by the 3 hour mark. Don’t know if anyone was. But didn’t want to take a chance.
Wow Brenda, that sucks big-time! I can’t even imagine how um, upset, I’d have been! That might’ve gotten me on the no-fly list… I remember flying being fun, back before 2001. Now, it’s just a huge hassle. I am always friendly to the gate agents even when there is a problem, because it isn’t their fault but I’ve never been lucky like our neighbors who always seem to get a 1st class upgrade and free drinks for delays. I did get $300 in vouchers from Southwest a while back when we got delayed at MCO because they canceled tons of flights (thousands) to do the emergency inspections on the pickle forks in the 737-800 series aircraft after cracks were found in several units.
I hope you never have to deal with anything like that again!
Except that I am not really alive at 4am (or before) it wasn’t the scariest time. First trip to WDW was for our 30th wedding anniversary. Flew out of Boston on 9/22/01. Hubby said we could cancel, but I get stubborn. I said “If Disney is open & the planes are flying, we are going. They will NOT win!” Got there at required time, doors into airport locked, no one inside. Even lights off. Had to wait until time it opened. By then heavily armed National Guard were everywhere. To thunderous applause from everyone. Never felt so glad to see them.
On return hit a snag. Hubby couldn’t get me and luggage to ride home as once you left you needed a valid boarding pass to get back in. Explained it to a soldier, he told Bill to go get luggage. He and his partner would take me outside and guard me until he got there. They did. Never felt safer in my life. That’s what I remember about flying before the pandemic.
Oh WDW has never been so magical since. Not even big crowds, let alone overcrowded. Everyone was there because they wanted to be. Nice, kind, helpful, no ‘mememe’. Oh and Buying everything RWB. Most without WDW logo. No higher prices. Cast Members & visitors being Magical.
Some of that still there during our last trip. 50th anniversary. Couple picked up our tab at Teppanyaki for anniversary dinner. We tried to leave a tip, but it wasn’t accepted. The Magic is still there. I think though one receives it only when one doesn’t expect it.
I have some questions for Mears regarding my upcoming Easter trip—4/15/22 to 4/23/22.
1. How many people are on standard bus usually?
2. For express, do they provide car seats?
3. Considering Saturday morning 7am return flight, would you recommend standard or express?
Has nothing to do with DME, Mears, or Sunset Limited. It’s the airports.
Had to show up 3 hours before flight time for a 7am flight out of Boston. Not even airlines’ fault. Airport required it.
Learn who to badmouth or just stay home.
Haha, no. Yes, it was DME who forced it based on recommendations. Airports might recommend it, but there is no actual requirement. Flew in/out of MCO in Oct and arrived there about 90 minutes before our flight left which is about right and what we usually do. I was the only one of the nine of us with Precheck and still no issues of time. Here in San Antonio I usually leave the house about 90 minutes before my flight is supposed to. While I do not want to miss a flight, I do not enjoy wasting time sitting in an airport paying more than Disney charges for snacks or beers. And that’s doubly so for losing park time the morning of departure, etc. Let’s not even get started on the insanity of 7am flights. Can pilots even fly safely that early?