Monday, August 24, 2009

Here To There And There To Here

The transportation system at Walt Disney World is vast and complex. When facing the daunting task of providing an overview that is simplistic and yet informative, it's hard to know where to begin and where to end. Therefore, please consider this post as an introduction to transportaion available at Disney. There are many, many, MANY details that will be covered in future posts. Some aspects of transportation are most relevant to resorts, some to parks, and some to off-site guests. Here, I'll merely introduce you to how you can get around and offer a few pointers on how NOT to get around.

At the center of the Walt Disney World Transportation is the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC). You can think of this place as Disney's Grand Central Station. You can get almost anywhere from here, and its parking lot is actually the parking lot for The Magic Kingdom. You must take a monorail or ferry boat from here to get to the park itself. It is worth a mention that the TTC is not listed on the road signs as "Transportation and Ticket Center." Instead, it is posted as "Magic Kingdom Parking." April learned this the hard way trying to drive to the TTC one day.

As a guest, you have several options for getting around the Walt Disney World resort property. There are advantages and disadvantages to using any given mode at any given time. Definitions and general guidelines of each mode of conveyance are as follows:

  • The Monorail - (You knew we had to start here, didn't you?!) The monorail is the easiest system to figure out because it really has very few stops. Monorails can only take you to Magic Kingdom, Epcot, the Contemporary Resort (connected to Bay Lake Towers), Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and the Transportation and Ticket Center. There are two routes for the monorail: one to Epcot and one to the Magic Kingdom. The second route with a stop at Magic Kingdom has two options: an Express that only stops at the TTC and the Magic Kingdom, and a Resort line that stops at Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Magic Kingdom, and Contemporary/Bay Lake Towers. This is a favorite for children. Many kids have told their parents after a week at Disney that the monorail was their favorite ride!

  • Boats - There are waterways all throughout the resort and various boats can carry you various places. Not all waterways are connected though, so don't assume that because you see water you can get to another place where you've seen water. Detailing routes at this point would be a bit mind-boggling, but in general, every park except Animal Kingdom and (oddly enough) the water parks has a boat option to get there (but not from just anywhere in the park... see previous comment about waterways not connected). You can also get from some locations to Downtown Disney by boat. If you are prone to motion sickness or just don't like boats, choose your resort carefully. Sometimes, it's your only option for a particular park if you don't have a car with you.

  • Buses - The fleet of buses that Disney operates daily is nothing short of spectacular in scope. They dart in and out of everywhere and there is no posted schedule because they adjust routes on the fly to send buses to deal with the largest crowds. For the most part, the bus system runs very well. A typical bus journey should take between 15 and 45 minutes depending on season, time of day, and distance between destinations. The note of caution I would extend is to avoid taking a bus to or from Downtown Disney if at all possible. Consistently, over the last three years, I have had a very long wait, ride, or both related to going to or coming from Downtown Disney. And when you are traveling with a young one, a 45 minute wait for a bus is not welcome at all. Nor are the long delays once on board.

  • Cars (personal or rental) - Parking is free if you stay on site. Off site guests currently pay $12 a day for parking. All parks have a lot, although as I mentioned before, the Magic Kingdom lot is actually across a body of water. So if you park here, you have to ride a ferry over or (...wait for it...) take the monorail! The biggest advantage to driving a car is control... this gives you the most control over your schedule for coming and going. That said, there are accidents and traffic jams on Disney property as well, so nothing is a sure bet when it comes to travel time at Disney.

  • Hoofing It - It's true you will do a lot of walking at Disney, but sometimes the extra walk is still worth it. You can walk from the Contemporary to the Magic Kingdom very easily. You can also walk from the Polynesian to the TTC. Most people don't realize that Disney's Hollywood Studios is within a reasonable walk from the Epcot resorts. It's a great way to avoid the crowded buses just after Fantasmic lets out. Just be sure that you are wearing good walking shoes that you have worn before.
All these options can be interchanged on a trip to maximize your time. Unfortunately, sometimes it is very difficult to know the best choice at the time you need to make it. The good news is, all choices will usually get you there. Don't hesitate to ask Cast Members to help you make the best decision about how to get from here to there or from there to here.


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