REVIEW: Express Bus Transportation Service Breaks The Rules, But Exceeds Expectations

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Since we broke the news about it a few weeks back, the general public and fans alike have been buzzing about the addition of an Express Transportation Service at Walt Disney World. For a fee, this service allows guests to bounce between all 4 Walt Disney World theme parks from internal bus stops within the parks.

Express Transportation Bus Service at Walt Disney World

The service costs $15 per person for 1 day, but can be purchased for up to 7 consecutive days for just $24 per person for the entire period. Guests can book the service at the front desk of their resort, at any guest relations location, or by credit card at the Express Bus Service stops themselves at each park.

Since an annual pass is technically a park-hopper ticket, all annual pass holders are eligible to use the service as well at both price levels.

Since so many of you asked us to do it, we went ahead and tested out the service yesterday so we could give you a good idea of how it works and how best to utilize it.

The busses depart on the half hour, meaning there is essentially a bus to a park departing each station every 10 minutes. So, a bus to Animal Kingdom from the Magic Kingdom may depart on the 10’s and 40’s each hour up until park close (at Animal Kingdom). The one caveat to this is that it is pretty hard to catch nighttime spectaculars near closing time at one park and make it back to another park. For example, last night, we could not have seen Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular and made it back to the Magic Kingdom. The fireworks were presented at 9:30pm, but the last Express Bus to Magic Kingdom was at 9:50pm. Getting to the bus stop just 5 minutes after the show ended on a crowded evening would be quite the challenge for anyone, considering that the check-in spot there is down by Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster.

Other than that, the busses remain strict to their schedules. That being said, if you miss one, another is only 30 minutes behind, or you could always call an audible and just go on whatever bus is next, which will promise a wait of 10 minutes or less until departure for one of the other 3 parks at Disney World.

We never experienced any problems of busses not running on schedule, and other than our last bus ride of the night, we were almost alone on every ride. I became concerned that the system was losing Disney money until we caught the 8:50PM bus from Hollywood Studios to Magic Kingdom, in which all of the seats were filled before we departed. Other than that, there was typically just one other family onboard the bus with us.

Express Transportation Bus Service at Walt Disney World

The four stops within the parks are convenient enough, although it is weird to enter theme parks from these areas. The busses depart and arrive at the points you will see indicated on the pamphlet above.

Express Transportation Bus Service at Walt Disney World
Express Transportation Bus Service at Walt Disney World
Express Transportation Bus Check-In at Epcot, Walt Disney World

The Express Transportation Service does break some “rules” of Disney theme parks, mainly allowing guests to see large portions of the backstage areas. In actuality, this is a really cheap way to see backstage at the parks without taking a tour. Highlights included glimpses of Pandora: The World of AVATAR, Tower of Terror, Test Track, Carousel of Progress, and more. That being said, it is far from the experience of a backstage tour, but you will get that special feeling of being “behind the magic” and seeing places in the parks you may have never seen before.

Space Mountain from the bus route to and from Magic Kingdom park
Pandora: the World of AVATAR from the Express Bus to Animal Kingdom

When you are going to be taking the bus, all you need to do is check-in with the guest relations cast member at the check-in location. They will be able to check you in for your bus and can also provide the bus schedule for the rest of the day to you, should need it. When it is time to take your bus, a guest relations cast member will walk you to the vehicle. Along the way, signage reminds guests that photography of any kind is not allowed in backstage areas.

My only gripe is the timing of the busses towards park closing times. I wish they would at least give you 30-60 minutes past the closure of the park or the end of the last nighttime show to make it to a bus, but instead it is the next scheduled time after park close, which in many case will give you anywhere from 5-25 minutes to make it, possibly. I guess the viewpoint is that you could always still get a normal bus after that time, but it kind of defeats the purpose of the service in some ways.

Overall, I was overwhelmed with what a tremendous value this service is. First off, by using this service, you ensure that you will only need to go through the parking and security/park entry process once. The bus service will drop you off inside of the other parks, meaning you are in the thick of things as soon as you get to your destination.

In our experience yesterday, here were the travel times between destinations:

  • Magic Kingdom to Animal Kingdom – 25 minutes
  • Animal Kingdom to Epcot – 22 minutes
  • Epcot to Hollywood Studios – 13 minutes
  • Hollywood Studios to Magic Kingdom – 17 minutes

Beyond the conveniences mentioned above, it saves a tremendous amount of time in park-hopping. A bus every 30 minutes to each park is perfect, where even if you just miss a bus by a minute, it isn’t going to ruin your day. You are guaranteed a bus every half hour and knowing when that bus is coming already makes the service a million times more reliable than the regular bus service at Walt Disney World.

We were able to hit a list of our favorite things at all 4 parks using the service. In fact, within one hour, we arrived at Hollywood Studios from Epcot, rode Star Tours, ordered a Blue Milkshake, and were back on a bus to the Magic Kingdom to enjoy the rest of the evening. This was an insanely cool thing to do that we never could have done without the service. It would have at least taken another hour to do this via car or the regular Disney transportation offerings.

Whether you are only visiting the parks for a short period of time and NEED to hit all of your favorite attractions, or looking for a hassle-free way to get around the parks for a week, the Express Transportation Service is a tremendous value. The convenience and price can not be beat. Yes, it does take you to places you aren’t supposed to see, but it offers a service that takes so much of the pressure out of planning a Walt Disney World vacation and gives you a lot more freedom to do just about whatever you could want to across four parks in just one day (FastPass reservations permitting of course). It could also allow you to remove the need for a rental car from your trip (provided you don’t need to go to see any SCREENZ down the road at Universal Orlando). As a resort guest, I would enjoy return service to my resort somehow at the end of the day, but other than that, this is truly the only way to park hop in my book.

In a world of unnecessary vacation add-on packages, this is the first one that will certainly improve your theme park experience if you plan on park-hopping. The Express Transportation service is highly recommended and a nice way to take some commuting stress out of a trip to Walt Disney World.

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About the author

Tom Corless

Tom has been regularly visiting the Walt Disney World® Resort from the time he was 4 months old. While he has made countless visits in the last 28 years, he did not become a truly active member in the Disney fan community until the summer of 2007, when he decided to launch the WDW News Today website and podcast. Tom has since become an Orlando-local and is a published author on Walt Disney World.

49 Comments

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  • Did you happen to ask if they would ever put a limit on the number of passes they sell a day to keep it manageable? Obviously it’s not necessary now, but assuming it got really popular and you couldn’t get on a bus because it’s full and had to wait another 30 mins, do you think it would still be worth it?

  • I’m actually surprised they’re charging anything for this. It really would benefit them if they just moved all park to park bus transportation to this system. It would be a cost savings to cut out the amount of people going through security and turnstiles later in the day, so they wouldn’t have to staff as many security or turnstiles cast members later in the day. Most importantly for management, it gets people back into parks faster to spend more money

    • Yep, and is first step that ALL transportation will be at a fee. Starting with this… will soon be boats and monorails as well, already asked our family on a questionnaire how we feel about it. And…never been asked anything how we feel about it that would make them money that they didn’t do it. I think Disney needs to give a little bit more… they have gotten tooooooo greedy. Sickening.

      • They aren’t a charity. They don’t have to give anything. The parks are overcrowded year round. Raising the price and offering higher priced conveniences is a way to handle that, and really the only viable option.

        • Bravo Melissa….it is nice to see someone respond on here that understands business and the free market. Personally, I wouldn’t mind if they charged more…or charged a fee for the monorail and boats…if it meant increased convenience and less demand.

          • Keith, wake up buddy, you’ll be paying MORE and still no refurb on monorail. in fact, might not have any rides! It is a free market, but Disney USA theme parks SUCK quite honestly in terms of value, cleanliness, safety, and guest experience.

      • I understand business, stockholder and also am a disney loyal that over the past 40 trips and years see them slowly slipping a hangmans noose around their own throats. Does anyone see this as an impending sign of what a few years holds.

        I get the business points…BUT…i agree with ANDRE.
        Disney has made it clear in 2 reports that they are moving away from the common middle income target range to cater to the upper-middle and high income brackets. This is interesting since over 80% of their loyal fans are the area they are shifting away from.
        This means that when rides like the jungle cruise and country bear etc dont go through rehabs and look like they have been neglected like a carnival park us loyal people will not be there to keep coming to disneys defense or show up each year.

        The higher income people can afford to do a lot of things and worn down rides and attractions will not be as tolerated as we do now.

        No one can tell me that they will use that higher revenue stream to do much different than now either.

        They have done so little under Bob Iger at Disney World its sickening. Im tired of the boo hoo Poor Disney story they keep trying to sell us.

        If they need these new revenue streams to support them so bad then I ask this question to all of you?

        How during the first 10 years of Michael Eiseners tenure did he take a park that was seeing itself fade into nothing and create a juggernaut that was self supporting for another decade later.

        Using only standard price increase over the years he was able to build

        -almost a dozen hotels
        -2 new themeparks
        -Downtown Disney
        -Pleasure Island
        -2 water parks
        -Sports complex
        -Start rebuilding the infustructure
        -Add NEW buses
        -Add NEW monorails
        Not to mention the dozens of ride adds and quality of the experiences including shows and parades.

        Under Iger we have gotten a lot of price increase and added expense items…very little included items

        -Full throttle DVC spending
        – mega spending on stores and other price added places aka new downtown district
        – half-ass park additions..
        Its nice they updated the fantasyland area and just now are adding 2 new lands to The studios oh…and if they ever get Avatar land done…in a series of buildinh new parks every 8-10 years we get after 20+ years of nothing some mediocrity and no real spending at the level of 2 themepaks we get a few lands that are firmly rooted in maybe 1-2 Eticket rides at best.

        Lately some of the rides they’ve been releasing have been crap also or are 1 show-ponies. Look at the rehabs lately,…

        -Where’s Waldo with Jack Sparrow on Potc
        -Reduction of the show length in CB
        -TT turned into a neon art display only after a year down..that was a year of work its all the same track still even.
        – SM’s claimed upgrade that was a major let down…
        Do i need to go on with more?

        Back on topic now…the extra charging they are in the process of now will continue a path that will down the road see it further exploited and the Disney Loyal are begining to start a grumbling like i havent seen in the community before.

        Universal is building with lower prices more rides and lately better ones than disney…

        • “This means that when rides like the jungle cruise and country bear etc dont go through rehabs and look like they have been neglected like a carnival park us loyal people will not be there to keep coming to disneys defense or show up each year.The higher income people can afford to do a lot of things and worn down rides and attractions will not be as tolerated as we do now.”

          This sounds like an excellent thing to me? Also, I went in 1989, at the beginning of Eisner’s tenure. I went the next time, in 2000. Prices had increased DRAMATICALLY. They’d built a ton of hotels, and do you think they paid cash for that? Hollywood Studios has always been a bust, and they never have made much money on it. Animal Kingdom lost an entire land mid-construction because of budget cutting. They just finished a major refurb on MK with some wonderful additions, are doing a major refurb at AK and a complete overhaul of HS. They just finished a complete refurb of DCA, and the Hong Kong project was massive. You may not like the fact that they are spending so much in China, but if it’s a good investment, then they are smart to do it. The only way I’ve seen my experience suffer in the last 20 years of park going is an increase in crowds, which Disney can do nothing about except increase prices. I help manage a local attraction here at home and we have the same policy. Every season, if we reach capacity, we increase the price. We can’t increase the size of our venue, so we increase the price to try and make sure that those who are willing to pay for a ticket can actually enjoy it. I’m not some rich snob- my husband and I are both teachers IN OKLAHOMA. But if raising prices lowers crowds, and if paying a little extra saves me some time and hassle on my trip, I’m all for having those options available.

        • Chris, Disney will charge what the market will bear. I for one am glad I was able to experience Disney in a “kinder-gentler” time. I could walk into Beaches & Cream without an ADR, CM’s actually greeted you, you could get pictures at the parks with characters without a character attendant and a line. During the Holidays, each resort had its own gorgeous display. I still spent a bundle, but walked away happy and feeling I received value for my dollar. I’m just not so sure anymore. We actually cancelled a planned trip a few weeks ago with reservations at the Beach Club. I’m sure my room didn’t sit empty, and no one is crying because “I” didn’t go. But, for me anyway, it just doesn’t seem like the same place with the same value it had even 5 years ago.

          • I’m crying Frank. Don’t you love your pal Mickey Mouse anymore? Cheese and Minnie’s bow addiction aren’t free you know. Pluto’s food isn’t cheap either, you know how much it costs to feed a 6 ft dog? Don’t even let me get started on the costs of Donald’s anger management classes or liability insurance thanks to Goofy.

          • Mickey Mouse…Where have you gone Joe DiMagg… er’ Mickey Mouse. All I seem to see now is Darth Vader!!! Or are you just a really “hidden Mickey” behind the mask??? Way to much Star Wars, Marvel, GoG, etc, etc for this guy.

        • I am curious Chris R why you mentioned “Full throttle DVC spending”? Could you expand on that? I am interested in your take

  • Sad part, they’re not “adding new buses” They’re taking away, and ralloction resources that were free…now you pay for. Soon I image you will pay to use any Disney transportation. They get you coming and going. Kinda sad how much they pinch people. And wouldn’t be, if they weren’t cutting attractions, parades, food quality, and everything else at the same time.

  • I thought I had read that AP holders were not eligible for the multiday option and could only pay for multiple single days. Hope I was mistaken.

  • Well, I’ve always thought that they needed a quick park-to-park option to make hopping make any sense (other than doing more than 1/2 day at AK) and this sounds like maybe a plan for it. Obviously not crowded now, but once word gets out will have 10x the people. If buses aren’t being added then that is sad though. The revenue should go straight into buying more buses and hiring drivers.

    • Hahahahaha! That’s funny, you think I get a bonus for using revenue to make the guest experience better? Daddy needs a new Lexus.

    • No new busses, no new drivers Kirk. Nice dream. Obviously you haven’t seen how much Disney is cutting back. We’re here now, and they’ve crammed more tables into restaurants and fewer servers than you can imagine. Disgusting experience to be honest. We cancelled all our ADRs and are going off property to eat. Disney is getting egregious, and looting their own brand.

  • […] Express/VIP Transportation – Maybe – As much as this one really irks me because Walt Disney World should be improving its entire transportation fleet instead (and as such, I will never book this on principle) this express transportation, which operates via backstage routes and allows you to bypass security when park hopping, could be worth it if you purchase it for the duration of your trip. (Here’s a review of it.) […]

  • There are already free park to park buses. You’re being bamboozled into paying just to make the parks less secure.

    I guess this is all OK for the “shut up and take my money” generation.

    • Why is it less secure?

      You pass through security check on the way into your first park. Then when park hopping you are escorted backstage to the waiting bus, at the other end you are escorted through backstage again, you have no opportunity to return to your own vehicle and bring contraband into the park.

        • This in no way makes the parks less secure. To use your airport analogy… once you get to your destination airport (i.e. one of the other parks via an express bus) you are allowed to walk around the secured area without going through a security check again.

          If you wanted to travel to the destination airport some other cheaper, less convenient way, you’d have to go through security again.

          Whether Disney security is effective or not is irrelevant…

          • You don’t fly much, do you? Any self respecting airport, with adequate security measures implemented, will make you go thru security again for a connecting flight. It must be the regional airports you fly thru that don’t care about proper security.

          • Erik, Disney doesn’t really check anything, except a few guests in front of others so they ‘feel’ they’re watching. NOTHING behind the scenes is checked and plenty of ways in. Sadly, if you want to get a weapon on destruction in Disney, it’s as easy as to bring into a mall, or shopping center. This is in contrast to airports…who do at least attempt (agreeably not 100% effective to say the least) to screen all staff, entrances, etc. Huge difference. Disney doesn’t try. They cut back expenses and couldn’t care less if you’re safe. Only that you ‘feel’ safe enough to spend your money.

          • Jeff – my last sentence agrees with you. I was only disagreeing with Pete’s statement that the express buses make the park *less* secure (neither he nor I are saying that the parks’ security is sufficient – that’s a different topic, and one we likely all agree on :)

            Pete – I fly enough to know that airports have secured areas and non secured areas. If I fly from one airport to another, I don’t have to go through security again to enter the second airport’s secured area was my point. Granted, it’s usually EWR to MCO.

          • Disney Pete, I don’t know what “regional airport” means to you, but at SeaTac International airport in Seattle, once through security you’re good to go. I have this experience at many large international airports. Now I am curious which ones you fly that you have to go through multiple times. I imagine ones like Atlanta, with its many many terminals all separated, might have multiple security checkpoints, but that isn’t reflective of most large (or small) airports, and has nothing to do with your security or lack thereof (as if airport security offered that in the first place–it’s called “security THEATER” for a reason).

          • Your SeaTac (or any other airport for point to point travel) analogy is flawed. It would work better if you were comparing arriving to a park. Going from park to park is like doing an international stopover. There, you’re forced to go thru a new security screening before boarding your next flight.

            Why is this? Because you’ve left what it’s called a secure area, just like you are when you get out of the park and into a bus.

            I guess you were overwhelmed by visiting SeaTac that only time (nice airport, BTW. I really enjoyed the art display all around and the big panoramic window to the tarmac), breaking your trend of using only regional airports. Thanks for playing though.

      • You can’t be very bright if you think that Disney security lines are anything but a show. Staff, venders, strollers, etc aren’t screened at all. It’s only a ‘feel good’ measure.

    • But if it makes it able to cut out an additional day or 2 by saving time getting from park to park, you’ll be saving more than the cost of the service.

      • This Disney PR bot is so unimaginative… There are already free buses going from park to park and chances are you’ll spend less than 30 minutes catching one. How is just skipping security (which, is you have no bags is takes just 30 seconds to say hello to the guard and keep walking) gonna save you 2 days?

        • That was based on her saying a family of 4, in other words, kids are involved. You’re operating on the assumption that you go in with absolutely nothing to force you to go through bag check, most people traveling with kids, will have bags of some sorts. Also you have to consider the plethora of morons that still don’t understand how to use a magic band to get in, so you’re stuck waiting for them. Again since I’m operating on the assumption she’s referring to traveling with kids, so walking takes up a significant amount of time, so if you’re in Tomorrowland and the parade is going on, you could be to another park before you could ever even get to a bus. Oh also why would a Disney PR bot try and talk people OUT of spending additional days in the parks? It’s common knowledge the entire reason Disney made park hopping a fairly significant additional charge is to keep people on Disney property more days and not squeeze everything in by park hopping and then go check out Potter at Universal. So really by your logic, I could ACTUALLY be a Universal PR bot trying to get them to spend less days at Disney and instead go check out the all new Volcano Bay, opening Spring 2017!

  • I think the magic has left the station! Walt would be disgusted. Mostly canned music, MK has only one band. No castle musicians as in the past…been going there since 1980….all the greed will eventually put you out of business. Wake up WDW! It’s the little people that save for years to bring their family…let them enjoy it at a sensible price…if some of your ventures have failed, we shouldn’t be bailing you out.

    • WDW knows this, really bad managers, but not blind, Disney (Run in California) couldn’t give a flying fuck about the parks. They are doing well in studios, very well, and just want WDW parks in USA to squeeze a few nickels out of the huge crowds of suckers, most now travel with grandparents who remember it as something special and spring for the family. Or foreign travelers who are given huge discounts to fill the place up. Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of Disney and like WDW, but agree with Midge, they have cut to the bone, and then a few inches more, and hard to say it’s a fun “experience” for most guests. This bus service comes at a cost in time/delays to the ‘now included’ transportation. Soon, I foresee everything being at a premium. As long as they keep cutting back, forcing longer lines, they can do whatever they want with costs, they’ve created their own demand in excess of supply situation.

  • The key here is that it is an extra and you don’t have to do it. The fear of them charging for all transportation won’t happen. The only way to get into the magic kingdom is by bus, boat or monorail, the park is not connected to the parking lot. Charging for transportation would also kill the Monorail lines for epcot and the resorts, which just got a new dinning service. Why are we complaining for an actual good addon? The important thing about this feature is the time saving of not waiting an hour for a bus and avoiding going through security numerous times when you already went through it to get into the original park you started from. I see this bus hopper route as being a good thing. My only complaint would be that there is no disney springs line, but I also understand that if they add a springs line than the springs would have to add security and gates, so I’m good with just the parks for now.

    • Umm…wrong goofy. This change will slow down other areas, they didn’t buy new buses and aren’t hiring new staff, and they already showed their hand in surveys that ALL TRANSPORTATION WILL HAVE A CHARGE in the not too distant future. Whether staying on property, or not. They are cutting back resources, shows, etc, and the crowds in remaining stuff will grow out of the cut backs. They an then charge for this increase. And will. And keep cutting back more. Not a fear. It’s been happening under Iger for a decade my friend!

      • Surveys asking about changes are never definitive answers as much as Tom tries to click bait people based on them. If I had a dollar for every survey I’ve taken asking about changes that never happened, I’d be able to actually afford a Tomrrowland cabana.

        • I don’t think you should plan your cabana stay. I think you’re incorrect. We’ve been to WDW >400 times and I’ve NEVER had them ask anything on a Dsurvey that was in the ‘best case for Disney, worst case for guest’ category that they haven’t implemented. Everything asked about has come true. And yes, was asked about paying for exclusive transportation service, and same survey asked about how we felt about paying a small charge for all Disney transportation and parking at resorts. I think it’s coming. Get your wallet ready. Lines will be longer, and prices higher for less…it is what it is. Still enjoy Disney. Just find their parks a poorly run enterprise the last decade or so.

  • I’m actually wondering if they take ECVs at all – we always rent one from an outside vendor for our entire trip – will these busses take them?