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.
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.
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.
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.