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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tip Tuesday: Disney's Magical Express

Disney's Magical Express

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was named the Biggest Disney Fan by United Vacations. As part of this special trip, my family and I will be flying to WDW (we usually drive). Since we are flying, I will be again taking advantage of Disney's Magical Express service (DME). The last time I used DME was in the summer of 2007 during my family's first visit to WDW.

For those who might not know what Disney's Magical Express is, I'll give a brief description. Disney's Magical Express is a free service Disney for on-property resort guests to provide transportation to and from Orlando International Airport (MCO). To use DME, guests need to make an advance reservation, and provide your flight information and resort reservation number. If you're using a travel agent, they can take care of the DME reservation for you.

The beauty of Disney's Magical Express (aside from free transportation to your resort from the airport), is that your bags will be taken directly to your room. You don't need to go through baggage claim at MCO. Just check your bags at your departure airport and forget about them. They'll be in your room, usually within a few hours after you check in, sometimes faster. During my summer 2007 trip, our bags actually beat us to the room.

About a month before your departure date, you will receive your DME vouchers and baggage tags. It's important to put these tags on your luggage because these tags are the key to your luggage making it to your room.

Once you arrive at MCO, take the shuttle from your airside terminal to the main terminal. Proceed to the B-side of the main terminal and go to Level 1. You will find the Disney's Magical Express check-in desk. After showing your voucher to the attendant, you will be directed to a line for your particular resort. There may be a short wait (usually less than 20 minutes) for the next bus to arrive. Climb aboard, because you're heading to Walt Disney World!

Once you get to your resort, just grab your carry on bags, tip the driver ($1-$2) if you wish, and head inside to check in. Before long, you'll have your Key to the World cards and you're ready to hit the parks!

There are some drawbacks to using Disney's Magical Express service. The biggest one is time. It does take some time to wait at the airport for the next bus to arrive, then to travel to WDW (around 20-30 minutes) and to drop you off at your resort. It is possible the bus will go to other resorts first, it just depends on who's on the bus. I've heard some occasional reports of 2+ hours from the time a guest arrived at MCO to the time they made it to their resort. The last time I used DME, it took about an hour from the time I landed to the time I was at our resort.

It's a matter of how much your time is worth. If you're concerned using DME might take too long, you can take a taxi or a shuttle. It's a good idea to make that decision before you make your DME reservation.

The other main drawback also is time-related. If you're arriving at MCO very early (before 5 a.m.) or very late (after 10 p.m.), you will need to first go to baggage claim and get your luggage before heading down to the DME check in desk. This will add to the amount of time it takes to get to your resort and you will have to manage your luggage.

A third drawback is that DME only is available for guests flying into and out of Orlando International Airport (MCO). There is no DME service for the other major airport in the Orlando area, Sanford International Airport.

But wait, there's more...

Disney's Magical Express also comes in very handy on your return trip home. If you're using DME, you can check in your luggage at your resort check in desk instead of waiting in line at the airport, if you're flying on certain partner airlines - see the DME FAQ for more. That's a huge stress-saver! You will get a notice telling you when you need to board the DME bus to return to MCO (usually 3 hours in advance of your flight, 4 hours for international flights). Disney allows plenty of time so you can get through security and make it to your gate.

So the next time (or first time) you're planning a trip to Walt Disney World, and you're flying into MCO, and will be staying on-property, give Disney's Magical Express a thought. It's free and makes getting to and from the airport much easier.


karen k :) said...

Love reading your blog. but you forgot to mention the cool video that gets you excited about getting to your hotel and the Disney resort! thats important too! lol :)

Chuck Lionberger said...

you are correct Karen! The video is fun to watch!

Mountain Mom (Rachel) said...

We are really looking forward to riding on Mickey's big bus. This is one of the reasons I ended up switching my hotel from the Dolphin to the Beach Club. I knew I would like the feeling of being in Disney hands from start to finish. I don't mind the time it takes. It certainly is nice about the luggage. Not much longer until our trip!

Scott said...

I think the DME helps get the "magic" started as soon as you land. Even getting in line for the bus to your resort seems exciting, to us. We love DME.

One other comment: A popular airline for getting to Orlando is Southwest, and up until now, they are not part of the DME resort check-in for your return flight. You have to manage your bags for that popular airline. They'll get them off the baggage claim carousels and to your room, but you have to get them from your room to the airplane. I know there are others, but Southwest is popular enough that it probably deserves mention...

Anonymous said...

Great tips on DME. One good thing to note: Drivers for DME are not Disney employees. They are employees of Mears Transportation and do not receive the same compensation that Disney cast members receive. The drivers do a great job being "surrogate" Disney employees by being welcoming, delivering passengers safely and handling carry-on luggage. Please keep this in mind as you consider tipping the drivers. Be generous especially when they provide courteous, dependable service.

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