By Sarah Chapman
On my most recent trip to Walt Disney World I had the opportunity to try out the newly introduced Express Transportation option. And I have to say I kind of love it.
Express Transportation is an option for guests who are park hopping—either with the Park Hopper add-on to your Magic Your Way tickets or with an Annual Pass. Because Express Transportation goes directly from park to park (not resorts), you need to have this ticket option to utilize the service.
At check-in I inquired at the front desk about purchasing this option for our length of stay. Currently you can purchase a single day of Express Transportation, or usage for 7 consecutive days. With current pricing the 7 day option is a great value. The Cast Member at the desk inquired if we planned to hop to at least 3 parks in one day to which I responded yes. He said he only recommends it if you plan to do 3 parks in a single day, but I have to disagree—I think at the current price it is a great idea if you plan to do any direct park to park hopping. We were unable to add it at the check-in area, but walked over to the concierge desk to purchase the week long option. This was the quickest way for us to do it so we would have it all set up before we went to a park, but you do not have to purchase it at a resort. If you are staying off-site or if you decide once you get to a park to use the service you can buy it at any of the check-in locations.
Let’s start with the basics of the program. Each of the 4 parks has a check-in location where you go when you are ready to hop & check in with your Magic Band. The buses run on a set schedule, unlike the buses that take you from the resorts to the parks. For instance, if you are checking in at Magic Kingdom they may tell you the Epcot bus departs on the hour and half hour, the Hollywood Studios at 10 after and 20 ‘til and the Animal Kingdom at 20 after and 10 ‘til. This is important. And it is great if you want to schedule when to arrive at the check in station to go to your next park so as not to waste any time. The downfall is that it can vary from day to day (thought it did not while we were there), and they cannot tell you at the Epcot check in what time the buses depart the Magic Kingdom location if you are wondering for planning ahead. I recommend you ask for the schedule from the check in Cast Member when you arrive at your second park if you plan to hop to another. Or, if you have a math whiz like my son you can calculate it on the bus ride for each park.
The service works by transporting you from one backstage area to another, so it is very much like a VIP experience. The check-in locations are not heavily advertised with signage at this point, but you do get a map showing you each spot when you add it to your tickets. In Magic Kingdom it is to the left and behind Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin (to the right as you exit the attraction/gift shop). In Epcot it is to the left of Spaceship Earth as you enter the park. Hollywood Studios you go past Rock N Roller Coaster—all the way through that courtyard. For Animal Kingdom it is to the left of Kilimanjaro Safari.
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The very, very best part of Express Transportation is that you do not have to go through security or the turnstiles at your second park. So once you clear security at the first park of the day and validate your ticket at the turnstile you are done! For Express Transportation they scan your ban, escort you backstage and you board the bus. When you arrive at park 2 they escort you from the bus backstage directly into the park. So easy and such a time saver.
The other part I loved about the experience were the glimpses backstage. As a complete Disney geek it was so interesting to see the horticulture areas, backstage of Test Track, construction areas, etc. I think backstage Animal Kingdom was my favorite route. However, if you do not want any of the magic spoiled you may not want to use the Express Transportation as you will see some of the less magical aspects of operating a theme park.
I also totally felt like a VIP. This was due in part to the fact that every time except 1 that we used the transportation my son and I were the only 2 people on the bus. The other time there were about 8 people total. I’m sure this will change as the service catches on and gains popularity. But getting a private shuttle, then being escorted back and forth makes you feel pretty special.
There are some vacationers who I would not recommend this service to—and in talking to the Guest Relations Cast Members who were escorting us they agreed. They were very interested in our opinion of how it was working, so we chatted with several. If you are a first time guest I don’t normally recommend park hopping—there is just too much to see and do at a single park, so you wouldn’t need this service. Most of my clients who are families and are hopping are putting a break at their resort in between parks so they would not get the value out of the service. But, if you have older kids; if you’ve been several times; if you are a couple; if you don’t need mid-day breaks so much (like in the winter when park hours are shorter and temperatures are cooler) . . . then the Express Transportation Service is wonderful!! This is one of the best values of an “add-on” service that Disney has introduced.
Have you utilized Express Transportation to park hop? What did you think about the service?