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Getting From the Orlando Airport to Disney World

TravelingMom logo: MainLogo TravelingMom 5 days ago TravelingMom

Want your dream Disney vacation to begin the minute you claim your luggage in Orlando? Then you need a plan to get from the Orlando airport (MCO) to Walt Disney World. Do you get a rental car? An Uber? A bus? Here’s a complete guide to your 2022-2023 transportation options, including the latest info about The Sunshine Flyer, a thoroughly modern shuttle service with a retro twist.

A Walt Disney World vacation begins with a road trip for many families. If you live within reasonable driving range and have the time, it’s practical to load up the SUV and hit the highway. Even with soaring gas prices, it’s still cheaper than flying and you enjoy the convenience of having your family vehicle ready when you need it.

But a road trip’s not practical if you’re traveling a long distance to Orlando or if you’re just going for a few days. Then you’ll need to fly. And without magic Tinker Bell wings, you’ll need to land and get from the airport to Walt Disney World.

It used to be easy with Disney’s Magical Express bus service. But, sadly, that service ended on December 31, 2021. Figuring out which one of the many remaining transportation options works best for your family can be a hassle. Don’t let it be. Read on for all the info you need to get from the Orlando airport (MCO) to Walt Disney World.

Orlando is one of the most popular destinations on the departures board! Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf © Provided by TravelingMom Orlando is one of the most popular destinations on the departures board! Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

Airports in Orlando Florida

First off, we need to clarify airports. The Orlando Florida area has two. Orlando International Airport (MCO) is the major hub and the one that had Disney’s Magical Express bus service.

MCO has numerous airlines flying in and out daily to both domestic and international destinations. It’s the seventh busiest airport in the world, according to Airport Council International’s 2021 ranking, serving 40.3 million passengers annually. And it will get exponentially busier. The airport’s new south Terminal C opens this fall. Orlando International Airport is approximately 25 miles from Magic Kingdom Park.

Orlando Sanford Airport (SFB) is smaller and is roughly 50 miles from Magic Kingdom Park. Sanford is served by Allegiant Air, Flair, Swoop and Sun Country.

We’ll be discussing Magical Express replacement options from Orlando MCO in this post. To learn more about flying into Orlando, check out our full post.

This section is sponsored by The Sunshine Flyer.

Your vacation starts when you board one of The Sunshine Flyer’s fun motorcoaches. Photo credit: The Sunshine Flyer © Provided by TravelingMom Your vacation starts when you board one of The Sunshine Flyer’s fun motorcoaches. Photo credit: The Sunshine Flyer

Magical Express Replacement

What I liked most about the Magical Express was the way your Disney vacation started in the airport. It made the mundane and often irritating part of the trip – ground transportation – into an extension of the family fun. If you’re looking to create that feeling, The Sunshine Flyer is a new option to consider.

The Sunshine Flyer offers themed motorcoach transportation to and from MCO and the Disney resort hotels. The company’s fleet of passenger buses are designed to resemble 1920s vintage trains or passenger cars and the drivers wear period costumes. The premium service is comparably priced with other shared ride services, but offers a touch of magic with its colorful, Insta-worthy fleet.

Plus, it’s one of the most economical options we priced. (More on that in a minute.)

What parents will really love is the dynamic routing for your trip. Each journey will be uniquely designed based on the passengers’ Disney resort destinations, with a max 65-minute ride time. You can make your reservation up to four days in advance and you’ll receive email confirmations and text alerts regarding all of your essential trip info.

Traveling with littles? Your personal car seats can be secured with the 3-point harness belt at each seat.

The first flight time with accessible service is 7 am; the last ride leaves MCO at 11 pm. The Sunshine Flyer leaves from Terminal B, Level 1 with departure wait times of under 20 minutes. Through baggage service currently isn’t available, but it’s an option that may be added in the future.

You’ve landed at MCO. Now you want to start your Disney World vacation ASAP. Be sure to plan your Orlando Airport to Disney World strategy early! Photo credit: David Roark © Provided by TravelingMom You’ve landed at MCO. Now you want to start your Disney World vacation ASAP. Be sure to plan your Orlando Airport to Disney World strategy early! Photo credit: David Roark

How to Get from the Orlando Airport to Disney World

There are multiple ways to get from the Orlando Airport to Disney World but the reality of the situation is that without the complimentary Magical Express, it’s going to cost you. When you budget for your Disney World vacation, you’re going to want to add in a transportation cost line item.

There are now six ways to get from the Orlando Airport to the resort area at Disney World. The Sunshine Flyer is one. The others are: Mears Connect, taxi, rideshare (Uber or Lyft), rent a car or hire a private car service. Here are the ins and outs of each of transportation option.

To help you compare prices on Disney shuttle service options, we calculate the total price of each based on a family of 4 with two kids in the 3-9 age range. These prices can vary if your family size or kids’ ages are different. We’re just laying down a baseline to give you an idea.

Costumed drivers welcome you onboard! Photo credit: The Sunshine Flyer © Provided by TravelingMom Costumed drivers welcome you onboard! Photo credit: The Sunshine Flyer

The Sunshine Flyer

As noted previously, this is a premium motorcoach transportation option. You can make a one-way or roundtrip reservation.

2022 pricing is $16 per adult each way and $10 per child (children under 2 ride free). A family of 4, in our example, would pay $104 for roundtrip service on The Sunshine Flyer. It’s the most affordable option we priced.

There are several options for ground transportation including Mears, taxis, Ubers and Lyfts. Photo credit: Keri Baugh © Provided by TravelingMom There are several options for ground transportation including Mears, taxis, Ubers and Lyfts. Photo credit: Keri Baugh

Mears Connect at the Orlando Airport

Mears Connect has two service options available. Both are shared ride services, meaning that you’ll potentially ride with other families. In addition, both services include tolls and surcharges. Car seats are not provided by Mears, but you can bring your own.

Mears Connect Standard Service

Standard service by Mears Connect could have you traveling in a large or small vehicle. You will be in a vehicle and on your way within 20 minutes of your check-in with Mears. There could be several stops before you arrive at your resort.

Mears Connect Standard Service can be booked as one-way or round trip.

Cost of Mears Connect standard service is $16 each way for adults, $13.50 each way for children ages 3-9. Under 3 ride free. There is no price break for booking round trip. For a family of 4, this option will add $118 roundtrip to your Walt Disney World vacation cost.

Mears Connect Express

Mears Connect Express Service will provide non-stop service to and from the airport and your resort. You’ll be on your way within minutes of arriving. Transportation could be in a car, van or motorcoach. Again, keep in mind this is not private car service. If you’re a party of 2 you could be placed into a sedan with another small party…kind of like Uberpool. However, you’ll make no stops except your resort (or the airport).

Mears Connect Express Service can only be booked as a round trip and does not offer a child rate.

Cost of Mears Connect Express Service is $250 for 4 people. Additional passengers are $55 each. A family of 4 would pay $250 with this option.

Taxi to Disney World from MCO

Taxi service is available from MCO to Disney World. You can catch a cab from one of the six companies allowed to pick up at MCO from Level 1 Ground Transportation in both Terminals. Car seats can sometimes be requested in advance from the companies. You can also bring your own to install.

Cost for a taxi can vary wildly. We’ve seen quotes ranging from $50 all the way up to $118 one way. As a passenger, you will pay for any tolls and waiting time which will be added onto your total. Gratuity is not included in this cost estimate.

One Magical Express replacement option is Uber. You can estimate the cost of your ride on their website and even schedule a ride in advance. Be sure to clearly indicate your terminal to avoid confusion. Photo credit: Screenshot from Uber © Provided by TravelingMom One Magical Express replacement option is Uber. You can estimate the cost of your ride on their website and even schedule a ride in advance. Be sure to clearly indicate your terminal to avoid confusion. Photo credit: Screenshot from Uber

Uber or Lyft from the Orlando Airport to Disney World

Your next option is to take a Lyft or Uber from the Orlando Airport to Disney World. The cost on this one is going to vary based on time of day and your party size.

If you’re traveling with kids be sure to check out our tips on using rideshare services with littles. Need a car seat? Look under “more options” for a list of car seat rides available. Prices run roughly $10-15 higher with a car seat. Be aware that availability varies. UberX fits 3 passengers; UberX with car seat was exactly $10 more. However, UberXL, which fits 5, had no car seat availability over 5 times of me checking.

The benefit of using one of these services is that drivers are usually very close by with minimal wait times. You can reserve and be in a car in under 5 minutes in many cases. For this reason we recommend checking availability once you land but not booking until you have your luggage in hand and are out the door. Uber and Lyft pickup is located on Level 2 near baggage claim. Follow the signs for Ride App Pickup to the end of the curbs.

Calculate Uber or Lyft cost to Disney without installing an app

You can get a price estimate for your trip with Uber here. I did a comparison between looking for a ride live on the app and forecasted prices and they were pretty darn accurate. Keep in mind that the cost of the ride one way does not include a tip for the driver.

You can schedule an Uber ride in advance which will help with the cost if you’re arriving at a busy time. Same with Lyft. When checking prices in the app versus on my laptop using this estimator, they were very similar.

Pro Tip: Pay close attention to the passenger count when reserving both Uber and Lyft. You want to make sure your entire party and all of your luggage will fit in the ride you select! 

Arranging private car service can be both convenient and affordable. Photo credit: JGA via Shutterstock © Provided by TravelingMom Arranging private car service can be both convenient and affordable. Photo credit: JGA via Shutterstock

Private Car Service at MCO

This option may sound decadent and out of reach, but can actually be quite affordable. The sweet spot for these services, in my opinion, is larger families who want to reduce travel times. With Uber and Lyft, it can get pricey (or even be impossible) trying to find a larger size car that will fit everyone and every bag.

On a shuttle bus service, you may make stops on the way to the hotel room. With private car service, we were able to price options for 7-10 passengers starting at just $130ish.

Pro Tip: Several town car companies offer a quick grocery stop at no charge. We know that packing your own snacks at WDW is a great way to save money. Being able to pickup groceries on the way to your hotel is clutch.

Tiffany Towncar

We’ve used and have had friends use several of these services so far. Tiffany Towncar is frequently recommended in Disney groups. The company charges $95 to any Disney resort hotel from MCO or $185 round trip for a towncar that fits 4.

Rates for larger families are still decent. A van that fits 10 will cost $150 one way or $290 round trip. There is a $10 add-on fee for pickups or drop offs that take place between 10pm and 6am. Gratuity is not included in this cost.

Drivers will meet you inside the airport at the bottom of the escalators near baggage claim. The driver will have a sign with your name on it (just like in the movies!).

Ultimate Town Car

One thing to note is that your credit card will be charged

48 hours before your trip and a 20% gratuity is added automatically. For a family of 4 this option would cost roughly $129.60 ($108 plus 20% gratuity) one way at the cheapest level making it significantly cheaper than Mears Connect Express.

Ultimate Town Car does offer car seat options with some limits. Rear facing seats are a $10 charge per trip.

Renting a Car at Orlando International for Your Disney Trip

We’re going to have to crunch some serious numbers for this option. While a rental car gives you some freedom as a family to add on additional stops, hit beaches or other areas of Florida, or run errands while in town, it will cost you in both time and money.

Rental car prices vary by season, car and specials. We recommend booking one as soon as you know about your trip, but make sure it has a free cancellation. Check prices leading up to your trip and make a new reservation if something cheaper comes up.

For more information on getting the best rental car deal, read this post on saving money on rental cars. If your plans are flexible and you might be able to drive one way and fly the other, look for one-way Florida rental specials.

Read More: Check out our full post on what you need to know about renting a car for your Disney vacation. 

Extra Costs that Come with Car Rentals at Disney

If you’re staying on property at a Walt Disney World resort hotel, make sure to calculate the price of parking into your transportation budget line. Daily parking rates vary by resort level. Value resorts charge $15 a night, moderates charge $20 and deluxe resorts charge $25 a night.

If you are staying at a Disney Vacation Club property using points, there is no parking fee. That’s another great reason to look at renting DVC points for your trip! Resort guests do get free parking at the theme parks during their stay, so if you’re looking at renting a car to avoid Disney transportation you won’t have to pay twice.

Car seats are available through some rental car companies when booked in advance. Hertz offers free car seats for AAA members. Daily car seat rentals can be pricey, up to $15 a day.

On one trip where we diverted and unexpectedly rented, my husband waited at the airport while I ran to a nearby Target with the rental car. Then I picked him and my son back up at the airport. The newly purchased car seat cost less than a rental would have. We broke down the box, reboxed it at the end of our trip and checked it for free on our Southwest return flight. Upon arriving home, we passed it on to a friend who needed a 2nd seat.

Pro Tip: Always check for additional driver fees and read the fine print. Some companies (Hertz, Avis, Enterprise) allow an additional free driver who is a spouse or domestic partner. Alamo and other companies charge unless it’s a business rental and the additional driver is a coworker.

Car Rental Price for Disney

When renting a car from MCO, plan to spend between $40-90/day for a small to midsize vehicle, including taxes and fees. These numbers can certainly vary but it’s a good number to start at budget-wise.

Be very wary when using aggregate sites like booking.com, priceline.com and kayak.com. I’m not saying don’t use them, but there has been an influx of car rentals showing up from tiny or new companies that have strange restrictions on them. I saw one great deal and on further inspection it only included 150 miles. That’s great if you’re just driving to and from your hotel. But, if you planned a day trip somewhere else, it could bite you in the end.

Plan to spend $400-plus for a 5-day car rental plus overnight parking at a moderate resort. And don’t forget to fill up the tank before you return the car!

Pros and Cons of Having a Car at Disney

You might be wondering…at nearly double to cost of any other transportation, is having a car at Disney worth it? That will depend on how long you’re staying, plans you have outside of Disney and your comfort level with Disney transportation.

Disney transportation can run slow sometimes and there is something about having a car at Disney that makes you feel in control of your own destiny.

Personally, I would only rent a car for a fly-in trip if we had plans outside of the parks as well. For example if we were doing a split stay vacation between Disney and Universal, I’d rent a car. Or if we were staying off site in one of the Disney Springs area hotels.

Any time we’ve had a car at Disney, we’ve driven in from Texas because it was cheaper. Once, we ended up in Tampa due to flight diversions and chose to rent a car to get to Orlando instead of waiting for a connecting flight. I’d totally book into Tampa and drive again for cheap flights. It was a very doable drive and there are some fun things to do in Tampa.

Pro Tip: Here’s how to calculate out whether it’s cheaper to drive or fly.

Brightline – Train Option Coming to MCO

Brightline is a privately owned and operated high speed rail service in Florida. It was widely reported that a train line was going to be added from MCO to Disney Springs. Talk about convenient! And fun!

Sadly, plans to bring Brightline train service to Walt Disney World have been scrapped.

There will be an airport rail station in the new south Terminal C, but it will connect to the South Florida Brightline route which runs through West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

Do I Need a Car Seat from MCO to Disney World?

This is the biggest pain point for most parents with the whole bye-bye Magical Express drama. It wasn’t even something you had to think about before. You flew in, you knew you were going to be on a motorcoach. You didn’t need a carseat for a motorcoach. That’s another point for Sunshine Flyer — the company ONLY offers motorcoach transportation. So, no need for a car seat to get to Disney World.

With Mears, you may be on a bus, shuttle or in a sedan. You can’t guarantee that you’ll be in a vehicle that doesn’t require a car seat.

Florida requires children 5 and under to be in car seats. Car seat violation is a primary enforcement law. That means if the police see an unrestrained toddler, they can stop the car just for that. Technically, the parent is the responsible party here. Uber/Lyft/taxis and other chaffeur-driven services are technically exempt. However, you could still be stopped and the ticket would go to you, the parent, if deemed unsafe. The drivers can also refuse the ride if they don’t feel it would be safe.

The bottom line? Bring a car seat or book a transportation method that will have one. We picked up a lightweight and affordable car seat to travel with. I strongly recommend holding onto the box. Car seats can be checked for free on many airlines if you aren’t using them on the plane. We packed ours in the box it came in to keep it safe.

Best Car Seats for Travel

This lightweight Cosco frequently goes on sale. It is easy to install and the cover comes off for simple cleaning. Good for kiddos from 40-80 lbs.

With infants, be sure to look for a car seat with a European belt path. This will enable you to bring just the car seat and not the heavy base on vacation. We have a whole tutorial on how to install a car seat without a base here. Graco is one of the more affordable car seats with this technology.

The Chicco Fit2 is an excellent infant seat that also uses the European belt path. The construction on it is a little sturdier than the Graco in my opinion. The seat alone weighs 11 pounds without the base and is very easy to use. Good for kiddos 4-35 pounds.

For bigger toddlers who still need a car seat by Florida law (under 5), folding boosters are a great option. This model is super compact and can fit kiddos from 40-100 pounds who are 40-59″ tall.

Two other great little boosters are the mifold and the Bubble Bum. Both are under $30. Many states have rules that govern car seats by height and weight. Technically, Florida doesn’t, but many children who are 6, 7 and 8 should still be in a car seat to travel safely.

We personally love the mifold. It’s what I used on trips from Texas to New Hampshire to visit my parents . Around Virginia, my middle daughter would become technically too short to not be in a booster seat. But she was too tall for many traditional high back boosters, so we kept a mifold on hand.

The Bubble Bum is a great option but I stink at blowing up balloons and car seats. It makes my throat hurt, so that one wasn’t a good fit for us.

What has your experience been with getting from Orlando International to Disney World? We’d love to hear! 

Disney’s Magical Express complimentary transportation has ended. Here are some options for your next Disney trip. (photo credits: top-Lauren Bruce, bottom-Kari Baugh) © Provided by TravelingMom Disney’s Magical Express complimentary transportation has ended. Here are some options for your next Disney trip. (photo credits: top-Lauren Bruce, bottom-Kari Baugh)
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