Questions about Disney World Shuttle Buses

Edited: June 14, 2018, 7:34 PM

We’re planning a trip to Disney World in early September and are hearing mixed reviews of the shuttle bus system to get from certain hotels to the parks. We thought we’d settled on Port Orleans: Riverside until reviews surfaced of one day taking twenty minutes and the next an hour to get to a park because the bus decided to make the rounds of other hotels. Does anyone have recent experience with buses from this particular hotel? Do the buses from here make multiple stops or head straight to a park? On average how long does it take to get from this hotel to a park? If every hotel has a different time schedule and way of running their buses, then info for the Wilderness Lodge would be appreciated too.

Replies (8)

June 14, 2018, 7:34 PM

Buses are the slot machines of the Walt Disney World Resort. It's a gamble.

In general, I have had good success with the bus system, finding one to take me to a park or back to my hotel more often than not within 10 minutes of getting to the stop. But I almost never use them for anything other than direct transportation from one hotel to a park and back. For "lateral" moves between hotels and such, I would use a Minnie Van or a Lyft, if I didn't have a car on site.

June 15, 2018, 8:33 AM

The only issues we have had with the WDW buses are having to wait for another one during peak periods and the sometimes circuitous routes they can take to their destinations.

If you are staying at Port Orleans Riverside, understand that buses to and from the parks will be shared with Port Orleans French Quarter and occasionally Saratoga Springs (typically only during off-peak hours and days). Also, understand that even though ECPOT is just across the street, the bus goes all the way around the park before entering the parking lot. In general though, the bus will go straight to each of the parks from your hotel, but if you need to get to a different hotel (for a meal or to just walk around - AKL is an amazing resort to explore even if you're not staying there), you need to take a bus to one of the parks or Disney Springs, and then transfer to a different bus that will take you to the resorts. For instance, a trip from Port Orleans to Caribbean Beach (about 0.5 miles apart) can take over an hour because guests have to transfer buses at a park or Disney Springs and are usually waiting for buses at both the departure and transfer points.

In general, during peak times (early mornings going to the parks and evenings coming back to hotels), you should plan on allowing 30-45 minutes to get from your hotel to the parks (including walking door to gate). If you're visiting during busy summer months or holidays, set aside an hour to make the same trip. It's very possible that you may get door to gate in 20 minutes or less, but if you have to wait for a second (or third) bus before departing for your destination, you don't want to miss rope drop or getting to an ADR. As the saying goes, early bird gets the worm, and we've found lines to get on park buses 75-90 minutes before their official opening time virtually non-existent versus 30 minutes prior, when lines are 100-200 people deep (most buses can only take 50-70 people per trip).

All of the resorts pretty much operate the same type of service, though frequency is variable depending upon the time of day, time of year, and size of the resort. The larger resorts like Pop Century/Art of Animation and All-Stars have more frequent service because there are more guests staying at those resorts. Also understand that bus frequency to the water parks and Disney Springs will not be as quick as the theme park routes, and overall frequency varies throughout the day based on demand (buses to the parks in the morning can be every 5-10 minutes, but in the late afternoon they might only be every 20-30 minutes).

My recommendation is to always leave yourself plenty of time so that when you hop right on a bus, you're pleasantly surprised. The best part of the buses is that all routes to the MK drop you off at the gate, not at Ticketing and Transportation, so you don't have to deal with the hassle of the Monorail or Seven Seas Lagoon boats. If you were driving your car to MK, you would typically need to allow an extra 30-45 minutes to get from the parking lot to the park, but when you ride the bus, you're literally steps away from the gate.

If you're park hopping, there are bus routes between the different parks, but also know that the monorail connects MK and EPCOT, and the Friendship Boats connect ECPOT to DHS. If you're staying at Port Orleans Riverside, you can also take a boat to Disney Springs for a change of pace from the bus, though frequency and overall trip time is longer. If you're staying at Wilderness Lodge, you can take a boat to MK.

People give the buses a bad rap, but I think in general Disney does a decent job managing the complex transportation network. Are they the fastest, most convenient way around WDW? Absolutely not, but if you don't have a car, it's an adequate way to get around the resort, you just need to make sure to build a little extra travel time into your schedule. If you do have a car, and don't want to spend over an hour of your day dealing with the buses, I highly recommend driving to all of the parks EXCEPT MK (always take the bus to MK if you can to avoid the Monorail). Buses are also nice to get to and from Disney Springs to avoid the annoying, overcrowded parking garages. While the parking situation at Disney Springs has improved, it can still take a while to find a spot on a busy Friday or Saturday night. Plus, if you want to have some drinks at Disney Springs, you don't have to drive back to your hotel if you take the bus.

June 15, 2018, 9:40 AM

I haven't had bad luck with the bus system, but the reviews can be misleading. Every trip is different. Disney can make operational changes anytime. Either be very early to beat the rush. Or go later to avoid the rush. Take full advantage of Fastpass and make reservations at 10am to 1pm, which is when the park ramps up and gets more busy. Arriving at 10am means the bus is less congested. Leave before fireworks or leave much later afterwards. Don't park hop or return to hotel in mid-afternoon if you don't want to deal with the bus system for additional unnecessary trips. Better to arrive early and leave early, or arrive later and leave later.

June 15, 2018, 12:50 PM

What are these Disney shuttles that you speak of? I see the stations for them at the entrance to each park, but I never see a shuttle there. I gave up on the shuttle system a long time ago. If you're going to WDW for only one day and park hopping like me, it's more time efficient to drive to each park. Sure, there is some extra walking involved, but who doesn't need the exercise.

Would anyone know if the following scenario would be feasible - Park at Disney Springs and request a lyft-uber to one of the parks. Park hop using lyft or uber from there. I don't know what the rate would be for using lyft-uber, but if it was around $5 and you could be dropped off at the Magic Kingdom gate instead of TTC, you could save money rather than paying the parking fee. I'm sure Disney has a way to circumvent this though.

June 15, 2018, 3:05 PM

I've always had great luck with the buses. Sure, you have to wait on busy days but still very promising stuff and can enjoy it immensely as a way to cool down and get to where you want at a decent time.

Edited: June 15, 2018, 3:25 PM

@Kris V - The Lyft/Uber pickup/dropoff point for MK is at TTC, so you would still have to ride the Monorail/boats. You could probably request a drop-off at the Contemporary, and walk over from there if you wanted. Typical rates between WDW locations average between $8-15.

I'm not sure what it's like now, but Disney was notoriously vicious about guests trying to park at Disney Springs/Downtown Disney and hopping on a bus so they could park for free. With more spaces, but more advanced security in the garages, I would presume they are even quicker to identify guests trying to circumvent the parking fees.

I agree that it is typically better to drive between the parks when park hopping, but it can sometimes depend on your schedule. We hopped between three parks in a single day on our most recent trip last October, and kept our car in one place. We started at EPCOT, and made our way back to the International Gateway before taking a Friendship Boat to DHS for Galactic Spectacular. We then took a bus to the Magic Kingdom for Happily Ever After, and then took the Monorail back to EPCOT to pick up our car. If we had moved our car around, it would have meant having to walk all the way from the World Showcase to the front of EPCOT and then would have necessitated riding the Monorail from TTC into the park just before the fireworks, which is always a dicey proposition. As it was, it took 3 buses before we got on one from DHS to MK, and we didn't get the greatest spot for the fireworks, but I'm pretty sure if we had tried to drive in and ride the Monorail, we would have missed the entire show.

June 19, 2018, 12:54 PM

Disney World is now including bus arrival times on its official My Disney Experience app. Here's the promo video from the resort:

June 23, 2018, 9:15 AM

My luck has always generally been good with the buses, but there have been some misses with us.

Disney has figured out a lot of things, but guest peak times does not seem to be one of them. Also, the resort you stay at tends to vary your bus experience.

For example, the All Star resorts (cheapest, relatively) always has a ton of busses running and usually one waiting behind the other. Compare that with the fancy Animal Kingdom Lodge which only has 1 bus about every 20 minutes or so. Its all demographics and how often guest actually drive.

For what its worth, my family usually drives to all the parks except for the Magic Kingdom. EPCOT, DHS, and AK have pretty decent parking lots. MK does too, but its on the other side of the lake!

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