Disney’s Magical Express

Magical Express Booklet

Magical Express Booklet

What is it?

Disney’s Magical Express (ME) is a service offered by Walt Disney World to provide free airport transfers and luggage service between Orlando International Airport and select Walt Disney Resort Hotels. This service can be booked at the same time you make your Disney Resort reservation.  If you don’t know your airline info at this time, it can be added anytime up to ten days prior to your arrival. It is recommended that you book the service a minimum of six weeks prior to your arrival.  During the busy seasons early booking is most likely very important, but for our off season trips our motor coaches are rarely above 25% capacity. Regardless, don’t put it off if you have your flight info. [Read more…]

Disney World Boat Transportation System

Using the Walt Disney World Boat transportation system on their extensive waterways is a relaxing, convenient, and unique way of getting from place to place on Disney property. Since not every location is connected by a waterway, it is simply not possible to use Disney World Boat transportation for all your travel needs on Disney property. However, if their routes fit your itinerary, boat transport can be a peaceful escape from the crowded busses, offering a smoother ride and even a cool breeze off the water. In addition, although they travel more slowly, their routes may still get you to your destination more quickly, especially when bus lines are long and nobody realizes the boat line is empty. Not to mention that there are no traffic lights on the waterways, and for that matter, there is no traffic whatsoever!

Epcot Internal Transport

On your first trip or two to Disney World you may not consider using the boats simply because there is not a lot of readily available info to help you find your way. For my first visit I didn’t even realize that the boats in World Showcase Lagoon in Epcot were open to the public. One runs between Canada and Morocco and the other between Mexico and Germany. Each of those boat rides saves a third of a mile walk. That may not sound like a lot saved steps, and you may be able to do the walk in less time, but after a full day in the parks in the 90+ degree August heat, it is a welcome break. Note that these routes run the Friendship boats which are enclosed and air conditioned. There is also limited open air seating in the back of the boat.

Disney World Boat Transportation in Epcot

Boat routes for World Showcase in Epcot

Epcot to Resorts and Hollywood Studios

Saving some miles in Epcot is just the start. Just outside the World Showcase entrance to Epcot you can pick up a boat that will get you all the way to Hollywood Studios. These are also from the Friendship fleet, offering the same enclosed air conditioned seating. The entire trip to HS will take about 40 minutes, including stops at the Boardwalk, Yacht and Beach Club and the Swan and Dolphin resorts. That may sound like a long boat ride, but if you were already in World Showcase you would have a 15-20 minute walk out to your bus stop, a 5-20 minute wait for your bus and a 15 minute ride to Hollywood Studios. You may also consider walking to Yacht & Beach Club for an ice cream at Beaches-n-Cream and waiting for the next boat headed towards Hollywood Studios. Point is, there are many different ways to utilize the Disney Boat Transportation system to break up the day.

Disney World Boat Transportation from Epcot

Boat from Epcot thru Boardwalk Area to Hollywood Studios

Port Orleans to Downtown Disney

If you are staying at either of the Port Orleans resorts, Saratoga Springs, or Old Key West, you have the option of traveling by boat to Downtown Disney. These boats run to Downtown Disney Marketplace. For Port Orleans, take the Yellow Flag Boats.

Disney World Boat Transportation from Port Orleans to Downtown Disney

Port Orleans resorts to Downtown Disney

Saratoga Springs and Old Key West to Downtown Disney

The Disney World Boat Transportation also runs between Downtown Disney and the two DVC Resorts, Saratoga Springs and Old Key West. From Downtown Disney, take the Blue Flag boats.

Disney World Boat Transportation to Downtown Disney from Saratoga Springs and Old Key West

Old Key West and Saratoga Springs

The walk from Downtown Disney West Side to Marketplace is about 0.6 miles. Later in the day you can avoid this hike by taking the Green Flag Boat, which has a dedicated route between the two ends of Downtown Disney. Note that the Green Flag boats do not run until later in the afternoon.

Magic Kingdom area resorts to Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom has the most extensive options for traveling to and from by boat. There are three docks to catch the four different routes leaving Magic Kingdom. Check the signs to make sure you are waiting at the correct dock. Depending on the time of day, one to three large Ferryboats run back and forth to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC). These are the largest boats, carrying up to 600 people on two levels and will accommodate wheelchairs and strollers. There are two dedicated boats for Wilderness Lodge (Red Flag) and two dedicated for Fort Wilderness (Green Flag). There are also two dedicated boats (Gold Flags) that run loops between Magic Kingdom, the Grand Floridian, and the Polynesian. Note that there is no direct boat from Magic Kingdom to The Contemporary. The only way to The Contemporary via boat would be to go to Wilderness Lodge or Fort Wilderness and then take the Blue Flag boat, which runs a dedicated loop between The Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge, and Fort Wilderness.

Disney World Boat Transportation around Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

As you can see, the boat transportation system at Disney World can be somewhat confusing and a bit complex. But once you get it figured out, it can add another dimension to the Disney Magic. It is a relaxing and unique mode of transportation that is sometimes more convenient and possibly more time efficient than other Disney transportation options. Download a Disney Boat Route Map.

Review: Disney Parks Mobile Magic App

In November of 2009 Disney released their Mobile Magic app for Verizon Wireless customers. This past August, we had a chance to try it out. The app costs $9.99 for 180 days of access and a 24 hour free trial is also offered. I used the free trial version and did not find any missing functionality. If it is any indication of where this review is going, I plan on buying this app on our next vacation. The only reason I didn’t buy it this trip was that the trial continued to function for the full two days we had in the parks. I imagine they will catch up with me on the next trip…

For each location on Disney property the Mobile Magic app offers a module for Today’s Events, Attractions, Characters, Search, Transportation, Games, My Favorites, Shopping, Guest Services, and Dining. The app works for Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California.

There are a few other apps out there offering information about schedules, wait times and fastpass return times. For these other apps, schedule information is probably fairly reliable, but wait times and fastpass return times are maintained by users of the app. They either enter these times in to a web page for others to view or they click a button when they get in line and click it again when they get on the ride and the system calculates wait times to be posted for others to view. Since it relies on users to maintain the information, it is often out of date or simply incorrect. Disney’s Mobile Magic App does not have this limitation.

When you run the app it uses the phones LBS to determine where you are and displays the proper park or resort location. For the app to know your location you must have the LBS (location based services) function enabled on your phone. This is an easy function to turn on and the app can help you if needed.

The Attractions module

Being offered by Disney, this app has a distinct advantage over others in that it can pull real time data directly from the Disney network for ride wait times, and Fastpass return times. It does not rely on users to maintain this data.

The wait times and return times for the park you are in are accurate and up to the second that you select the Attractions module in the program. Based on the time it takes to load the Attractions module it seems to be gathering all ride data at once rather than querying it as you select a ride. I can only assume it does not update while you are viewing the times, only each time you select the Attraction module.

Note that Disney limits access to exact wait times and return times to the park you are currently in. It will however let you know if fastpasses are “available”, “nearly gone”, or “not available” and a general indication of wait times of “see now”, “moderate”, or “heavy”. If a ride is not functioning it will be listed as “down”. I did not have another person at another park to verify the accuracy of this information or to tell me the actual time of a “moderate” wait.

The attractions module will also give you a map of the park and locate you and the attraction on the map to help you find your way.

The Today’s Events module

When you select this module it starts with the weather for the day and as you scroll down lists each of the events and the next show time. Selecting the event you see a list of all the show times for the day and can select maps to the location and even set a reminder for the event. This is definitely easier than dealing with those printed schedules that always get buried in a bag somewhere. We all seem to be able to quickly find our cell phone these days.

The Today’s Events module is also very accurate and up to date. The Main Street Electrical Parade was something we wanted to see and was on the schedule on the Disney website when we planned our trip. I checked the app the day we planned to see it and it was not listed. I asked two cast members and they checked their printed schedules and said it was running. When we got to Magic Kingdom I asked again and the cast member said there was a lot of confusion but no, the parade was not running that night. So the app had more up to date info than some of the cast members.

I did find the location of some of the events to be incorrect. It showed The Village Beatniks playing under The Tree of Life which was off by quite a bit.

I did not fully check out any of the other modules but I assume they are equally as accurate and functional. I am sure the Characters module would be very helpful in finding those elusive character greeting spots and arriving before the crowds. The Dining module looks very useful as well.

I would recommend this to anyone that has a compatible Verizon phone. I could see where, during the busier times of the year, the ride information could be a great time saver. For people new to the parks the mapping system should be very helpful. And for the geeks like me, I loved it! I am not sure how much data it uses but make sure you have some sort of prepaid data plan because pay as you go would probably cost a fortune.

Free Wireless Internet on Disney World Property

There is a lot of different information out there on what is available in the way of free wireless internet on Disney World Property. On our last trip to The World, I brought my iPod Touch with me to see for myself what truly is available. The info I share here is by no means comprehensive, but it is at least correct at the time of this post. On each vacation we take to The World, we will gather more info on any available free wi-fi we find. We will post this info on the blog but will also maintain the Free Wi-Fi On Disney World Property page for a single, convenient place to find the free wireless hotspots offered by Disney.

Truly free wireless Internet connections are rare on Disney property. One place to find it is in the Boardwalk area. Both Big River Grill and Brewing Works and The Wyland Gallery offer free wireless Internet. I talked with Cast Members in each location and verified that these are intentional free wireless hotspots provided for guests. To date, the only other legitimately free wireless I have found and verified is in Epcot, at Innoventions West, where the IBM Thinkplace offers free wi-fi.

In Hollywood Studios, near Star Tours, I found a wi-fi connection that required a login. The login page had a link for Disney employees to create a temporary login for their guests. I can only assume that this is exactly what it sounds like and anyone who is visiting as a guest of a Cast Member could get a temporary login to use this connection. I happen to know a Disney employee and am working on verifying this…

I have read about many other locations to find free wireless at Disney. On this last trip I found that most of them were incorrect but I have personally verified the few places I mention above. I imagine there are other locations but I will not post them until I have verified them myself. If you know of a location to find free wireless, leave us a comment below. I plan on putting more effort in to finding, verifying, and documenting as many of Disney’s free wireless hotspots as possible.

Tips for Using the Disney World Magical Express Service

We have a couple tips to share with you regarding the Walt Disney World Magical Express Service.  For a quick description of this service, see the post “Disney’s Magical Express“. Over the last several years we have used the service many times and for each of those trips the Magical Express has served us well. We would like to share our experience to help you optimize your enjoyment of everything that Disney has to offer by avoiding some of the waits that can be associated with using the Magical Express service. [Read more…]