Express Transportation: The Best $29 I Spent on My Walt Disney World Trip
UPDATE Sept 20, 2017: I am sad to report that Express Transportation is no longer offered at Walt Disney World. There is a new service, MINNIE VAN SERVICE, that is offered for people who want alternative transportation to get around the World. It is like their version of Lyft/Uber.
Last week while at Walt Disney World I visited four parks in six hours and went through security just once. But more on that later.
If you are going to be at Walt Disney World for more than 3 days and plan on Park Hopping, Express Transportation is a premium worth considering. For $29, you get access to a separate WDW bus that will allow you to Park Hop faster and also bypass security.
Where to Buy
You must purchase a Park Hopper in order to eligible to purchase this premium. There is a Single-Day ($19) option but does this really makes sense with the $29 Multi-Day option. I had already purchased my tickets, so all I did was visit a Guest Relations window to add Express Transportation. It was seamless and they added it to my Magic Band.
How It Works
Once you get on the figurative bus for Express Transportation, Disney puts you on the literal bus. There is one specific Express Transportation area in each of the 4 parks. The designated areas are easy to find. You check in, tell them which Park you want to go to, and they give you an ETA about when your bus will arrive. There is a designated Express Transportation bus for each of the Parks and they each have a schedule. Buses arrive and depart about every 30 minutes.
If you miss your bus, they tell when the next one is picking up guests. You can change your destination depending on what bus is scheduled to arrive next. I never waited for more than 20 minutes. I never saw a queue of people waiting for different buses, either. This is all during Easter weekend, one of the busiest times at the Parks.
Once your bus arrives, everyone who has been checked in for a specific Park bus are escorted to a backstage area. Guest Relations escorts one group to the bus loading area. This is a very controlled process since you are being brought to areas that the public is usually not allowed in. There are signs politely asking that no photographs are allowed in this area.
You might wait another 5 minutes for any last minute stragglers but they are pretty efficient about boarding the group at one time and departing in a timely manner. I never saw more than 2 busses in the loading area so it never seemed that there was a back up.
Why Express Transportation is a Good Value
One of the troubles with Walt Disney World is how spread out everything is. Moving from one park to another takes a long time. Express transportation speeds that up … significantly. The bus goes directly from the backstage of one Park to the other backstage area of your Park destination. Once you get off the bus and are escorted in, you bypass the regular entrance so you are pretty much in the middle of whatever Park you chose.
You also bypass security since you are not going through the front entrance of each Park. Waiting and going through security takes a lot of time, but not with Express Transportation.
If you've park-hopped in the past, you've probably sat at bus stops hoping they have room for you on the next bus. I hate the way everyone jockeys for a seat and then piles on in a mad dash. With Express Transportation, there is no fighting for a seat on the bus. Since they check you in, they know how many people need rides for each of the Parks. There was never more than a dozen people on the bus rides I took. There was one trip, from Epcot to Magic Kingdom, where it was just the driver, another person, and me on the bus.
Time on a bus that is not crowded and air-conditioned provided some good down time. You could really get a break from the crowds and heat on an Express Transportation bus. If you are traveling with a group or kids, the Express Transportation bus makes it easy to stay together and ease the anxiety of getting everyone to another place within a time constraint.
"I visited all 4 Parks in 6 Hours & only went through Security 1 time."
Here is an example of how I used Express Transportation during one of the days I visited. I should disclose that I was by myself, it was day 3 of my trip, and I wasn't planning on doing many rides during the first part of my day. My last stop was going to be Magic Kingdom where I was going to end my day and close out the Park.
On the Saturday before Easter, I made it to all four Parks in six hours, and only went through Security once. The first Park that I visited would be the only place that I had to go through Security since I would have to go through its main entrance.
I started my day at around 900 at Animal Kingdom. I wanted to walk through some of the trails in the morning and take some photos of the Tree of Life. It was a really quick trip so I was ready to leave by about 10. Before I checked in, I had gotten a cup of coffee and a pastry that I could munch on while I waited to be escorted to the Express Transportation bus.
This particular bus trip had the most people that I had ridden with while trying out this service. There were probably about a little over dozen people that boarded a bus to go to Hollywood Studios but it was still easy to get a seat. Plenty of room for those families who had strollers, too.
My second stop was Hollywood Studios. I managed to squeeze in a visit to see the new BB8 Meet & Greet, watch One's Man's Dream, and watch the Stormtroopers March, twice. I even waited to see the Star Wars stage show and had some time to shop. My next stop and third Park hop was Epcot.
I got to Epcot with the intention seeing the rest the Flower & Garden Festival that I had missed on my first day. When I got to Epcot, I had time to go through stand-by for Spaceship Earth. I also waited in line for a photo-op with Baymax. Than I made way to World Showcase to take more photos of the character topiaries and try a out a couple more of the yummy food booths.
After a couple hours, I made way back to the Express Transportation to catch a bus to the Magic Kingdom. I had dinner reservations for 530 pm at the Skipper Catina. I was meeting a friend so I didn't want to be late. This was my fourth and final Park visit for the day. I spent the evening at Magic Kingdom since it was open until midnight.
Here is a summary of my Park Hopping timeline:
Entry to Animal Kingdom main entrance & Security, 9am
1st Park Hop, 10:10 am - Animal Kingdom to Hollywood Studios (20 minute ride)
2nd Park Hop, 1::30 pm - Hollywood Studios to EPCOT (less than 15 minutes)
3rd Park Hop, 4:10 pm - EPCOT to Magic Kingdom (about 10 minutes)
Express Transportation is a premium service and worth it if 1) you have a multi-day pass and 2) you are planning to park hop. It will save you time as you won't have to wait long for a bus and you get picked up and dropped off in central park locations. It really beats walking all the way to the main entrance, walking to the bus areas, and hoping you'll get a seat on the bus you want to be on. It makes it much easier to park hop, even if you are only two parks in a day. Knowing you have access and that there is schedule to Express Transportation helps you to manage any advance dining reservation you may have. I didn't feel pressed to allow for extra time to get from one place to another. I actually had a little more time to shop, eat, and enjoy whatever the Park offered.
There is a one day option so that if you knew a day where you were going to park hop, you could purchase it just for that day. The multi-day option is simply a great value. Again, not having to walk all the way to the front entrance plus the bus loading and then waiting and hoping to get on a bus in a timely manner makes this premium service worth it. Oh, and I didn't have to go through Security every time I used the service. I only went through Security once... when I entered my first park visit of the day and had to go through the main entrance.