Have you thought about taking your family to Walt Disney World? You are not alone. Perhaps you are even in the planning stages right now. For average families, planning a trip to Disney World can be quite overwhelming, but for those with special needs, it can be almost frightening. We took three wheelchairs on our last trip to Disney. Yes, three! So needless to say, mobility was a concern for us. I worried about how we would manage to get around such a large property, and did not want to rent an accessible van for three chairs. Disney came through for us with flying colors. They have accessible transportation where ever we needed to go, even to and from the airport.
Disney’s Magical Express
The Magical Express is one of the things that makes Disney my favorite vacation spot. No longer is it necessary to carry your luggage through the airport while pushing a wheelchair. Instead, Disney makes airport travel super simple. They will take your checked bags directly from the boarding airport and deliver them right to your room. This allows you to travel around the airport with only your carry on bags. If you would like tips on how to pack your carry on items to make your time at the airport even easier, you can read my post, “Packing Like A Pro.”
When you arrive in the Orlando International Airport, they will take you and your carry on luggage to the resort. And are you ready for it? This service is complimentary for guests staying at a Disney resort! That’s correct! The service is basically free for resort guests. And here is how this service works.
Approximately 30 days prior to your arrival, Disney will mail out special luggage tags. Simply attach the tag to your checked bag, and deliver it to the proper checked bags area for your airline. The Disney luggage tag will notify airport staff that Disney staff will be picking up your bags on your behalf. Once Disney has your bags, they will deliver them to your room up to 4 hours after airport arrival.
Upon arrival at the Orlando International Airport, instead of going to baggage claim, you can head directly to Level One/B where the Magical Express is located. They will help you with motorcoach transport to your resort. If you are travelling with a wheelchair, plan on waiting just a bit for an accessible bus, as they have to adjust seating to make room for the wheelchair. We ended up waiting approximately 30 minutes for our bus to arrive and be ready to board. Please note that your magicband doubles as your ticket to ride, so make sure you do not pack these in your checked bags to avoid boarding issues.
Disney’s Bus System
Once you are at your resort, the main way to travel around Disney property is the Disney Bus service. Each resort has several bus stops within a short walk from your room, and each park as a bus terminal located near the park entrance. All buses are handicap accessible and can accommodate up to three wheelchairs or ECVs per trip.
Using the Disney bus system not only saves you the frustration of figuring out your way around, but it also saves you money. It costs money to park at each park, and if you plan on visiting a park each day of your trip, this can add up. I also love the convenience of being dropped off right at the park entrance.
Utilizing the bus system does require some planning though. Since Disney is a large property, it can take up to 90 minutes to travel from your room to the park without a wheelchair. This time can increase if you have a wheelchair. Since there are a limited number of spots on each bus, you may want to plan for more time especially at times of the year when crowd levels are higher.
If you are an early riser, the bus system is a wonderful experience and your wait time for an accessible bus will be quite short. If not, the bus system can be a long and frustrating process in a wheelchair. For example, on days we were ready early, we waited less then 15 minutes for a bus. But, there was one day we decided to sleep in and our wait time was an hour and a half!
If you have reservations to get to or wish to leave the parks for a break at the resort, make sure you calculate an appropriate amount of time for transportation. We witnessed a very unhappy family who missed their dining reservation due to lack of planning. The staff running the bus stops and the bus drivers are amazing and will do anything they can to make sure you get to your destination on time.
This is by far my favorite mode of transportation! We take a ride on a water taxi even if we are not staying at a property that has this available. We usually try to stay at Port Orleans just for the water taxis. Since each water taxi is simply a pontoon boat, wheelchairs can easily board them from the dock. The wait times for a wheelchair spot seem to be the same as for a regular spot which makes water taxis a very nice option. Since they also seem to be a more direct route, the travel time is quite a bit shorter too. Disney Springs is one of the destinations on the water taxi route, so even if your resort does not have this service, I highly recommend taking a ride anyway.
This service is also only offered at certain resorts and only travels to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. If you are staying at one of the resorts with monorail service, please note that these resorts also use the bus system, so you can check to see which service is faster for your destination. We usually do not stay at a monorail resort, but we do enjoy park hopping between Magic Kingdom and Epcot using this system over the buses.
Like the other transportation options, it can be an extended wait for an accessible car. Make sure to plan around this to avoid scheduling conflicts.
The kids really look forward to riding the monorail as it is not like any transportation we have at home. Like the water taxis, we try to ride the monorail just for the experience. This adds yet another ride our kids don’t have to transfer out of the wheelchair for.
This is the newest form of transportation at Walt Disney World. The Minnie Van is an actual minivan painted in Minnie fashion. For a flat $20 fee, the Minnie Van service will take you anywhere on property you would like to go round trip. Not all resorts are on board with this service yet, so you will want to ask your resort if they participate.
The Minnie Vans are wheelchair accessible which makes them a very nice option when the other modes of transportation are running a bit slow. They can accommodate one wheelchair and up to four additional guests. They even have car seats available for your younger guests. With this service you can sleep in and make your dining reservation on time. And let’s face it, letting your teen sleep in a little longer is worth so much more than $20.
If you find yourself wondering how you will navigate the Walt Disney World Resort with a wheelchair, worry no more! Disney has lots of ways to get you where you need to go, and all of the options are wheelchair accessible. Since they are all kid friendly and fun you may want to ride them for the experience.