Everything You Need to Know About Magical Express
Nobody enjoys air travel. Sure, some people tolerate it better than others, but the entire process is aggravating. You sit in a tight area, rubbing elbows with complete strangers. Even worse, you have to keep track of your luggage. Otherwise, you’re living that nightmare of being naked in a crowded room.
As always, Disney has thought about the problems of its guests. The company has created a service that will make your flight less stressful. The program is known as Magical Express, and it’s one that every Disney vacationer staying onsite should utilize. Here’s a guide on using Magical Express.
Explaining Magical Express
When you take a trip, you need luggage. Unfortunately, it’s heavy to carry and aggravating to move around. Also, when you fly, you have to worry about how you’ll navigate Walt Disney World. You either need to rent a car to drive around the campus or employ some combination of taxis and ride-sharing services to reach your destination(s). Once you arrive at Disney, the company’s transportation can take care of your needs, but that won’t help you at the airport.
The purpose of Magical Express is to alleviate you of these concerns. Past a certain point, Disney will take care of your luggage, saving you the trouble of hauling it around on your travel days. The company will also provide transportation from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to the Disney resort where you’re staying. While Disney can’t do anything about airplane legroom or “food”, they’ve made every other aspect of vacation travel much easier.
How Magical Express Works
You’ll presumably book your trip months ahead of time, probably with one of the helpful professionals at MickeyTravels. Once you have your flight information, you can use Disney’s Magical Express service with any inbound domestic airline. Try to do this at least a month ahead of time, but Disney says that a 10-day buffer is enough for them to send you the necessary luggage tags.
Setup is a breeze. You only need to call Disney’s Magical Express customer service at 866-599-0951 to tell them your plans. You can even do it online if that’s more convenient. Alternately, you can let your travel agent do it for you, the easiest choice.
After filling out forms with your hotel reservation number and flight information, you’re all set for now. A few days after you’re done, you’ll receive luggage tags in the mail, one per person. If you need more, just let Disney know.
When you’re ready to take your trip, place these tags around each piece of luggage. When you arrive at your local airport, you’ll drop off your bags the same way that you would for any other flight. The difference is that once you hand off your luggage, you don’t need to worry about it the rest of the trip.
The tags will make sure that your items get routed to the proper resort. This won’t happen immediately, of course. You’ll arrive at the hotel before your luggage does. Generally, it’s in your hotel room about four hours after your flight. For that reason, you should remember to pack all your important items in carry-ons. That’s especially true of your Magic Bands. Please don’t forget them.
What to Do at MCO
When your flight touches down in Orlando, you should proceed to the Disney area. It’s the first floor of Terminal B. You shouldn’t have any problem finding it. After all, many of the people arriving in Orlando are there for the same thing you are: a wonderful Disney vacation. Still, you won’t have to follow the crowd or ask for directions. Disney conveniently includes a detailed airport map with the luggage tags.
When you reach Level 1 of Terminal B, you’ll see the Disney section. Get in the line queue and wait to speak with a cast member. At this point, the person will ask to scan your Magic Band. Once they’ve verified your information, they’ll send you to a waiting area for your bus.
Please make sure to pick the line that’s designated for your resort. Disney has specific waiting areas for each place. As an example, the monorail resorts all share the same Magical Express line queue. Once you check-in for Magical Express at the airport, you may get ushered onto the vehicle right away, or you may wait 45 minutes. It’s seemingly random, and luck plays a factor.
Once your bus arrives, you’ll have the option to store any large items you may have. The driver will take care of this for you. If you do store anything, please remember not to leave it when you depart the bus later.
Your Magical Express bus trip will get you in the mood for your trip. Disney videos will play throughout the ride, which should take half an hour or so. Assuming you pay attention, you’ll participate in some Disney trivia, you’ll receive tips and suggestions about the parks, and you’ll learn more about the art of Disney Imagineering. It really is an entertaining video, presuming you’re not too excited and/or distracted to pay attention.
You should be aware of two facts about the Magical Express buses. First, the vehicle will stop at several hotels. You need to pay attention for your stop. It’s also a good idea to verify with your driver where you’re staying. We once had to exit at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, drag our stuff to the monorail, and ride back to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. That happened because our driver didn’t stop there. He wasn’t aware that he had any guests for that property.
This brings me to the final point. You should carry some cash so that you can tip the bus driver. The person has done some heavy lifting and provided a service to you. A gratuity is reasonable. The consensus is that $5 is standard, but some people feel $1 a bag is fair, too. The driver who forgot to make our stop…didn’t get a tip. I mention that to point out that every situation is relative. You don’t have to tip if something bad happens, but it’s Disney. So, the odds of poor customer service are very small.
Magical Express Pro Tips
The one flaw with Magical Express is that you’re at the whim of Disney transportation. While that’s true any time you’re on the Walt Disney World campus, you may find the airport situation particularly frustrating. Sometimes, you may wait as long as an hour for a bus. Including the 30 minutes of travel time from the airport to the hotel, that’s an excruciating 90 minutes where you’re in Orlando, Florida, but not at Walt Disney World!
Once Disney has your bags, there’s no rule saying that you have to board a Magical Express bus. If you walk up to the counter and see that there’s an empty line for your resort, you just missed a bus. The next one won’t arrive for a while. In this scenario, you should consider using a ride-sharing service. For about $20, you can catch a ride to your resort rather than wait an undetermined amount of time.
The corollary here is that the Magical Express resort line at the airport is the only line where you want to see a huge line during your stay. If a lot of people are waiting, a Magical Express bus should arrive any minute.
Another tip is that you don’t NEED your paperwork when you arrive at the Disney part of MCO. It’s best to have this information, but you’re not helpless if you misplace it. A cast member at the Magical Express counter will ask you to show your Magic Band. They can look up your information this way and direct you to the appropriate bus. They can even take your luggage at this point and ship it to the resort if you haven’t done so already.
This method isn’t the best use of Magical Express, but you’re probably relieved to know that you have options in these situations. As always, your best bet is to ask a cast member for help. Disney’s staff offers the best customer service in the world. Somebody can help you. The only concern is that you have to arrive between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. Otherwise, no one from Disney will be there to assist you.
One other suggestion is to pull up a Magical Express airport video on your phone/tablet. If you get confused while walking around MCO, you can pull up the video to follow the precise instructions. It will include landmarks like restaurants and stores that you can use as a guide to reach Terminal B. Here’s a link to a good one.
Finally, you will discover one final benefit of Magical Express when you’re ready to check out of a Disney resort. The outbound service, Resort Airline Check-In, allows you to check in your luggage at the hotel. Disney will direct it to the appropriate flight. You can also get your boarding pass and pay luggage fees at this station.
By doing this, Disney negates many of the aggravating elements of the return flight, saving you the effort at MCO. You’ll only have to go through the security scanner before heading to your boarding gate. It’ll be the easiest boarding process of your entire life.
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