Ride Sharing at Disney
A Disney vacation is always a wonderful experience, one that you’ll remember for a lifetime. Still, certain aspects of it could use some improvement. Sure, free buses and boats to all the parks and resorts are nice, and the monorail will always remind you of the first time you saw it.
Sentimentality aside, however, you want to move from place to place as fast as possible. Waiting in line isn’t optimal at Disney, but that’s especially true when you’re waiting to travel to or from the parks. Thankfully, a new option has arisen that changes the landscape. Here’s a quick guide on ride-sharing at Walt Disney World.
The Basics of Ride-Sharing
First of all, a lot of the discussion here also applies to Disneyland. The difference is that traffic near the Happiest Place on Earth is brutal. Also, since the campus is so much smaller, you don’t have the same transportation constraints. You can easily walk from place to place, at least as long as you’re staying at Disneyland. Ride-sharing is more important when you travel away from the resort to other parts of the greater Los Angeles area. And you should accept in advance that you will get hit with surge pricing regularly in the city.
At Walt Disney World, the situation is much different, although the basics of ride-sharing are still the same. You’ll grab your smartphone, load your favorite ride-sharing app, and request service. Uber is the best known of these apps and also dominant in terms of market share. Many people prefer Lyft, and Disney probably falls under this umbrella for reasons I’ll discuss later. From now on, I’m just going to say Uber for the sake of brevity. Substitute in Lyft or a different ride-sharing service if you prefer one of those.
Anyway, you request an Uber, and the app updates to show the driver information. It includes the driver’s contact number so that you can text or call if needed. It also shows the driver’s rating. That’s pertinent information, as Uber doesn’t seem to monitor the driver scores in Orlando. We once had someone with a 3.8 grade get assigned to us on two separate occasions months apart. Allegedly, anyone under 4.6 should get fired from the service. So, pay careful attention to those grades. Otherwise, you might wind up standing around waiting for your driver even longer than you’d need to wait for a bus or boat.
Uber’s location software is excellent. Even on streets with plenty of twists and turns, it’ll know the place where your driver should pick you up. Nine times out of ten, you’ll see the driver coming (the app tells you the make and color of the car). Rarely, you’ll need to send a text to find one another. Remember, you’re at Walt Disney World, a place that always has a mob of tourists.
The Advantages of Ride-Sharing
Everyone has a different philosophy about a Disney vacation. Here’s mine. When I travel to Walt Disney World, I want to maximize the time I spend participating in enjoyable activities. Over the years, I’ve developed several strategies to do this, and I’m always on the lookout for others. My frustration is that some aspects of a day at the park are unavoidable.
Walt Disney World is the largest theme park campus in the continental United States. It’s big enough that it hosts four different themed gates plus a massive shopping center at Disney Springs. Traveling from one location to another is difficult at times. While Disney has improved dramatically in recent years, I still have trouble anticipating when a bus or boat will arrive. There’s a randomness to the process that’s sometimes maddening.
One of my go-to complaint stories about Disney travels involved the end of a recent trip. My wife and I headed to Hollywood Studios the morning prior to our Magical Express flight out of Orlando. We left the park with more than an hour to go on our bus departure time. We then watched in impotent frustration as the Hollywood Studios parking lot featured dozens of buses arriving, none of which would take us back to our resort. One other Disney hotel had more than a dozen buses show up during that timeframe. It was maddening.
We eventually had to call the front desk of the hotel, explain the situation, and request that they do something. To Disney’s credit, they immediately sent out a van, but I’ll never understand the mercurial, seemingly haphazard nature of the transportation system. Luck seems to play a huge factor at times, and mine seems to be perennially terrible.
That’s where Uber comes into play. Ride-sharing drivers are plentiful on the Walt Disney World campus, especially in three places. Those are Magic Kingdom and the monorail resorts area, Epcot, and Disney Springs. Whenever you need to go to or depart from one of those locations, you can order an Uber that should arrive within minutes. It’s much faster than Disney transportation, although there is one major drawback we’ll discuss in the next section.
The Disadvantages of Ride-Sharing
Say what you will about Disney’s transportation system. It’s free. Sometimes, you definitely get what you pay for as a bus shuts the door moments before you reach it. But free is always best. With Uber and other ride-sharing services, you’re paying a set fee for your transportation. You don’t even know what the fee is, either.
Uber fee estimation calculators are plentiful online, and you do have some control over the cost. The type of vehicle that you choose impacts the price. UberX is currently the cheapest, with a $1 base fee and charges of $0.11 per minute and $0.71 per mile. The prices go up for each level of service, of course. Also, you may not have a choice if you’re traveling with a large party. You may need UberXL, which has greater storage and passenger capacities. In other words, you’re going to pay for your ride, which is why many guests stick with Disney transportation.
Those of us who use Uber generally pay about $10-$15 for most rides. The one caveat is that surge pricing can dramatically increase the fare rate. Should you see bumper-to-bumper traffic from your car, understand that you’re likely to pay more. It’s the cost of doing business.
The other huge disadvantage of ride-sharing is the randomness of drivers. As mentioned, we’ve had a couple of bad drivers over the years. One of them has so many problems that we’ve idly wondered how they find their car keys each morning. We’ve also had some amazing drivers. One was a former Admiral in the Navy who shared some gripping stories about his service time. As the son of a Navy man, I was riveted.
Unfortunately, you cannot control the driver selection process, at least the first time. Should you find a driver that you like, however, you do have the ability to exchange contact information. That Uber freelancer can become your personal chauffeur while you’re on vacation. You can request them whenever you need a ride, understanding that they have other customers, too. So, the randomness of the drivers is a negative, but it’s also a problem with a potential solution.
The Stylish Kind of Ride-Sharing
I mentioned previously that Disney has kind of picked sides in the great ride-sharing wars. They introduced a new, attention-grabbing service in 2017. It’s called Minnie Vans, and you can read all about it here. While this program is 100% under Disney’s control, there is a caveat to that. You book your Minnie Van through the Lyft app. The price is $20 one way, meaning that you don’t have to worry about hidden or unexpected fees. You’re paying $20 to ride in the coolest vehicles at Walt Disney World.
I don’t like to tell people how to spend their money since I know everyone’s budget is different. What I will say is that for my family, the choice between a generic Uber with some random driver and a Minnie Van driven by a trained cast member isn’t a choice at all. We’re firmly in the Minnie Van camp these days.
Whichever ride-sharing service that you pick, you’ll relish the convenience. As other Mickey Travelers stand in the bus queue, depressed and frustrated, you get to walk up to a personal driver and zoom away in mere moments. It’s a much more efficient way to spend your days at Walt Disney World, assuming that the extra expense doesn’t bother you.
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