Magical Express Pro Tips Disney Guests Should Know
The moment that you board the Magical Express is one of the greatest feelings. You know that you’re only a short bus ride away from the Most Magical Place on Earth. You can barely contain your excitement as you anticipate that glorious moment when you enter your favorite theme park and bask in the joy of a perfect vacation.
A lot can happen on that bus ride, though. Some of it may frustrate you, especially when you’re not expecting it. Here are a few Magical Express pro tips to guarantee you the smoothest process possible.
You Don’t Need Luggage Tags
Did you forget to order your luggage tags for Magical Express prior to your trip? Or did the post office screw up, losing your tags? The latter has happened to my family several times, and I’m here to tell you that it’s fine.
Disney doesn’t need your luggage to have Magical Express tags to find it. When you arrive at the Magical Express counter, simply check in and hand over your airport luggage tags to the cast member. They’ll scan your Magic Band, thereby connecting your luggage with your room. It’ll be there later that day. But…
Your Luggage Won’t Arrive Immediately
A minor inconvenience of Magical Express is the delay in luggage delivery. Disney will pick up your bags at the airport, redirect them to the appropriate Disney resort, and ship them to Bell Services for that location. Something that you must remember is that this process takes time.
When you pick up your own luggage at the airport, you wait at Baggage Claim until your bags are dispensed. It’s generally a 20-minute process, presuming that nothing goes wrong. When you use Magical Express, Disney advises you to expect luggage delivery in three or four hours.
I’ve never found the delay to be a big deal. A pro tip I want to stress is that you should pack all of your important items in a carry-on bag or backpack. Your admission tickets, your identification, Magic Bands, and the like shouldn’t go into your luggage since you’ll be without access for a few hours. Plan for that issue, and it will never inconvenience you.
Bell Services Isn’t Open 24 Hours
Disney lists the operating hours for Bell Services on their official site. Luggage delivery is possible between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. (EST). Should you have a red eye or an unholy early morning flight, you won’t get your bags as fast. Bell Services obviously cannot deliver anything when they’re not open.
You must determine whether you need your bags immediately or can wait until normal operating hours. In my experience, when my family has a red eye flight, we go straight to bed when we reach the hotel anyway. After all, the parks are all closed by this point.
Morning flights are a bit trickier. For starters, Orlando International Airport doesn’t have all of their counters open yet, slowing down the procedural stuff. This aspect may lead to some tension on Tragical Express on the flight out, as TSA security checks take much longer.
For flights into Orlando, however, only a handful of planes arrive before 5 a.m. Seriously, I’ve checked the schedule. Excluding private and international flights, it’s a very small number. So, it probably won’t apply to you. If it does, simply think about which items you absolutely must have before 5 a.m. I’d be surprised if you came up with anything crucial.
Prepare for Multiple Stops
The most important moment on a Magical Express bus ride happens at the start. Pay careful attention to whether the driver asks about your drop-off. This question rarely gets asked. When it does, the driver has had a last-minute change in the passenger manifest. The cast member needs to verify whether he can safely skip a stop.
I know what you’re thinking. Why would the driver skip a stop? Disney resorts “share” Magical Express buses. For example, the line for all of the monorail resorts is the same. With three resort drop-offs, one will come first, while one will unfortunately be last.
A bus driver doesn’t want to make excessive stops. If their passenger manifest shows no drop-offs at a resort, they’d prefer to skip it. They will ask at the start of the Magical Express trip to verify, though.
You should pay attention to this, as the drivers don’t use the intercom system. Anyone sitting toward the back of the bus may miss it. After getting skipped a couple of times, we’ve started telling the driver where we’re going just to be safe. That one time where we had to drag our carry-ons through the lobby of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa wasn’t fun. We’d rather not repeat it.
We were unlucky, though. Most Magical Express users never have an issue. The one thing that you should still remember is that you might not be the first stop. The process of disembarking from the bus takes a few minutes. It’s rarely more than 10 and sometimes as few as five if only a couple of guests depart.
Still, each stop delays your arrival time a bit. Remain patient when your resort isn’t first. Yes, you’ll need a few minutes longer to get to your room and then the wonderful theme parks. It’s worth the wait, though.
One final thing to keep in mind is that the largest resorts have the most people departing, too. When you stay at Disney’s Port Orleans – Riverside, you should pick a seat at the front of the bus to get ahead of the crowd. This choice is less of a big deal at Disney’s Port Orleans – French Quarter, a smaller property. Tying the two concepts together, French Quarter is also better since it’s one stop ahead of Riverside on the Magical Express bus drop-off schedule.
A Warning about the Tragical Express
Nobody likes to leave Walt Disney World. That’s where we all want to live, right? Alas, the real world beckons when your vacation is done.
The Magical Express trip back to the airport, the one nicknamed Tragical Express, has some strange requirements. Disney has to allow for transportation issues like road maintenance, car wrecks, and other things that they can’t control. Plus, TSA takes longer than ever these days.
For these reasons, your Magical Express return trip has an early departure time. Disney will request that you be on the pick-up location somewhere between two and four hours ahead of time.
I speak from experience when I say that leaving a Disney resort four hours prior to an early morning flight is a doomsday travel scenario. You’ll face that enticing temptation of staying up all night to enjoy the parks as much as possible before you must go home.
I also speak from experience when I say that missing your Magical Express bus is a nightmare scenario. Do NOT do what I’ve done before. It screws up everything and forces you into a chaotic race to the airport prior to your flight.
Disney will leave paperwork about your Tragical Express departure. Pay careful attention to the departure time. Then, make certain that you’re at the appropriate location at the designated time. A few minutes early is better since I’ve seen more than one bus driver leave early. If you arrive on time for your bus trip but the bus is already gone, you’re out of luck. It’s a blueprint example of “better safe than sorry.”
Finally, I want to mention that you may not get paperwork for your Tragical Express departure. Paperwork mishaps aren’t common per se, but they do happen. The day before you are scheduled to fly out, look out for your paperwork. If you don’t have it, contact the front desk.
They’ll either send you updated Magical Express documentation or instruct you on where to go and what to say to your driver. We have had this happen to us before. It’s an easy fix, with or without paperwork. Frankly, everything here is easily manageable. I just don’t want you to get caught unprepared for a minor aggravations during your trip to and from the Most Magical Place on Earth.