Ultimate Guide to Minnie Vans at Walt Disney World
The hottest transportation at Walt Disney World right now is the Minnie Van. This service combines the utility of ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber with the style of The Walt Disney Company. When you enter one of the MInnie vans, you become one of the park elite. Heads will turn as you drive by, because you’re in an even more impressive vehicle than a limousine. Those rides are everywhere, but yours is exclusive to Orlando.
There are a few things you need to understand about the process, though. Here are a few important things to know about Minnie Vans.
Minnie Vans Can’t Go Everywhere
Disney licensed software for an existing ride-sharing vendor for its Minnie Van service. When you’re ready to book, you’ll download and use the Lyft app. You may have known this already, but I mention it for an important reason. The Lyft app is “dumb” in that it doesn’t know what cast members can and cannot do.
Since Disney doesn’t employ its own proprietary technology, they’re stuck with a product that presumes any driver can perform a pick-up anywhere in any city. For Disney employees, however, limitations are in place. And yes, all Minnie Van drivers are cast members, not standard ride-sharing freelancers.
When Disney added the Minnie Van service, they made some arbitrary but understandable determinations. The first one is that Minnie Van drivers cannot take guests away from the Disney campus. That path could lead to Minnie Vans showing up at Universal Orlando Resort. Both corporations wouldn’t be crazy about that idea.
With Minnie Van drivers limited to the Walt Disney World complex, they have another issue. Disney owns some businesses that aren’t officially viewed as part of the campus. We discovered this during an embarrassing and frustrating booking. Our driver showed up and asked where we wanted to go. Our destination was the Disney Character Warehouse, which is owned by Disney.
We knew we were in trouble when the driver panicked and looked at their GPS. This nice gentleman asked if it was a Disney store. We said yes. He studied his GPS again and indicated that he’d never driven anyone there before. He then texted his dispatcher and was informed that he couldn’t take us there. It was an awkward moment when a cast member had to turn away a customer who was requesting something reasonable but not allowed.
I’ve since researched the matter. My understanding is that cast members may drive Disney guests to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, either mini-golf location, and both water parks. We happened to pick a place that isn’t on that list. I’m bringing it to your attention in case you want to ride a Minnie Van off the campus anywhere but the airport. Also, it’s always a good idea to check with your driver via text, which is possible, to verify that they can drive you where you need to go.
Minnie Van Pick-Up Can Be Slow
Do you live in a major metropolitan area? If so, you may have certain expectations about ride-sharing pick-up. In many large cities, the high volume of drivers assures you of getting a ride in an expedient manner. I want to lower your expectations about this for all kinds of Walt Disney World ride-sharing.
Ride-sharing is a business, and employees tend to follow the money. You’ll have your best luck at Walt Disney World when you order a ride-share at a popular destination. Pick-up at Magic Kingdom is generally quite fast. The same is true at the largest and thereby most crowded official Disney resorts.
Once you move away from these places, you’ll notice that the speed of pick-up declines. Even at Epcot, we’ve had to wait more than 10 minutes for a ride more often than not. Our worst experiences came at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which Uber drivers flat out told us wasn’t a popular spot for the service. We haven’t tried it since the opening of Pandora – The World of Avatar, so the situation has presumably changed some.
The general premise is the same, though. After Magic Kingdom, we’ve had our best luck with ride-sharing pick-ups at Disney Springs, although there’s a game within a game in finding the ride-sharing pick-up area. Beyond the parks and here, however, you shouldn’t expect a driver to arrive immediately. This statement applies to Uber, Lyft, AND Minnie Vans.
With Minnie Vans, we had the worst luck at our hotel. On several occasions, we decided to save ourselves some time by ordering a Minnie Van to get to our destination faster. To our frustration, we generally had to wait 20-30 minutes for a pick-up, which was slower than if we’d chosen Disney buses instead.
In Disney’s defense, we stayed at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter last time, and it’s one of the smallest official resorts. With less demand for Minnie Vans, there’s understandably less product. I bring this to your attention so that you’ll know to factor in the size of your resort when you anticipate pick-up time. You’ll get a Minnie Van much faster at one of the All-Star Resorts than where we were.
To a larger point, the choice of booking a Minnie Van comes down to style over speed. You’re not in a rush for the experience to end quickly anyway. When you’re in a rush, you should book an Uber instead. I’ve found this service to have far and away the fastest overall pick-ups at Walt Disney World, although their drivers are nowhere near as entertaining as Disney cast members.
What about Tipping?
I’m not sure that there’s a Disney-related topic I enjoy discussing less than tipping. People have STRONG opinions on the subject and tend to get dialed up when you disagree with them. I also dislike telling people how to spend their money. So, consider the next paragraph information dissemination more than anything else.
Disney changed their Minnie Van policy early in 2018. Cast members who work as Minnie Van drivers are eligible to accept tips. To a larger point, I’m told that their salaries reflect an expectation of tipping. So, when you’re happy with your service, it’s a nice thing to do.
Should you choose to tip, you’ll have two ways to do so. Cash is always king, so feel free to slip the driver a fin or whatever. You can tip via the Lyft app, too. Drivers have assured me that they receive the tips paid via the app, something I was dubious about given the odd arrangement between Lyft and Disney. This way is less convenient to people who still prefer to carry cash. For the rest of us embracing a cashless society, it’s a simple way to reward excellent service.
The final thing to know about Minnie Vans is that you’ll have the time of your life riding in one. The cast members are great, the cars are extremely comfortable, and the envy of onlookers is intensely satisfying!