Ah, the buses at the Walt Disney World! You either love them or you hate them. Or you have no clue how to utilize them! Lucky for you, they don’t have to be a mystery. Knowing a few simple tips and tricks and you might just end up loving them like we do. I mean it helps that we have a four-year old obsessed with buses, but we really do find the buses are a great way to get around Walt Disney World. What exactly do you need to know about the buses to have them help you during your trip versus having them be a headache? Here are a few insights and tips to help with how to use the buses at Walt Disney World:
1. Park Bus Start Time
Buses transporting guests from Walt Disney World resort hotels to the Disney parks officially start running 45 minutes prior to park opening and ends 1 hour prior to park closing. Buses will continue to run for two hours after the park closes returning guests back to their resorts.
Unofficially, I have seen buses start running earlier than the 45 minute mark. It’s definitely not guaranteed though. If you have small kids and want to play it safe, not spending all your time waiting at a bus stop or trying to schedule an Uber pickup at 1am, it’s best to stick to Disney’s timeline.
20 Minutes Apart
Buses usually run 20 minutes apart. The exact spacing of buses does vary. Often during peek hours Disney will have more buses in operation. Often wait times are cut down to about 10-15 minutes. During slower times, midday once a majority of guests are in the parks, the buses tend to revert back to 20 minutes apart.
Other factors certainly play a role in the transportation spacing as well. For example, if there are a ton of people waiting at each pickup, time is added until you reach your destination. Alternatively, if a guest is in a scooter or wheelchair, they will require extra time to be secured. Traffic can be a factor as well!
Disney does a decent job of keeping guest updated on bus arrival through their MyDisneyExperience app. Additionally, monitors are located near the bus stops estimated the time of arrival for each bus. As with anything that has so many outside factors, the bus schedule is not down to an exact science. Be sure to give yourself extra time and remember there can be factors outside of Disney’s control slowing down the bus arrival times.
Advanced Dinning Reservation
What if you have a really early advanced dinning reservation? Should you rely on the buses to help you make designated dinning time? Most days the buses run right on schedule. Other days the buses might be a little off schedule. If your reservation is really early, it might be a good plan to call an Uber, Lyft or even use one of the Minnie Vans. You can even set up the ride the night before so you know everything is all set.
Once you’ve made it through security, head over to the left side of the turnstiles at the park entrance. There should be a sign for guests with advanced dinning reservations. Make sure you give yourself 15-20 minutes to walk to your reservation site after you arrive at the park. This way you don’t have to start your morning with a mad dash!
2.Resort Bus Stops
All the Walt Disney World Resort hotels have bus stations. Some resorts have one and others have several and it makes all the difference. Here is a quick breakdown of what the resorts offer (which is always subject to change based on construction and remodeling):
The All-Star resorts each have an individually designated bus stop. During peak hours the resorts normally have individual resort buses. When guests numbers are less than peak, the resorts will often share buses. We have noticed there tends to be more bus sharing in the late morning, after the bulk of guests have made their way to the parks, if it is a slower season.
Pop Century: 1 Bus Stop and Does Not Share
Art of Animation (AOA): 1 Bus Stop and Does Not Share
While it is a long walk, sometimes depending on where your hotel room is located, it might be a good plan to hop on the AOA bus to get back to Pop Century or the Pop Century bus to get back to AOA. We like to use this tip when the lines are long at our resort, but not too many people are in line at the other resort.
Be careful though! Sometimes a short line at the parks indicates that a bus just came to pick up guests. A long line could be a sign that a bus is (hopefully) coming soon! Long lines can also mean you might not make the first bus back to your resort. Or long lines could mean you have to stand. If either of those things are a factor and you don’t mind walking a little ways back to your resort, and you’d prefer to sit, maybe hoping over to the other resort bus stop is the ticket for you.
Caribbean Beach Resort: 8 Bus Stops and Doesn’t Share with Another Resort
Caribbean Beach Resort is a sprawling resort, large enough to have 8 bus stops. That’s a lot of bus stops! With that many bus stops it definitely has its own designated bus and often will have them running a little more frequently. Due to the increased number of bus stops the trip to your designated park can take extra time. I have heard reports of it taking over and hour to get to a resort once on board the bus. If you have a Fastpass+ or Advanced Dinning Reservation you can’t miss, be sure to keep this in mind!
Coronado Springs: 4 Bus Stops and Doesn’t Share Buses with Another Resort
Port Orleans French Quarter: 1 Bus Stop and Usually Share Buses with Riverside
Port Orleans Riverside: 4 Bus Stops and Usually Shares with French Quarter
With the resorts with several stops, we often like to head to the first bus stop in the line up. This can ensure we have a spot to sit on the bus. Alternatively, if you head to the last bus stop in the queue, you won’t be spending as much time on the bus as you travel to a park. The choice is up to you! We also like getting off at the first stop as we would prefer to walk through the resort as opposed to sitting on a bus for a while longer. Again, the choice is up to you.
Deluxe and Vacation Club Resorts
Epcot Based Resorts
Boardwalk: 1 Bus Stop and Can Share with Beach Club, Yacht Club and Often Swan and Dolphin
Beach Club: 1 Bus Stop and Can Share with Boardwalk, Yacht Club and Often Swan and Dolphin
Yacht Club: 1 Bus Stop and Can Share with Beach Club, Boardwalk, and Often Swan and Dolphin
At times these resorts can share a bus, but during peak season the buses are usually dedicated to each individual resort. We have stayed at these resorts and have never felt like the buses were an issue or too crowded!
The best part about Boardwalk, Beach Club and Yacht Club resorts is their location in proximity to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Both parks are within walking distance or you can hop on board the Friendship and sail over to your parks! Riding aboard the Friendship is usually considerably slower than walking due to its number of stops and the need to dock several times to unload and load passengers.
Due to its proximity to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot, buses are only required for the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, the water parks and Disney Springs. Alternatively, for the Magic Kingdom, if you have a park hopper pass, you could head into Epcot and take the monorail. Might take a little more time, but you get to ride the MONORAIL!
Saratoga Springs: 5 Bus Stops and Doesn’t Share with Another Resort
Old Key West: 5 Bus Stops and Doesn’t Share with Another Resort
Animal Kingdom Lodge: 2 Bus Stops and Doesn’t Share with Another Resort
Magic Kingdom Based Resorts
Buses and Monorails
Contemporary: 1 Bus Stop to Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney Springs and the water Parks. Use the monorail to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot
Polynesian: 1 Bus Stop to Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney Springs and the water Parks. Use the monorail to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot
Grand Floridian: 1 Bus Stop to Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney Springs and the water Parks. Use the monorail to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot
Wilderness Lodge: 1 Bus Stop
One final thought on the bus stops at the various Walt Disney World resorts. Several of the resorts, namely the value resorts, will have the bus stops divided into different areas. Guests can line up based on the park or destination to which they are traveling. The ability to line up cuts down on some of the chaos if there is a large group at your resort. However, at the resorts where things aren’t divided, I have found that most guests are courteous and people board in approximate order they arrived to the bus stop.
3. Buses with Extra Magic Hours
On select days, Disney resort guests have the opportunity to participate in Extra Magic Hours. Extra Magic Hours are a chance for guests to enter the parks early or stay later than other guests. EMH can cause a lot of extra early morning bus goers at the resorts. Many guests have said the extra time in the park isn’t worth it if they end up spending extra time at the bus stop. I, on the other hand, still think it is worth it.
If you can, arrive at the bus stop an hour before the EMH is about to start, possibly even earlier if it is a really busy time at the parks. At some resorts the buses have different queues for the different parks. Here you can get in line earlier and make sure you are one of the first ones on the bus.
I think the problem some guests run into is they attempt to get to the parks early but they are met with a mass of people attempting to do the same thing. They might not make the first bus that is heading to that park. Due to the mass of people the buses might reach capacity rather quickly. If you are able to give yourself the extra time, are one of the first ones on the bus, you might be able to get to the parks early and enjoy a less crowded park! Although lots of guests might be heading to the same park to enjoy the extra magic hours, there are still lots of non-resort guests that can’t head into the parks until later. This cuts down on the crowds and helps you be able to enjoy a less crowded park!
Alternatively, if you have a party that can stay up a little later you might be able to try the evening Extra Magic Hours. The parks tend to clear out as littles (and bigs!) need to get to bed. We have had the highest number of walk on rides when the day crowds clear and the Extra Magic Hours begin!
4. Leaving the Parks
As mentioned above, buses will return guests back to the resorts for 2 hours past closing. It’s good to know this knowledge, because there are times that bottle necks arise at the bus stops. The most common happen at night after the fireworks or nighttime show. Lots of guests have decided to call it a night and head towards the buses to wrap up their day of fun. If you can, avoid heading to the buses at this time.
Instead, if you don’t care too much about the nighttime spectacular(s) (which are amazing and should be viewed at least once, by the way!), head to the buses before the shows begin. Bus lines are almost guaranteed to be shorter! Or, if your party can swing it and the park you are at offers a second show, stay for that show! Most guests with younger party members will stay for the first show and then head home afterwards. The exception to the rule is if it’s a super busy day at the park, both shows might be pretty crowded and the bus lines will be just as long after both shows. If you wanted, you could always leave half way through the show to help get you back to the resorts quicker!
Disney knows this is a bottle neck time and I have often seen longer buses or more buses pulling into the parks at these times. Don’t fret if you want to stay for the first show and leave afterwards, there might just be a bus waiting to pick you up. If not, there probably isn’t one too far behind!
One other bottle neck that occurs is when the rain comes. Lots of guests will call it a day and head back to the resorts. If you too plan to call it a day, look at your options when you head to the bus stop. If your resort bus line looks like it is going to take 3 buses for you to be able to board, maybe consider changing your plans?
First, you could head back into the parks. There are lots of stores you could walk through and there are plenty of indoor shows that will run if it’s just raining. You could always grab a popcorn and do some people watching from a covered space.
Second, if you are at a resort that is in close proximity to another resort, consider taking an alternate bus. Some resorts are close enough together that we could walk to our own resort. If you mind walking this might not be your jam, but considering you can walk up to a 1/2 marathon in a day of park hoping, walking kind of goes with the Walt Disney World territory.
Alternatively, you could hop on a bus to Disney Springs. Odds are you are hungry and waiting around for an hour isn’t going to leave you or your party happy. Most likely it’s going to cause a lot of ‘hangry’ people. If you want to keep Walt Disney World magical, avoid this if at all possible! Instead head to Disney Springs and grab some food.
6. Bus Tips
Walt Disney World likes to be able to fit as many people on their buses as possible. I don’t blame them. It is always a very welcomed feeling when you think you’re going to miss a bus because it is full and the driver is able to flag you on board. Therefore, if you can, move as far back into the bus as possible when you first board.
If you happen to sit in the seats directly across from the middle door, be aware you might be asked to move. Those seats can flip-up so a guest with a scooter or wheelchair can be fastened securely in place. It is illegal to not have the wheelchair or scooter strapped down. Guests in these types of mobility aides will be given priority seating for these spots. Often, if you aren’t a resort that shares bus stops, these guest will be the first on board and fastened by the bus driver and you won’t even have to worry. However, if you have an option, pick a different seat while there are seats to be picked!
Seats tend to fill up first and then it becomes standing room only. If you do find yourself having to stand on a Walt Disney World park bus, don’t fret, there are lots of things to hold onto. Even at 5’3″ I have found something to hold onto and steady myself in a standing position as I venture to the parks.
Strollers need to be folded up and tucked in with you on the bus. It is important to not have your stroller expanded or blocking the aisle (as much as possible) when you are riding on a Disney bus. We have found that having a stroller with a hook to keep it collapsed has been a lifesaver. Having a stroller expand on its own on a moving bus is not the coolest thing in the world.
7. Perks of Buses
As I mentioned above, we are fans of the buses at Walt Disney World. It really is nice to know we don’t have to worry about driving to the parks or worry about parking. Lots of guests don’t mind parking, and actually prefer to have their car accessible in case they want to make a quick exit.
For us, we try to anticipate the extra time riding in the buses might take and pad the time even more to include waiting for the bus. We don’t mind the extra wait time, as driving always seems like work. Instead, when we are riding in the Walt Disney World buses we can enjoy our time together as a family. Riding in the buses gives us the time to talk about the day ahead, check the Disney Parks app on our phones, and get excited for the adventures are about to have! (And also possibly crash from long park days! ha!)
The buses are just one type of transportation method used to transverse the parks, you can also hop on the monorail (an all-time favorite), catch a boat or, soon, grab a Skyliner car and whisk across the sky to a park! We always look forward to riding on the buses when at Walt Disney World. (Unless we are soaking wet from Splash Mountain, then the air conditioning is a bit much! Ha!) Let us know if you have anything else helpful to share about the buses at Walt Disney World!
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