Pandora: The World of Avatad
Rafiki’s Planet Watch
Walt Disney World is a big place, nearly 40 square miles to be exact. That’s the size of San Francisco or twice the size of Manhattan. A place that large is going to have many different forms of transportation, so you’ll need to know the basics to be able to get from A to B as fast as possible. Disney offers complimentary Bus, Boat, and Monorail transportation to its guests and then there are other options such as rental cars, taxis, and Ubers.
The most famous form of Disney transportation has to be the monorail. The Monorail originally debuted as an attraction at Disneyland as part of the 1959 Tomorrowland expansion. However, when Walt Disney World opened it was more than just an attraction, becoming a full-fledged transportation system connecting the Magic Kingdom resorts with the park and the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC).
The Resort Monorail connects the Magic Kingdom, Contemporary Resort, TTC, Polynesian Village Resort, and Grand Floridian Resort, with Monorails traveling in that order. There is also the Express Monorail that goes directly between The Magic Kingdom and the TTC. There is also a Monorail track that connects the TTC to Epcot.
There are twelve Monorails, which travel at an average speed of 40 mph, all identified by different color stripes. The Monorails are becoming more automated, but the original safety system which kept the trains properly spaced out on the track was termed MAPO. The term is short for Mary Poppins, the film whose profits directly funded Monorail development.
The Disney Skyliner opened in Fall 2019. The Skyliner is a gondola system that connects Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and some of the nearby resorts. The resorts include Caribbean Beach Resort, Art of Animation Resort, Pop Century Resort, and Riviera Resort. It’s also accessible to the Epcot Resort Area from the Epcot station. There are three separate lines that extend to Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Pop Century/Art of Animation. Caribbean Beach acts as the hub of the system that connects all three lines.
Watercraft are used extensively across the waterways of Walt Disney World. The largest of these boats are the three ferries, the Richard F. Irvine; Admiral Joe Fowler; and the General Joe Potter, that transport guests back and forth between the Magic Kingdom and TTC in addition to the Monorail. The ferry boats each hold approximately 600 people and could be your fastest way back to the TTC at night when Monorail lines are at their longest.
The Magic Kingdom Resorts also have the option of water launch as an alternative to the Monorail for getting to the Magic Kingdom. These boats are much smaller than the ferries and generally depart every 20 minutes. Four different routes connect the resorts to the world’s most visited theme park:
The Friendship boats connect Disney’s Hollywood Studios to Epcot with stops at the Swan and Dolphin, Yacht and Beach, and Boardwalk. It’s generally quicker to walk from the Epcot Resort to the International Gateway entrance to Epcot, but the Friendship boats will save you a long walk to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. These boats generally depart every 20 minutes from each location.
There are also two Friendship boat routes that transport guests within Epcot, one between Canada and Morocco and the other between Mexico and Germany
Finally, there are the Disney Springs water taxis that travel between the Disney Springs and the Disney Springs Resort Area. There are five different boat routes that the water taxis take each departing around every 20 minutes. There are separate routes of each of Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and Treehouse Villas and Old Key West Resort from the West Side Dock. There’s also a boat for Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside Resorts that departs from the Marketplace Dock. Lastly, there is an internal water taxi that transports guests between the West Side, The Landing, and the Marketplace.
Most guests, if without a rental car, will end up relying on the Walt Disney World Bus Service. These buses are convenient in that they run from all of the Resorts (with some exceptions) regularly from 45 minutes before park opening until 2 hours after park closing in 60-minute intervals. Bus service to park stops 1 hour prior to park closing. The buses drop you at the entrance to all of the parks, but it’s generally fast to drive (except for going to the Magic Kingdom) unless you’re able to time the bus ride perfectly.
The exceptions referred to above happens when there are alternative forms of transportation available from your Resort. For example, there is no bus service the Grand Floridian Resort to the Magic Kingdom because the Monorail is available. Likewise, there’s no bus service to the Epcot from the Boardwalk since you have the option of walking or taking a boat.
Buses are also available between all of the theme parks. Buses might not be available directly from a Theme Park to a Water Park depending on the time of the year, so check with a Cast Member if that’s your plan.
There is also bus service from all of the Resorts to Disney Springs beginning 45 minutes before open until 1 am with return service available until 2 am. Bus service starts from the four theme parks to Disney Springs at 4 pm each day. However, return bus service to the theme parks is not available.
Due to the hub and spoke model (the Parks being the hub) of the Disney Bus Service, it can be difficult traveling from Resort to Resort using the buses. You’ll be required to transfer at a park to another bus or another form of transportation. For example, to get from Old Key West to Polynesian Village Resort using Disney transportation you would need to take a bus to the Magic Kingdom and then a Monorail to the Polynesian. This could end up costing you much time, so I’d recommend driving if you have a car or taking a taxi or Uber for Resort to Resort travel that would require a transfer. Of course, it’s easy enough to take the Monorail to any of the other resorts on the Monorail loop or to walk between the Deluxe Epcot Resorts.
Finally, during the busiest times of the year like Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter, Disney will also offer buses from the TTC to the Magic Kingdom. When this is available, it’s the fastest way to the park.
The fastest way from point A to B at Walt Disney World is usually going to be driving. The only exception is traveling to the Magic Kingdom. Because you have to take the Monorail or Ferry from the parking lot to the park, it’s going to be faster using Disney’s Transportation which drops you right at the entrance to the park.
The only downside to using a taxi, Uber, or rental car is the added expense. Taxis and Ubers usually cost around $10 when traveling within Walt Disney World, so it’s probably worth it if Disney Transportation does not have a direct option.
Disney also offers its own Uber-like service, the Minnie Vans, where guests staying at Disney Resorts can use the Van Service for a flat one-way fee of $25. The service works through the Lyft app. The front desk can help you with getting it set up on your phone. It’s more expensive than Uber or Lyft, but you will be driven by trained Disney Cast Members.
If you decide on renting a car, the price of a rental car will vary based on how long you plan to stay at Walt Disney World. I would suggest checking the prices of cars the days before your trip because that’s when they are generally at their cheapest and unless you have prepaid the car rental companies will let you cancel and rebook at the lower price. We have found Dollar Rental to be the cheapest at Orlando International Airport. The tradeoff is that their cars are going to older than most of the other options. Lastly, always sign up for the rewards program for whatever company you end up using. This could save you time and money.