This is a continuation of our Walt Disney World Guides. So far we’ve covered a general Planning Timeline, Planning guide, Resorts guide, and a Dining guide. If you come across any terms that you’re not familiar with, please refer to these other guides as they’ve defined most of the terms used around WDW. Don’t worry about being whisked away, the links above will open in a new tab.
To help we’ve also included maps for your reference.
Walt Disney World Resort Map
Up to this point, we haven’t gone into much detail of how you’ll get around Walt Disney World. As we have mentioned before, it is a big place! With nearly 47 sq miles within its borders, some travel may take a while. In fact, Disney recommends that you plan on at least 1.5 hours when traveling between points. If you’re going by bus that buffer could be consumed quickly. Imagine this: you may have to wait 20 minutes for the bus you want, 20 to 30 minutes on the bus itself, great if that is your final destination (you may only have a 15-minute walk to where you want to be), and unfortunate if you have to wait another 20 minutes for your next 20-minute bus ride. As we said, it is a big place.
So why is this important? Unless you’ve been there, it is difficult to appreciate the size of the resort. Time and distance will certainly play a role as you navigate around on your vacation. When you have a 5 pm ADR for Chef Mickey’s and you’re looking at a 4:00 pm FP+ for Expedition Everest you’ll have a sense of its feasibility. Spoiler: it’s not. Expedition Everest is in the Asia portion of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which is in the back of the park, and you wouldn’t be able to board until 3:55. You’d be fortunate to be exiting the ride by 4:15 pm, with a 15+ minute brisk walk out to the buses, a potential 20-minute wait for a bus to Contemporary Resort, and another 30-minute ride. You’re looking at just over an hour of transit time. If everything goes perfectly, you could make it. We just advocate giving yourself a little more time. Things are hectic enough on vacation, no need for unnecessary stress.
This is certainly one of the less glamorous aspects of vacationing at Disney World. It also reinforces why it is important to consult, at a minimum, with people that have recently been there if not experts like the team here at Heyday Travel Company. Sometimes there is just no replacement for experience regardless of how many articles you read. With that out there, let us get on to our article!
Disney Transportation Options
Buses: This service runs primarily from the resorts to the parks and Disney Springs. Busier times of year and days, you may also find them running between the parks at a reduced interval. On average they depart about every 20 minutes. They can sometimes take longer and at peak travel times during the day you could wind up having to wait for multiple buses.
Boats: This service is not available at all resorts. However, where they are available, they can be a nice change of pace for transportation. Most commonly available at all of the Magic Kingdom area resorts; running between the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge, Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness, and the Magic Kingdom. For this guide, we’ll also include the Ferry that runs from the Ticketing and Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom. Beyond there, you can also get a boat from Old Key West, Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter, as well as Saratoga Springs to Disney Springs and back. Additionally, there are boats running around Crescent Lake. These boats provide transportation between Hollywood Studios, the Swan and Dolphin resorts, Yacht and Beach Club resorts, Boardwalk Inn resort, and Epcot.
Monorail: This provides service on three different tracks. There are two loops around the Magic Kingdom area, circling the Seven Seas Lagoon. One is an “express” track from the Ticketing and Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom. The other loop is a “local” service starting at the TTC, to the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Magic Kingdom, Contemporary then returning to the TTC, in that order. Also available from the TTC is a loop providing service to the Future World entrance at Epcot. If traveling from the Polynesian, we recommend walking to the TTC for the Monorail to Epcot rather than taking the loop around.
Skyliner: This is the newest mode of transportation offered on-site, a gondola system. The main station is located at Caribbean Beach with 3 different legs running to; the International Gateway entrance of Epcot by way of Riviera Resort (which has its own station), Hollywood Studios, and the Hourglass Lake station providing access to the Art of Animation and Pop Century resorts. This has quickly become a favorite among guests and quickly reached transporting 1 Million guests after only a few weeks.
Walking: Although technically an option from anywhere, it is only feasible from a few of the resorts. The Epcot resorts around Crescent Lake (Boardwalk, Beach and Yacht Clubs, Swan, and Dolphin) can walk to Hollywood Studios or Epcot. Most of the Magic Kingdom area resorts can walk to that park with the Contemporary being the most convenient, with the Grand Floridian and Polynesian resorts now being able to with the new pedestrian bridge being completed.
Ride-hailing / Minnie Van: This service isn’t complimentary as the others are. So what you gain in convenience and time will cost you some money. Sometimes this is well worth the tradeoff. While we do suggest using the other options first, the one area these services really excel is when you’re looking to travel between resorts. Many of the most desired ADRs are at resort locations making it difficult to get there from or back to your resort. In these moments the $15-$20 (approximate averages we’ve spent) is quickly worth it rather than the multi-leg journey otherwise needed. The Minnie Van is a specific service offered in partnership with Lyft in which the drivers are Disney cast members. Recently, this service has been expanded to include more resorts and the Orlando International Airport. This helps maintain the Disney feel while using an outside service and there is an increased cost for this over even regular ride-hail costs. One definite benefit to this service is if you have someone using an electric scooter in your party. Minnie Vans are able to accommodate these but need to be requested at bell services because not all vehicles are equipped to. This may lead to an extended wait for the specific vehicle to come available.
Driving: Some people also prefer to rent or drive their own car from the resort to the parks. Keep in mind, there are charges for parking at the parks. I don’t really have much to comment on this other than I know some people like to. This isn’t anything that I’ve done while staying on property.
Disney Theme Parks
With knowing how to get around, we’ll take a look at the 4 primary theme parks in Walt Disney World.
Disney’s Magic Kingdom Theme Park Map
The Walt Disney World Resort opening on October 1, 1971. At its opening, there was only the Magic Kingdom, now covering 154 acres, and two resorts: Contemporary Resort and Polynesian Resort. All arrivals to the Magic Kingdom take place the front of the park by way of Boats/Ferry, Monorail, and Buses. From the train station at the front of the park, it is about a 10-minute walk to Space Mountain on the right side of the map or Big Thunder Mountain on the left side. These times don’t include what it may take to get from your transportation through security and the ticket kiosks.
Disney’s Epcot Theme Park Map
Epcot, formerly EPCOT Center, opened October 1, 1982, covering 305 acres, more than twice the size of the Magic Kingdom. The park is divided into two areas, Future World and the World Showcase, currently undergoing a reimagining over the next several years. Epcot allows you to enter at the front of the park into Future World by way of Monorail or Bus. Spaceship Earth is a quick 5-minute walk after security and ticket kiosks with all other locations in Future World taking about 10 minutes. To reach the farthest parts of the World Showcase from the front can easily take you 20 minutes with crowds. You can also enter directly into the World Showcase by way of the International Gateway shown on the right side of the map. This is a quick walk from any of the Crescent Lake area resorts, Boats, and the Skyliner.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios Theme Park Map
Disney’s Hollywood Studios, originally known as Disney-MGM Studios, opened May 1, 1989, covering 135 acres. After the recent additions of both Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge, the park now covers 154 acres. All entry to Hollywood Studios is by way of the front gate by way of Buses, Boats, and Skyliner. Galaxy’s Edge, top left of the map, can take you about 10 to 15 minutes to reach after entry depending on the crowds. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror, right side, will normally take you about 10 minutes.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park Map
Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened on Earth Day, April 22, 1998. It is by far the largest of all of Disney’s theme parks covering 500 acres. To give you some perspective, all of the Magic Kingdom could fit inside of the savannah of the Kilimanjaro Safaris. All-access to Disney’s Animal Kingdom is from the front gate with only Buses servicing the park. It is secluded by design to protect the animals from the noise of fireworks at the other parks. Also because of its size, you can expect to do significant walking here. After entry, it will take about 10 minutes to reach Discovery Island (the central hub) and easily another 10 minutes for all of the other areas from there. If you’re traveling to the Conservation Station your travel time will be extended. There is both the wildlife express train that you’ll take and additional walking after that.
“Wow – that’s more geography than I was expecting to need for my vacation!” is a common response. This all contributes to the steep learning curve we’ve mentioned before. Fortunately, that’s what we’re here for! Check back soon as we’ll be covering the FastPass+ system and the attractions with the highest demand.
Feeling Overwhelmed? Let Us Help YOU!
Heyday Travel Company can plan a Disney vacation that’s perfect for you. We are a free Disney travel planner with expert knowledge of the entire Disney catalog and Universal Parks destinations. No matter where you want to go, our experienced team is excited to help you make it happen. We provide our service at no charge, so you’ll only have to pay for the vacation itself. If you want help planning a Disney trip that’ll make your dreams come true while also fitting your budget, let’s talk!