We’ve known for eleven months that this time was coming, but the retirement of the Disney’s Magical Express service is still a tough pill to swallow. And while I might feel somewhat silly writing about the end of a form of transportation, as someone who had the opportunity to begin vacations with a ride on Magical Express, I know that those blue and white buses are much more than transportation. Let me explain.
This is much more than the loss of a form of ground transportation, it’s the loss of a facet of the Walt Disney World experience. For those traveling to Disney from out of state, those buses were a part of the Disney bubble. You landed at Orlando International Airport, headed to Terminal B, Level 1, got in your Disney resort’s queue line, and stepped onto that bus. You had arrived. After days on end of researching, planning, and anticipating your visit, it was finally here and the Disney bus was ready to whisk you on your way. The video that played as the bus made its way along SR 417 toward Disney property only helped to increase the excitement. And the first glimpses of the Walt Disney World gates or the buildings of your resort were sweeter when seen through the windows of your Magical Express bus. For those staying on property, stepping onto one of those buses signaled the beginning of the fun. You could take a deep breath and relax just a bit, at least until it was time to rope drop Magic Kingdom.
This is much more than the loss of a form of ground transportation, it’s the loss of value. For years, Disney’s Magical Express has been offered to guests staying on Disney property as a perk included in the cost of their stay. With the end of the service on December 31st, guests staying on property must add the cost of round trip ground transportation between the airport and Disney to the overall cost of their vacation. Whether they choose a third-party ride share option, taxi, town car service, or the new Mears Connect or Sunshine Flyer services, that cost must now be added to what has already been paid for the stay, making a Disney vacation that much more expensive. And will the cost of the resort stay decrease now that the perks have been reduced? No nopity nope.
This is much more than the loss of a form of ground transportation, it’s the loss of something that made planning a Walt Disney World vacation easier. Planning a trip to Disney is a Herculean effort. Keeping all of the moving parts and pieces straight is no small task, and trying to fully understand the current in-park experience is top of mind for many a planner. If you were staying on property, Disney’s Magical Express made things just a bit easier for you. You gave Disney your resort information, popped the luggage tags that they sent you ahead of time onto your suitcases, headed to the airport, boarded that bus when you landed, and, before the pandemic, your bags eventually made their way to your resort room without you having to lug them. After the reopening of the parks and resorts last year, the luggage handling portion of the service has been unavailable, but grabbing your bags and heading to the bus still made things more manageable. Now those traveling to Walt Disney World from a distance will need to add a few steps to their planning, and, in my mind, it’s a shame. Why make getting to Disney any more difficult than it already is?
Disney’s Magical Express was something that made Disney stand out from other vacation destinations. With the end of this service, Disney takes a step backward. We’re watching the devolution of the Disney difference. Trust me; I understand that Disney is a business. Cash is king, and they need to take the steps that they feel are necessary. But, as I said earlier, the retirement of blue and white (formerly blue and yellow) buses is a tough pill to swallow. When added to the other perks that have been lost this year, it’s a blatant reminder of the paradigm shift that has occurred in the company.
As a local, the Disney Magical Express buses headed toward Disney property are my favorite ones to see on the road. I know that the people sitting in those seats are excited for what’s in store, and I know that they’re happy to be along for the ride.
Thank you to those who drove the Magical Express buses, hauled the luggage, and made the necessary preparations day in and day out. It was a joy to begin my Walt Disney World adventures with you. You’ll be missed.