Disney World is extremely large, with 4 separate theme parks plus 2 water parks, 25 onsite resorts, and much more. The whole property is twice the size of Manhattan. It’s totally natural to be concerned about getting around.
The great news for you is that Disney has a fantastic transportation system that guests can use totally free of charge. Any guest can use the system to get from park to park, but it comes in handy most often getting back and forth between the onsite resorts and parks.
There are buses that connect every resort to every park. There is also a Monorail that connects certain resorts to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. There are boats that connect other resorts to the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, or Epcot. Plus there is also a brand new gondola system called the Skyliner that runs to Hollywood Studios and Epcot.
Making sure you have the best options for getting to your favorite parks is a key decision for any trip. This is another area where expertise can really be critical, and an experienced Disney travel agent can help walk you through the pros and cons of each resort, or staying offsite, and how best to take advantage of all the transportation options.
It’s also important to note that All Disney transportation is handicap accessible, and stroller-accessible. The buses kneel, there are special ramps for the Monorail, and the Skyliner has special cars to handle mobility devices.
This leads to the next important topic.
Another concern many have is getting around the theme parks themselves. The good news is that there is a wide array of choices for strollers, wheelchairs, and scooters to help folks with mobility concerns.
I definitely do recommend a stroller for the little ones, even if they typically don’t use one anymore at home. Everyone will be happier with taking a few less steps, AND not having to carry a tired kid on their shoulders. And strollers are also a great place for storage of snacks/drinks, etc.
And for those that need to use a stroller like a wheelchair, and stay in the stroller in attraction queues, you can get identification at Guest Services to allow this, similar to the DAS process mentioned above, and you will be set to go!
I highly recommend renting a stroller, scooter, or wheelchair outside the Disney parks, from a 3rd party. The Disney strollers are nice, and convenient to pick up at the parks. But, there are a few key points to consider.
First, the Disney rentals can only be used inside the parks. Strollers, ECVs/Scooters and wheelchairs must be returned near the front gate of each park. The key here is that you cannot use them to get back and forth between the parks and your room. The walk to/from the buses, Monorail, or Skyliner is significant. As well, getting around the resorts themselves should be considered, as most are pretty large themselves. You will definitely want to have that help outside the parks!
Second, many companies also now have locations at the airport, so you can grab your equipment immediately after getting off the plane. Scooter Bug can also deliver directly to the Disney onsite resorts, free of charge, and you don’t need to worry about being there to meet the delivery. Bell Services at your resort will hold it for you, and you can grab it whenever you want!
Third, is choice. The rental companies typically have a wide range of options to fit your needs more exactly. Whether it be a double stroller, ride & stand style, or any other specific option. They generally also stock models that conform to Disney’s requirements for size.
Lastly, is cost. Typically you can get a better rate, particularly if you are staying longer than a few days, by renting from a 3rd party.
If you have any question or concern or issue in the parks, just ask a Cast Member for help. Those Cast Members are not teenagers sulking through a summer job at a local amusement park, they are professionals with extensive training to make sure they do all they can to make every guest happy and their trip truly magical!
A true example. A family I know had booked a Fastpass for Big Thunder Mountain before their trip. Their son, who has sensory issues, took one look at it, and said “no way am I riding that”. The family went to guest services, and just told them the issue, and asked if they could change the Fastpass to Peter Pan. The Cast Member didn’t just replace the Fastpass, but gave them a Fastpass ticket good for Peter Pan, anytime that day, no questions asked. They were on their way in less than 5 minutes, crisis averted!
Now, let’s dive into some specific examples of the ways to make your trip amazing!
Combining Services- An Example
Beyond the obvious benefit of skipping a long wait in a queue, you can use the DAS service in addition to the 3 Fastpasses you already have! So you can check into one ride, go use your Fastpass for a different ride, and then return.
This can help you save a huge amount of time and stress. Let’s go over an example, comparing 2 families, the “Lightyear” and “Mouse” families. Both use 2 of their 3 available Fastpasses during a morning at Magic Kingdom, but the Mouse family also uses DAS. The wait and walk times are largely based on personal experience, data from Magic Guides, and touringplans.com, and are accounting for a relaxed pace, not a speed walk!
All the times are approximate, for this example. They are listed to the minute here, but the purpose is to highlight the differences between using and not using all the services, and give a general idea of typical wait and walk times.
It’s absolutely not required(or advisable, really) to have your days planned to the minute, as everyone knows that things come up or change, someone needs a break, etc. But it is a good idea to have a general outline of what attractions you want to hit, and a general order.
But be prepared to be flexible and go with the flow! This is something an experienced Disney Travel Agent can help you with!
Below is an outline of the schedules of the two families, along with a narration to give some detail.
The Lightyear Family
The Lightyear family is using 2 Fastpasses they scheduled for their morning at Magic Kingdom:
They arrive at the park at 8:00am, and head straight to Pirates of the Caribbean, wait about 9 minutes to get on the ride and see Captain Jack Sparrow trying to avoid getting caught.
They then head next door to Jungle Cruise getting there at 8:35, and wait about 10 minutes to ride.
After enjoying the silly “Dad” jokes from their driver on Jungle Cruise, they tour the Swiss Family Treehouse next door, and all the fun views of the park.
Next is over to Haunted Mansion to enjoy the 999 Happy Haunts, getting there at about 9:14am, and waiting 10 minutes to ride. Then over to Buzz Lightyear, waiting 17 minutes to ride, and the Barnstormer(9 min), and Dumbo(11 min).
Now the Lightyears use their first FastPass to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. And since they arrived towards the end of their Fastpass window, they can then hit Peter Pan at 11:07 for another Fastpass.
Lastly, they head across the walkway to It’s a Small World, and after a somewhat antsy and hungry 21 minutes, they enjoy the fantastic puppets and the song no one can get out of their head.
They can grab lunch now at about 12:00. They waited a total of about 108 minutes riding 10 attractions in 4 hours. That’s a great, fun morning! and they still have a Fastpass to use in the afternoon or evening after a break for swimming, relaxing, or a nap.
The Mouse Family
The Mouse family is using DAS along with their Fastpasses, so let’s see how their day compares!
They also arrive at the park at 8:00am, and on their way to Pirates, they stop at Jungle Cruise and checkin for DAS. This only takes 3 min, and they get to Pirates at 8:18. After a quick 9 min wait in the fantastically themed queue, with Pirate artifacts, and cool dungeon rooms, they head over to Jungle Cruise.
With the DAS pass, they get right on with a brief wait. They next saunter next door to the Swiss Family treehouse, and check it out with no wait, then off to Haunted Mansion.
It’s still early in the day, and the Mouses are into the Stretch Room pre-show in 5 minutes, and onto the ride shortly after.
They take their time, and mosey over to the Barnstormer, taking a bio-break, grabbing a drink, and a DAS pass for Dumbo on the way. They watch the Barnstormer go while waiting 9 min in the open-air queue, and enjoy the quick and fun family coaster.
Back next door to Dumbo, and using the DAS is just a couple minute wait at about 9:50 am.
Then, an easy walk over to Tomorrowland to grab a DAS pass for Buzz Lightyear. They take a quick break to have a drink and have a snack they brought in along the way. Then, over to Seven Dwarfs Mine train to use their Fastpass at 10:10 am.
Everyone is buzzing about how cool the scene with the dwarfs mining is, so they head over to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger spin to cash in that DAS pass. They get to laser-up some aliens, check their scores and photos, and head over to Peter Pan at 10:40. They make a quick stop just across the walkway at It’s a Small World to grab another DAS, and then, using their fastpass, they are done seeing Captain Hook try to avoid the croc, and heading back across the walkway to It’s a Small world at 10:50 am.
By 11:15, they are done, and ready to grab some lunch ahead of the major rush!
All told, the Mouse family visited the same 10 attractions that the Lightyear family did. But, they did it with only 54 minutes of wait time(5 min a ride!), about half of the Lightyear family.
And they finished in a little more than 3 hours, about 45 minutes quicker than the Lightyears, and in time to avoid the lunch rush, and they are ready for an afternoon break to avoid the heat and largest crowds, and some quiet time to relax!