How to Choose the BEST Disney’s Magical Express Replacement

As anyone who’s tried to arrange a ride from the Orlando airport to Disney World lately can attest, there have been a lot of changes with Disney World transportation this year. The discontinuation of Disney’s Magical Express has definitely tossed a wrench in many guests’ travel plans!

Disney’s Magical Express is officially retired

But as one door closes, another one opens. Or rather, multiple doors open, as several replacement options have sprung up!

After Magical Express ceased operations, we provided an overview of its replacements. Namely, there are two main replacement services: Mears Connect and The Sunshine Flyer.

Mears Connect Express

Coupled with other options, like Uber, Lyft, and the forthcoming Brightline high-speed train, it’s time to make some decisions and determine which Magical Express replacement is right for you!

Mears Connect

The most prominent replacement for Magical Express, Mears Connect is an airport-to-Disney Resort service operated by the same folks who ran Magical Express for 16 years, so naturally it seems like the most logical replacement option for many. But there are some differences — and some key pros and cons.

Mears Connect station at Orlando Airport

One of the biggest differences is that, unlike Magical Express, you’ll need to book your ride in advance. It’s easy to do once you know which Disney World hotel you’ll be staying at, though the other big change is that Mears Connect costs a small fee — $16 for adults and $13.50 for children one-way.

Mears Connect bus

Once you land at Orlando International Airport, you’ll need to snag your own luggage (unlike Magical Express, Mears Connect does not offer luggage support), follow the signs to shuttle service and ground transport, and then potentially wait a little bit for standard bus pick-up (not terribly long, usually no more than 20 minutes). From there, shuttles make a “limited number” of stops at Disney resorts.

Mears Connect

There’s also express service (i.e. direct service to your hotel), but that’s unsurprisingly quite a bit more expensive — $250 for four passengers, and $55 for each additional passenger (roundtrip). Whether standard or express, both services offer onboard entertainment, “arrival souvenirs,” friendly drivers, wheelchair accessibility, no surge pricing, and real-time updates using enhanced technology.

Mears Connect bus

It all sounds relatively seamless, but clearly it’s not without flaws, as evidenced by the poor ratings average from All Ears readers, who give Mears Connect a 4.96 out of 10 (yikes).

Mears Connect Bus

While Mears Connect gets points for being the most similar to Magical Express, and thus the most familiar, its “cons” are easier to spot for those same reasons. Whereas Magical Express was free, and provided luggage support, this service does not, which may make you feel ripped off a bit.

Click Here to Find Out More About Mears Connect Airport Service

The Sunshine Flyer

A new Magical Express replacement option joined the party in February: The Sunshine Flyer.

©The Sunshine Flyer

Unlike Mears Connect, this one only offers shared-ride shuttle services (i.e. no private, express options are provided), with the same departure area in the airport, the same quoted wait time to Disney World, and the same amount of stops at various resorts.

©The Sunshine Flyer

In terms of cost, it’s comparable to Mears Connect at $17 per adult and $12.50 per child for one-way trips.

© Sunshine Flyer

Although welcome souvenirs are not doled out on board, these vehicles are sleek, offering themed 1920s service (how fun!), rides that are guaranteed to be under an hour (something that Mears does not guarantee), onboard entertainment, and clean, spacious buses. Unlike Mears, The Sunshine Flyer’s website says they’re working to add luggage handling services by this summer.

©The Sunshine Flyer

Both Mears and Sunshine pick guests back up from their resorts to take them to the airport three hours before domestic flights and four hours before international flights.

©The Sunshine Flyer

According to All Ears readers, The Sunshine Flyer is already outpacing Mears Connect in the ratings, with a 6.60 rating out of 10.

Click Here to Read About the Sunshine Flyer’s Latest Expansion!

Uber

While Mears Connect and The Sunshine Flyer are the two airport transportation options that look most like the retired Magical Express service, there are of course other transportation alternatives to get to your hotel.

Orlando International Airport

Uber and other rideshare programs essentially offer the same thing as Mears Connect express service, in that you won’t need to wait a long period of time for pick-up at the airport, and you’ll be able to be taken directly to your hotel, with no other stops along the way.

Rideshare Drop-Off at Disney World

But Uber’s many options can make a big difference. The cheapest bets are UberX — which can accommodate up to three passengers — and UberXL, which can carry up to five. While pricing varies — and is hard to predict because of surge pricing during busy times — we’ve found that the average roundtrip price for an UberX  from the Orlando Airport to Disney World is about $61, while an UberXL average about $83 for the same roundtrip.

Rideshare signs in Disney World

Some key factors to consider, though, are that Uber does not offer onboard amenities (usually), and can’t guarantee the same things that Disney can (i.e. spacious and clean buses, entertainment, souvenirs, etc.), and surge pricing can occur at random, jacking the price up dramatically.

Rideshare drop-off in Disney World

But if all goes smoothly, essentially getting an express service equivalent for $61, compared to Mears’ $250, is a huge difference.

Orlando International Airport

In related news, we can’t wait for the return of Lyft-operated Minnie Vans this summer

Minnie Vans Are Returning to Disney World Soon — Click Here for More Info!

Brightline Train

Still to come, the most anticipated new transportation service is the Brightline high-speed train, currently under construction, with plans to provide a speedy link between the airport and Disney World (to a station near Disney Springs, to be precise).

©Brightline

While they won’t provide direct service to any resorts, it will surely be the quickest option from the airport to Disney World (not having to contend with car traffic and all that) once it begins service in…a few years. So TBD on this one.

Click Here to See Where the Brightline High-Speed Train Could Drop Off in Disney Springs

Which Magical Express Replacement Should You Choose?

As you can see, the two main Magical Express replacements have a lot of  similarities, so it really boils down to a few small nuts and bolts. Do you want something that most closely mimics Magical Express? Then Mears Connect is for you.

Mears Connect

Is it important to guarantee your ride to your resort is under an hour? Try The Sunshine Flyer.

Airport Shuttle Sign

If money is no object and you just want a direct route to your hotel, then the  Mears express option provides that alternative.

Mears sign

Don’t feel like booking anything in advance, and just want to wing it? Uber is always there for you. Just cross your fingers for no surge.

Welcome to Orlando

Do you want a ride with the most amenities? Mears has it all, plus a welcome gift! Plus, it’s technically the cheapest option at $16 for a one-way adult trip.

Mears Connect shuttle

So it really depends where your priorities lie, and what’s the most important factor from the list above. At the end of the day, no matter which way you get there, you’re going to Disney World. And that’s a good day no matter what!

What Do YOU Think of Disney’s Magical Express Replacement Shuttles?

Which Magical Express alternative would YOU choose, and why? Let us know in the comments!

Join the AllEars.net Newsletter to stay on top of ALL the breaking Disney News! You'll also get access to AllEars tips, reviews, trivia, and MORE! Click here to Subscribe!

Click below to subscribe

Trending Now

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

13 Replies to “How to Choose the BEST Disney’s Magical Express Replacement”

  1. We used Mears Connect on our recent trip to WDW. Our arrival transfer was, though not magical, efficient. For our return, we arrived at the pickup location about 20 minutes before the scheduled pickup. I received information via email to track our driver. We were being picked up at Saratoga Springs. He made stops at Old Key West and Port Orleans. It was 15-20 minutes after our scheduled time when I saw him head away from the area, make another stop and then get on the expressway toward the airport! In the meantime, we had spoken to Disney cast members who suggested calling for a Lyft or Uber because our pickup was so late. I had called Mears to find out what was going on. My travel companion called for Uber for us and another party of three, also scheduled for the same pickup. I waited 25 minutes on the phone for someone to pick up. We were in the Uber when I finally got an agent. She was apologetic and processed refunds for both parties.
    There are too many options for airport transfers. Apologies and refunds are fine but useless if a flight is missed. We will definitely explore other options for our next trip.

  2. I’d like to know WHY Mears scored lower than Sunshine. They appear to offer the same services. Can you provide some specific complaints or compliments that explain the rating differences?

  3. Mears is great, had no problem whatsoever with them. Luxury transportation, helpful drivers, on time service. What more could you want? Returning to MCO airport was perfect also. We rode in a beautiful van ; the two of us and two more people we picked up at very high end resorts outside of Disney. I liked not taking the exact same route as Magical Express. It was interesting seeing how many gorgeous hotels and restaurants that are being built in the nearby area. Will use Mears again in a few days, no worries at all

  4. We took mears direct at our recent Easter weekend trip and this article is the first I’ve heard of a welcome gift. We didn’t receive anything but the ride. Although the direct was super quick and we got from the airport to the resort faster than we ever did on magical express (understandably so) Now I feel like it was even a worse bargain. 😀

  5. Taking away MDE was the biggest mistake Disney World has made. I will never stay on property again and with that I will spend less time in the parks and explore other options around WDW.

  6. With Mears (which we took in January and are booked for May) you can cancel up to 24 hours before you are scheduled. We had to cancel for some in our party and there was no trouble getting the refund.

  7. You state that ‘unlike the DME, you have to book Mears Direst in advance’. I used DME many times and I always had to book in advance. They needed to know who and how many were going to a particular resort at a particular time and when to send the bus to your resort for the return trip. And I would also point out the luggage service was ended first and then the DME bus service was ended separately. I would be interested to know why the ratings for the Mears Direct service are lower? Something about the service that is worse than the Sunshine Flyer? Longer wait times? More resort stops? Takes longer than advertised? Drivers unfriendly? Lastly the 3 hour prior to your flight pick up for the return trip is not new. DME had the same pick up time of 3 hours prior to domestic flights.

  8. I travel by Amtrak and I used Mears Orlando last year that picked me up in an SUV and took me directly to my Disney hotel. That was about $80 one way for my boyfriend and myself included. Tip was extra.

  9. Just a note on Mears express R/T. Your return trip to the airport will probably not be in a private vehicle, will most likely be on a Mears bus. However, if you are “express,” your hotel stop is the last one and the bus will be going directly to MCO. If someone hadn’t mentioned it to me as I waited for my Mears express return to the airport, I would have totally missed my bus back. Just something to be aware of.

  10. So is the ONLY reason Mears Connect is getting negative reviews is because people are upset that DME is gone? It’s not the actual service Mears provides? If so, it’s a bit unfair to compare its ratings to Sunshine Express which isn’t getting negative scores for simply being a DME replacement, too.

    1. I don’t believe this is the case. We just returned home from a trip where we used Mears Connect Express and the driver that was assigned to take us back to the airport never showed up. Mears dispatched a taxi for us and we made it to the airport right before the baggage cut-off time.

      We decided to book a private Mears car via their normal car service for our October trip. It was not that much more expensive and we get some help with the luggage.

      Mears connect is a good idea, but still has some bugs to be worked out.

    2. Brian, I have to believe Mears is catching flack for the cancelling of DME. Mears was running the bus service for a fee prior to DME, ran it during DME with Disney footing the bill, and are back to the original transport for a fee again so I can’t imagine their service has changed and technically should be a bit better than the new competing bus line(s). Not trying to belittle anyone here, but Mears being the cheapest transport probably catches more of the value resorts than the slightly higher competitor which could create a bit quieter ride which could translate into higher customer scoring. I also have to wonder how many customers have actually used both services and can fairly compare the two services against each other. Bottom line is, we’re all upset that the free perk has been taken away but at the end of the day, as long as either bus line gets your fam and the luggage to the resort safe and in a reasonable time, I don’t see that it matters all that much.

  11. The three hours early thing is a bit rough for departure. Planning on hitting the parks after check out, before a late flight. Might book arrival via Sunshine Flyer, but go back home via Uber XL.