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Disclosure: This post is sponsored by The Sunshine Flyer.
The last few years have brought quite a few changes to the way we travel; traveling to the “Happiest Place on Earth” is no exception. Gone are the days of Disney’s free Magical Express service, leaving many families (mine included) searching for new ways to get from the Orlando International Airport to the Walt Disney Resort in Florida.
We have visited the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida many times over the years and have tried just about every form of transportation for our round-trip journey to our Disney hotel. We’ve been on Mears Connect, the Magical Express, taken an Uber and rented a car.
Each mode of transportation comes with its own pros and cons. Uber & Lyft can be pricey, and if you arrive at a busy time, there may be a wait to get a car. Renting a car also can be expensive, especially when you factor in the cost of parking at Disney hotels and the theme parks. Plus, there’s the added stress of navigating an unfamiliar freeway network and possibly waiting at toll booths.
On a recent Disney vacation, The Sunshine Flyer hosted my husband so we could get a first-hand look at this new mode of airport transportation to Walt Disney World.
What’s So Great about The Sunshine Flyer?
The Sunshine Flyer is a premium motor coach bus experience designed to transport travelers from the Orlando airport to hotels on Disney property.
The motor coach design is inspired by rail travel, with the buses painted to look like old-fashioned passenger cars and bus drivers dressed as train conductors.
For a limited time you can purchase 4-Day/4-Park tickets that allow you to visit each theme park once at an amazing price.
For me, there were a few factors that made The Sunshine Flyer shuttle service stand out from other transportation management services.
1. Vintage Theme
First on that list is the theming. Even though we were traveling without kids, I really enjoyed the rail-themed experience. The employees were extremely friendly and eager to chat with waiting travelers.
My kids would have absolutely LOVED it when they were younger.
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2. Photo Opp
Each of the locomotive and rail-car-themed buses has a different name and a bit of personality too! Our bus was decorated to look like a bright green train engine and was called the Komodo Dragon.
As we waited, I noticed the kids point out each of the different bus themes as they pulled up and guess which bus they would get. Many of them posed for photos as they got on the bus.
All of this combined to give us the feeling that our vacation had already started, which is a welcome change from the chaos of the airport!
3. Friendly, Professional Service
The third thing that stuck out to me was the level of service and organization. All of the employees were very helpful, and the boarding process was smooth and precise.
After you check in (outside for now, but they will be moving to an inside counter space soon), you move to a waiting area (we were only in the waiting area for 15 minutes). Then as buses arrive, the conductors announce which resort the bus is going to. If a bus is going to more than one resort, they announce them one at a time, so there is not a mad rush to the bus or congestion.
The staff loads the bags onto the bus for you and removes them when you reach your final destination. The entire process was quite seamless.
As we approached WDW, the staff made sure to let us know when we were approaching the famous Mickey welcome sign so that we could have our cameras ready.
I’m a bit of a nervous traveler and always like to get to the airport much more than two hours before our flight (especially in Orlando, which can be so busy). I was a bit apprehensive since The Sunshine Flyer set the pickup time at our hotel.
The morning of our departure, they were precisely on time, and we arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare.
Are There Any Downsides to the Service?
Like other bus transportation options, The Sunshine Flyer drops off at multiple hotels, so there may be a bit of a wait if your hotel is one of the later drop-offs.
The only way to ensure a direct drop-off is to book a private car.
How Does The Sunshine Compare with the Magical Express?
I noticed a few minor differences, but overall it is a very similar experience to Disney’s Magical Express, the bus service that previously was included for guests staying “on property” at Disney World hotels. The Sunshine Flyer has a different “feel” than the Magical Express did. The employees are cheerful and helpful and spend a lot of time talking to those waiting for a bus.
Our experience with Magical Express drivers was always excellent. On The Sunshine Flyer, I noticed the staff really took their job as “rail conductors” seriously, which added to the fun atmosphere.
Commonly Asked Questions about the Service
Where Does The Sunshine Pick Up at MCO?
The Sunshine Flyer picks up from Terminal B, Level One, at the Orlando International Airport (MCO). Expect to get a confirmation email from The Sunshine Flyer a few days before your vacation directing you to the exact pickup location at the airport.
If you arrive at another terminal, simply pick up your bags from baggage claim and take the elevator up to the departure level. Look for the sign for Terminal B. Walk into Terminal B, then take the elevator down to Level One.
When we got off the elevator at Level One, employees from The Sunshine Flyer directed us to the motor coaches. Note that an inside counter check-in location is coming soon.
How Long Does The Sunshine Flyer Take to Get to Disney?
It took us about 40 minutes to get to our Walt Disney World Resort hotel from the airport. Orlando traffic can be pretty busy at certain times of the day, so it may take longer if there is an incident on the freeway or if you arrive during rush hour.
Are There Bathrooms on The Sunshine Flyer Buses?
Yes, there is a bathroom at the back of the premium motor coaches.
During busy times, The Sunshine Flyer uses passenger vans to handle the increased number of travelers. Those do not have a bathroom.
Which Disney World Hotels Does It Serve?
The Sunshine Flyer serves almost all Walt Disney World resort hotels (including value resort hotels like the Pop Century Resort and deluxe hotels like the Grand Floridian & Boardwalk). There is a full list of the hotels served on the website.
Does The Sunshine Flyer Accommodate Wheelchairs?
Yes, you need to make sure when you book your journey that you indicate that you need ADA-accessible transportation for a wheelchair.
How Do I Book the Sunshine Flyer?
Visit SunshineFlyer.com, and click BOOK NOW. Choose one-way or round-trip travel and enter your flight info. Follow the prompts on the screen to finish your reservation.
You will receive an email confirmation.
A day or two before you depart your Disney hotel for your return trip to the airport, you will receive an email (we also got a text) from The Sunshine Flyer noting your pick-up time.
Our experience with The Sunshine Flyer was smooth, friendly and seamless.
It was the first time in a while that we did not rent a car in Orlando. Knowing that someone else was taking care of the driving made a considerable difference to us (especially to my husband, who does not like to drive in unfamiliar cities).
We did not have to worry about when to leave for the airport or wait in line at a rental car terminal.
We would absolutely book The Sunshine Flyer again.
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