Probably the most important part of a trip to Walt Disney World is getting there in the first place. My first trip, back in 2003, began with a two-day long road trip from Toledo, Ohio, to Orlando, Florida. My family did this twice, and then we decided enough was enough, and we began to fly into Orlando International Airport (MCO). What a difference a flight can make. Yet, flying with a wheelchair has its challenges too, and we can talk about that later.
My family enjoys staying on property as it offers so many benefits not available off property. One of the perks is the free Disney’s Magical Express shuttle service from the airport to the resort hotels and then back to the airport at the end of a visit to WDW. The key to using this service with a wheelchair is to make sure that you inform Magical Express that you will require a bus with a lift along with your flight information months prior to heading to the airport. This will ensure that when you arrive at the Magical Express desk that a lift bus is ready for you and your family. Otherwise, you may need to wait for a long period of time until one comes back to the airport. This of course delays your Disney vacation – and who wants that to happen?
Now that the Magic Bands are up and working, it is easy to check your entire party in with a flick of the wrist. Being in a wheelchair, you will be escorted to a waiting area designated for handicapped travelers. There are benches if needed and informative cast members willing to answer any questions you may have about your ride.
Once the bus is ready, they typically load the wheelchair riders first. This way the driver can maneuver around inside the bus and fasten the wheelchair/scooter in place, but let’s take a step backwards. The cool thing about these lift Magical Express buses is the lift itself. As a person in a wheelchair, the first time is a little scary. The driver will position you on the lift, lock your chair in place, and then proceed to lift you on an “external elevator/lift” several feet above ground level. Most often they will have one of your travel partners inside the bus to help back you into the bus once you are up at bus height. The drivers will then position your chair into place and secure it down with special buckles and seat belts. One complaint by some might be that the wheelchair spaces require pushing at least three rows of seats forward making them unusable and limiting riders on that bus. But, with the frequency of the Magical Express busses, one may not even realize that a wheelchair is loaded on the bus until it is time to get off at your resort.
After about a forty-minute ride to Walt Disney World and arriving at your resort, the process occurs in reverse. The driver will unbuckle the wheelchair and position it on the lift making sure that all is secure. Then the driver gets off the bus and heads to the back passenger side where the controls are positioned. Once lowered to street level you are well on your way to having a magical stay at a WDW resort. I’m sure that many people are not even aware of these specially equipped busses until they need or see one. I know my family did not know about them prior to me needing one.
Kathy Kelly from Special Mouse http://specialmouse.com provided the following information regarding changes to Disney’s Magical Express in 2015. Lou Mongello featured Special Mouse on Show # 384 of the WDW Radio Podcast in November of 2014.
DISNEY MAGICAL EXPRESS ALERT!
Beginning January 2015, Disney’s Magical Express® Transportation will transition its pre-arrival collateral for Guests arriving at the Walt Disney World® Resort on Feb. 15, 2015 and beyond.
The current airport transportation booklet will be replaced with a Disney’s Magical Express confirmation letter. This new document will provide the same helpful information in a refreshed layout. The convenient, one-page letter features new icons, as well as an arrival map to simplify the Guest travel experience.
Upon arrival at Orlando International Airport, Disney’s Magical Express reservations can be retrieved with the touch of a Magic Band, or by scanning the single reservation barcode printed on the confirmation letter.
Please note there are no changes to the Disney’s Magical Express luggage tags, which will continue to be included in the pre-arrival mailing. In addition, there are no changes to the resort departure process. Guests with reservations for Disney’s Magical Express from a Walt Disney World Resort hotel to the airport will continue to receive a transportation notice delivered to their room prior to the day of their departure.
As a reminder, the Walt Disney Travel Company produces final documents with Disney’s Magical Express included for some of their Guests in lieu of a confirmation letter. This booklet may also be used to board Disney’s Magical Express at the airport.
Useful WDW Radio links:
On October 20, 2013, Lou Mongello referred to Magical Express on Show #340 of the WDW Radio Podcast.
Useful links to Disney.com
(All photos are from author’s personal collection. Disney Magical Express logo © Disney.)
Andrew is a 17-year-old junior in high school from Ohio. He was born with cerebral palsy and gets around in a wheelchair. He has been to both US Disney parks, several D23 events and is a DCL gold castaway member. If you would like to contact him feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or look him up on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/andrew.prince.7161 and on Twitter https://twitter.com/Andrew1arp