There’s no denying many Walt Disney World fans were upset to hear the news that Disney’s Magical Express ended on Jan. 1, 2022.
So … now what? How will guests visiting the most magical place on earth get to and from their Disney Resort hotel and the Orlando International Airport?
Photo courtesy of Mary Blair
Enter Mears Connect from Mears Transportation, the third-party operator of Magical Express.
This new form of transportation was first announced in April 2021, following the news in January 2021 that Magical Express services would be permanently suspended.
And although it is just one of many airport transportation options available, for people looking for a Magical Express replacement, it is the closest you’ll find.
If you prefer not to use a rideshare service, like Uber or Lyft, or to rent a car, Mears Connect might be your next best choice, depending on what you’re willing to spend. Because, let’s face it, the days of free airport transportation are long gone.
Here’s everything you need to know about the new airport transportation service, including how it works, how you can make reservations, how much it costs, and more.
What is Mears Connect?
Mears Connect comes from Mears Transportation (the third party operator of Magical Express).
But, unlike Magical Express that only went to Disney resort, the new Mears Connect provides transportation between Orlando International Airport and resorts in the Disney World area, along with many other Orlando resorts. More on that below.
Per Mears Connect, guests can expect the following:
- Quick access
- Limited wait times to board
- Entertainment during transportation
- Space and comfortable seating
- Safety measures, including clean and sanitized vehicles
- An arrival souvenir
- Limited stops to your resort
- Professional and friendly drivers
- 24-hour service
You may be transferred in either a motor coach, a shuttle, or a small vehicle, depending on the service you’ve selected, the time, and the number of other guests.
When does Mears Connect start?
Service for Mears Connect began on Jan. 1, 2022, the same day Magical Express ended.
How do I make a reservation for Mears Connect?
You can book online now.
There’s also an introductory rate being offered, which we go over below in the pricing section.
How does Mears Connect work?
The Mears Connect process is fairly simple.
When it comes to booking, you can choose between two types of service: Standard and Express.
Standard Service (Least Expensive)
This is a shared ride service on Mears Connect bus or van and includes all tolls and other surcharges.
With Standard, the bus or van, will make a limited number of stops along the way. Mears Connect originally “vowed to have guests on their way to their resort within 20 minutes of check-in at the Mears Connect reception area,” but that has since changed.
The amount of time it takes for guests to depart the airport on the Mears Connect and head to their resort will depend on several factors and vary for all guests, so be prepared to possibly wait.
Upon departure from your resort to the airport, your return transportation will meet you, at your resort, a minimum of 3 hours in advance of your domestic flight’s departure time or a minimum of 4 hours in advance of your international flight.
Express Service (More Expensive)
This provides direct service to your resort and back to the airport (guaranteed first stop) with limited to no wait time and includes all tolls and other surcharges.
Important: Express service is not considered private service, it may be shared service.
Upon departure from your resort to the airport, your return transportation will meet you, at your resort, approximately 2.5 to 3 hours in advance of your domestic flight’s departure time and 3.5 to 4 hours in advance of your international flight.
You select which service you want. If you want to share a ride and pay less, Standard is for you.
If you’re willing to pay more to potentially avoid riding with strangers and be the “guaranteed first stop,” Express is the way to go.
Then, you enter all of the necessary information, including: your drop-off and pick-up location, arrival and departure airline, flight numbers, arrival date and time, departure date and time, number of adults and children, how many bags you have, and if you or anyone in your party has a wheelchair.
Finally, you enter your first and last name, phone number, email, credit card number, name on the credit card, and billing zip code.
Once that’s complete, you check the box agreeing to the terms and conditions and select “pay now.”
Once you arrive at the Orlando airport, after collecting your luggage you’ll board Mears Connect on Level 1 of the B side, the ground transportation level (just like Magical Express).
There will be signs to Mears Connect directing you to the reception area. You simply check in using a QR code on the boarding pass you receive 23 hours before your flight via email.
After you land, you’ll also receive a link to the QR code via text. You can use either your text or email boarding pass to check in.
When it comes to actually checking in, you enter and confirm your Mears Connect reservation via a digital device and scan your QR code.
You might even receive a fun welcome gift, like sunglasses!
After you’re all check in, you’re directed to a designated loading zone, where you wait until it is your time to board.
Speaking of QR codes, they are valid for 48 hours.
If your arrival flight is canceled and you reschedule a flight arriving within 48 hours of original flight time, your QR code will be valid and you don’t have to update your reservation. This also applies if you arrive one day earlier than your scheduled date.
If your departure flight is delayed or canceled, click on “Manage reservations” in the reservation box on the home page and you will be able to make your changes.
Upon departure from you resort, here’s what to expect for both Standard and Express services:
- Standard: your return transportation will be scheduled to meet you, at your resort, a minimum of 3 hours in advance of your domestic flight’s departure time or a minimum of 4 hours in advance of your international flight. You’ll get a confirmation email and 23 hour notification with your time of pick up, along with a boarding pass link and a link to track your vehicle to the airport 15 minutes before your departure time.
- Express: your transportation will be scheduled to meet you, at your resort, 2.5 to 3 hours in advance of your domestic flight’s departure time and 3.5 to 4 hours in advance of your international flight. You’ll get a confirmation email and 23 hour notification with your time of pick up, along with a boarding pass link and a link to track your vehicle to the airport 15 minutes before your departure time.
Mears Connect also notes, “Both standard and express service levels incorporate all current city, county, state, federal and CDC health and safety measures and both standard and express service levels will provide your party with continuously clean, sanitized vehicles.”
How much does Mears Connect cost?
Price depends on the service you choose and how many passengers are in your party. For Standard, pricing also varies per adult and per child.
Also keep in mind that length of stay does not impact price. Rates are strictly per passenger.
Current Standard Service Introductory Rates
- $16 per adult
- $13.50 per child (ages 3-9)
- $32 per adult
- $27 per child (ages 3-9)
Current Express Service Rates
- $250 (up to 4 passengers)
Per Additional Passenger
- $55 per additional passenger
When testing out different dates and hotels (and during peak travel times, like for Presidents’ Day), pricing remained the same. It appears the introductory rate is the same no matter the time of year or hotel.
Of course, pricing can (and probably will) increase and vary as Mears Connect becomes more popular.
In January 2022 (right after Mears Connect launched), the introductory rate for Express increased by $50 and went from $200 to $250.
Can I cancel or modify my Mears Connect reservation?
Yes, you are able to modify and cancel reservations.
There is no charge if you cancel or change more than 24 hours prior to your scheduled pick up time. You will be charged fully if you cancel or change less than 24 hours prior to pick up time. Refunds will be processed 24 to 48 hours after cancellation.
Here’s how to do make modifications and cancellations.
On the main website page, click “Manage reservations” in the bottom left corner of the reservation box.
Then, enter your confirmation number, your last name, and your email. Click “Find Reservation.”
On the “Reservation Detail” screen, you can then either select “Change” to make any modifications or “Cancel” to cancel.
Which resorts does Mears Connect service?
Here is the list of current resorts Mears Connect will pick up and drop off. According to the official website, “the list will expand next year.”
Disney World Resort Hotels
- Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas — Jambo House
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas — Kidani Village
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort
- Disney’s BoardWalk Resort
- The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — French Quarter
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — Riverside
- Disney’s Riviera Resort
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
- Shades of Green
- Walt Disney World Dolphin
- Walt Disney World Swan
- Walt Disney World Swan Reserve
- B Resort & Spa Disney Springs Resort Area
- Four Season Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort
- Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center
- Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace — Disney Springs
- Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista — Disney Springs
- Holiday Inn Orlando – Disney Springs
- JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa
- Orlando World Center Marriott
- Signia by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
- Waldorf Astoria Orlando
- Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort Bonnet Creek
- Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort Area
What about my luggage?
You will be responsible for picking up all checked luggage from baggage claim and you must bring it with you when checking in for Mears Connect.
An employee will help you with your luggage, when it comes to both loading and unloading.
There is also luggage assistance at the front of each Disney Resort hotel, along with luggage storage. Bell Services can also transport your luggage for you if or when needed.
Keep in mind that the resort airline check-in service is no longer at available at Disney Resort hotels.
Is Mears Connect wheelchair accessible?
Yes. The website states, “Both the Standard and Express service will meet your needs.”
For more information on accessibility at Disney World, read our page on Disability Access Service (DAS), other planning resources for guests visiting with special needs, and using an ECV or scooter at Disney World.
Is Mears Connect worth the price?
This is hard to answer definitively with a yes or a no. It all depends on what you’re willing to spend and what kind of service you want.
We have a full review on the service, so be sure to check that out. Here are also some pros and cons.
- Most of the time, Mears Connect will be slightly cheaper compared to Uber or Lyft for solo travelers or couples
- Mears Connect is more convenient for families with small children (car seats are not required for both Standard and Express, unlike Uber and Lyft; if you want to use a car seat, Mears Connect will accept any car seat that you bring, but car seats will not be provided to guests)
- Mears Connect offers 24 hour service (unlike Sunshine Flyer)
- QR codes are valid for 48 hours. If your arrival flight is canceled and you reschedule a flight arriving within 48 hours of original flight time, your QR code will be valid and you don’t have to update your reservation. This also applies if you arrive one day earlier than your scheduled date. If your departure flight is delayed or canceled, click on “Manage reservations” in the reservation box on the home page and you will be able to make your changes.
- Mears Connect doesn’t offer the same convenience, efficiency, and privacy as most rideshare services
- Mears Connect doesn’t make sense for groups with strictly adults and older kids (Lyft and Uber should be more affordable)
- Delays are possible (which could impact park and/or dining plans on arrival day)
- You are picked up from your resort a minimum of 3 hours prior to your domestic flight (a minimum of 4 hours for international flights), which may mean a lot of waiting at the airport
What about renting a car? Well, that’s always an option. You’ll need to decide if a car rental fits into your budget and travel schedule.
If you want to be in control of your own transportation and avoid other individuals as much as possible during an ongoing pandemic, renting a car might be your best bet.
What’s next after Magical Express?
Disney has yet to announce a future airport transportation service. If they do, we expect it won’t be complimentary and guests will most likely have to pay a fee.
We will be sure to keep you in the loop regarding any new Mears Connect changes — and update this post, accordingly.
Disney World Transportation Links
Want to learn more about Disney World buses, boats, monorail, and more?
Check out these handy posts for even more information on how to get around Walt Disney World.
- How to Navigate with Disney World Transportation
- How to Get Anywhere on Disney World Property (WDW Prep Navigator)
- Complete Guide to the Disney Skyliner
- How Minnie Vans Work
- How to use Lyft or Uber at Walt Disney World
- Renting a Car at Walt Disney World
- Everything You Need to Know About Parking at Walt Disney World
- How Mears Connect (the Magical Express replacement) works
- Mears Connect review: Is the airport transportation service worth your time and money?
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