On our recent trip to Disney World, we elected to use the new Mears Connect service to travel from the Orlando airport to our Disney resort. In general, the experience was very similar to the free Magical Express service that was discontinued at the beginning of 2022. Keep reading below for a review of our experience with the Mears Connect service from the Orlando Airport to Disney World.
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Mears Connect service
The Mears Connect service is generally comparable to the Magical Express service that used to be free for anyone staying in a Disney Resort. After Disney canceled this free service at the beginning of 2022, the Mears Connect service stepped in to fill the gap. Because the discontinued Magical Express service was actually managed by Mears, many of the drivers and buses are the same ones used as part of that service (just without the Disney branding).
Mears offers several different services. The most basic is the Standard Service which offers round-trip transportation from the Orlando Airport to any Disney Hotel for $32 per adult ($16 one-way) and $27 per child ($13.50 one way). They list these rates as “introductory rates” so they may increase in the future. Guests purchasing the Standard rate may have a short wait before departure and may also have stops at other resorts before being transported to their resort. Mears also offers an Express Service. For $250, up to four guests will be transported directly to their hotel without having to make any additional stops at other resorts.
After reading about transportation options to and from the Orlando Airport, we decided to give the Mears Connect service a try. In the past if we were staying on property, we took advantage of the free Magical Express service offered by Disney. When staying off property, we typically rented a car or used Uber to get to our hotel. Since the Mears Connect service seemed to be an affordable option, we decided to go with this transportation option.
We purchased the Standard Service tickets. The price is comparable to the cost of an Uber, but with Mears Connect the price is set and there is no risk of increased “surge pricing” that you can encounter when using Uber. We also weren’t in a rush and thought that we would have plenty of time to get to the hotel before our scheduled dinner reservation. Spoiler alert: We were wrong. Ultimately, due to delays with our flight and having to wait 42 minutes for our luggage, we were very rushed to make our dinner reservation and were unable to check-in to our hotel room before dinner. Ultimately, these delays were unrelated to the Mears Connect service and taking an Uber (or other private service) would likely only have saved us around 15 or 20 minutes.
As part of purchasing your Mears Connect tickets, you enter your flight arrival and departure information (for both your arrival and return flights if you purchase the round-trip fare). Once we completed our purchase, they emailed us with a receipt and QR code to use for check-in upon arrival at the Orlando Airport. I recommend saving this QR code to your phone by downloading it or taking a screenshot so that you don’t have to worry about internet connectivity immediately after arriving in Orlando. I also recommend traveling with a backup battery pack so that you don’t have to worry about your phone dying before you can check in with your QR code.
As was the case with the Magical Express service, the Mears Connect Service requires you to travel to the B terminal to check-in for your shuttle. We had flown with Frontier (you can read about our experience with Frontier Airlines here) and arrived in the A terminal. Unlike the Magical Express Service, with the Mears Connect service you have to retrieve your own bags and bring them with you to be loaded onto the Mears buses. So, we first had to travel down to the A terminal bag claim, wait for our bags and then travel with our bags back up and across the main lobby to the other side of the airport and then down to the B terminal transportation area.
My sister- who traveled a few days ahead of us- reported finding this very confusing. She flew Southwest and also landed in the A terminal. It is quite a trek from the A terminal baggage claim all the way to the other side of the airport and the signage for the fairly new Mears Connect service isn’t really sufficient. It does outline this information when you purchase your tickets, but with all of the planning that goes into a Disney vacation it is easy to overlook.
When we arrived at the check-in and loading area in the B terminal it was nearly deserted. Granted, we arrived in the middle of the week on a Wednesday in the late afternoon, but I really mean deserted. There were literally no other travelers in view. After a few moments, a few other families arrived, but it was a bit eerie because it is clearly set up for significantly more traffic. In fact, I think the loading area is actually the same area that was used for the Magical Express.
We scanned our QR Code and were handed some free branded sunglasses and were directed down one of the numbered lanes. We were immediately directed to one of three buses that was waiting and were the first passengers to board the bus. My sister reported that when they arrived early on a Saturday morning they had to wait about 15 minutes before their bus arrived. She reported that the bus left shortly after they boarded.
We waited about 15 minutes for other passengers to arrive before the bags were loaded under the bus and we departed. There were only about ten other people on the bus with us. It turned out that everyone on our bus was headed to Disney’s Pop Century Resort. This was nice because we were pressed for time and didn’t have to make any additional stops at any of the other resorts. The trip took approximately 30 minutes.
The bus ride itself was perfectly pleasant. It was a standard coach bus that seemed to be in good condition. Not brand new, but well-maintained. There was a promotional video playing on several screens throughout the bus that included some fun Disney and Universal Studios trivia. The trivia was fun but the loop was short and replayed at least three times during the 30 minute trip. For younger kids, it’s worth having some entertainment as they will probably already be antsy after sitting still on their flight.
Because the bus wasn’t very full, we were able to spread out and I was able to place my carry-on bag on the seat across the aisle. It also meant that we were spaced out from other customers which was nice.
Once we arrived at the resort, the bus driver unloaded our bags from underneath the bus quickly and efficiently. We were able to grab our bags and take them to the bag claim desk and get on our way to our dinner reservation pretty quickly.
Our return trip to the airport was much the same. The biggest drawback of the service- and something I didn’t realize when I initially booked- was that they schedule your return trip to the airport for more than three hours prior to your departure. You don’t find out your actual pick up time until the day before your departure. Mears emails you with another QR code and your pick up time 23 hours prior to your scheduled departure.
For us, our pick up was actually scheduled closer to 3.5 hours before our flight departed. That meant that they picked us up at 6:05 am for our 9:35am flight. I probably would have scheduled a later return flight (or booked some alternative transportation) had I realized how early they would schedule our pick up. Three hours is a long time to waste at an airport- especially when it is too early for any of the shops to be open. Our return bus trip early Sunday morning was also not full and went directly to the airport without stopping at any other resorts.
In general I would say that the service was comfortable and efficient. I would definitely consider using the Mears Connect service in the future if staying at a Disney hotel. The only change I might make is to schedule a return flight later in the day.
To be honest, I missed the magic that characterized the Magical Express a little bit. With that service, it was really nice not to have to pick up our bags and move them to the other side of the airport. I also missed the Disney branding that used to be on the Magical Express buses. In the past, the Magical Express service really felt like the start of your Disney vacation. The Mears Connect service just feels like more travel. But for what it was, the Mears Connect service was a reasonable option for reliable transportation from the airport to our Disney resort.
Have you tried the Mears Connect service? What is your preferred way to travel from the Orlando Airport to your Disney hotel?
I am currently working on a new blog post about our experience with the new Genie + service and will link it here when it is completed. In the meantime, if you are looking for more travel content on the blog, you may want to check out my posts on tips for making the most of your trip to Disney World or tips for making the most of your trip to Universal Studios Florida.
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