Mears Connect Driven by Sunshine offers transportation for a fee between the Orlando International Airport and the Walt Disney World Resort.
Updated 14 July 2023 – Mears Connect and the Sunshine Flyer have merged. They are now operating as Mears Connect Driven by Sunshine. The Sunshine Flyer website is still active but the content has switched over to match the Mears site
Mears Connect shuttle service began operating on 1 January 2022.
See my review of my first trip using Mears Connect.
Disney’s Magical Express Service, free airport transportation service ended for Walt Disney World Resort at the end of 2021.
A couple of services stepped in to fill the gap left by the Magical Express, the old Sunshine Flyer and Mears Connect.
Mears Destination Services Inc is the third party contractor that has operated Disney’s Magical Express since its inception. Mears provided both drivers and the buses with Disney’s paint scheme.
Early in 2021 Disney World announced that they would stop providing free transportation to their resorts as of 2022. Shortly there after Mears announced that they would continue to provide the exact same service that they had for so many years for a fee (without the Disney branding).
Mears also operates the Super Star Shuttle for Universal Orlando Resort.
How Mears Connect Works
Unlike the Disney’s Magical Express, Mears Connect does serve the Shades of Green Resort and all other hotels on Walt Disney World property!
Mears has a staff of very friendly drivers who will safely get you to your destination. You’ll be whisked from the airport terminal to your Disney Resort.
Mears offers 2 levels of service.
Mears Connect Standard Service
Mears Standard Service is a standard level of service, offering a shared ride service, it works exactly like riding the old Magical Express except with a fee.
You will get in line and wait for the next bus for your destination. Mears states that wait time will be a max of 20 minutes. Waits were usually about that for the Magical Express, but could stretch much longer during peak operations.
You’ll travel to your destination in a large commercial bus which offers comfortable seating.
Drivers will still stow your luggage on the bus and drive you to your resort. Your bus will make a limited number of stops (1 to 3) at other resorts and your’s might not be their first stop.
This is the lower cost option. Pricing is per person. Rates are for adults 10+ and children 3-9. Children under 3 ride free.
Standard service offers both round trip and one-way reservations.
For your return trip you will meet your bus at the front of your resort with your luggage
Standard service will either be on bus or van. Vans may be used for light demand periods. This will allow them to use smaller/cheaper vehicles when the demand in not there. They do the same thing for Universal now.
When booking my January 2022 trip I was presented with the option of selecting my pickup time for my airport return. I was given the option of 4 times, roughly 2 to 3 hours prior to my scheduled take off time.
Mears Express Service
Mears also offers a premium service, which is a dedicated vehicle for just your party, offering direct service to your destination Resort Hotel.
After checking in you’ll have “limited to no wait time” before your departure from the airport.
This is the higher cost option, with only round trip reservations available at this time. There are no child rates for this service
Express Service pickup times are 2 hours prior to your flight’s departure time.
Prices do not surge during busy periods.
How To Reserve Mears Connect
Just go to the Mears Connect website, select your service level, enter your details, payment options and reserve, or ask your travel agent to do it for you.
You’ll need your airline flight numbers and dates!
You can book up to 3 hours prior to your desired ride time!
How to Use Mears Connect
When you arrive at your airline arrival gate at the Orlando International Airport, follow the signs for baggage claim.
You’ll board an elevated subway like train which will take you to the main terminal. Once you pass out of the secure area you’ll enter a large atrium. In this atrium there are 2 Official Disney Stores, both called Magic of Disney. Until 2022 one was called the “Earport.”
As you exit the secure area you will be on level 3 of the airport. Baggage claim is on level 2 and transportation is on level 1.
There are 2 “Terminals” at the airport A & B. They are on opposite sides of the main airport building with the central atrium area in the middle. Each Terminal has its own baggage claim area and transportation areas. Continue to follow the baggage claim signs to your Baggage Claim area (either A or B). You’ll go down the escalator to level 2 to get there.
If you arrive on Jet Blue or an international airline in Terminal C, you need to get your bags there and then take the automated shuttle or bus to the Main Terminal.
Mears Connect is on the B side. So if you are picking up your bags on the A side, after getting your bags you’ll go back up to level 3 and cross the atrium to get to the B Side.
If your baggage area is on the B side or if you only have carry-on proceed to the level 1 the ground transportation level of the B side.
You’ll then see signs directing you to Mears Connect Reception Area, which is at the very far end.
Note there is a counter that is not at the end of the transportation level against the windows looking out at the bus parking area marked Mears Connect. This is not your counter for going to Disney World, this counter serves other destinations in Orlando.
Once you are there step up to the counter to check in. You will need the Mears Connect confirmation email or text that you received prior to your trip to check in. The email has a QR code and the text links to the code that they will scan to check you in.
Once checked in you will be directed to one of several numbered lines.
Each line is for a specific destination. After a wait you’ll board a bus to your resort. These buses make several resort stops and your resort might not be the first one. As of November 2023, buses are making 4 to 5 hotel stops. If you are the last stop, you will be on the bus for over an hour.
The driver will take your luggage and place it in the cargo area of the bus for you.
The bus has charging stations at each seat (they don’t always work) and a bathroom if needed.
Upon arrival at your hotel just hop out and the driver will get your bags for you. Tipping is encouraged.
Now you can check in to your resort if you haven’t checked in online, or you can head right to the theme parks if you are going to use your tickets that day. If not your could do one of the many free or low cost things to do at WDW and save your theme park ticket for the next day.
Return Transportation on your departure day the service works essentially the same.
You or a bell hop will bring your luggage from your room to your pickup location in time for your scheduled pickup.
Pickup locations are usually right in front of the main lobby entrance, or sometimes off to the side a short walk away.
Be on time or early. The drivers are normally very prompt and will leave on time.
The bus driver will load you bags on the bus for you.
Once at the airport the driver will get your bags off the bus for you and you’ll then take them to your airline check-in area on the third level yourself.
With the departure of the Magical Express and a paid option replacing it, you might be searching for all options.
- The Sunshine Flyer (Offers Military Rates to Shades of Green) also offers shared bus service and a private car/van service direct to only your resort with no wait from baggage claim.
- There are other Limo Companies in Orlando (Mears is the biggest)
- There are Taxis (many are operated by Mears)
- Disney Minnie Van
- Uber and Lyft are an option
- And you can always rent a car
Limo Companies – There are numerous limo services available to take you to Walt Disney World. Prices are comparable to Mears’ Express Service.
Taxi Service – Taxis at the airport are about $75 each way to Disney World.
Disney has announced that their Minnie Van Service will be coming back in Summer 2022!
Minnie Van Service was discontinued after the 2020 shutdown.
In 2017 Disney World began offering a new “uber like” service called Mini Vans. These are a fleet of polka dotted (they look like Minnie’s dress) SUVs and cargo vans (with the ability to carry scooters). For about 25 dollars they will take you anywhere on property. They can seat up to six guests, and car seats are on board at no additional fee. Several larger vehicles are available and can transport up to 2 wheelchair/ECV guests.
These are a great totally safe version of Uber and Lyft for those who may not be comfortable with those options. These are driven by Walt Disney World cast members, so totally vetted and safe (though more expensive). The ride experience is far superior to the usually silent or sullen Uber/Lyft drivers,; cast members are friendly, knowledgable and talkative (if you want)! Plus the music played during the ride is Disney music themed on your destination.
Minnie Vans service all locations on WDW property. The Minnie Vans can be requested via the Lyft app (keep swiping left through ride types) or by calling 407-828-3500.
Minnie Vans operate from 6:30 am to 12:30 am and only operate on property. (there is an airport option)
Minnie Van Operating Hours
Minnie Van service operates from 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. daily.
Uber and Lyft – Are great alternatives to traditional transportation companies. Uber and Lyft fares are currently starting at around $30 one way to WDW.
Lyft – $5 credit towards your first ride when you sign up for Lyft using this link. This promo is for your first ride only.
Renting a car – You might be able to find a good military rate. I’m a USAA member and they have discounts negotiated with several of the major car rental companies. However, lines at the rental car counters at Orlando International Airport can be horrendous at times!
Links from this section:
Over to You
What do you think about this new paid replacement for Disney’s Magical Express?
Let us know in the comments section below!
This MDT Post By: Steve Bell
Steve is the the Military Disney Tips Founder. He a retired U.S. Military Member who's been touring the Disney Parks since 1971! Steve's mission is to help military families with their Disney vacations in every way. Check out Steve's Bio.
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