I recently had the chance to try the Sunshine Flyer Airport Transportation Service and here is my review.
The Sunshine Flyer is promoted as a unique travel experience, it operates between the Orlando International Airport (MCO) and all hotels on Walt Disney World property.
The Sunshine Flyer Motorcoach Service is one of the 2 paid replacements for Disney’s Magical Express which was a complimentary service offered to Disney guests, the other being Mears Connect.
As is my practice here on the site, this will be my honest review so that you may make an educated decision.
The Sunshine Flyer began operations on 1 February 2022 (a month after Mears did). My round trip experience was in early April, just over 2 months after they began operations.
In full disclosure, I’d been contacted by a PR Firm representing the Sunshine Flyer in mid March to advise me that the Sunshine Flyer offered military discounts for those bound for Shades of Green. They did not request that I try their service and did not offer any compensation for sharing the discount info or a review. They also provided general and background info for my full Sunshine Flyer informational post.
In this review I’ll mention info that is fully covered in my full Sunshine Flyer post in order to share what I experienced.
Links for this section:
- Full Sunshine Flyer Info
- Mears Connect Info
- Mears Connect Review
- My Orlando International Airport Guide
My First Ride On the Sunshine Flyer
When you arrive at Orlando International, you’ll arrive on the third level of the main terminal. You will need to pick up your luggage from the Baggage Claim area for your airline. This will either be on the second level of Terminal A or Terminal B. Afterwards you’ll head to the Transportation Area on the B side. A and B sides are only connected on the third level, so if you are in the A Baggage Claim, you’ll need to go back up to cross over the B Side. The Transportation Areas are on the first level.
There are no signs in the airport directing you to the Sunshine Flyer (or Mears Connect) as there were for Disney’s Magical Express. You need to know to head to the B Side Transportation level.
The transportation levels are very long and narrow, with outdoor access to one side and a long row of counters stretching along most of the inside wall. Rental car companies and many other transportation companies all have spots at counters. There are numerous elevators and escalators that will bring you to this level spaced along the whole length of the level.
When You get to the transportation level you still won’t see any signs directing you to the Sunshine Flyer, unless you happen to use the elevator by the one spot near the Sunshine Flyer location where they have a person holding a small Sunshine Flyer sign.
So, in order to find the Sunshine Flyer as you exit the elevators or escalators on level 1, stand with the exterior windows at your back and the inside wall with counters in front of you. The Sunshine Flyer will be the right at the very far end of the level. Mears Connect is at the far left of the level.
Sunshine Flyer Reception Area
As you near the end of the level you still will not see any signs for the Sunshine Flyer. You’ll see empty counters that could be used for their reception area but aren’t (I assume due to cost).
As I mentioned previously, Mears Connect inherited the huge welcome and queue area that they formerly used as the Magical Express. This waiting area in inside the climate controlled building.
Head out the door into the Florida heat or occasional cold and you’ll find a Sunshine Flyer employee with a little table cart who will check you in.
To be clear, their staging area is outdoor in the Florida heat, right by where your bus will pull up and next to a construction delivery area.
A few days prior to your departure from home you will receive a confirmation email with instructions and a QR Code to be used as your boarding pass. The employee there should scan it. During my trip the scanner was not working, so she looked me up by name.
There are no queues or lines like you find at Mears Connect, you are just told to hang out in the area and they will shout what resorts each bus will be going to as it arrives.
The Sunshine Flyer advertises that you will wait no longer than 20 minutes for your bus to arrive. I waited about 10 minutes at 11 a.m. on a Thursday.
Sunshine Flyer Ambiance
The Sunshine Flyer is aiming for a unique themed look to be a themed experience which is an “exciting” beginning of an adventure. The theme is 1920’s rail travel, their motorcoaches are all painted like 1920’s locomotive trains and old-fashioned passenger cars. The staff is said to dress in period railroad train engineer and conductor costumes.
The Staff – There was no evidence at all of employees dressed as period train engineers or rail conductors at all during my vacation. Drivers all wore a white button-down shirt and slacks, while reception workers wore slacks, normal shirts and jackets/vests more reminiscent of Tomorrowland than the 1920’s.
The Buses – The buses as advertised are all painted on the exterior like 1920’s trains. Each bus has an individual look and you will see them on the road around Disney World or at the resorts.
Sunshine Flyer Ride Experience
The Sunshine Flyer does not have a maximum number of stops at the Walt Disney World Resort, rather they state that you will be on the bus no longer than 65 minutes. They say the buses have USB charger stations at each seat, a bathroom if needed and entertainment on video screens while enroute.
Luggage handling is taken care of by your driver. They will stow your luggage on the bus and get it off at your destination resort.
On my ride to Disney World, my resort was the 4th and last stop. I was on the bus 75 minutes. I feel that 4 stops is excessive. On the old Magical Express and new Mears Connect, 3 stops was/is the max.
The interior of their buses are just like any other bus. The buses that I rode on seemed well used and reminded me of the Magical Express. On my ride to Disney World there was a bare wire sticking out of the wall.
The buses that I rode on only had charging plugs at every other pair of seats. There were no USB plugs, just grounded household outlets.
During both my trips there was no onboard video. I expected Disney info on arrival and airport info on my departure.
They also advertise onboard WiFi. When riding on both of the buses on my trip there was a network called “Academy – XXXX” with the X’s being a number. Everyone knows that you do not connect to a network that you do not know! These networks apparently were the bus’ but they need to be renamed “Sunshine-Flyer-XXXX” or something similar or the driver should state that is the name of their network (though it makes no sense) so you know it’s safe.
When making your reservation on the Sunshine Flyer website you will pick hour long blocks of when you’d expect to ride the bus, but they recommend that you provide your flight numbers. This helps them in scheduling your rides.
The day prior to your departure you will receive another email telling you what time your pick up will be at your resort to head back to the airport. It will be roughly 3 hours prior to your flight’s scheduled departure.
On my return trip the QR Code was again not needed, the driver checked us off by name.
This bus also picked up from 4 Disney Resorts. Mine was the second. The bus was parked away from the pick up area at the resort’s front door from about 20 minutes before my pick up time. At 5 minutes before my scheduled time the bus pulled away and went to another nearby resort, then came back a few minutes after my scheduled time. We then stopped at 2 more resorts before heading to the airport. I was on the bus about 50-55 minutes for the return trip to the airport.
There was no onboard entertainment on this trip either, just the system menu on the screen.
Sunshine Flyer Details
The Sunshine Flyer’s Buses take guests to all Disney Resorts and Shades of Green.
Their military discount is only offered for Shades of Green. Military families bound for other WDW destinations will pay the regular rate
Sunshine Flyer Pricing
- Standard pricing is: $17 each way ($34 round trip) for adults, $12.50 each way ($25 round trip) for children
- Shades of Green pricing is: $13.50 each way ($27 round trip) for adults, $11.25 each way ($22.50 round trip) for children
Mears Connect Pricing: Standard Service pricing is: $16 each way ($32 round trip) for adults, $13.50 each way ($27 round trip) for children for all locations at WDW.
Cancellation Policy: Full refund if cancelled 72 hours in advance, full credit towards future tickets if cancelled under 72 hours.
Here is a list of all participating hotels: Walt Disney World Resort Hotels:
Disney Moderate Resorts: Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground, The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort.
Disney Deluxe Resorts: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas, Disney’s Beach Club Resort, Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Disney’s Yacht Club Resort.
Disney Vacation Club Resorts: Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Copper Creek Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village, Disney’s Beach Club Villas, Disney’s BoardWalk Villas, Disney’s Old Key West Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows, Disney’s Riviera Resort, Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Yacht Club Villas, Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge at Walt Disney World, Star Wars: Galactic Cruiser, Treehouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa.
Non-Disney Resorts: Shades of Green
See my Sunshine Flyer Page for full details and more info.
My Overall Review of the Sunshine Flyer Service
As I said this is my honest opinion, that’s what I do here in order to serve our community.
I visit Walt Disney World many times per year in order to provide you information that is up to date. So I’m very experienced with getting to and from the Disney World Resorts. I had been using Disney’s Magical Express Service since roughly 2015 and enjoyed the service.
Both the new paid services: the Sunshine Flyer and Mears Connect have jumped into the void left by the termination of the free Magical Expresses.
Mears was the company that Disney contracted to operate the Magical Express, so they were ready to continue the very same service, for a fee, the day after Disney stopped paying them to operate it. The only difference now is that the buses do not have Disney paint jobs. Mears uses the same buses, staff, and ample indoor real estate in Orlando International Airport.
The Sunshine Flyer started at a disadvantage from scratch, without a location in the airport or any other requirements. I feel they have a long way to go to become equal to Mears Connect.
The advertised 1920s rail travel feel is minimal, to the point that it’s really nonexistent except for the bus paint jobs.
The Sunshine Flyer waiting area is to me unacceptable. In the 95 degree ,70%+ humidity of Central Florida summers it will be unbearable. I assume they do not have the ability to use the area inside the doors due to not renting it.
Every factor of the service seemed to need lots of improvement. I’ll give them a year to improve and try it again. In the mean time I’ll use Mears or a limo.
With the departure of the Magical Express and a paid option replacing it, you might be searching for all options.
- Mears Connect
- There are Limo Companies in Orlando (Mears is the biggest)
- There are Taxis (many are operated by Mears)
- 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 in the $200 per round trip range.
Taxi Service – Taxis at the airport are about $75 each way to Disney World.
Disney World’s Minnie Van Service (Restarting Summer 2022) – Will transport you from the airport to anywhere on WDW property and back for $150 each way.
Please share your Sunshine Flyer experiences, comments, questions, and tips in the comments section below!
Planning a Disney Trip? Want to get the best military discounts that are available? Feeling a little confused?
See Our Great Disney Discount and Planning Info:
- Disney Veteran & Military Discount Eligibility Guide
- The Military Family’s Walt Disney World Comprehensive Vacation Planning and Preparation Guide
- Military Disney Tips Disney Packing Checklist
- Disney Military Tickets – Your Start to Finish Guide
- Resorts/Hotel Overview Page
- Dining Overview Page
- Transportation Overview Page
- Technology Overview Page
- Shades of Green, WDW’s Military Only Resort
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