Universal Orlando considering a Magical Express?

Jeff's avatar

I got a survey asking about names for what appears to be an airport service to on-site hotels at Universal Orlando, I assume like Disney's Magical Express. Honestly, for me, this is one of the things that started to shift me over to Disney vacations over Universal (that, and the lack of new attractions for too many years). The survey suggested that the leading candidate was "Universal ON-THE-GO" or something similarly stupid.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

rollergator's avatar

Potter's Broom-Vroom...

You still have Zoidberg.... You ALL have Zoidberg! (V) (;,,;) (V)

Universal Airport Shuttle has a nice ring to it.

bjames's avatar

Hogwart's express obviously. It drops you off right in front of the castle at IOA. You're a wizard, [insert name here]!

Last edited by bjames,

"The term is 'amusement park.' An old Earth name for a place where people could go to see and do all sorts of fascinating things." -Spock, Stardate 3025

slithernoggin's avatar

Nicely done.

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

I'm starting to really get over the Magical Express. Yes, it gets you from the airport to your resort and back, but the entire process is painfully slow, especially if your resort is the third or fourth stop on the route, which for me, it always seems to be.

For my last few WDW trips, I just ended up dropping the $60 for a cab, and the $30 or so return UBER ride back to MCO and it was totally worth the additional expense. And I didn't have to leave for the return trip back to the airport 4 hours before your flight. I swear that Disney has a secret deal with the airport merchants to get return trip passengers back to the airport super early so they have time to shop, eat and spend $$$.

For budget minded travelers, the Magical Express is a totally viable option. For me, it's just too slow, plus you are forced to watch that stupid video for most of the trip.

bjames's avatar

Wait so they require you to board the ride back to the airport 4 hours before your flight? I don't get it. How would the driver know when your flight is? Why would you sit in an airport that long? Why would anyone ever pay for uber and risk getting knifed? These are the questions....

"The term is 'amusement park.' An old Earth name for a place where people could go to see and do all sorts of fascinating things." -Spock, Stardate 3025

slithernoggin's avatar

The four hours part may or may not be a bit of exaggeration -- but Magical Express is a bus. It's more than likely once the bus picks you up, it will be stopping at other resorts to pick up other guests, and that takes time. The driver doesn't know when you flight is, but you do, and you have to allow time to ride the bus to the airport to make your flight.

Being overly fond of Orlando thrift stores and Beefy King, a rental car is my ride of choice.

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

OhioStater's avatar

They certainly don't require you to board the bus 4 hours before your flight. I'm not saying that did not (or cannot) happen, but it was most likely just a case of horrible timing.

We spent about 1 hour waiting for our flight out of Orlando back to Akron/Canton once we got off the bus and made it through security, etc...so I would estimate it was about 2 hours before the flight, which is pretty reasonable.

I didn't notice anything painfully slow...we were at Art of Animation (not sure what number that is on the route), but then again when we're on vacation my mind is in total "not in any kind of hurry for any kind of reason" mode...so time sort of is a non-factor.

Last edited by OhioStater,

I think Magical Express is awesome, and if our trip is all Disney all the time it's the only way to go. In fact, the last time we went I needed a car for one day and it was easy to pick it up at the hub (the resort dropped me off), drive to Tampa and back then drop it off.
I like the feature that allows you to drop your bags at your home airport and never touch them again until they show up in your room. Your resort keeps track of your return trip, you take your bags to the check in area that morning, they do your boarding pass, and once again they're out of your hands until you get home.
MCO has a dedicated area to board the bus and it was easy to do. The first time we were at Port Orleans Riverside and the only other stop before us was French Quarter. The second time we were at Grand and we were the only stop. The busses are nice and the vid gets me in the mood. No tolls and no traffic to deal with, and it's free.
I don't recall that we were all that early to the airport on the return trip, but I tend to be an early bird anyway just in case MCO has mile long security lines which is usually the case. I'd rather wait than be panicked about missing my flight.

Disney has figured out this ingenious way to keep you there, while keeping X amount of vehicles from parking, and for most of our visits that's been fine. I think Universal may not feel that same advantage since I-Drive is right across the bridge and it's possible for guests to leave the property and go elsewhere for meals and such. It may be a hike, but people do it. Certainly, this service can be done there, but with only 4 resorts, on a smaller perhaps less elaborate scale. I know I'd consider it.

Can't go wrong with a rental car. In November we'll land at 1120, and be at the resort around noon after stopping by a grocery store to pick up water, snacks, and other supplies.

On the flight out we'll have to leave the park around 7pm, eat, and make it to the airport by 815 for our 915 pm flight. We hate being at the mercy of the Disney transportation. Parking is free when staying at a Disney resort.

Back on topic. Universal should offer that same service as Disney. All the hotels at Universal are close to each so a bus ride shouldn't take four hours. ;-)

Last edited by Coasterfantom2,

I don't see renting a car so we can park it in a Disney resort lot for a week. But your trip sounds different than ours. If we're going to be at Disney we have plenty of park days and meals scheduled and don't have the time or desire to venture out into Orlando for anything. We also tack days onto the beginning and end of the trip devoted to travel only, so the bus works for us.

I also think the older we get the more valuable convenient services like this become. (families with young kids seem drawn to it too) The last thing I want to do is leave a park at 7 and head directly to the airport with only 2 hours to get all that done. But maybe that's just me.

And I agree about Universal, as noted. Yes, they should.

Tommytheduck's avatar

Let's call "Magical Express" what it really is... a prison bus. (Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration...) But seriously, you are basically captive on Disney property. That means every morsel of food, every drop of liquid other than tap water, is purchased from Disney at Disney prices. Your entire trip will be spent on property until they shuttle you back to the airport.

Rent a car. If you stay on property, parking is free. If you stay off property, you've probably saved enough to pay for parking and half the rental car.

Hit up a Walmart for cheap cases of bottled water, drinks and maybe some light snacks to bring in. Oh, and sunscreen. We bought a $10 portable stroller so we didn't have to pay $15/day.

Drive to the beach (or anywhere else) for a relaxing day off in the middle of your park days. Or drive to Fun Spot.

I'm not saying not to buy your kid a Mickey ice cream, or to enjoy the fine dining/drinking at Epcot. Just be smart about it. You don't need to pay $3 every time you want a Coke if you've got a case sitting in your room. But you will if you take the Magical Express.

Last edited by Tommytheduck,

Prison bus? Well, ok, I suppose you can see it that way. Captive audience? Sure. Which is why I say it's the most ingenious thing Disney's come up with. Good for business.
And good for me. I go to central Florida once or twice a year and do the Disney thing maybe every other year or so. When I'm there I don't want to go to a beach, or Fun Spot, or the supermarket. I'm there for the Disney experience and I'm glad I can find everything I need there including a sippy cup coke 24 hours a day, 2 Mickey Bars a day for my snack if I want em, as well as effortless transportation to and from my resort.
But as I said, my vacation is different than yours. No kids, no strollers, and my budget is set for Disney. At no time do I feel Disney is holding me hostage or there's some nefarious plot to squeeze money out of me. In fact, by the time we get there that money's already spent. Aside from certain fine dining, cocktails, and some shopping we spend little out of pocket once we're there. And that's money we'd be spending if we were home anyway.

Anyway, not trying to argue. The point is ME works for us and we wouldn't do it any other way.

Lord Gonchar's avatar

I'm the best (worst?) of both worlds.

I want to be captive to Disney...with the exception of transportation. I prefer to do things on MY time and without the necessary interaction with the unwashed masses.

I can't imagine leaving Disney property to buy food and drink to save a buck and I can't imagine not having a car to move around Disney property at my own will.

slithernoggin's avatar

Different strokes for different folks. I completely understand the appeal of Magical Express for many people. For us, we also enjoy thrift stores and flea markets, several Orlando area eateries (okay, so I don't actually enjoy the ramshackle place where you shuck and eat your oysters at the concrete bar....) and Mount Dora is always a nice outing. And, when we stay on property (sometimes we stay with a friend in Windermere), we're at Fort Wilderness, so we hit a Winn Dixie first thing.

Clicked edit to add a few things per Lord Gonchar:

I'm not a fan of public transit in general. I like to go where I want on my timetable. Between my traveling companion's thriftiness and my ASD-fueled fascination with grocery store private label packaging, a Winn Dixie visit is part of the fun. It's nice to have a some breakfast items, a few steaks for the grill and assorted alcohol on hand in the cabin.

Admittedly, we don't do the parks like most people. We park jump vigorously, and having a car makes that much easier to do.

Last edited by slithernoggin,

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

Lord Gonchar said:

I can't imagine leaving Disney property to buy food and drink to save a buck and I can't imagine not having a car to move around Disney property at my own will.

Yeah, this is me too. Sometimes I'll order from Garden Grocer, but that's more for the convenience of stocking the DVC unit (and being able to get things I can't get on property, like good ground coffee) rather than saving money. I will skip the car if I'm on a bonus budget trip, but those don't happen that often.

Plus, sometimes, the car is part of the vacation. This past Easter, my teenaged son and I went down for a Boy's Week Away. We scored a Nissan 370Z on the National Executive Aisle, and had a *great* time cruising with it.

Jeff's avatar

Tommytheduck said:

Hit up a Walmart for cheap cases of bottled water, drinks and maybe some light snacks to bring in. Oh, and sunscreen.

Maybe I'm totally out of touch, but going to Walmart (under any circumstances) to buy bottled water (under any circumstances) isn't something I would ever be interested in. Honestly, even as a local, I'm perfectly content to fork over my $30 on counter service for two adults and a child just to be there in the moment and not think about it. I'm hardly a 1%-er either.

I've only used Magical Express staying at Pop Century and Beach Club. In the case of PC, I'm fairly certain they get their own bus because of the sheer size of the place (maybe they share with Art of Animation now that it's open, but I suspect they've increased frequency if that's the case). Beach Club shared with Yacht Club and Boardwalk, and at worst, this may have added 15 minutes total in each direction. Meh, a rental would have cost me at least $60 that I could be buying counter service with. :) Priorities, you know?

I don't mind the bus system between parks and hotels either. Yeah, getting out of the parks at night is a bit of a cluster, but whatever.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

And the beauty of such a system is that they know who's coming and when. So there are probably days where they need to line 3 buses up for Pop Century and other days when they can take one bus for three resorts in that area.
When we stayed at Grand there were two buses that morning, they were each about full and we were the only stop. Later that day, who knows? Maybe there was only one bus and they stopped at Boardwalk too. Anyway, I'm sure it's as flexible and efficient as they can make it.

Edit: to change my archaic spelling of the plural of bus.

Last edited by RCMAC,

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