Walt Disney World is a big-ass place, similar in size to the city of San Francisco. Traversing the property can be done for free via Disney busses, boats, monorail, tram, and soon-to-be Skyliner. However, while the aforementioned options are free to use they aren’t always the most efficient route to take. Way the fuck back, long-long-ago when taxis roamed the Earth in 2014 the Disney transportation system was really the best way to maneuver the Disney grounds. At that time, the Mears company had (and still does) a monopoly on taxi service and priced themselves accordingly. Then enters Uber in the latter half of that year to bust the game wide open, soon followed by Lyft a month later. Then in 2017 Disney gets in the game themselves by teaming up with Lyft to roll out the Minnie Van service for resort guests. So which should you choose and how exactly should you go about using it at Walt Disney World? Let’s get to that, shall we.
WTF is Rideshare?
For the uninitiated, Uber and Lyft are ridesharing services allowing you to use your smartphone to summon a driver who then essentially becomes a taxi operator and takes you to your destination. These systems usually work at a cheaper rate than an average taxi as the drivers aren’t certified and don’t carry special insurance or a CDL they’re just a person with a car who’s willing to pick up a stanger and drop them somewhere. Some drivers work full time as one would expect a cabbie, others do this to solely get some extra cash for a big purchase and never drive again. Drivers work when they want to by logging into the app on their phone and accepting trips from nearby riders who use the app. The rates have a base for distance and time which is lower than that of your average taxi. However, unlike the taxi service rates can spike based on current availability of drivers versus rider demand (probably still gonna be cheaper than a fucking Mears taxi – amirite). Uber and Lyft are both similar in price mostly because most drivers are on both platforms- meaning the number of available drivers for each service is usually the same. Now, the Disney twist to this is called the Minnie Van. It’s only available to resort guests (not all resorts just yet) and only via the Lyft app. If you summon a Minnie Van, the cost is a flat $25 one way for up to 6 guests (including up to 3 car seats).
The Minnie Van
UPDATE 06/01/18: This service is now available to anyone on Disney property regardless of whether or not you’re a Disney resort guest.
Update: The new pricing will have a $15 base price plus a per mile charge.
The $25 set fee for a Minnie Van is a bit steep, and I’m trying to be nice. A typical Uber or Lyft ride at Disney is going to cost you $10 or less. So the monetary value for a Minnie Van comes in the 3 free car seats. The basic Uber or Lyft service will charge you $10 for a car seat thus evening the score a bit. However, if you’re not in need of a car seat there’s no reason to consider this option unless you really must ride in a polka-dotted Chevy Traverse to check-off some odd bucket list item. Now, if you open your Lyft app and see there’s a price spike on the standard service and you need to get clear across the Disney property and are needing a car seat or two, there would probably be a savings as that regular rideshare trip would probably be over $15 then add the $10 car seat and you’re past $25. Since the Minnie Van rates are locked at $25 you’d actually come out ahead in this instance. Another benefit to this service is Minnie Vans drop you off at the Park entrance just like a Disney bus. Any other form of passenger vehicle will be dropping you off near the taxi area. This is especially prominent at Magic Kingdom where all non-Disney transportation drops you off at the Transportation and Ticket Center where you then have to wait for a boat or monorail to get you to the gate. UPDATE 03/23/18: Guests of Disney’s Deluxe Resorts can now use Minnie Vans for a ride back to the airport. The cost for this is $150 – fuck that.
Uber vs Lyft
In terms of which one of these apps is better for you on property there’s no correct answer for everyone since the prices are similar and the drivers are the same for the most part, so I recommend using the service you would normally use in your hometown, for me that’s Uber. When I’m on property with just my wife for a date-night we stick to Uber because that’s just what we’re used to. However, if you don’t have a default app, I would download Lyft for the simple fact that you might be inclined to hail a Minnie Van and you can’t do that on Uber. For our upcoming trip with our daughter in tow I’ll be defaulting to Lyft for this very reason. It’s also worth noting that Uber has already become a verb in American lexicon whereas Lyft is not as ubiquitous meaning there are probably less Lyft riders than those who use Uber. Meaning your likelihood of a spike in rates for the Lyft app is probably lower than that of Uber since the number of drivers for both is similar but the rider base is not.
When to Use Rideshare?
You would conceivably save time using rideshare for almost any trip on property that you would need to otherwise take Disney transportation. However, the time saved could be so little in many cases that it’s not always worth the money. In practical terms you need to weigh the cost vs time. If there is a direct route to where you’re going via FREE Disney transportation it’s probably your best bet. Conversely, when you have to connect at a bus top etc, a rideshare could be worth it in terms of time saved. Those expensive-ass Park tickets you bought have no value to you whilst not inside the Park. So, if you’re spending an hour or more getting somewhere you’re not getting your money out of the ticket. Hence a $7 Uber might be worth it for that particular instance. The most effective time to rideshare occurs when needing to get from one Disney resort hotel to another. Disney has no direct resort to resort transportation. You must connect at one of the Parks or at Disney Springs. So, if you need to get from the Wilderness Lodge all the way to Animal Kingdom Lodge for your reservation for Dinner at Boma in 30 minutes, your ass better get that rideshare app ready cause there’s zero chance you make it on-time using the Disney bus system.
Ridesharing is a valuable tool at Walt Disney World. It can be used to supplement the free Disney transportation that’s in place which can add to the enjoyment of your trip. I tend to rely on Disney’s freebie transport as much as I can, but there comes a point where waiting in the Florida sun for a bus can drain a man of his will to live. Thankfully there’s an app for that.