We tried both on our last trip! See how it went!
On our most recent Walt Disney World Trip, we attempted to see which transportation is better….Mears Connect or The Sunshine Flyer. We rode MEARS on the way from the airport and The Sunshine Flyer on the way back to the airport. First, let me give you a little background on these two companies.
MEARS became a well known company in 2021. It is, in fact, the same company that provided transportation for the Magical Express that Disney provided. Disney previously provided Magical express as a complimenatary service to guests staying at a WDW resort. However, that contract ended at the end of 2020. In 2021, it became necessary for guests to find alternate transportation from the airport.
MEARS decided to continue to provide the service at a reasonable fee.
The Sunshine Flyer
In 2021 once the Magical Express was gone, the Sunshine Flyer made it’s debut. The Sunshine Flyer brings the era of 1920’s rail travel to the start of your vacation. The Sunshine Flyer’s buses will bring you and your family from Orlando Airport to Walt Disney World® Resorts on a premium motorcoach with a theme centered around old-fashioned passenger cars and train locomotives. From the bus designs to drivers and staff dressed as 1920’s rail conductors and engineers, the Sunshine Flyer experience starts shortly after you step off the plane.
Each motorcoach will be wrapped either as a 1920’s era locomotive or passenger car. No two vehicle designs will be the same, providing a distinctiveness for each Sunshine Flyer ride, giving first time riders and returning guests a new experience and photo opportunity each time they ride the Sunshine Flyer.
Their prices are comparable to MEARS, and they occasionally run specials, like kids ride free.
And now….our experience!
First up was MEARS Connect. Now, this was completely my error, but I had a snafu right at the start. I was checking all of our reservations the day before we left to make sure everything was all set. It was then that I realized…yes, we agents do sometimes make mistakes. I had somehow scheduled our MEARS pick up for a month early. So it had already passed! I was in a complete panic. I called the company, and they had to put in a request, because the managers had already left for the day. He encouraged me to email and call the next day during business hours. I emailed right then, and also called back the next day. When I called them back, it was absolutely no problem, and they got it all taken care of immediately. I also had received a response to the email, but I let them know it was all taken care of already.
The MEARS departure area is in Terminal B, ground floor. If you fly into Terminal A, as we often due (via Southwest), you have to pick up your luggage, take it back up to the 3rd floor to go across over to Terminal A, then back down to the ground floor. Then follow the signs, and it is easy to find.
In our case this trip, due to some reschedules and delays, our flight in was not going to arrive until about 2:30 AM. I had chosen and paid for the standard shuttle. Because our flight arrived so late, though, we ended up with a private shuttle. It was such a pleasant ride when we were SO exhausted. Our driver, Greg Tibbetts, was amazing!
I can’t remember EVERY detail, because I was so exhausted, but he told us all about the company. He has been with the company for many many years, and the company was founded in 1939. They are family owned and operated, but have grown into the largest private ground transportation provider in Central Florida.
I also learned the reason MEARS and Disney were no longer working together. Keep in mind this is one side of the story. Greg said that Disney wanted MEARS to continue their service, but did not want to pay them. They wanted them to sign an agreement that they would provide the transporation with absolutely no compensation from Disney. If this is true, you can understand why they said no and broke that connection. I really learned a lot about the company, and I’m happy to give them my business in the future.
The express service was nice, being dropped off right at our resort. For comparison, the standard service is a shuttle, and depending on time of day, is usually full of passengers and makes several stops at multiple WDW resorts. Overall, we absolutely LOVED our service from MEARS connect.
For our trip back, we tried out the new Sunshine Flyer! The bus was really cute, the train theme is fun for kids for sure. The driver had our names on a list, and checked us off as we boarded. We were the first stop, and we went to 2 other resorts before heading the the airport. Once we started our journey, an informational video came on the tvs, followed by some cartoons.
The trip was enjoyable and the driver was pleasant. Otherwise, there was nothing else significant to point out about the trip. It did the job, and as I mentioned, it would be really cute for kids that were into trains.
Overall, I would use Sunshine Flyer again, but MEARS is what I’d choose when given the option between the two.
You may have seen recently some bad reviews for Sunshine Flyer. I would like to state that there isn’t an option out there that doesn’t have bad reviews mixed in with the good, and it’s all about everyone’s personal experience. Our experience was great, so I wouldn’t let a few bad reviews discourage you if you think it’s something your kids would really love.
I travelled alone to Disney/Universal. I booked a MEARS shuttle to transport me from MCO to Caribbean Beach Resort. It was mid-day, and was not busy at all. The wait was short. The shuttle went to Art of Animation, Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, and finally the Riviera. It was a full bus, but I was the only person getting off at my stop. As a single woman travelling, I felt very safe and secure the entire time. As always, it was a great experience.
Also, a few weeks ago, a client of mine got stuck on the monorail before their MEARS pickup was scheduled. They thought they were going to miss the shuttle. I called MEARS and although I had some difficulty with the first person I spoke with, the second person was very pleasant, and was set to dispatch a private shuttle for them immediately if they missed the bus. They were able to speak to the bus driver upon arrival back at their resort, and he waited for them while they grabbed their luggage, so crisis was averted. It’s nice to know, though, that they had a back up plan ready for just in case.
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