After a fabulous Bon Voyage Breakfast at Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn, my daughter and I headed for Animal Kingdom Park. Our first thought was to hop a bus and be on our way to see lions, tigers, and… giraffes! (There are no bears at Animal Kingdom Park, drat!) But as we approached the bus depot, we noticed a crazy line! There had to have been a 100 people standing around waiting for a bus. (I should say, at this point, that I’ve stayed at the Boardwalk Inn and while the buses have never been spot on, I’ve never seen something like this!)
We considered our options for transportation to the park, waiting for the bus (not gonna happen!), taking an Uber, or even hopping in a cab since there were a few on standby. Then, I remembered that Disney had just rolled out a new, private transportation system called “Minnie Vans!”
Minnie Vans are a fleet of Chevy vehicles, mostly Chevy Traverse although there are a few Suburbans available for larger parties, decorated to look like Minnie Mouse’s personal car! Disney Cast Members are at the helm of these super fun vans and they are ready to whisk you and your family wherever you need to go. This is a new program (meaning there are some kinks to work out) and the vans are currently servicing guests at Yacht Club, Beach Club, Boardwalk Inn, Wilderness Lodge, and Animal Kingdom Lodge. Since we were at Boardwalk Inn, I knew it was the perfect time to give it a try!
I knew the Minnie Vans were utilizing the Lyft app so I downloaded it to my phone. I found it easy to arrange for a pick up right there but just as I was about to request a ride, I realized that I was going to get a standard driver – not the Minnie Vans!
After asking around a bit outside the resort, I headed into the lobby and approached Bell Services as they were the people “in the know.” They magically sent something to my Lyft app, I honestly have no idea what, and then… Ding! I could request a Minnie Van!
The app whirled as it searched for a driver in the area while I walked outside again. I was shocked to see a Minnie Van right there – my app still wasn’t showing a connection with a driver. Yet, there he was! I walked over, introduced myself, and quickly learned that that particular vehicle was waiting for another guest. (I really should have known that it wasn’t going to be that easy…)
While this vehicle waited for its passenger, my app continued to search for a driver. The app crashed and/or timed out a total of three times in 15 minutes. But, happy for me, Mr. Craig never did show up for his sweet ride, so the driver helped me restart the Lyft app and link to him. After a rough start, we were soon on our way!
Our driver, Wes, is a long time Disney employee. He has worked in roles directly with Guests (including many years as a Disney bus driver), he has worked on special projects, and more. A very nice gentleman with, I’m sure lots and lots of stories to tell. I wish we had been headed further away, I would have loved to spend all morning talking with him!
During our journey, we learned that Disney keeps two car seats in each Traverse so that younger travelers can ride safely. All of the drivers have been trained in how to safely install car seats and will take care of this task for parents. (I was super impressed with this!) We also learned that guests using a manual wheelchair can easily be accommodated in one of the Traverses but there are other vehicles available for guests who have motorized wheelchairs or even ECVs. Guests do need to be able to transfer into the vehicle in order to ride though.
Since these are Disney vehicles, they are able to bring you to areas not available to other drivers. For example, if you were to take an Uber to the Magic Kingdom – you would have to either go to Ticket & Transportation and take a monorail or ferry over to the park or go to the Contemporary Resort and walk to the park. With the Minnie Vans, they pull right up to the front of the park and you are just a few hundred feet from the entrance. That’s what I call riding in style! (I mean, arriving in Cinderella’s pumpkin coach would be better but this is still fantastic!)
The Minnie Vans are an awesome way to get around, there’s no doubt. The price tag is a bit hefty though – $20 per ride. When compared to Lyft or Uber, where you’d pay approx $8 for the ride we took, it’s a lot. A cab for that route would run you about $15, or so, depending on traffic. Still, I think it was a great value for us this morning. Meeting Wes and hearing some of his stories and learning about the “behind the scenes” of the service was great.
And, we made it to Pandora for our FastPass+ for Avatar: Flight of Passage with plenty of time to spare. That, my friends, is priceless!
Got questions about the new Minnie Van service, or anything else travel related, give me a shout!
Kristy “The Mickey Guru” Ouellette
Follow me on Instagram @MickeyGuru