If you are a frequent traveler to the Walt Disney World Resort, you probably are very familiar with Disney’s Magical Express. The complimentary shuttle service takes you from Orlando International Airport to your Walt Disney World resort hotel. It’s a very convenient service that makes your visit more care-free and relaxing.
Recently, Walt Disney World announced that the minimum age to ride a Disney’s Magical Express motor coach unaccompanied by an adult changed from 16 to 12. That’s quite a difference in age requirements. Four years in the life of a teenager is quite a difference in maturity and responsibility. With this change in mind some parents may be thinking twice before sending a 12, 13, or even 14 year old child on a DME bus by themselves. Sure, sending your child on a DME bus alone may seem convenient in some cases, or work very well with your travel plans, but is it really a safe decision? Here we provide you with both a parent’s and teacher’s perspective on the new policy.
A Parent’s Perspective
By Aaron Del Prince
Some tourists may think sending your young child on a DME bus alone is similar in scope to sending them on an airplane alone. Not really, considering more can go wrong to them on the ground versus in the air.
Another consideration is that even though Disney has their name on the Magical Express service it’s also partially run by Mears Transportation Group. Disney has partially outsourced the Magical Express service to Mears. The buses and drivers are provided by Mears Transportation, but Disney runs the Magical Express service – i.e. staffing, planning, airport desk, logistics, etc. You may think as a parent your child is safe with Disney in charge, but at the point your 12, 13, or 14 year old child boards the Magical Express motor coach alone, Mears is now in charge of their safety. The bottom line is Disney does not own the service from beginning to end. You also need to consider Mears as a company who will be in charge of your child’s safety.
As a parent of a 14 year old child I personally wouldn’t let her ride alone. There are a lot of considerations when making this decision. You have to think about what could occur if your child is unaccompanied on a motor coach. There’s peace of mind as a parent during the transfer. What about getting from the airport terminal to the Magical Express check-in desk if your child traveled on the airplane alone? Is your child mature enough to handle finding his or her way through an airport or around motor coaches? There’s so much to consider safety-wise it isn’t worth the logistics or convenience of letting your child go it alone in my opinion. Every child is different and they all mature at different levels when they are young. At the end of the day it’s your decision as a parent to make.
Disney is always making modifications and tweaks to their policies and procedures when it comes to guest safety. However, I’m not so sure this change was in the best interest of safety. It seems convenience and guest demand may have been the winner in this situation. Only time will tell, but let’s hope we don’t turn on the news and hear a story of an unaccompanied young child’s safety compromised during a Magical Express transfer.
A Teacher’s Perspective
By Nicole Mancini
I have to admit that I was quite shocked when I learned that Disney lowered the age limit for unaccompanied minors on Magical Express. In a world where the news is constantly filled with devastating stories of child abduction and abuse, the last thing we’d need to hear is of harm coming to a child who was riding alone en route to Walt Disney World. Why Disney made this decision is beyond me.
When I think of the students in my classroom – who happen to be of a similar age, many concerns come to mind. First and foremost, this policy supports the assumption that a middle schooler is able to navigate the busy Orlando Airport (MCO) alone. Now, I fully recognize that each and every child is different and has varying levels of abilities. Still, I would imagine that this would be an arduous task for most. At times, my students have trouble following multi-step directions on an assignment let alone exiting a plane and finding the correct location to board a bus. Deciphering which direction to walk, which floor to go to, where the restrooms are, etc. all while avoiding harm’s way (think: “stranger danger”) adds to the task. I can see many children feeling scared or overwhelmed.
Similarly, Disney’s new policy is supposedly the result of its wanting to complement most airline age limits. I think that there is a big difference between escorting a child through security and onto a plane and then picking him up at the terminal of the arrival airport and using the bus service alone. With Magical Express, as mentioned above, there is a significant amount of time spent between getting off the plane and onto the bus. Unlike traveling on the plane, there is not a member of the airline staff monitoring young guests. This is when things can go wrong. I would hate to hear that a child got lost or found himself in a dangerous situation because of this new policy.
Finally, it’s important to note that Magical Express, although sponsored and offered by Disney, is mainly run by Mears Transportation. This outside company partnered with the Mouse House when the service first came to fruition years ago. A lot of guests fall under the somewhat misguided notion of “everything being safe” when it comes to Disney and its staff. Here, the bus drivers and employees are not hired Disney cast members, and even if they were, one should not naively believe that all of them are the ideal; bad apples happen in every bunch. This is no different.
Overall, I truly believe that Disney has made a big mistake in lowering the age limit of unaccompanied minors using Magical Express. Navigating the hustle and bustle of MCO is itself a huge undertaking for many travelers and putting this burden on a child 12 and under is ludicrous. Even adults have difficulty finding where to go in the airport, so I imagine many children would as well. Safety is meant to be one of Disney’s utmost concerns when it comes to their guests, and I feel that this new policy is putting many at risk. I encourage parents to make smart decisions when considering it in the future. You know your child best. Would he or she be able to handle it? Would you feel comfortable? How would you ensure that the child is safe during travel? These questions are of the utmost importance to be considered.
What would you do? Would you allow your child to ride Disney’s Magical Express alone? Why or why not? At what age would you let your child ride without adult supervision? Is Disney’s new 12 year old age limit too young? Please share your feedback in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.
Category: Disney World