Mears vs Sunshine Flyer: Walt Disney World from MCO Airport

So you finally made it to Florida and you're stepping off your flight at Orlando International Airport. Naturally, the next question is going to be: how do I get to my resort? Luckily, even since the phasing out of Disney's Magical Express, you have options that can get you to your resort! The two big names you'll see are Mears Connect and the Sunshine Flyer. Both are great options but when you put Mears vs Sunshine Flyer, which one offers the best way to the magic?

Our guide is going to look at these two great services and put them head to head in different categories. Our goal is to provide you with all the information you need to decide which one to book! While they offer similar services, they have discrete differences, and we've organized them all here for you.

Buckle up and see who comes out ahead!

Mears vs Sunshine Flyer: Overview of Services

Before we compare these two services, it's worth a minute to understand why they exist. Sadly, in 2021, Disney ended their complimentary shuttle service, The Magical Express, from Orlando International Airport to the Walt Disney World Resort. Nothing beat landing at the airport and seeing a big Disney bus waiting for you just outside baggage claim. Plus, you were instantly put into vacation mode with the Disney movies that would play on the TVs during transportation. It was truly the starting point of any magical vacation.

This is when Mears Connect and the Sunshine Flyer came in to fill this need. If we take a look at these two services, they essentially offer the same thing. They are a bus shuttle service that will greet you upon arrival at Orlando International Airport (MCO) and offer you transportation to all Disney, and some non-Disney, resorts and destinations.

Conveniently located within the grounds of MCO, you can hop aboard one of their deluxe coach busses and not have to worry about finding a ride-share service in what is typically a crowded airport. Plus, both services will offer luggage assistance, so don't worry about hauling your suitcase stuffed with Mickey or Minnie ears up any steps!

Now let's start breaking up the details to see which one makes the most sense for your family!

Mears vs Sunshine Flyer - ME

The former Magical Express Buses (no longer in service!)

Mears vs Sunshine Flyer: Price

We know this is always the biggest question we start with so we're putting it first. In general, both are pretty similar when it comes to cost. That said, both companies offer promotions from time to time so it's hard to give a definitive price that is consistent.

At the time of writing this guide, the current price points are:

Mears Connect

  • Adult Roundtrip Ticket: $31.50
  • Child Roundtrip Ticket: $25.20

Sunshine Flyer 

  • Adult Roundtrip Ticket: $39
  • Child Roundtrip Ticket: $24

At the time of writing this guide, Sunshine Flyer was running a Spring sale, with all tickets at $12/each way, but we've listed the standard price in order to make a fairer comparison.

As you can see, there are some slight variations when it comes to price. One-way fares are available and are about half of a round-trip ticket. If you're lucky and catch one of their promos, you could end up paying less, but since sales are never consistent, it's hard to count on those.

Most Affordable Overall: Mears Connect – The more expensive adult tickets means that an overall family will pay more with Sunshine Flyer.

Mears vs Sunshine Flyer - RIV

Arriving to Disney's Riviera Resort

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Mears vs Sunshine Flyer: Booking Process

Booking a shuttle service is an easy process. Unsurprisingly, both are done online, but with slight variations.

Mears and the Sunshine Flyer both have a full-service site that takes reservations for your upcoming trip. The one thing you need to pay attention to for both services is that they will require you to put your flight information at the time of booking. This is because they take your flight information to automatically schedule your exact pick-up and drop-off time. Although you could theoretically input any flight information into the system, it could mean that later on, you'll need to make changes. Our advice here is to worry about your flight plans first and then book your shuttle service.

One significant difference in this category is that Mears Connect is the only company that will allow walk-up service. Let's say you had a sudden or last-minute change in your transportation plans. Not to worry! You'll be able to purchase your ticket in person at the Mears service center. The Sunshine Flyer will only honor reservations made through their website.

Both Mears and Sunshine Flyer service all of the Walt Disney World resorts, including several of the good neighbor hotel.

Best Overall Booking Process: Mears Connect – Though not likely needed, the walk-up option is a nice touch to offer for those last-minute needs.

Mears vs Sunshine Flyer: Airport Experience

Now comes the nitty-gritty details when it comes to looking at the overall experience at the airport. As we said earlier, nothing compares to seeing the Disney Magic right inside the airport, but in our opinion, we do see a clear winner in this category.

Mears Connect 

The bus terminal for Mears Connect is located in Terminal B Level 1. If this sounds familiar to you, it's because Mears Connect uses the same location that The Magical Express used to use. In fact, Mears Connect is actually the company that used to run The Magical Express! That's right, it's always been Mears Connect who used to whisk you away to the magic. You simply didn't know it because it was all branded by Disney.

Therefore, when you get to the Mears Connect service area, you'll notice the familiar lines that ask you to line up depending on your resort. Upon arriving, you'll be asked to show the QR code that was sent to you within 24 hours of your travel. A Mears rep will scan it and you'll soon be on your way! The waiting area for Mears is indoors and, as mentioned, divided into different areas depending on your final destination.

Once your shuttle arrives, you leave your bags with the bus driver and they will take care of the loading and unloading. All you need to do is decide whether you want a window or aisle seat once onboard!

A huge perk worth noting is that Mears Connect offers 24-hour service. With flight delays and trip interruptions, this is especially important as you never have to worry about being left without a ride!

Sunshine Flyer 

The Sunshine Flyer boarding area is also located in Terminal B Level 1. However, when you get to level 1 after baggage claim, you're going to make a right instead of a left toward Mears. You'll follow the hall to the end until you get to door number 1. This is where things will look…different.

Unfortunately, since Sunshine Flyer is a new player to the game, it does not have the same amenities and feels that you'll find with Mears. In order to check-in, you'll need to go outside of the terminal where a small stand is set up. The organization here is also a bit different and not as easy to follow as Mears. The fact that it's outside, in Florida, could also be less enjoyable for some. Think about those humid days after long travels!

Now, this is clearly splitting hairs, but we think it's still worth mentioning so that there are no surprises. Fortunately, Sunshine Flyer also provided luggage assistance from equally friendly bus drivers.

Tip: It's a good idea to have some cash on hand to tip the friendly bus drivers. Both companies provide top-notch luggage service and it's a nice gesture to tip the drivers.

Best Overall Airport Experience: Mears Connect – The fact that Mears Connect benefits from the infrastructure that existed under Disney helps them out a lot here. Waiting inside during inclement weather is definitely a nice perk!

Mears vs Sunshine Flyer - Family

Mears vs Sunshine Flyer: Bus Fleet

The bus fleet for both Mears Connect and Sunshine Flyer is in great shape and offers a safe and comfortable journey. However, each company does have some distinguishing features so let's take a look!

Mears Connect 

The Mears Connect busses range in appearance. Some will carry the signature blue and white color scheme while other buses may only have the Mears logo on their side. Unfortunately, up until today the Mears busses really don't have anything whimsical to look forward to. They look like any other charter bus, though they are always clean and polished.

Inside, the Mears Connect busses feature:

  • comfortable fabric seats
  • seatbelts
  • individual A/C controls
  • individual reading lights
  • footrests
  • TVs throughout the bus
  • Restroom

Sunshine Flyer 

Finally, a category where Sunshine Flyer soars! While we've seen Mears Connect take off in other categories it's Sunshine Flyer who really shows off here. That's because Sunshine Flyer has a really cool 1920's locomotive theme! Each of their buses is wrapped in a distinct locomotive theme that makes them all unique. It's fun to see which “locomotive” you see pulling up when getting picked up at the airport! This also makes them really easy to distinguish when getting picked up as there are typically lots of buses around!

Inside, the Sunshine Flyer busses feature:

  • comfortable fabric seats
  • seatbelts
  • individual A/C controls
  • individual reading lights
  • footrests
  • TVs throughout the bus
  • Restroom

Best Overall Theming: Sunshine Flyer – Although the interiors offer an almost identical experience, we're giving it to Sunshine Flyer here for having such a cool theme!

Other Disney World Transportation Services

Aside from getting you to the magic safely and comfortably, both companies offer a few additional services that might interest you, depending on your needs.

Mears Connect 

Aside from their Disney shuttle service, Mears offers other transportation options that might come in handy, depending on your vacation needs. At the time of writing this guide, Mears offered the following additional services:

  • Private shuttle service (no stops for anyone else!)
  • Taxi Service throughout Orlando
  • Coach bus rental services
  • Cruise Ship terminal transportation
  • Car seats available for use

Sunshine Flyer 

While the Sunshine Flyer does not offer any other major transportation services, it does offer a private shuttle service to your resort. Prices here are not cheap, but if you like a more VIP experience then this is something you might consider. It is always nice to not have to go to other resorts before reaching your final destination!

Best Overall Services: Mears Connect – Simply for its robust offerings, Mears clearly takes the lead in terms of variety.

Mears Connect vs Sunshine Flyer: Popular Opinion 

We might be going on a limb here, but we thought it could be fun to consider popular opinion in our comparison. That said, this section is purely based on anecdotal information collected from the web, so we can't necessarily say it's 100% factual, but if you take a look at a lot of popular Walt Disney World boards, you can see that this is a big topic of debate!


One area that is important here is considering how fast the bus can get you from MCO to your resort. It seems that Mears comes out on top here. Some report that Sunshine Flyer takes a bit longer to get you to your resort. Some say they don't quite understand their routes that sometimes feel longer.


Wait time at the airport is also another major area of consideration. For this category, it seems that reviews are mixed. Some report horror stories of having to wait up to an hour for both companies. This becomes really problematic when you have little ones to wait with who are excited to get going! We will say that in the times we've used these services we've never had to wait more than 15-20 minutes for a bus. Sometimes we've even had the bus already there and ready to go! It seems that this is really luck of the draw.


We know reliability is subjective to a degree since everyone has different expectations. However, though we haven't heard a lot of negative things about Sunshine Flyer, it seems that Mears comes with a pretty solid reputation when it comes to reliability. This can also be hit or miss, but reviews seem to indicate that they are solid when it comes to their services. We're confident that as Sunshine Flyer grow, they'll be in the same boat as Mears.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to deciding on either of these two companies, we really don't think you can go wrong with either. What we can say is that given its long history, Mears Connect does come out on top more regularly and seems to provide an almost identical experience to The Magical Express, without the Disney magic. However, as Sunshine Flyer continues to solidify its place in this arena, we think it'll be a very similar product. Either way, both companies do the job of getting you to your final destination.

We should say that ride-share companies are another alternative, but depending on the size of your party, they could be more expensive. We think that a couple could get away with saving money by taking a rideshare, but a family of 6 or 7 should consider a shuttle service.

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