Just like everything else at Disney, the more you know, the better off you are. Knowledge is power, even in something simple like your seat on a bus.
Disney has three kinds of buses to shuttle guests from resort to parks.
The first kind is the most standard. There are seats along the edges, with two sections of seats that can fold up to secure wheelchairs and scooters. There are hand holds along the top for people to stand.
The second kind of bus is usually sent on an Extra Magic Hours day to help keep the lines a little more manageable. This is the double bus. This bus can also hold wheelchairs or scooters, but also twice the number of guests, sitting or standing.
The final type of bus is the chartered bus style. This sort of bus has seats in rows, therefore it cannot accommodate a wheelchair or a scooter. Strollers must be folded, and stowed underneath the bus. You don't see this sort of bus as often, but it does make occasional appearances during those Extra Magic Hours, or at the end of the day to help get more people back to the resort.
Why does all of this matter?
It matters because depending on the time of day, and if you are running late for a reservation or fast pass, sitting or standing in a key area can save you precious time. It's not just about getting off of the bus. It's also about getting through security behind all of those other people who have gotten off of the bus first.
We have a few tips for you in various situations to hopefully make your ride a little easier. All of these are based off of the most common style of bus: the style with the seats around the edge, and standing in the middle.
How does bus boarding work?
When the bus pulls up, passengers on the bus disembark first. From there, if there is someone in a wheelchair or scooter, the bus lowers itself with hydraulics and lowers a ramp. The people in a wheel chair or scooter are last to leave the bus.
When the waiting passengers are boarding, it's reverse order. Seats along one edge are folded up and any person in the wheelchair or scooter is secured, and their family members follow. Most of the time they won't load more than two wheelchairs or scooters.
Once the passengers in the wheelchairs and scooters have boarded, it's time for the regular passengers. Etiquette dictates (or the driver will start shouting out if there is a large crowd) to start by filling the back of the bus first. The rear seats, then rear standing area and side seats, then middle standing area, finally the front standing area until the bus is filled.
What if there aren’t many people waiting to board?
Then you've lucked out! Sit wherever you like with some elbow room!
Where should you sit if...
If you don't want to give up your seat
If you don't want to stand, then hopefully you are among the first to board. The best way not to give up a seat is to sit in the absolute back. As the bus fills, it's the people in the front seats who are more likely to be squished, or offer a seat up to an older person, or mother with a baby.
If you need to get off the bus fast
Try and stand near one of the two exits on the bus: the middle or the front. Those standing usually exit the bus first.
If you have a big stroller
If you have a big stroller, one of the best places to get is spot is near the chairs that fold up for those in wheelchairs or scooters, because your stroller can be a little less in the way since you are right by the exit, and can even hold your stroller sideways in the exit area. That also assures you a quick exit from the bus.
If you have small kids you don't want squished
On some buses there are two seats directly behind the driver. When possible, I like to stick my kids in those seats, and either stand in front of them, or squish half in a seat next to them. Up in the back row is also good, because the very rear seats do not have as much room for an adult, but are perfect for a small child and give protection on three sides from adults.
If you like to get off of the bus slowly
If you want to take more time to get off the bus, any seat at all works. The rear seats file out last, but any seat at all exists after all standing passengers.
A few extra notes and tips about buses.
While Disney says that their buses run every 15 minutes, and while this does seem true at the resort, we have observed that Magic Kingdom and Disney Springs offer buses to the value resorts like Pop Century and Art of Animation much slower, more on a 30 minutes or so time frame.
On our most recent stay at Pop, we were delighted to see digital boards had been installed, giving you the time the bus would arrive, or updating as it was delayed.
While you will often make it on to the first bus you line up for, the exception for that would be to Magic Kingdom, and any part with Early Morning Extra Magic Hours. While they will send out extra buses, sometimes it seems like there is no end to that line, and you might not make it on the first OR second bus, so plan accordingly those mornings. If you want to be at the bus stop at 7:30 because you have a breakfast reservation at 8:30, make sure you are there at 7:30, or even earlier. There were times that we had to wait for the third bus to get to Magic Kingdom, even in the afternoon and it really threw us off. Don't forget that it's not just the time it takes the bus to drive to the park, but also the time to load everyone, and then unload.
If you see a bus at your designated pick up area, while I'm not suggesting that you run screaming towards it from 10 stops away like a crazy person, if you are just a few stops away, it doesn't hurt to send your fastest person running towards the bus. Usually the driver will do a quick head out the door check before they start driving, and if they notice you all running and waving, will wait a few seconds for you. If they do, make sure you thank them profusely! And on that note, a thank you when boarding and exiting is only nice to do. These people have a tough job. I know I wouldn’t want to drive in that traffic all day! People are cranky and stressed getting on because they are trying to make the most of every second, or they are hot and tired wanting to head back. It's not the drivers fault you had to wait for 20 minutes, that's just how the schedules are. A thank you and a smile mean a lot. Those drivers will remember you, and that might just be the driver a few hours later who stuck his head out and saw you running towards the bus in hope to catch it!
Hopefully this quick overview of how the buses work and tips to get your preferred spot will be helpful. Can you think of a few other bus tricks I might have missed?