One thing that sets the Polynesian apart from not only the other Deluxe Resorts but even the other Monorail Resorts is its access to Disney transportation. You have the Resort Monorail located on the second floor of the Great Ceremonial House that makes a stop at the Grand Floridian, the Magic Kingdom, the Contemporary Resort and the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC). You also have buses that you can board at the bus stop at the Polynesian.
So you say the Grand Floridian and the Contemporary have all that too? Yes but the added bonus of staying at the Polynesian is the Transportation and Ticket Center is a short walk next door to the Polynesian which gives you quick access to the EPCOT Monorail or even the Express Monorail to the Magic Kingdom. If you don't want to walk you can ride the Resort Monorail around to the Transportation and Ticket Center and switch to the EPCOT Monorail but the walk is very short (6 minutes from the farthest longhouse). For longhouse map and names CLICK HERE
To go to Disney Hollywood Studio, Downtown Disney Marketplace, Disney Springs, Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon you will board the bus at the resort bus stop. To get to Typhoon Lagoon after 2 pm you will have to take the monorail to Epcot and transfer to a bus from there. To go to any of the other Disney Resorts you need to take the bus to Downtown Disney and then pick up the resort bus to your resort of choice, or take a bus from the Magic Kingdom to any resort. One thing to remember about the Polynesian is that it is the second stop out of 3 stops for the monorail and the bus. The Grand Floridian is the 3rd stop for those transportation options and often by the 3rd stop they are standing room only or full. Disney Busses run one hour before park opening and one hour after closing. From the Polynesian Village Resort the bus to Downtown Disney will run until 2 am.
Having the Transportation and Ticket Center next to the resort has been such an important thing to many of the people who have stayed at the Polynesian. In many cases it is easier to walk from your room to the Transportation and Ticket Center to get on a monorail or bus. Besides using the busses and monorails at the Transportation and Ticket Center there is access to the large ferry that is docked there, especially for anyone with strollers or a disability that puts them in a wheel chair. Since the smaller boat (water launch) is difficult or impossible to use if you have a stroller you don’t want to fold up or a wheelchair you cannot get out of, than you can take the short path to the Transportation and Ticket Center and get right onto the ferry.
Recently the monorail has been shut down due to construction or maintenance. When this happened the Polynesian guests were in the best position out of all the monorail resorts. While Contemporary guests could walk to the Magic Kingdom, they had to bus over to the Transportation and Ticket Center to get on the Epcot Monorail. Grand Floridian only had bus and motor launch (boat) access to the parks but Polynesian guests could get on the express monorail or the Epcot monorail by walking to the TTC next door.
There are two Monorails that loop around the Seven Seas Lagoon. The inner track is the Resort Monorail (which will sometimes require a resort I.D. to board) It travels clockwise and stops at the Transportation and Ticket Center, Polynesian Village Resort, Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Magic Kingdom, Contemporary Resort and back to the Transportation and Ticket Center. The other track going Counter Clockwise is the Express Monorail on the outer track that only goes from the Transportation and Ticket Center to the Magic Kingdom.For the Summer of 2015 the monorail will be running on a modified schedule while they install the equipment to automate the monorail system.
To get to parks earlier you will need to take the boat or other forms of transportation. You can walk to the Transportaion and Ticket Center to get on the Express Monorail what starts earlier or take one of the two ferrys. The large Ferrys will start running at 7:30 am on Extra Magic Mornings when the park opens at 8:00 am. On other days the ferry will start running 30 minutes before opening of the park and continue to run 1.5 hours after closing of the park.
Another easy way to get to and from the Magic Kingdom easily and without waiting in lines by using the Water Launch transportation (boat) at the end ot the marina dock. It makes stops at te Grand Floridian on the way back from the Magic Kingdom but on the way there it is a direct route. One last transportation option for getting to the Wilderness Lodge is by taking the Water Launch over to the Magic Kingdom and taking another boat over to Bay Lake. Water Launches run 30 minutes before the park opens and 1.5 hours after closing of the park.
To Rent or not to Rent
Talking about Disney transportation always gets a mix of reactions. I will stand by my statement that after staying at Disney resorts from Pop Century to most of the deluxe resorts and having visited just about every resort at some point, the Polynesian has the best overall transportation. With that said the bus situation can be very inconsistent. During some of my visits the Polynesian bus has stopped at the Wilderness lodge before getting to the Polynesian, then moving on to the Grand Floridian. Most of the time in the last few years it has stopped at the Contemporary first. In all cases you are the second resort to get picked up so the bus can be anywhere from partially full to very full before it gets to the Polynesian. This is even worse for the Grand Floridian because it very often only has standing room left once it gets to the Grand Floridian. Same thing with the monorail. Unfortunately for the Grand Floridian guests they are the last pick up for both. The thing that sets the Polynesian apart from the Grand Floridian and the Contemporary is the ability to take a short walk to the Transportation and Ticket Center to either get on a bus or one of the 3 monorails (Resort, Express or Epcot) or even get a cab. Also coming back from Epcot it is not necessary to get onto another monorail to get back to your resort like it is for the Grand Floridian and Contemporary. Also the Polynesian not only has a direct boat to the Magic Kingdom from its dock but for those that do not want to fold up a stroller or are in a wheelchair you can go to the big ferry between the monorails and Tahiti longhouse to go over to the Magic Kingdom, but this article was not intended to focus on why the Polynesian transportation is the best. It was intended to focus on what I see at the weak link of Disney transportation. Disney buses and why I have always rented a car since my trip in 1996.
Disney buses can be great and when I had no car in 1996 it did get me to where I wanted to go. After that trip I rented a car because I found that it was difficult to go from Disney destination to other Disney destinations. Now if you go enough you learn the tricks like going to Downtown Disney from other Disney parks or resorts to get to other resorts or using the Transportation and Ticket Center to get to other destinations. There were times we wanted to go from a water part to Downtown Disney and could not do that so I decided I wanted to be able to go anywhere I wanted and I rented a car. People still tell me I am crazy to spend the money on a car with Disney transportation being free but with as cheap as I have been able to find rentals I see it worth the money. Yes you could save $200 for the week but let’s look at this a little more carefully. Disney Magical Express is a great thing but not always perfect and coming in either very early or very late can complicate how and when you get your bags. I would rather have control of my own bags and access to them at any time. Also I get to my destination quicker if I have my own car. When leaving for the airport I can leave when I want and not during a scheduled pick up by Disney. Having your own car you will have free parking at your Disney resort and at the parks. We often put stuff in our car (like rain gear) that we don’t want to have to carry around the parks all day or maybe a change of clothes if we do get caught in a downpour. Also when coming from a water park we can change and be off to another park or Downtown Disney without waiting for Disney transportation to get us, take us back to the resort, change, wait for more buses and go off to a park or Downtown Disney. With your own car you have the flexibility of going and eating at other resorts without taking a cab or finding a creative way to go from Resort to Resort. Many people talk about getting a cab so that they can get to their destination quickly and easily but most of the longer distances at Disney World will cost you about $20 to $30 after tip each way. My rental car cost me about $30 to $40 a day and if you belong to their free club you often get upgraded to a bigger car. Your daily rental car can be less than one round trip in a cab on property and you have the flexibility of having your own car. I will be the first to admit that even when I have my own car there are days that I don’t use it because I have the monorail and at times will use the Disney Busses but I still find it a convenience that is well worth having. Many times I have even gone and picked up friends from other Disney resorts to go out and eat at a different resort like the Animal Kingdom Lodge (one of my favorites). The other benefits to having a car are if you ever want to visit something outside Disney property.
I do believe for the most part that Disney does a good job with the buses. There have been times that the buses are not crowded and do not take long to pick you up but most of my experiences have not been that positive. I don’t see it as a problem that is unique to the Polynesian and in my experience staying at other resorts have been worse. Even staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge a few times I had worse experiences than what I have experienced at the Polynesian. When the Animal Kingdom Lodge first opened I visited it and I was told how great the transportation would be since it did not share a bus. When I first stayed there in 2002 I was surprised how long I waited for a bus at the resort and once we got to a destination we would see multiple buses for other resorts come and go before the bus for the Animal Kingdom Lodge would arrive. During our stay at the Boardwalk and Yacht Club we had to stop at Boardwalk, Swan, Dolphin, Yacht Club and then Beach Club. Not very many of my bus experiences are very good although the people chugging a bottle of tequila as we came back from Downtown Disney was quite an experience. Having smaller kids I would rather having them in a car with a car seat than stuck in a bus full of people. We all know Disney transportation has not been accident free.
One thing to keep in mind is that renting a car and staying at the Swan or Dolphin you will have to pay a $15 a day fee and there were times I came back to a completely full self-parking and had to pay the $20 a day valet fee. You do still get the free parking at theme parks when staying at the Swan or Dolphin. I hope this information will give you another point of view on the subject so you can decide what is best for you, your family and your budget.