We review our experience of using the Disney World Minnie Van service. Is the Minnie Van service worth it?
The Walt Disney World Minnie Van service is a private taxi service that can be used to get around Walt Disney World (and beyond now) in Disney style. The vehicles used are Minnie Mouse themed Chevrolet SUV's -- and they're quite charming.
We don't hire a car when we go to Disney World, but we do sometimes get a taxi on busy days, especially at the end of a long night in the park and the bus queues are outrageously long. I generally don't like getting the Mears' taxis as they're usually old dodgy cars and 80% of drivers don't provide a good service, although we've had good ones every now and then. Nowadays you can use Uber or Lyft -- who are a little cheaper -- which allows you to grab a ride from locals who are usually a little more chatty. Although with no number plates on the front of American cars, it can be tough to see which rider is yours, especially if it's busy and dark.
Disney wanted in on this business and started their own private taxi service. They had some custom cars made and called it the Minnie Van! It began at a flat fee of $20 to go to and from anywhere on property. Unless you're going from Animal Kingdom Lodge to Magic Kingdom in a normal taxi, you'll probably always get a cheaper taxi ride anywhere on property. One major upside to the Minnie Van service is that it's the only taxi service that can go right up to the gates (bus stop 8) for drop off and pick up at the Magic Kingdom. All other taxis and Uber/Lyfts can only go to the Transportation Centre, where you'll then have to get the boat or monorail to get to the Magic Kingdom. They can also enter the resorts through the bus lane without having to go through the security check like regular taxis when driving into the resorts.
Each Minnie Van can hold up to 6 people and is equipped with 2 versatile car seats. Minnie Vans can accommodate guests with wheelchairs and ECV's, but an additional wait time may occur. The cars are cool, comfortable and spacious. The cars play Disney Parks music (for example when going back to Pop Century they played the Pop Century music, and on the way to Epcot it played the Epcot music loop). Passengers sitting in the back seats can control the a/c back there, as well as use the charge points for your phone.
In February, they increased the Minnie Van flat fee price to $25. And then in September 2018 -- half way through our trip -- they increased it again to a new flat fee + distance based pricing. This put me off at first, but there are some positives to come from it.
From a business perspective, the Minnie Van is quite clever. Disney loves to find ways to make extra money from their guests, and the Minnie Van allows people to spend extra money, and do it in style. The Minnie Van service is perfect for monetising lateness, laziness and tiredness. Don't underestimate those three things on any Disney day.
The Minnie Van drivers are Disney employed cast members. We had one driver that used to be a Photopass photographer at Epcot, and another who did luggage assistance at one of the resorts. It sounded like Disney open up applications for drivers, and employees can apply to be one, and shift roles within the company. One of the drivers praised this as it allows you to stay working for a company you enjoy working at, but keep it fresh by changing roles depending on what you want to be doing. One driver we had much prefers being a Minnie Van driver over Photopass at Epcot because she gets to sit down and be in A/C all day, can't blame her!
During our most recent trip in September 2018, we used the Minnie Van around 10 times. To call a Minnie Van, you must download the Lyft app, make an account, and attach a credit card. Let it know your location and touch the get a ride button. You then scroll over to the far right and you'll see the Minnie Van option. You'll get the quote and the ability to confirm your ride.
The cast member Minnie Van drivers are more happy, chatty and friendly compared to Mears drivers and even some regular Uber/Lyft drivers. They're not annoyingly chatty, and can gauge quite well if you want to talk or not. You'll find most are as fascinated with where you are from and what you are up to as you are of them being a Disney employee. Plus, the cars have very good A/C. As the Minnie Van is still quite new, it is quite the awe to some people. Each time we ordered one and it pulled up, they sure did turn some heads. I definitely heard a "Mummy, I want to ride in that one" from a child waiting in the Pop Century pickup area as we got into our Minnie Van.
Now the pricing structure has changed to a flat fee + distance structure. People were a little worried Minnie Van's would fall into the trap of the way some taxi drivers go with taking longer routes (for example), but you are given the price for the ride when you order the Minnie Van. Unless you ask to make a stop anywhere, there will not be any increase in price that was stated before you got in. Also, even when it was just a flat fee, that cast members are all paid hourly, not per ride. So they have no incentive to take long ways or use any common taxi driver methods for increasing fare. (By all means, if you want to go the long way and enjoy a longer ride, just ask!)
(I'd like to a moment and say that I'm in no way trying to give regular taxis drivers a bad rep. I've been going to Orlando for many, many years now and rarely have had a fantastic taxi service. I've had a few bad ones, and the rest are somewhere in-between along the acceptable line. I do tip accordingly! I am aware there are some fantastic and honest drivers in Orlando -- for both Mears and Uber/Lyft -- but competition for taxis are hot and sometimes they have to gain every cent they can to make a living, which I do not envy and do sympathise. I know I'm in the minority, but I do tip well for good service, including taxis, but I know not everyone does and drivers do get screwed over from the time to time when giving great service, which over time has most probably just resulted in them doing the minimum the job requires. It's another business where it's a race to the bottom as people demand cheaper fares, which results in less income for drivers, which effects mood as well as other things. That's not taking into account Orlando is a tourist city with people coming from all over the world where some don't come from countries where tipping is common. However, one night on a previous trip the bus queue was huge so we got into a Mears taxi to go back to Pop Century, when I said to the guy "Pop Century please", he turned around and shouted "REALLY?". Again, I know not everyone will act that way, but I'd rather just avoid that sort of service whenever I can.)
After your Minnie Van ride is over, you can rate your driver and give a tip via the app. As I've said, they're paid by the hour, and this is one of the few ways you can actually tip a cast member. If a cast member driver was extra good to you, leave a little tip! I often tipped around $3-$5 for each ride.
The service generally is fantastic. Whatever question I had they could answer. They were chatty and always interested, and seemed to enjoy what they were doing. They didn't rush you off at the end of the ride or anything like that. As I arrived at one of the destinations, we were having a conversation and he literally crawled up to the lobby at 2mph while we were talking to get to a good stop point. They get out of the car to introduce themselves, open the doors for you on both pick up and drop off, too. Most of the drivers also offered to take our picture with the Minnie Van, we of course accepted the offer on our first trip just to get the photo, but it's nice they do seem to offer it a lot. If they don't, just ask, they'll be happy too.
In the times we used the service this trip, we had flawless service. Each of our drivers were rated 5 stars with no hesitation. And at the moment they're really nice new cars, it depends how often they keep these cars updated. If they let them get into the state of the normal Mears cars, then the value of the service will slip considerably.
The first portion of our recent trip the Minnie Van was a flat $25. We thought that was a little pricey, but we only ever used it on days where we were going to Magic Kingdom and the queue contained at least a couple bus loads of people, or if we were going to the other end of property for a meal at the Contemporary for example. So we really did only use it for the longer journeys and taking advantage of being able to go right up the Magic Kingdom gate. Using the Minnie Van to get from Animal Kingdom to Animal Kingdom Lodge for example, wouldn't be great value.
When the pricing structure changed to flat fee + distance it made those long trips cost nearly $35 in some cases, rather than $25 we paid the day before. On the plus side, if Epcot was busy one night, it would only cost around $17 to get back to Pop Century, rather than the $25. It actually made us use it for shorter trips rather than trying to get our $25 flat fee worth.
Overall, the Minnie Van service is a great service, if you're willing to pay 2-4x what you would a regular taxi. However, what you're paying extra for is a friendly Disney employed cast member, consistent amazing service, a limo-like experience, being able to ride around in a beautiful Minnie themed car and be the envy of people around you, and I would say enhanced safety due to the drivers being Disney employed cast members (as I don't technically know the checks taxi companies like Mears do on drivers).
It's up to you if that value is there. For us, it generally is. The Minnie Van itself feels more than just a taxi ride from one place to another, it's just a touch of extra luxury, but it does add to overall Disney bill (and boy does it add up). We were busier this year so had less time sitting in bars enjoying cocktails, so we used that money on Minnie Vans, but I think on our next trip we may have to save a bit more money for when we want a bit of Minnie Van luxury on some days.
I think it's at a minimum something to experience once, and even more so on special occasions. I ordered a Minnie Van to take us from Pop Century to the Contemporary for dinner at California Grill on the evening we got engaged. After that though, we got a little addicted and wanted to take them everywhere, even though they are pricey -- so be warned!
To save some money with the Minnie Van, Lyft often do $3 off coupons which can be applied to Minnie Vans. You can also earn $20 in credit if you refer someone. So if you're travelling in a group, you could all refer each other, create accounts, use it once on each and earn a bunch of $20 credits (they can only be spent in $5 intervals however).
Tip - Make sure you download, signup and add a credit card to you Lyft account before you go to Disney World. We did it before we left and didn't think much of it, but heard some people having trouble doing it while they were there. Use the link below to download the free app and create your account and get $20 in free rides (terms apply).