When it comes to getting around the World, it can get very confusing, so I’ll break it down for you and try to make it easier to understand.
From the airport: If you are staying in a Disney hotel, and fly into Orlando International Airport, you can catch a ride on Disney’s Magical Express. You can set it up as your ground transportation when you make your hotel reservation. Once you arrive, they’ll get your luggage from baggage claim and all you need to do is check in at the Magical Express counter and get on the bus. On the way back, you check in at the Magical Express counter at your hotel, and they’ll take you back to the airport. If you are not staying on property, or you fly into another airport, you can try Mears for transportation. I would also say that one year, we tripped over these very nice guys with some expensive cars that offered us a ride and, after checking their credentials, we got a ride to the hotel and they came and picked us up at the end of our trip, and we rode in style.
Buses: You can’t go anywhere on Disney property without seeing a Disney bus. The buses run all over property and they are free to use. Every Disney hotel has a designated bus area, and each bus is marked with their destination to make it easy for you to get around. The bus will also take you to Downtown Disney or you can take a bus from one park to another. The bus is the only available transportation to travel to and from Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Monorail: The monorail was built with the Magic Kingdom and an extension was built when they added Epcot in 1982. The monorail has three loops that run throughout the day. The first is the Express train that runs from the Ticket and Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom and back again. The second is the Resort Line and that train stops at the Ticket and Transportation Center, Disney’s Polynesian Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, the Magic Kingdom, and Disney’s Contemporary Resort, in that order. Guests staying at these hotels can use the monorail to get to the Magic Kingdom or go to the Ticket and Transportation Center to transfer to the Epcot Line. The Resort Line can also be used by non-resort guests with dining reservations in one of those hotels, or simply to visit the three hotels. (Those trains have also been known to be a little less crowded at the end of the day, so if you’re not in a hurry to get to the parking lot, it could be worth it to take the long way.) The Epcot Line train runs from the Ticket and Transportation Center to Epcot and back again.
Boats: There are boats all over Walt Disney World that can take you to a variety of places. First, there is the ferry that runs from the Magic Kingdom parking lot to the main gate of the Magic Kingdom and back. This is a large capacity alternative to the monorail. There are also boat launches that run between the Magic Kingdom and the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, the Polynesian, and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. For Epcot, there are launches that run between Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and the International Gateway which is located near France in the World Showcase at Epcot. The Boardwalk also has a boat available to take you to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter and Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside both have a boat that will take you to Downtown Disney. Downtown Disney also has a boat service to take you between the three sections instead of walking.
A note: The only buses that are officially run by Disney are the buses that are marked with the Disney logo. The majority look the same so they are easy to spot. If you are staying at, or would like to visit, Shades of Green, they have their own buses and you will not be allowed onto the bus without the proper identification (a room key or a military ID). If you are trying to move around the parks at a time when the buses are not running, the front desk can easily call a local cab company to get you where you need to go, though you will have to pay for it. They will also get you a cab if you wish to leave the property and you don’t have a car. I have also heard that if you have a medical situation that does not require an ambulance ride, Disney will cover the cost of the cab ride for you.