I’ve been to Disney many, many times. During my trips I’ve stayed off-property a few times in an effort to save a little money. Let’s be honest, there are several hotels and resorts scattered throughout Orlando and Kissimmee that can save you money during your vacation. However, in my own opinion, staying on-property at one of Disney’s many resorts is simply the way to go! Disney has done great things to make their property hotels worth the extra cost by adding special little magical extras and services to their package options. So, let’s go through my top ten reasons why you should stay on-property for your next Walt Disney World Resort!
1. Disney’s Magical Express Service
One of my favorite services offered by Walt Disney World is their Magical Express Service. Disney has partnered with Mears Transportation to offer their guests complimentary round-trip transportation between Orlando International Airport (MCO) and all Disney Resorts. When you get to Orlando just follow the signs to Disney’s Magical Express and then look for the perky cast members waving their giant Mickey gloves happily in the air. They will direct you to the Magical Express counter and you will be on your way to your resort in a comfy motorcoach, complete with “Welcome to the Walt Disney World Resort” video. Not only is your transporation included with all Disney packages, but they also handle your checked baggage for you. You check your bags at your departure airport, and voila! They arrive in your hotel room shortly after your arrival.
Your departure day is hard enough, but Disney’s Magical Express makes that bit a little more magical as well. Depending on your airline, you will be able to check-in to your flight, recieve boarding passes, and check your bags before even leaving your hotel lobby. The only hard part is remembering to collect your bags from baggage claim when you get back home. (Sadly there are no perky cast members in Mickey gloves waiting for you here!)
This service will also save you some money over other transportation options. A shuttle between MCO and a hotel near Disney can run you about $35 per adult and $25 per child roundtrip. That alone can be the cost of a single nights stay!
2. Free Transportation Throughout the Walt Disney World Resort
Unless you really want to rent a car, or have plans to leave WDW several times during your trip, there is no need to look any further than Disney’s Transporation. Disney has busses running on a routine schedule that pick you up at the resorts and deliver you directly to your theme park or DownTown Disney destination. The only thing you can’t do is move between resorts, so if you are staying at Port Orleans but have a breakfast reservation at Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary, you are pretty well set. Busses run from one hour prior to park opening until an hour after park closing, and they run continuously. I’ve used the free bus transporation offered by some of the area hotels, and after waiting two hours for the next scheduled run I decided then and there I would not stay off-property again. 🙂
Disney also has monorail service from some resort hotels. If you are staying at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Contemporary Resort or Disney’s Polynesian Resort you will have direct access to the Magic Kingdom monorail from your resort. The monorail even passes directly through the Contemporary; how cool is that?
And, let’s not forget the water launches. Water launches are available from the above mentioned resorts, as well as Disney’s Wilderness Lodge to the Magic Kindgom. Water launches to Epcot and Hollywood Studios are available from Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts, and Disney’s Boardwalk Resort. Water launches from Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter, Disney’s Old Key West Resort, and Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa to Downtown Disney are also available.
3. Free Parking!
Not quite the same as monopoly, but just as cool. Resort guests who do choose to either drive from home, or rent a car, will be greeted by free parking at their resort, and at all Disney parks. You will be given a big ‘ole parking pass when you check-in at your resort that you can proudly display on your dashboard for the duration of your trip. This easily identified parking pass is your key to parking at any other resorts for a dining reservation, and at all Disney Theme Parks. Since parking rates at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom can range $14-$18 per day, this can be a great savings over renting a car and staying off-property.
4. Your Key to the World Card
It’s your room key, your park ticket, your dining card, your credit card, your FastPass card, etc.
This hand little card, which resembles a credit card, is your best friend on your trip. No need to carry cash, as it can be used for charging (with your approval of course), and no need to keep track of different tickets for dining, admission and more. Your Key to the World card keeps your purse and/or wallet more organized, and it keeps track of your dining credits if you purchased a Disney Dining Plan for your trip.
It really is a happy little card, and a great scrapbook addition when you get back home.
5. The Disney Dining Plan
Disney got really smart a few years ago and added Dining Plan options to their vacation packages. We swear by them. And, unlike theme park tickets that can be purchased by anyone, Disney Dining Plans are only available to guests staying on-property at one of Disney’s Resorts.
There are a few different levels of the Disney Dining Plan, but our favorite plan, the simply called Disney Dining Plan, includes the following, per person, per night of stay: one quick-service meal, one table-service meal, and one snack. Plus, each guest receives a refillable resort mug that can be used throughout their stay. The Disney Dining Plan can save you money, especially if you like to eat (who doesn’t)! Your meals include your non-alcoholic drink, entree and dessert, or a buffet or combo meal. Now, not everyone loves the dining plans, so we can discuss the reason why it may or may not be a good option for your family, but it is still there to be offered none-the-less.
6. Extra Magic Hours
Every day, one or more of the Disney Theme Parks is open early or late exclusively to Disney Resort guests. These Extra Magic Hours are a great way to get an early start on beating the crowds or stay late while everybody drives back to their hotel room off-property. We highly recommend the morning extra magic hours, after having been in Magic Kingdom on Christmas Day with no crowds until almost 10:00AM. 🙂
7. Resort Activities
Roasting marshmallows on the beach, arts & crafts in the lobby, fireworks viewing, etc. Disney offers many free or low cost activites at their Deluxe and Villa resorts that can make spending time “resting” at the resort much more appealing. I’m fairly certain my two year old ate an entire bag of large marshmallows this past Christmas when we stayed at Wilderness Lodge, and he may have prefered that to many of the real meals we ate. Don’t judge, it was vacation. Disney also has babysitting services for a fee that you can contact to stay with your children at the resort so you can have a nice night out, a little vacation within a vacation.
8. Package Delivery
One of my least favorite things in the world is hauling shopping bags around the mall, and that is doubley miserable at a theme park. Disney Resort guests have the option of having their purchases sent directly to their resort, thus cutting out the issue of carrying them around with you! You make your purchase, fill out a handy little delivery slip, and then they deliver the package to your resort gift shop within 24 hours. They call, you go pick up. Easy peasy. Just don’t try to have anything delivered the day before your departure, you can’t guarantee it would arrive prior to your leaving.
9. Disney Location
You can’t be closer to Disney than staying in Disney. You are right there, in the magic, surrounded by the magic, living in the magic. There is something inherently special about being surrounded by Disney. The resort environments make you feel like you are home. My family loves them, and we wouldn’t trade the feeling we get from being there for anything.
10. Everybody loves Disney Resorts
Disney knows how to build a resort. They feature amazing theming ranging from their animated features, to the South Seas, are themed out to the nines, have incredible security, fabulous housekeeping, dining options (some resorts have one dining location, while others will feature several), direct transportation, and I could go on and on. Give it a change, you won’t be disappointed!
The draw of Disney is hard to resist!
So, what are your favorite reasons to stay on-property?