I have always stayed at a Disney resort during our Disney vacations. I looked into it a couple times to see what the cost difference would be versus the benefits of staying on property and I found that there are just too many benefits to staying on property that are crucial to my family’s experience and vacation plans. Some of the benefits are monetary benefits if used in a way to decrease vacation expenses, and help offset the price differences that you may find for surrounding off-property hotels. Here are the 7 biggest reasons that I feel are reasons to stay on-property at Walt Disney World:
1. Extra Magic Hours
This is probably my favorite perk of staying on property. Extra Magic Hours, or EMH, allow only resort guests access to a particular park each day outside of regular operating hours. This access could be an hour in the morning before park opening or up to 3 hours in the evening after park closing. During this time resort guests get to experience that park with fewer crowds and lines. You are able to prioritize attractions that historically have longer waits and save time later. The evening EMH is my favorite, and resort guests usually find that lines are extremely short and the park is nowhere near as crowded. Also in the evening, it is cooler and you don’t have the sun on you. A lot of the families with small children have gone in to go to bed, so it’s a great time to get in a lot of attractions in a short amount of time, especially at Magic Kingdom. It is a great value, especially if you are limited in how many passes you have to spend in the parks.
2. Magical Express
The Magical Express is a service included for no extra charge with all resort reservations. You just have to update your reservation to include your airline travel information and then you will receive the packet of information and luggage tags in order to be picked up at the airport in the Magical Express, and of course returned back to the airport at the end of your stay (we don’t like thinking about that part). Not only do you get transportation to your resort without paying taxi or charter bus fees, but you also do not have to pick up your luggage from baggage claim. When you use the luggage tags that are provided, Disney will pick up your bags for you and deliver them to your room once they are onsite. Your bags will arrive hours after you do, so you will want to pack items that you will need right away in your carry-on luggage.
3. Advanced Dining Reservations
Resort guests receive an added benefit when it comes to making dining reservations for Disney restaurants. Anyone can make dining reservations exactly 180 days in advance of the date that they want to schedule the reservations for. Resort guests get to schedule 180 days from the first day of their resort stay, but at the same time schedule the reservations for their entire resort stay (up to 10) days. So if you are staying for 7 days, on 180 days prior to Day 1 of your stay, you can book all of your dining reservations for all 7 days. That is a huge benefit if you are after hard to secure reservations and times (i.e. Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table, 8:10 Crystal Palace Reservation, etc.). This is also especially helpful during busy times of the year when dining books up faster than normal.
With MyMagic+, resort guests get a couple different benefits. All resort guests will receive a magic band. This will be their room key, room charge, park admission, dining plan usage, fast passes, etc. The magic band is extremely convenient and it easier to keep around as it is worn on your wrist instead of carrying various cards. You get to keep your magic bands after check out, so it can also serve as a souvenir for your trip. You get to customize your color and name selections so that they you can easily tell your family’s magic band apart. An even better benefit of MyMagic+ for resort guests, in my opinion, is the additional booking window for FastPass+ selections. Resort guests get to make their fast pass selections using the My Disney Experience online site or app 60 days prior to the first date of your stay, and just like dining, you get to make reserve for your entire stay at the 60 day mark for the first day! Non-resort guests have to wait until 30 days prior, so that gives resort guests a huge advantage to getting desired experiences and FastPass+ times (i.e. Avatar Flight of Passage, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, etc.). There are various experiences that no longer have FastPass+ available by the time the 30 day window opens for everyone else.
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5. Disney Transportation
The convenience of Disney transportation is a perk that can’t be overlooked. Disney resort guests have the Disney buses and boats at their disposal to sit back and let Disney do the driving to get them to and from the parks and other Disney locations. It is easy to get all over Disney property without ever using a vehicle if you don’t want to, or don’t have one at your disposal. You also get dropped off at the front of park, eliminating a lot of the walking through the parking lots or the need to fold up the strollers again to board the tram to get to the front of the park. We have found the buses to be a time saver in most cases and became one less thing we had to worry about or deal with on vacation.
6. Luggage Check-In
For participating airlines, you are able to gate check your luggage in your resort lobby. This is AMAZING! Upon checkout, you take your luggage downstairs (be sure to check the operation times) and check it with the TSA staff. You get to enjoy a little bit more of your Disney experience before your Magical Express boarding time (sniff, sniff) and not worry about hauling luggage around, and one less thing to deal with at the airport. Disney will actually go ahead and print your boarding passes and include them in your checkout paperwork so you have this step completed, too. It makes everything super easy. You can conveniently check your carry-on luggage with bell stand and then retrieve it when you need it. It turns that sad last day at Disney into a way to get a couple more hours of fun without the stress! We used to plan the latest return flight possible so that we could spend a good part of the day having fun before we left.
7. Disney Dining Plan
This is a package add-on that is only offered to resort guests. This gives guests the option to pre-pay for meals and experience more of the all-inclusive vacation feel. There are different package offerings so that you can select the package that adheres to your family’s dining tastes and budget. If the dining plan is used according to your family’s preferences it can be a useful tool to save money on food in the parks and allow you to better budget in advance for your vacation expenses.