We have always big advocates of staying on Walt Disney World property for Disney vacations. I’ll admit, it’s not the cheapest resort option available, but Ryan and I think the combination of perks and the overall experience of staying on-site are worth spending our hard-earned loonies on. For us, a Disney vacation doesn’t feel like a ‘real’ Disney vacation if you don’t stay at a Walt Disney World resort. We certainly don’t begrudge anyone who chooses to stay off-site, but for us, we think experiencing a Disney resort is part of the magic that Disney offers guests. We love staying on Disney property and here are just a few of the reasons why:
1 – The Disney Bubble
We love staying in that Disney Bubble for the duration of our stay. The Disney ‘magic’ never really goes away when your full vacation is on Disney property. We love to feel completely removed from our everyday lives and being inside the Disney Bubble allows us to completely relax and just give in to that Disney vacation mindset and experience.
The Walt Disney World property has been painstakingly maintained so it feels different from outside world the moment you drive across the threshold. The signs are different, the landscape seemingly changes, and you get excited at the little hints of Disney magic. We love seeing things like the Tower of Terror sign for Hollywood Studios in the median of World Drive. Also, catching a glimpse of Spaceship Earth, or a part of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge from the roadway is enough to get anyone excited for what’s to come.
2 – Disney’s Magical Express
Disney’s Magical Express is the free airport shuttle for Disney Resort guests from the Orlando International Airport (MCO) to their resort destination.
The ride from MCO to your Disney resort is about 45 minutes and it’s a great way to build the anticipation of your arrival at Walt Disney World. It’s also some of the first Disney theming guests get a taste of. The Magical Express is hard to miss with Mickey’s face on the side. They show Disney shorts and videos about Disney during the ride.
We love receiving the yellow luggage tags in the mail before our trip, which means your trip is getting closer and closer. The tags also tell Disney which resort to deliver your luggage to, so you don’t have to pick up your checked bags after you arrive in MCO. We’ve never had luggage go missing and this service is one of the reasons we love using this complimentary service. While we never love leaving Walt Disney World, it’s also a really convenient shuttle back to the airport at the end of your trip.
*Due to COVID-19 precautions and changes, guests currently have to pick up their checked luggage and bring it with them on the bus and to the resort. We hope to see the use of the yellow tags return when it is safe for cast members to handle luggage again.
3 – Extra Magic Hours and FastPass+
I’m grouping these two items together because they currently are not being offered due to COVID-19 changes and precautions at the parks. However, when they are offered (we hope to see them return soon!) they are both perks we greatly enjoy about staying on property.
Extra Magic Hours are hours that the parks are open for on-site guests only. Typically, one park each day will open an hour early, or stay open a couple hours past closing for Disney resort guests only. This means extra time in the parks with fewer people around. They are the perfect time to get a few additional rides in.
FastPass+ is the ride reservation system that allows guests to book a FastPass for 3 attractions a day at one park. Having a FastPass for an attraction means you get to bypass the standby line and enter a much shorter line, thus saving you time waiting in line. The tricky part here is that there are only a certain number of FastPasses for each attraction and some go very quickly, like Flight of Passage and Slinky Dog Dash.
Guests of Disney resorts are able to book their FastPasses 60 days before their arrival as opposed to only 30 days for other guests. It can be next to impossible to score that coveted Flight of Passage FastPass if you’re trying to book only 30 days out. So, when FastPass+ is offered, the 60 days booking window is a huge advantage for resort guests.
4 – Disney Transportation
Ryan and I love using Disney’s complimentary transportation and it’s one of the main reasons we love staying on property. Even on the trips we’ve had our car with us, we continue to use the buses, monorails, boats and the Skyliner to get around. We like not having to worry about navigating the roads or parking. To us, using the different modes of transportation is part of the Disney experience. It’s the perfect way to ease into your day at the parks and wind down at the end of the day on the journey back to the resort.
5 – Proximity to the Parks
Being close to the parks is a big plus for us. We like to get to the parks early for rope drop or Early Magic Hours. Staying on property makes it much easier to get to the parks early without having to dedicate quite as much time as if we were visiting from off-property.
Staying at a Disney resort also makes mid-day breaks doable. Days at the parks can be long, hot and tiring and a break back at the resort for a nap or a swim in the pool can make all the difference. It’s a lot easier to take a break when you know that your resort is only a short bus/monorail/boat/Skyliner ride away. You don’t feel like you’re wasting your day travelling to and from the parks.
6 – The Cast Members
The cast members at the Disney resorts do a fantastic job of delivering wonderful customer service. The cast members are knowledgeable, pleasant and can be extremely helpful. They do their best to make your stay a magical one. The cast members can help guests purchase event tickets, make dining reservations and answer questions about the parks. They offer a wealth of knowledge that you can’t get off property. They really do add a little something extra to the overall resort experience and it keeps us going back.
7 – Theming
Ryan and I just love some good theming and solid storytelling. Disney does both of those things arguably better than anyone else. The theming at the Disney resorts is one of the biggest draws for us, even at the value resorts. Of course, we have our favourites. We much prefer the All-Star Movies theme to the sports theme at All-Star Sports. The Polynesian also holds a special place in our hearts. Regardless of which resort you choose, the theming is what first catches your eye and it helps tell the story of each resort you visit.
We’ve all heard it before, but I’m going to say it again – it’s those Disney details and the immersive theming at the Walt Disney World resorts that make them a must-do for us. There’s nothing quite like waking up surrounded by palm trees, or looking out your window and seeing zebras grazing, or walking past giant statues of Ariel and Flounder on your way to breakfast. We simply love being surrounded by Disney theming during our entire vacation!
8 – Vacation Packages
Being able to book a vacation package is one of the biggest selling points of staying on property.
When you book a vacation package at Disney it includes your resort stay, park tickets and the option to add a Dining Plan. (Please note…Dining Plans are not currently being offered at Disney due to the COVID-19 changes)
You can also do a Room Only vacation package, which is good if you’re an annual pass holder, but there is still a benefit to booking a package.
The biggest benefit is that you only have to make a $200 USD deposit when booking a Disney Vacation Package. This secures your vacation and you can make instalment payments if you like, until your pay in full due date before you travel.
This means that you don’t have to pay in full when you purchase your tickets because they are bundled into the package. If you purchase park tickets outside of a package, they are non-refundable and you pay in full at the time of purchase. With a package, you are able to cancel before a certain time without any penalty. You can also easily modify your vacation package to change the number of park tickets you’d like and you can apply room discounts easily if they become available.
A Disney Vacation Package offers a great deal of flexibility when planning. Sometimes, unforeseen circumstances arise, and it’s good to be able to cancel or make changes to your vacation dates.
9 – Safety
We feel safe at Walt Disney World and in the resorts. Perhaps this sunk in a little more when we were on our honeymoon and staying at Port Orleans Riverside when Hurricane Irma hit. We had to stay at the resort for about two and half days and we always felt safe, even as the storm blew through the night. Even the locals were checking into the resorts at Disney to ride out the storm! Disney has back-up generators, they had food and water and there was always someone to contact if we had questions or concerns. They even had characters come visit guests before the storm arrived.
We also feel completely safe wandering around the resorts at night, or at any time of day. I stayed at All-Star Music and Pop Century on my solo trip and always felt completely at ease.
We trust Disney and we know it’s a safe place to be alone, as well as with your family. That’s not to say that off-site resorts and hotels are not safe, but there’s a lot to be said for the peace of mind that comes with trust and familiarity.
10 – Less Stress
Booking a Disney Vacation package and staying on-site is a much less stressful vacation experience.
The transportation provided by Disney means we don’t have to worry about getting lost. The Cast Members are always there to be of help whether the problem is big or small. It’s also less stressful to have all your vacation information and details in one spot (My Disney Experience and your Vacation package).
Disney works hard to ensure guests are having the most magical and positive experience possible and we feel that the entire time we are at Disney and staying on property. For us, while it’s not always the cheapest option, we always feel that we are getting the best value for our money by staying at a Disney Resort…not to mention an amazing vacation.