For many, a vacation to Walt Disney World (or Disneyland) is the highlight of the season, the year, or maybe even a young lifetime. There’s nothing quite like the wide-eyed, childlike excitement one feels when leaving home for a cherished trip to visit The Mouse, whether it’s a first trip, or a one hundred and first. Over the years, as Disney World has grown and expanded, so have the resort and hotel options, both on and off of Disney property. With convenient accommodations available for every budget level, party size, and even theme preference, the hotel possibilities are truly endless, but, in my opinion, there is nothing quite like the experience of staying on property in an official Walt Disney World Resort Hotel. Listed below are just a few of the wonderful perks and advantages experienced by guests staying on Disney property:
1. Disney’s Magical Express:
For Disney resort guests, the magic begins before you’ve even arrived. All guests with Disney resort reservations are eligible for Disney’s Magical Express, which is a complimentary round-trip bus ride (complete with vintage Mickey Mouse cartoon videos) from Orlando International Airport, right to your resort! One of the greatest things about the Magical Express is that you are able to check your luggage at your home airport, and from there, it’s completely out of your hands. Disney makes sure that your luggage makes it off of the airplane, onto a Disney bus, and into your hotel room. When your vacation is over, the same process happens in reverse, although, somehow, going home always feels a little less magical.
2. Complimentary Transportation:
Disney has a massive, diverse, and very impressive transportation system, which runs like a well-oiled machine. There is complimentary transportation, in the form of buses, boats, and/or the monorail, from every Disney Resort to the theme parks, water parks, and Downtown Disney. Buses and boats tend to leave every 15-20 minutes (if not sooner), and the monorail departs a bit more frequently. Sometimes, the transportation to the parks is so much fun, it feels like an additional theme park ride!
3. Complimentary Magic Bands:
One of Disney’s newest innovations is the Magic Band. This wristband is issued to every Disney resort guest, and contains everything you need for your stay. With a quick “Mickey-to-Mickey” tap, your wristband acts as your room key, your park passes, your Fast passes, your credit card, and even your dinner reservation! They’re an amazing way to have all of your passes and information in one place, and save you the hassle of carrying around a multiple cards. You can even choose from several vibrant band colors, or purchase a variety of embellishments.
4. Advanced Fast Pass Reservations:
With the recent development of the new FastPass+ system, all guests to Disney Theme Parks have the luxury of booking Fast Passes in advance of their arrival. However, while the general public is able to make FastPass reservation 30 days in advance, guests staying at Disney resorts are eligible a full 60 days prior to their arrival. With FastPass+ now being available for more rides, shows, parades, fireworks displays and character Meet and Greets than ever before, being able to reserve Fast Passes early is a wonderful advantage to have.
5. Advanced Dinner Reservations:
This perk may seem like a minor one, but trust me, it can be huge. All table-service restaurants on Disney property now accept reservations up to 180 days in advance, but even that far out, it can sometimes be difficult to secure a dinner reservation at the most popular restaurants. Guests staying on property have the added perk of being able to secure reservations for their entire stay (up to 10 days) 180 days before the first day of their stay. This means that you are technically able to book reservations for the latter part of your stay a little bit more than 180 days in advance. It’s only a few days early, but in some cases, even that little edge can make the difference in securing that special dinner reservation that you’ve been dreaming of.
6. Disney Dining Plan:
In my opinion, the Disney Dining Plan is, hands down, one of the greatest advantages to staying at a Disney World Resort. Available exclusively to resort guests, the Disney Dining plan is a length of stay meal plan including 2-3 daily quick service or table service mails, and 1-2 daily snacks, depending on which level of the plan you choose to purchase. The amount of food you’re entitled to is enormous, and just about every restaurant on Disney property accepts the dining plan. When you compare the cost of the Dining plan with the amount of money spent paying out of pocket for three meals a day, it’s easy to see that the savings can be huge.
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7. Extra Magic Hours:
My absolute favorite “bonus” when staying at a Disney Resort is, without a doubt, access to Extra Magic Hours. Every day, at least one theme park opens early or stays open late, exclusively for Resort guests. This is an amazing opportunity to spend time in the parks very early in the morning or very late at night, ride the most popular attractions with much shorter wait times, and enjoy the parks with only a small fraction of the usual crowds. Plus, there’s just something magical about posing for a photo in front of Cinderella’s Castle at midnight, or riding the Tower of Terror at 2:30AM.
8. On-Site Concierge:
While many hotels in the Orlando area boast a well-equipped concierge desk, most do not compare with the full-service, individualized attention received at a Disney Resort Concierge Desk. In addition to typical concierge services, such as booking dinner reservations and offering dining and entertainment recommendations, the Disney concierge Cast Members are also extremely well-versed in all things specific to Disney World; like Magic Bands and Fast Passes. Both of these systems are still relatively new, and because of this, there are still some kinks being worked out. During my last two visits, my party had some trouble securing Fast Passes, and syncing Fast Passes and credit cards to our Magic Bands. Luckily we were staying on Disney property, because our wonderful and patient Concierge was able to quickly straighten out most of the issues we had, and in the rare case that she couldn’t (like when I accidentally deleted all of our FastPasses for the day while trying to change one of them), she was able to immediately contact a manager to remedy the situation.
9. Merchandise Delivery:
The Disney Theme parks are home to many incredible stores, and sometimes shopping for keepsakes and souvenirs is almost as fun as meeting characters and riding the attractions, but it can be cumbersome and inconvenient to have to lug a bag full of merchandise with you through the park all day. Luckily, the parks offer complimentary merchandise delivery to all Walt Disney World Resort hotels. When you purchase an item, you can give the cashier your hotel name and room number, and request for your purchase to be delivered back to your room.
10. The Fully Immersive Disney Experience:
The very best thing about a Disney World vacation is its ability to make you forget about “real life” for a while. When you’re inside a Disney Theme Park, you lose all concept of life beyond the front gate. When you stay on Disney property, this doesn’t end when you leave the park at the end of the day, it continues through your entire trip. Because you don’t have to worry about things like parking, transportation, traffic, or getting to the airport on time, you are truly free to focus solely on enjoying your vacation. Once you do this, you’ll notice the “Disney Magic” all around you- from the impeccably themed hotel rooms, lobbies (right down to the perfectly engineered smells!), and restaurants, to the water-park worthy resort pools, to the hidden Mickey’s, to the incomparable Disney Cast Members. The attention to deal is unparalleled, and when you’re safe inside your happy little “Disney Vacation Bubble,” you can’t help but feel like Walt and his friends built the whole wonderful, magical World especially for you, and that while you’re there, anything and everything you’ve ever dreamed of is possible.