I am often asked about the advantages of staying on Disney property for your Walt Disney World Vacation. With so many lodging options available in the area at so many different price points it can be hard to decide what is best for your family. Without a doubt, I highly recommend an on-site stay, and here are the seven biggest reasons for it:
7. Dining Reservation Advantage
It is very difficult to get a table at some of Disney’s most popular restaurants, and planning ahead with every advantage possible is your best bet. Dining reservations open up for everyone 180 days before you check-in, but guests staying on property have an added advantage: the 180 +10 reservation window. That means on the 180 day mark before they check-in on-site can make dining reservations for that day and up to 10 days beyond that. So, depending on the length of your trip, you could get a 10 day jump on everyone off-site. Those guests can only make their reservations one day at a time at the 180 day mark.
6. Packages (& discounts)
Many people enjoy being able to make their Disney vacation as “all-inclusive” and worry-free as possible. For guests staying on property this means they can put together a Magic Your Way package that includes tickets and a dining plan. Everything is set and paid for before they arrive, and they can just enjoy themselves once they are on vacation. Sometimes there are even package discounts offered, the most widely known is the free dining package where the dining plan is free with a qualifying package stay. Off-site guests must purchase their tickets separately, and there is not option to add the dining plan.
5. Extra Magic Hours
Who doesn’t want extra time in the Disney parks? Guests staying on property have the privilege of entering select parks early, or staying in select parks late on any given day. There is a set schedule for the Extra Magic Hours that you should check when making your plans, as well as when you check-in as they can change. Extra Magic Hours aren’t always the best day to visit that park, but if you have park hopper passes and can go to the early Extra Magic Hour you will have a lot of the park to yourself, then you can hop to another park for the day.
4. Magic Bands
Ah, Magic Bands and My Disney Experience, Disney’s technology to make everything simpler for you on your vacation. These bands contain your room key, tickets, dining plan, charging privileges, and FastPass+ reservations. The very best part of it all is that it is on your wrist all of the time, so you don’t have to go digging for a card to pay for your meal or get into your room. I love the convenience of these! Off-site guests can purchase a band once they enter the parks, but they are only able to use them as their tickets and FastPass+ reservations.
3. FastPass+ Advantage
Like the 180+10 advantage that guests staying on property have, they also have a significant advantage in making FastPass+ reservations. On-site guests can begin making their FastPass+ reservations 60 days prior to check-in, while off-site guests must wait until 30 days out. Some popular attractions are difficult to get at 60 days, so having that 30 day advantage over off-site guests is huge!
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2. Never Leave the Magic
This is that intangible thing about staying on-site. You are always inside that Disney bubble. Great Disney service follows you to your resort after you leave the parks. The resorts are all well-kept, beautifully themed, and offer so many Disney extras (like movies on the lawn, awesome pools, great dining options, marshmallow roasts and more). Some resorts literally keep you in the magic. Places like All Star Movies, Art of Animation, the Pirate Rooms at Caribbean Beach Resort, and the Royal Rooms at Port Orleans Riverside are themed as though you are part of your favorite Disney movie or fairytale. Other resorts like the Yacht and Beach Club, Boardwalk, Grand Floridian, Contemporary and Polynesian keep you so close to the parks you can see and hear the magic from your resort room.
By far the #1 reason to stay on-site, and it encompasses many different things. There is the convenience of transportation. You have options varying from monorails, skyliners, boats and buses to take you from your resort to the parks, and they run on a regular schedule. The buses are available from most resorts and they run every 20 minutes or so, as opposed to the shuttles from off-site resorts that run less frequently. Also, if you are driving to the parks, parking is free for on-site guests. Convenience of location. No matter which resort you choose on property you won’t be very far from the parks, and much closer than most off-site resorts. Your transportation time will be less regardless of which mode of transportation you choose. And, for those resorts on the monorail or skyliner loop or within walking distance it is even better! There is the convenience of the Magic Bands. As in #4, these bands do everything for you when you stay on-site, so no searching for cards or keeping up with multiple things in the parks. The convenience to charge to your room. I love being able to just charge everything back to my room—and using a Magic Band makes that even easier. This way I don’t even have to take a credit card or money into the parks. Disney’s Magical Express is another convenience. If you are flying into Orlando and staying on property at a Walt Disney World Resort you can add Magical Express (for no charge) to pick you and your luggage up at the airport and shuttle you over to your resort. You don’t even have to retrieve your luggage—they will do it for you and deliver it to your room. Then on the way home, check your luggage with your airline in the lobby, and Magical Express (which isn’t quite as magical this time around) will take you back to the airport to catch your flight home.