Why stay "on-property" in a Walt Disney World® Resort Hotel? Here are the top 10 reasons!

As a travel planner for all Disney Destinations, I work closely with clients to choose the perfect hotel for their family and budget.  I sometimes hear the phrase, “…but it’s much less expensive to stay off-property when you are at Walt Disney World®” or “my friends said they stayed off-property and it was fine.”  While that may be true for some, for the vast majority of families (especially those going to Walt Disney World® for the first time), the benefits you receive if staying on-property far outweigh the little cost-savings you may receive staying off property... and sometimes it’s not even a cost savings at all!  Keep reading for more information or head straight to the bonus at the end of this post to see a black-and-white numbers crunch! 

 The breathtaking lobby of  Disney's Polynesian Village  Resort, a deluxe resort on-property.
Above: The breathtaking lobby of Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, a deluxe resort on-property.

TOP TEN REASONS TO STAY ON-PROPERTY

1 - Parking and Transportation

  • Complimentary parking at your resort AND at the parks.  
    • Most resorts off-property charge a fee for self-parking.  At Walt Disney World® resorts you will receive complimentary parking.
    • If you choose not to use Disney’s Complimentary Transportation and wish to drive your own vehicle to the parks, you can do that and you’ll be able to park for free!
    • When you stay off-property and want to drive your own vehicle to the parks, be prepared to pay $20 per day per car to park at the Walt Disney World® Resort.
  • Complimentary transportation to and from the parks.
    • Not only is it free, but depending on where you stay you have a variety of transportation options as well (bus, boat, monorail, and walking!).  Further, Disney is now planning a Gondola system connecting some of the value and moderate resorts to Epcot® and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.®  Talk about variety!
    • Transportation runs to each individual theme park approx. every 20 minutes.  Most places off property, if they do run a shuttle bus, only run every 30 minutes and can have multiple park stops along the way (meaning typically an hour plus commute to your off-property resort ONE WAY.).
    • Using Disney’s transportation, you’re usually dropped off right at the entrance of the theme park (or just a very short walk away).  Typically if you are headed to Magic Kingdom® Park, your off-property shuttle will have to drop you off at the Ticket & Transportation Center, where you will then have to take a ferry boat or the monorail to the Magic Kingdom.  This double-commute can be a bit daunting (and time consuming).
  • Complimentary transportation between Orlando International Airport and the Walt Disney World® Resort.
    • Disney’s Magical Express® Transportation will not only transport you to and from the airport with ease, but they will pick up your bags from baggage claim and deliver them right to your resort hotel room – all totally free of charge. Now that’s service with a smile - where YOU are most definitely the one smiling!
    • When you return to the Orlando International Airport, you can check-in to your airline at your resort and check your bags at your resort so when you get to the airport you just head straight through security and to your gate. 
Clockwise above, from top left: Disney's Magical Express® Transportation, a Disney Transportation Bus, boat transportation to Disney Springs™, and the monorail running through Epcot®.

 

2 - Magic Bands

  • MagicBands are complimentary when you stay on-property.
    • If you are staying off-property you can still get a MagicBand and link your tickets to it – but it will cost you $12.99 plus tax for each band (current price at the time this article was written).
    • MagicBands are not only your park tickets, but they are your hotel room key, your dining plan “card”, your Memory Maker “card”, a charge “card”, and your Disney FastPass + service “vouchers” (for lack of a better word).
    • Imagine being able to enjoy your day without worrying about pulling out your wallet every time you want to make a purchase, get into the park, or utilize the Disney FastPass + service.  It’s possible with the MagicBand technology.  Further, on certain rides when you’re wearing a MagicBand you’ve received as a part of your Magic Your Way Package, some attractions have special personalized surprises just for you - within the actual attraction!  It will really blow your mind.
    • MagicBands are waterproof – meaning you can go to the pool or a water park without worrying about keeping up with your credit card, park ticket, and room key.
    • Along with this, regardless of whether or not you utilize a MagicBand, comes the ability to be able to make your charges back to your Walt Disney World® Resort hotel.  It’s so nice to be able to see all your charges on one statement at the end of your stay rather than keeping up with a million receipts.
    • Click here to learn about the new style of MagicBand on my YouTube channel.
  • MagicBands are personalized for you free of charge.
    • On the inside of your band you’ll have your printed name or a fun name of your choosing.  It makes a great souvenir!
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Above: Some personalized "special magic" inside the "it's a small world®" Attraction in Magic Kingdom® Park, possible by technology reading the MagicBands we were wearing.

3 - Dining Plans and Advance Dining Reservations

  • The opportunity to purchase and utilize the Disney Dining Plan.
    • Only guests staying on Walt Disney World® Resort property can purchase the Disney Dining plan, which can typically save you 10-15% off the cost of food at the Walt Disney World® Resort.  When using the dining plan you can also use your credits to reserve meals that you have to pre-pay for in advance (such as Cinderella’s Royal Table or the dinner shows like the popular Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue) – instead of having your credit card charged for the full amount at the time of reservation.
  • The ability to make dining reservations for your ENTIRE length of stay (up to 10 days) 180 days out.
    • Anyone – on property or off, with or without a resort reservation or park tickets, can make a dining reservation 180 days prior to the date you want to make the reservation for.  However, only guests staying on-property at the Walt Disney World® Resort can make their Advance Dining Reservations for their entire length of their stay (up to 10 days of a stay) at their 180 day-out mark.  And with the popularity of such restaurants as Cinderella’s Royal Table and Be Our Guest Restaurant filling up right at 6 a.m. on 180 days out, you’ll need every bit of advantage you can get to secure those hard-to-snag dining reservations for the entirety of your trip.
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Above: This delicious Grilled Salmon Salad at Geyser Point Bar & Grill at Disney's Wilderness Lodge is a quick-service credit on the Disney Dining Plan.

4 - Advance Disney FastPass+ Service Reservations

  • The ability to make your FastPass+ reservations 60 days prior to your check-in date, rather than just 30 days prior to your stay for everyone else.
    • As with some of the most popular restaurants, FastPasses for the most popular attractions (think: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Magic Kingdom® Park and Frozen Ever After in Epcot®) can either be totally gone or have return times for very late in the day if you have to wait until 30 days out to make those reservations.  Even if you do get a reservation for late in the day, that’s not the most efficient and effective use of the Disney FastPass+ system.  We’ll help you out with that when you book with us!

5 - Extra Magic Hours

  • One park each day either opens early or stays open late – just for guests at Walt Disney World® Resort Hotels.
    • Head to a park an hour early or stay a couple hours later at night when you stay on-property.  This allows you to get a jump-start to your day or take advantage or less crowds during the evening. (Hint: one of these is better to utilize than the other… book with us to find out which one!)

6 - Package Delivery

  • Shopping in the parks during the day? Have that package sent back to your Walt Disney World® Resort Hotel free of charge.
    • While you can have packages sent to the front of the park regardless of if you are staying on-property or off, having them sent directly to your resort is really priceless.  No lugging shopping bags along with your stroller, backpack, kiddo sleeping on your shoulder and other park bags on and off the bus, boat, or monorail – you just pick the package up at your resort hotel’s gift shop a day or two after your purchase.  It’s super simple and SO convenient.

7 - Coupons and Vouchers

Above: When staying on property, you'll get vouchers to use at either Fantasia Gardens and Fairways Miniature Golf or Winter Summerland Miniature Golf.

8 - Booking Deposits

  • Only a $200 deposit is required to book your stay – that’s for tickets, room, and dining plan, if applicable.
    • While this may not be true for each and every off-property resort, many will require a full length-of-stay deposit in order to reserve your hotel room (in the example I use below, this was the case).
    • When you stay on property, it’s one easy transaction that includes your room, tickets and dining plan if you choose the dining plan… when staying off-property, it’s a different deposit and transaction for your room and your tickets – and tickets must be paid for in full at time of purchase.

9 - Complimentary Services from Jennifer Henneman with Ears of Experience

  • While anyone can use my services as a travel planner for all Disney Destinations, only those staying on-property at the Walt Disney World® Resort get to take advantage of personalized itinerary planning, our invaluable park tips & tricks, and more - 100% FREE of charge. 
    • As part of Ears of Experience, we are paid by Disney and not by our clients when they stay on-property at a Walt Disney World® Resort Hotel.
    • When staying off-property I can still plan for you, but at that point I do have to charge a concierge planning fee of $169.95 (an upcharge for parties of 8 or more does apply).
Above: On an early morning for me as travel planner for all Disney Destinations,  I was able to get every dining reservation on my client's wish list.  I'm up at 6 a.m. 180 days prior to your check-in date to do this so you don't have to - all free of charge when you book your Disney vacation with me.

10 - Being in the Middle of the “Magic”

  • There is just something to be said for staying “in the middle of the Magic” that you really can’t describe to someone unless they’ve experienced it for themselves.  From the amazing customer service you’ll receive, friendly cast members, fun Disney-themed activities and movies at your resort hotel, to even being able to see the fireworks from your room in certain resorts, there is just something about staying in the “Disney Bubble.”  If you are trying to get the authentic experience and magic that a Disney Vacation can bring, there’s really no other choice than to stay on property!

Above: One of my children giving Tow Mater from Disney/Pixar's Cars a hug at Disney's Art of Animation Resort - because when you're at Disney and are staying on property... the magic is REAL.

Bonus! 11 - It may actually be less expensive to stay on-property!

Now, having said all that, I also did a pricing exercise (because I’m a numbers girl and wanted to see it in black and white dollars-to-dollars comparison).  I took a family of 4 staying for 6 nights and 5 days, checking in on a Sunday and checking out on a Saturday and looked at staying at a Holiday Inn off property, versus staying at Value Resort OR a Moderate Resort on property. Check out my comparison below… I think it will surprise you!

**Disclaimers**

  • Pricing is for 2 adults and 2 children between the ages of 3 & 9.
  • Pricing assumes the family drove their own standard vehicle to Orlando.
  • Pricing does not include park tickets or a dining plan (if on-property only).
  • Pricing DOES include applicable tax at time of this publication.
  • All pricing shown below is for a vacation in August 2017; all pricing is subject to availability at time of booking, regardless of whether you are staying on-property or off-property.
  • This assumes that said family will be eating a quick-service meal, a table-service meal, and 2 snacks in the parks each day (including their arrival day).

Holiday Inn Orlando – Disney Springs Area

  • Total cost for standard hotel room + service fees + tax = $733.43
  • Cost of parking at the resort, $12 per night = $72.00
  • Add on the cost of (4) MagicBands at $12.99 + 6% Florida sales tax = $55.08
  • Add 10% extra that this family would pay for in food because they cannot add on the dining plan when staying off-property: $113.17 (based on the calculation of the Disney Dining Plan being $1,131.67 for this family of 4 and how much 10% of that is)
  • Family wanting to drive to the parks in their own vehicle for 2 of their 5 days in the parks = $40.00
  • Family decides to play miniature golf one day ($14.00 + 6% Florida sales tax per adult and $12.00 + 6% Florida sales tax per child) = $55.12
  • Purchase of Concierge Program to utilize personalized itineraries and park planning from Jennifer Henneman with Ears of Experience = $169.95
  • GRAND TOTAL for staying off-property = $1,238.75

 Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort (Moderate Resort)

  • Total cost for standard hotel room + service fees + tax = $1,022.70
  • Cost of parking at the resort, FREE = $0.00
  • (4) Personalized MagicBands included, FREE = $0.00
  • Family decides to purchase the dining plan which would save them approx. 10% over the cost of food they would buy if they did NOT do the dining plan and stayed off-property = $0.00 (calculated at $0 since we ADDED in $113.17 in the Holiday Inn example)
  • Family wanting to drive to the parks in their own vehicle for 2 of their 5 days in the parks, FREE = $0.00
  • Family decides to play miniature golf one day (they use the vouchers included in their Magic Your Way Package) = $0.00
  • Personalized itineraries and park planning from Jennifer Henneman with Ears of Experience, included FREE of charge = $0.00
  • Staying in the middle of the magic = PRICELESS!
  • GRAND TOTAL for staying on-property in a Moderate Resort = $1,022.70 
    • This is a SAVINGS of $216.05 by staying ON property!

Disney’s Pop Century Resort (Value Resort – my favorite value resort, actually!)

  • Total cost for standard hotel room + service fees + tax = $708.36
  • Cost of parking at the resort, FREE = $0.00
  • (4) Personalized MagicBands included, FREE = $0.00
  • Family decides to purchase the dining plan which would save them approx. 10% over the cost of food they would buy if they did NOT do the dining plan and stayed off-property = $0.00 (calculated at $0 since we ADDED in $113.17 in the Holiday Inn example)
  • Family wanting to drive to the parks in their own vehicle for 2 of their 5 days in the parks, FREE = $0.00
  • Family decides to play miniature golf one day (they use the vouchers included in their Magic Your Way Package) = $0.00
  • Personalized itineraries and park planning from Jennifer Henneman with Ears of Experience, included FREE of charge = $0.00
  • Staying in the middle of the magic = PRICELESS!
  • GRAND TOTAL for staying on-property in a Value Resort = $708.36
    • This is a SAVINGS of $530.39 by staying ON property!