Step 2: Choosing Where to Stay


Fewer things are more anxiety-inducing than deciding where to stay when you go to Disney World.  This is likely due to the fact that deciding where to stay is a two-fold decision.  You first must decide if you are going to stay on or off Walt Disney World Resort Property (referred to as ‘on property’ or ‘off property’ for the remainder of this post) and then choose a resort hotel to stay at.

I’ve decided to the best way to tackle this subject is to split Step 2 into two separate topics.  Today, I’ll focus on the decision to stay on or off property.  Once I’ve convinced you to stay on Disney property, we’ll break down the different resort categories and the pros and cons of each resort in subsequent posts.

Personally, I would never consider staying off property.  I understand that it isn’t always financially feasible to stay on property, but if there is any way you can swing it cost wise, I promise you, there is no way you’ll be disappointed.  There are a lot of hidden savings for staying on property, which I’ll highlight in this post.

Without a doubt, it is cheaper to stay at a resort or rental off Disney property.  But Disney offers legitimate benefits to more than make up for the increased cost.  In addition to some actual cost savings you’ll have access to staying on property, time savings is often a major factor for those who decide to stay on property.

Booking a resort package thru the Walt Disney Travel Company or through a reputable travel agency offers the following benefits in 2017:

Complimentary Airport Transportation

Complimentary Airport Transportation.  If you’re flying into Orlando International Airport, you receive complimentary transportation, via motor coach known as the Magical Express, to your Disney World Resort Hotel.  The Orlando International Airport is a considerable drive from Disney World.  If you choose to stay off property, you’ll need to factor in the cost of airport transportation and/or a rental car into your equation.  While having access to the Magical Express is a significant cost savings, the word ‘Express’ may be a bit of a stretch.  There is often a line to board the shuttle which can stretch upwards of 30+ minutes during peak travel seasons.

If you are planning to use the Magical Express, you can check your luggage at your home airport using special Magical Express luggage tags.  You’ll skip the baggage claim when you arrive in Orlando and head straight to your motor coach.  Your bags will be delivered directly to your Resort room for you.  This process can take a few hours, so make sure to pack essentials, like medication, in your carry-on bags.

Currently, Magical Express transportation is not available at Orlando’s Sanford Airport.  If you’re flying Allegiant or Spirit, or any other airline into Sanford, you’ll have to give up this perk and provide your own transportation.

Complimentary Resort Transportation

Once you arrive to your Disney World Resort, you can enjoy complimentary bus, monorail or boat transportation between your resort and Disney’s theme parks, water parks and Disney Springs.  While transportation is not currently provided from one resort to another, you can transfer from your resort bus to another resort bus at any theme park, water park, or Disney Springs location.

Complimentary Parking

If you’re driving to Disney World or planning to rent a car while you’re here, you enjoy complimentary self-parking at any Walt Disney World Resort or Theme Park (a value of at least $20 a day).

Early Access to Booking Dining Reservations

On property guests are able to reserve dining reservations for their entire trip up to 180 days in advance.  Off property guests are limited to booking only 180 days in advance, so must book their reservations over a period of several days instead of all at once.  Having this jump on off-property guests can make the difference in receiving reservations at some of Disney’s most popular dining spots, like Cinderella’s Royal Table or ‘Ohana.

Early Access to FastPass+ Reservations

Guests who stay on property are able to reserve FastPass+ attractions 60 days in advance (30 days in advance for off property guests).  While there will likely still be FastPass+ time slots available at 30 days out, many headliners will only have availability late in the day or overlapping with other events (like a parade).

Complimentary Magic Bands

Magic Bands allow you the ability to control your Disney experience directly from your wrist.  You can use your Magic Band to unlock your Disney Resort hotel room, as your ticket to enter the theme parks, to charge dining and merchandise purchases, connect PhotoPass images to your Memory Maker account and check in at FastPass+ attraction and entertainment lines.

Extra Magic Hours

Each day, one Disney Theme Park opens an hour early or stays open up to two hours late, exclusively for guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort.  You will have access to your favorite attractions with limited wait times.

Disney Dining Plan

We’ll talk a lot about the Disney Dining Plan and if it makes sense for your group as we dive further into the planning process.  For now, know that this benefit is only available to guests who are staying on property.  For many, the Disney Dining Plan can yield a significant savings on food expenses.

Resort Theming

While not an ‘official’ benefit of staying on property, the theming of Disney Resort hotels is lush, well thought out and, DISNEY themed.  While many resorts in the Orlando area are very nice, they will never compare to Disney when it comes to the quality of their theming and level of service they provide.

Well, there you have it.  Reasons why you need to consider staying on Disney Property for your upcoming vacation.  Next up we’ll take a look at the different resort categories available and how you decide which resort is right for you.

What is your favorite benefit of staying on Disney property?


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