Benefits of Staying Onsite at Walt Disney World

Did you know that guests staying onsite at a Walt Disney World resort receive several benefits that off site guests do not? It’s true!

There are currently more than 25 resorts at Walt Disney World – with more on the way!

Disney categorizes their resorts as value, moderate and deluxe. That means there is a resort for every budget and regardless of which level you choose, staying on site offers some amazing benefits.

Let’s start with Magical Express. The Magical Express is Disney’s complimentary Round Trip bus service to and from your Disney resort. The service is available for all arrivals and departures at Orlando International Airport. And they even deliver your luggage right to your room!

About 30 days prior to your vacation you will receive a letter with everything you need to know for finding your Magical Express bus plus luggage tags for all checked luggage. The yellow ones simply peel and stick. The Character tags are complimentary keepsake tags.

Once you arrive and step off of your plane, skip the baggage claim and simply follow signs for Disney’s Magical Express. It is very clearly marked throughout the airport.

When you arrive at the check in, a Disney Cast Member will greet you and scan your Magic Band or the letter you received with your luggage tags and direct you to the correct line. It is so simple and convenient!

The day before check out, you will receive another letter with instructions for catching your return bus for your departure.

The next perk of staying onsite is Magic Bands! Magic Bands serve as your room key, tickets, and allow you to link a credit card so that you can charge purchase right to your room. You also use them to check in at attractions where you have a FastPass. And if you have Photo Pass/Memory Maker, you also use your band to link the photos to your My Disney Experience. They are water proof – seriously, you can wear them in the pools – and they can be personalized.

Free bands come in a variety of colors or you can upgrade to a band with a certain character or theme. The upgraded bands are currently $15 per band.

Speaking of FastPasses, staying onsite allows you to choose 3 FastPasses per ticketed park day 60 days prior to check in. For those who are not familiar, FastPass is Disney’s Free Skip the Line service. You choose a time for three attractions per day and simply arrive within your one hour window to wait in a shorter queue. Once you use your 3 that you chose ahead of time, you can use the My Disney Experience app to choose one more at a time for the rest of the day.

At 7 a.m. 60 days prior to travel, you are able to go into your account – or have your travel agent do it for you – and reserve FastPasses for your entire stay.

When staying off-site, you have to wait until 30 days prior to your first ticketed Park day and believe me, by 30 days prior, you are not getting the top attractions. You will definitely not get Pandora Flights of Passage, Slinky Dog Dash, Frozen Ever After or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. You will spend a long time waiting in line for these rides. Flights of Passage is known to have wait times of over two hours and both Slinky Dog Dash and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train are not far behind!

Speaking of planning ahead, another benefit to staying onsite is the ability to make dining reservations 180 days in advance beginning at 7 a.m. Just like the FastPasses, being able to nab the most popular restaurants is a big deal! Off site guests can make dining reservations 180 days in advance also, but they can only do one day at a time. If staying onsite, you can make reservations 180 days plus ten additional days from check in. For example, if you are checking in to Port Orleans-Riverside on June 1, 2020 and checking out on June 8, you can make reservations for your entire stay on Dec. 4. A guest staying off-site during these same dates will need to make reservations for June 1 on Dec 4 and then again on Dec 5 for June 2 and so on. Guests who have to book one day at a time are most likely not reserving the most popular experiences, such as Be Our Guest, Ohana and Cinderella’s Royal Table.

PS – when you book with me, I am happy to take care of this for you.

Also, keep in mind, only guests staying onsite are able to add a dining plan to their reservation! I never visit Disney World without a Dining Plan. There are three levels – Quick Service, the Disney Dining Plan, which allows you one table service meal per night and the Deluxe Dining Plan – which is 3 dining credits per night to use however you choose. (See my previous dining plan posts for more information) The option to add dining is awesome because it gives your vacation a truly all inclusive feel. It really allows you to budget for your vaction and have a pretty good idea of what you will be spending before you ever leave home.

So earlier I mentioned the complimentary Magical Express, but the transportation perks don’t stop there. Guests of the Walt Disney World Resorts also receive free transportation to and from the parks and Disney Springs. All resorts offer bus transportation, with busses running about every 20 minutes throughout the day. Deluxe resorts and certain moderate resorts also offer boat transportation. And Grand Floridian, the Contemporary and the Polynesian all offer the convenience of the Monorail for service to Magic Kingdom and Epcot.

Beginning in September, guests of Art of Animation, Pop Century, Caribbean Beach Resort and the All new Riviera Resort, will also have the option of taking the all new Skyliner to Hollywood Studios and Epcot. This is a Sky Gondola system and each car will seat up to 10 guests each.

Also, when you are a Disney resort guest, parking is free at the theme parks.

Another benefit is the option to have any purchases made at the park delivered to your resort for free. So when your daughter just has to have that life sized Minnie Mouse and you don’t want to carry it around the park all day, you can have it delivered right to your resort room!

The last perk of staying onsite is Extra Magic Hours. Each day a select theme park either opens early or stays open late for guests staying onsite. This is a great opportunity to experience some of the most popular rides and attractions.

And for guests staying between Sept 1 and Nov. 2 this fall, Disney is offering EXTRA, Extra Magic Hours. During that time, guests staying onsite can visit Hollywood Studios from 6 a.m. – 9 a.m. – which is huge if you are planning to experience the all new Galaxy’s Edge!

Both Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom will be offering Extra Extra Magic Hours from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.

So those are the benefits of staying onsite at Walt Disney World. The old saying, “Time is Money” really does apply here. Sure, you can stay off-site at a nearby hotel and maybe pay less per night, but take into account the extra costs and perks you miss out on. You will need to find transportation to and from the airport. You will be at the mercy of your hotel when relying on their shuttle service vs. Disney’s efficient transportation systems. You will most likely be spending a large chunk of your vacation waiting in lines for attractions that, had you been staying onsite, you could have grabbed a FastPass for to cut down on that. And keep in mind, with three categories of resorts, there really is something for every budget.

Tell me, have you stayed on site? Do you think the perks are worth it?

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