Have you ever been to Disney World? If so, do you prefer to stay on property or somewhere else? It hasn’t quite been two weeks since we returned from our first trip to Walt Disney World for the Disney Social Media Moms Conference and we stayed at two different resorts on property during our time there: The Contemporary Resort and the Art of Animation Resort. I’ll share more about those in upcoming posts, but first I wanted to share a few of the benefits to staying on property that we discovered during our time there. If you’ve never been (or if you’re a west-coaster and more familiar with the Disneyland Resort), let me start by saying that Walt Disney World is huge. Like, totally and completely HUGE–47 square miles to be exact!! It’s got four theme parks, 2 water parks, and over 20 themed-resorts! Before planning our trip, I don’t think I realized just how many resorts there were on property. There really is something to fit just about everyone’s budget. I had no idea that there are value resorts there, making staying on property a “no brainer” in my opinion! Here’s just a quick snapshot of the different accommodation options and starting prices taken today (*note- these prices are subject to change by season, dates, etc) to give you a little glimpse taken from the website today:
Look at those Value Resorts–they start at just $85/night! I’ve stayed in many a non-Disney budget hotels that are about that same price and you don’t get all the perks that Disney has to offer! So, here is our list of the benefits of staying on property at Walt Disney World:
If you’re flying in and out of Orlando to visit Disney World (and staying on property), this complementary service is amazing! It transports you and your luggage to your hotel for you. If you want, you can even skip baggage claim altogether! For a family traveling with 3 small kids (that flew in on the red-eye no less), this was truly a magical service. When we arrived at the airport all we did was follow the signs to the Magical Express. We didn’t even have to go to baggage claim! After registering everything with Magical Express prior to our trip, we received a package in the mail from them with special tags for our luggage. We had those on our bags when we checked them in Phoenix and we didn’t have to do anything again with them until they showed up to our room about two hours after we arrived at the hotel! How amazing is that?! The Magical Express makes the Disney magic start as soon as you arrive at the airport. There was a little video played on the bus, which helped keep the boys entertained on the way to the resort. It was great!
Even if you arrive to Walt Disney World by car, if you’re staying at one of the resorts, your parking is complimentary! Once you park your car at the hotel, then you don’t have to worry about driving at all the whole rest of your vacation! For us, that is a HUGE bonus. By staying on property, between the Magical Express and the complimentary resort transportation, there is no need to rent a car. By staying on property, we didn’t have to bring any car seats!! That made traveling with 3 kids (ages 6, 3, and 9 months) SO nice!
While you’re on property at Disney World, there are multiple transportation options depending on where you are and where you’re going. There are motor coach shuttle buses, ferryboats, and the famous monorail. The boys LOVED taking the monorail anytime we had the chance! 😉
Extra Magic Hours
By staying on property, resort guests have the unique opportunity to be in the parks before they open to everyone else (usually 1 hour early) or stay later (sometimes up to 3 hours!!)! Typically, Extra Magic Hours are featured at a different park each day. The way the timing of things worked out with our plan, we actually didn’t take advantage of this during our Disney Social Media Moms trip. But, we did this at Disneyland last summer when we stayed at the Grand Californian. We weren’t even in the park a full hour before everyone else and the time was seriously magical. We rode a bunch of rides and got castle shots with NO ONE else in the picture! That hour was some of the most magical moments of our entire trip. So, this is a HUGE perk! Disney Magic lives on at the hotel
When you stay on property at Disney World (or Disneyland for that matter), the Disney magic stays with you the whole time. The themed resorts are done with the same attention to detail that you find at any of the Disney Parks! So, there is usually some fabulous entertainment and fun to be had at each of the themed resorts (unique and special to the specific resorts of course). At the Contemporary, we got off the bus from one of our nightly Disney Social Media Moms events just in time to see the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks shows from the front walkway of the hotel. We then stumbled upon the Electrical Water Pageant, which is much like the Main Street Electrical Parade but on the water. The kids were SO excited! Ok…actually, we were all so excited! 😉 It was totally something us Disney World newbies didn’t know anything about–a completely magical surprise!
[Photo Credit: Disney Parks Blog]
Then, the Art of Animation Resort that we moved to after the conference ended was like a theme-park in itself for my kids. With four themed sections to the hotel (Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Finding Nemo, and Cars), the boys were ecstatic. (And a side note about moving resorts….we didn’t have to do a thing for this either. On Sunday, we checked out of the Contemporary Resort from the Disney Social Media Moms conference by calling the bell desk. They came up, got all of our luggage that we didn’t need for the day, and we headed out to Epcot while they took our luggage to be transferred. We spent the afternoon at Epcot and when we arrived at the Art of Animation, our luggage was waiting for us at the luggage hold there. Seriously, they transfer your luggage to a different resort for you!! How easy is that?!)
When we arrived at the Art of Animation, we walked into the lobby at Animation Hall where we were greeted by a super fun guest dance party! Seriously, a dance party (a daily occurrence there)! Everyone was having so much fun. Walking into that set the tone for just a totally wonderful time!
Seriously, this resort was SO much fun (especially for those with young kids) and for keeping you completely immersed in the Disney magic. For the boys, the Big Blue Pool (Finding Nemo themed) was like a water park in itself. We could have easily stayed at the hotel for one full day without even going to one of the theme parks and our boys would have totally been thrilled! Seriously, look at the pool!!
Resort Airline Check-in
And, finally, when it’s finally time to say goodbye, you can check-in for your flight at your hotel. And, I don’t just mean like check-in online. I mean, like check your luggage for the flight, print your boarding passes, check-in. So, when you get to the airport, you can just head straight to security. Be sure to check with your specific resort as resort airline check-in is only offered at certain properties and only certain airlines participate. The Art of Animation offers this service and we were flying US Airways, so the morning of our departure, we just brought our checked luggage down and checked everything in for the flight. Then, our carry on luggage was stored with the bell desk while we had a few last hours at the Magic Kingdom. So nice!
I know that I’ve heard a lot of people say that staying at a Disney resort is so much more expensive than staying off property. But, when you factor in parking fees, your time, convenience, and all of these bonuses, I really think the cost difference is negligible! Unless you had a very special deal for an off-property hotel (i.e.points that make the hotel free or VERY reduced) or were staying with friends/family nearby, I would definitely encourage you to really look into staying on property! Being taken care of from the moment we arrived in Orlando until we left, all while being immersed in the Disney magic, was absolutely amazing. I can’t imagine visiting Walt Disney World any other way!
Do YOU like to stay on property at Walt Disney World? What is your favorite resort?
If you’re traveling to Disney World with young kids, you might be interested in this post:
Disclosure: My family was invited to the 2013 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. I paid a conference fee to attend and received discounted & complimentary items from Walt Disney World as part of the experience. I was not asked to write about our experiences at the conference or our family trip. All opinions and experiences are entirely my own.
Very interesting, I’ve been to Disney several times as a child and we never stayed on the property! I think we’ll strongly consider it when we take our children. And I loved hearing about checking your luggage for your flight at the resort, great information.
Great post! I love the convenience of staying on property and Disney has some amazing resorts.
We haven’t been to Disney yet, but I like the idea of continuing the “magic”, staying on their properties.
Yes, Hanan! Whenever you make the trip, continuing the magic is SO worth it! 🙂
We stayed at a Disney property the one time we visited. I had not idea you could go to the parks early if you stay on site. So good to know!
I usually stay in one of the monorail resorts, because like you said, the convenience of the transportation is just unmatched.
We just booked a stay at the Contemporary. I, too, love the amenities and convenience.
We do love staying on property. Our favorite resort was either Grand Floridian or Port Orleans. Although my son would say All Star Movies! Our next trip we plan on staying at Art of Animation in the Cars section. We love all of the benefits you get even though a few times we have stayed in a rental house – I do like that for the space, kitchen and laundry.
We have been working on planning our week in Florida this August. We’ve had a tough time making a decision on a Disney hotel…until we watched your video. Thank you so much for sharing the pool and play area. We are going to book our stay there!
Aw, that’s so fun, Heather! Thanks for letting me know! Glad someone found the video useful!! 🙂 You are going to LOVE it! I’ll have a full review coming soon! 🙂
I made my first & only (so far) trip to WDW in 2008. We stayed on property and it was so nice! Like you said, there’s tons of perks to this. Fortunately, my friend that I went with is a Cast Member at Disneyland so we got a great discount for staying on property. We stayed at the Beach Club and I loved it there (plus, it was only a few minutes walk to a side-entrance at Epcot). What I really loved is that they provide transportation so there’s no worries. We are hoping to go back in the Fall of this year for the Food & Wine Festival and maybe go on a Disney Cruise right after!
Wow, this is some really useful information. I’m pinning this so I can reference it when I plan my very first trip to Disney! Thanks so much for sharing!
Thanks for stopping by, Sarah! Glad you found it useful! Fabulous name by the way! 😉
We’ve stayed on site and off and I will never stay off site again! We try a new resort every time. We’ve stayed at the Polynesian, The Caribbean and this time we are staying at the All-Star Movie. The first time we booked we got a $500 gift card for staying at the Polynesian! This time we took advantage of free dining (the dining plan is such a money saver! We will never go without the dining plan either!) We upgraded our dining plan to dining deluxe and simply paid the difference! Make sure to make your dining reservations as soon as they open (180 days before your trip) or there will be places you can’t get a reservation at (The Crystal Palace, Be Our Guest, Royal Table…) We have a 7yo, 6yo and 2yo…can’t imagine not giving them this experience! And we are a single-income (very low income) family…anyone can make it to Disney…if there’s a will there’s a way!
the hundreds and possibly a thousand dollars we save by staying off site outweigh the benefits of staying on site.
Thanks for your opinion, Anna! Where spending money is concerned, everyone certainly has different opinions. We found that the value resorts were very comparable in price to many off-site locations, so for us, we felt the benefits of staying on property to be of immense value for what we paid.
When my family of 4 goes to Disney world, we rent a house for around $20 per day. for those that want to save money it’s all about the planning too. I’ve stayed on site during the free dining and it was SO worth it. what my family likes to do is spend one week in a house (So that family can visit) and then spend a few days on site. Balances out the costs and we still get the Disney magic (And the shuttle/check in when we need it!)
I’ve booked Disney trips for clients and have had them stay on the resort and off the resort and I always recommend staying on the resort as there are so many perks like you mentioned (another to mention is this is one of the only ways you can get the Disney dining plan which DOES save you money!). Disney is my absolute favorite destination to book (and travel to) and you do not pay any extra to work with an agent either!
You forgot one of the best perks!! Not only can you charge in park purchases to your room (via stored credit card) but they will also deliver them to your hotel, the next day. You just go with your receipt to the store on the property. No lugging your purchases around all day. And no scrambling at the last minute to pick up those souvenirs!!
So true! We’ve never done this! But, that is indeed definitely handy!
If you are going with either a current member or retired military there is Shades of Green. When we went it was roughly the same cost as friends of our who stayed at an off-site condo.
Disney also renewed the Military Salute for 2013/2014. We are staying on property this winter for roughly 430 per person for room, quick service dining a 4day park hopper tickets. THANK YOU DISNEY for renewing this!!!
We’ve been to WDW twice and stayed offsite in a great 1000+sq ft- 2 bdrm condo for $105 per night + $14/day to park at Disney. We had the option to take the shuttle for free, but preferred having our car. We even left the park each day for a mid day break-so easy and only 10min of travel time. I noticed many families waiting on WDW buses with crabby little ones-looked terrible. Art of animation suites may be an option in the future, but for now we prefer the space, full kitchen and happy rested family. (5&2 yr old) We even had 2 balconies-one with a view of the lake the other with a view of the Disney skyline. Saw fireworks nightly from our bedroom!
We live 6 hours from WDW so we go there quite often(every couple of years). The first time we stayed on property was for my 18th birthday. We stayed at the Port Orleans Resort: French Quarter and had a great experience. Our first night there we took the boat shuttle to Downtown Disney to explore a little bit. On the actual day of my birthday we left to go to the parks, and when we got back to our room there was an autographed photo from the Winnie The Pooh characters waiting for me on our table. The next visit we stayed at Port Orleans: Riverside. It is BEAUTIFUL. We stayed in the section that looks like plantation homes which is my very favorite. The next time we stayed at the All Star Movies Resort. It was okay. We stayed in the “Herbie The Lovebug” building, but if i had a choice i would have totally picked to stay in the “Toy Story” building.(Probably because the “Toy Story” movies are my favorites.) Our most recent trip wasn’t even technically a WDW trip, but we knew we LOVED the Disney resorts, and we thought if we were in Orlando we would probably try to go there at least once, so we stayed at Port Orleans: Riverside again, but this time we were in the swamp lodge themed part. Those aren’t as nice as the plantation home themed rooms, but i guess that’s kind of to be expected. I love the fact that when you stay on property, you can just park your car and not have to drive again until you leave, but also if you DO want to drive, your parking pass will allow you free parking in the parks. The extra magic hours are and awesome benefit too. If you plan it just right,(and have park hopper passes) you can hit it both the AM & PM extra magic hours at different parks, and really make the most of your trip.
We always stay on property. We have visited many of the resorts, but our favorites are the Animal Kingdom Lodge and Polynesian for deluxe and Port Orleans for moderate. We have never stayed in a budget resort. We are staying at Yacht Club in May. I am so excited. WDW wants you to stay on property, but they make it so easy, why would you not. Many of the resorts even have small grocery sections so if you wanted to have some food in your room you can or you can have groceries delivered if that is a big deal for you. We often rent a car to hop all over the World, but they really do make it easy and magical.
Looking to go with multi-generation family and two, 5-year-olds next spring. Considering the monorail resorts, the Poly will still be under construction… so the Contemporary to be on the monorail or further away at AofA? Which did you prefer?
Oooh, Susan, that is tough!!! The location of the Contemporary is AMAZING – especially if you plan on a lot of time at Magic Kingdom and Epcot (for the monorail). So, convenience wise, that can’t be beat. However, the AoA really was our favorite. It certainly isn’t as convenient with the buses. BUT – the kids LOVED it. They still talk about it and ask when we can go back. The suite-style rooms are amazing and WAY more spacious than the Contemporary. Our family could have stayed with grandparents in the Cars Suite (or any suite there), especially since there are two bathrooms. So, that would be where’d we go. But, either way, you can’t really go wrong! Have so much fun!
I love the Value Resorts. The rooms are nice and we really only sleep in them. Now I can’t wait to try Art of Animation. You give a lot of great tips. I’ve done Disney with my Husband many times. Always stay on property. But never with a child. We are planning for his 5th birthday in 3 years.
Thanks for your posts.