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.