Updated: May 27
If you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World, you are probably wondering why people splurge on staying at a Disney Resort vs a cheaper hotel nearby. After all, there are perks to staying off property (hotel reward points, cheaper rates, maybe a free breakfast). I’m all about saving money but Disney Resorts are worth the splurge. You get so many extra perks and benefits for staying on property that it pays for itself!
Below are the TOP 10 Perks for Staying at a Disney Resort!
1. Magic Band!
If you book your Disney Resort in advance of your stay (at least 2 months), Disney will mail you FREE Magic Bands to utilize during your trip! A Magic Band is a wristband that will sync to the “My Disney Experience” app on your phone. It will be linked with your hotel room and allow you to use your magicband as a room key! It is also linked with your Disney Ticket for park entrance, FastPass+ Reservations, and Disney Photopass.
My favorite part of the Magicband is that you can also use it as a “credit card”. This perk is only an option if you are staying at a Disney Resort. They will charge the card you have on file for the room when you use your MagicBand to pay!
If you’re not staying on Disney Property, you have to purchase a Magic Band and you cannot use it to pay throughout your time at the parks nor use it as a room key.
NOTE: You don't have to have a MagicBand for Disney World.
2. Magical Express (to and from airport)
Don’t worry about the hassle of renting a car. Utilize Disney’s free Magical Express. This is an option available to anyone staying at a Disney Resort. Sign up in advance (book here). Once you pick up your luggage at the airport, follow the signs to Disney’s Magical Express. From there, you’ll load your bus and be on your way to the Happiest Place on Earth. Bonus – they play Disney cartoons on the bus ride.
If you’re not staying on Disney Property, you cannot use the Magical Express.
3. Disney Bus Transportation (within Disney World)
Each Disney resort is part of the bus transportation system. This means you’ll have a bus stop easily accessible to you that will take you directly to the parks or Disney Springs. This is a huge perk since parking rates at each park are $20+ per car, per day. Busses are fairly frequent and run before/after parks open and close.
If you're not staying on Disney Property, you can still use the bus system free of charge. However, you'd need to get somewhere on Disney property to get on the bus (which would mean ubering there or parking and paying for parking).
4. Book your FastPass+ Reservations 60 Days in Advance
FastPass+ are free virtual tickets that let you skip the line at a designated time. You’ll need to reserve your FastPass+ tickets in advance. You’re allowed to pick (3) fastpasses per day. The perk of staying at a Disney Resort is that you can book yours 60 days in advance.
If you’re not staying on Disney Property, you can only book FastPass+ 30 days in advance and at that point a lot of the “fan favorites” aren’t available.
5. You can opt in to the Disney Dining Plan
The Disney Dining Plan is a package you can purchase for food in the parks. There are different tiers of packages so you can select the one that best fits your family needs. For instance, you can pay an all inclusive set price for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and 2 snacks per person. Read more about the Disney Dining Plan here.
If you’re not staying on Disney Property, you cannot opt in to the Disney Dining plan.
6. Extra Magic Hour
This is a HUGE bonus. Extra Magic Hours are FREE and only offered to guests staying in the Disney resorts. They’re offered on select mornings or evenings so check the dates and times in advance to plan accordingly. You’ll definitely want to take part in this perk because there are a limited number of guests in the park which means you have less lines for rides and characters.
If you're not staying on Disney property, you'd need to purchase access to an Event that will allow you access to the parks after hours (like Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party). These events are typically $75+ per person.
7. Send Your Merchandise directly to your room
If you’re like me, chances are you’ll buy one or two (or 12) new Disney merchandise items from the shops in the parks. It would be so annoying to lug this around all day. Let Disney take care of that for you by delivering it straight to your room. This is complimentary.
If you’re not staying on Disney property, you can have the item brought to the front of the park by the end of the day for pick up.
8. Location, Location, Location!
If you’re planning to take mid-day breaks or want to limit the time on the road, staying on property is best for you. Don’t underestimate the extra 5 miles it would take to get to your off-property resort. That’s time that you could be spending at the parks. Some hotels are directly next to a park which makes transportation time almost nonexistent (ie Animal Kingdom Lodge to Animal Kingdom Park and Contemporary Resort to Magic Kingdom). Instead of always driving to a park, you’ll have some of these unique options as transportation: monorail, boat, Skyliner, and even walking!
If you’re not staying on Disney Property, you’ll need to uber or drive to the parks and traffic can be tough during rush hours.
9. Amazing Amenities & Pools
Disney is amazing when it comes to keeping to a theme. Not only will your room be themed to the resort your staying at, but so will the extra amenities like the pool! It's fun to experience different sceneries instead of just another boring rectangle pool.
10. Staying inside the Disney Bubble
There is something so magical about leaving the “real world” behind and emerging yourself in Disney’s magic throughout your entire vacation. You’ll see special touches like Mickey shaped towels in your room and Disney shops in your resort. Every detail in the resort will remind you that you’re in Disney World – and to me, that’s pretty awesome!
If you’re not staying on Disney Property, you’ll have to enter the real world every evening after a thrilling day in the park. LOL
Overall, staying at a Disney Resort is well worth it for the extra perks and magical experience. When you weigh in some of the cost saving items (like free transportation to/from the airport, free parking, etc) it might end up being more cost effective to stay on Disney property anyways!
Planning your first trip to Disney World? Read about Everything You Need To Know Before You Go!
Check out my Amazon shopping list for Disney themed necessities for your next Disney vacay!