Why I Always Stay At A Disney Resort
Staying on property is more than just convenient.
If you're thinking about booking a vacation to Walt Disney World, it all begins with a process. When to go seems to be the first step. Then we start thinking about where to stay. I have to admit, back in the day, there weren't so many to choose from and the ones that were on property were very expensive, so staying off property was a desired option to most of us. Mostly because of the budget, specially if you have a middle to large family. I'm not saying that there still aren't plenty of great options off property, but Disney has made our decision much easier with all the incredible resorts to choose from for any size budget. Some of the off-property hotels and resorts are now part of Disney's “Good Neighbor” group which means you can book Disney packages and have some of the perks that go along with booking at their onsite resorts. This option wasn't available when I was taking vacations there growing up. We always stayed off property to save on the vacation budget. The main thing I remember from those days is the long bus ride to and from the parks.
Luckily for me and my family, Disney built the Value Resorts for limited budgets and larger families, and the Moderate Resorts for mid-range budgets. The moderate resorts also have rooms to accommodate larger families. The Art of Animation Resort is a Value Resort with regular guest rooms but they also have suites for larger families, but still trying to keep the budget in mind. The suites are priced about what a Moderate Resort regular guest room that sleeps 4, but they sleep 6.
If your budget allows for it or you prefer to go first class, Disney offers deluxe resort rooms and villas. I highly recommend staying at least once at one of the deluxe resorts. They have amazing lobby and pool areas. Even if you aren't staying at one, you can take a bus from any of the parks to visit and check out the different themes.
Not only do they have three resort levels for which ever budget you have, but they have added perks that you won't find outside the resort properties. Being closer to the parks and only a short bus ride to your resort is one of the biggest reasons we started staying on property. You never have to pay for a shuttle, rent a car, or pay for parking. Put away your maps and GPS, you just hop on a bus and they take you where you need to go. For a woman traveling with my daughter and two granddaughters, this just feels, not only more convenient, but safer. So the times we drive instead of fly, we just park at the resort when we arrive and never have to drive anywhere until we check out and leave.
Other perks include “Extra Magic Hours” for Disney resort guests only. I never really thought about this much because we are always doing good to get there when the park opens and not getting up early to go an hour early. We realized what a great thing this extra hour was at the end of the day, and the park's closing, we found out that by scanning our resort card (and now magic bands) we got to hop on rides that had been too busy all day. We finally got to ride Soarin (now my fave ride) Of course, there was that time when Merida first arrived at the Magic Kingdom and the girls were upset that the lines were too long. I'm talking 2 hours in the hot Florida sun long. We dragged ourselves out of bed early and headed to the Magic Kingdom on their Extra Magic Hours day and beat the crowds to get in line. The girls saw Merida and we had the rest of the day to enjoy the park. We also decided to use our Extra Magic Hours for the Animal Kingdom for the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. It's when all the animals are heading out from their night shelters and you get to see more of them and then we went on the jungle trek, all before it got really hot. Now when we go, we look up the Extra Magic Hours schedule and we plan our days so we can go early and stay late. Sometimes we go back to the resort during the hot afternoon and swim or nap, then head back to the parks to enjoy a late evening. This was really important when the girls were younger.
One thing to also remember is the Dining Plan is only available to resort guests. If you get lucky, on certain times of the year, the Dining Plan is included for free with your package. There are three levels of dining plans to choose from and you will find more about this in my Dining Plan 101 posts.
One of the other perks that I think is very important is the free transportation to and from the airport on the Magical Express bus. They send you special luggage tags so when you check your luggage in at the airport, Disney will pick them up and deliver them right to your room so they are waiting for you when you arrive. Most of the resorts also have departure baggage check-in right there at the resort before you board the bus back to the airport. This is so convenient when you have kids and lots of luggage.
So I can't say enough about how staying on-property has made our vacations more fun, easier, safer, and worry-free.