Is it worth staying on-site at a Disney Resort? Today I am sharing the benefits of staying on Disney property and 3 reasons staying off-site might be a better choice for your Disney vacation.
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Making the decision to stay on-site or off-site when visiting the Walt Disney World theme parks can leave people with their heads spinning. There are a lot of pros and cons to staying on-site at the Disney hotels.
Guests need to factor in Disney vacation cost, what parks you will visit, how many days do you want to vacation, and many more decisions. Read our 7 day Disney World Itinerary to help with the planning.
One of the most important decisions you will make is where do you want to stay for your Disney World vacation. Guests visiting Disney World have two options for accomodations.
Stay on-site at a Value, Moderate, or Disney World Deluxe resorts or stay off-site at a resort or a rental like Encore Resort. There are perks to staying on-site and off-site during your Disney World trip.
Before you arrive at the parks be sure to download the My Disney Experience app, make your park reservation, and purchase Disney World tickets.
We recommend our partner Undercover Tourist for discount Disney World tickets.
Benefits of Staying on Disney Property
On-Site Disney Resorts Keep You in the Disney Bubble
What is the Disney Bubble? The Disney Bubble is when you stay at a Disney resort, visit the Disney theme parks and maybe Disney Springs, but you do not leave the Walt Disney World resort.
Disney Resort hotel guests that don’t want to worry about driving or leaving Disney property should stay at a Walt Disney World hotel.
The only time you are outside of Disney is to and from the Orlando International airport. Some families love this and others not so much.
Disney World used to provide complimentary transportation called Disney’s Magical Express to and from the airport but now guests are responsible for their own transportation. Two options that you can book ahead of time are Sunshine Flyer and Mears Connect. Prices vary depending on the specials available.
If you are a big Disney fan and you want all Disney all the time, an on-site resort like Art of Animation or Disney’s Riviera Resort may be a good choice for you.
If you plan on spending the entire day at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and/or visiting the water parks, an on-site resort may work for you.
Staying on-site keeps people inside the magic for their entire stay. Each resort has its own theme and has Disney touches throughout the rooms and lobby.
There are so many different hotel themes on-site that your family might have a tough time deciding where to stay. From pop culture to safari and sports to wilderness, Disney has something for everyone.
All resorts have pools and on-site dining options. There are also daily activities and different resorts offer different extras. Like at the Riviera Resort guests can participate in an art scavenger hunt.
Plus the hotels are in price tiers going from value to deluxe. Do not worry about lack of services at the values. They have less amenities then the moderate and deluxe hotels but still offer Disney magic.
Reviews of On-Site Disney Properties:
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort Review for Families
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Review with Kids
- Disney Riviera Resort Review
- Disney Art of Animation Review and Family Suite Room Tour
On-Site Guests at Disney World Have Complimentary Transportation within the Parks and Resorts
On-site guests can use the buses, boats, and Skyliner to get around the resorts and parks. Some resorts are within walking distance to some parks.
For example the Grand Floridian has a walking path to the Magic Kingdom. The Beach Club has a walking path to Epcot.
The transportation options are free and available to off-site guests too. While you can’t park at a resort then go to the park for the day, you can take the transportation from the parks to the resorts and vice-versa.
Not many places can boast boat, bus and monorail transportation. On our last visit we were able to take all three to different destinations we were visiting.
The kids enjoyed the theme parks as much as how we arrived. It was a really fun way to get around the Disney property.
Using Disney World’s free transportation options may be helpful if you are visiting a park and have dining reservations at a resort.
For example if you are at Magic Kingdom and have dining reservations at Ohana at the Polynesian you may take the boat.
Some guests choose to ride the monorail as part of their vacation experience. Guests are all welcome on the transportation.
A few things about the internal buses at Disney World. There are multiple buses running at a time but they can be late or take a long time.
Most of the time our wait is not longer than 15 minutes, but there have been times it has taken longer. For us it is a minor inconvenience but keep this in mind if you are on a tight schedule.
When driving you also have to deal with traffic and wait times. If you prefer driving and are staying on-site Disney offers complimentary parking to resort guests.
If you are traveling with small children be prepared to board the buses with strollers packed up. When my kids were small all three of them fell asleep on the bus ride back to our resort.
Three sleeping kids, a double stroller, and 2 parents made for an interesting time!!
Extra Hours at the Parks for On-Site Disney Guests
The current early access perk for on-site guests is Early Theme Park Entry. All on-site Disney guests can enter any of the theme parks 30 minutes before opening.
Take advantage of this extra time at the parks!
If you are staying select hotels like the Deluxe resorts they offer extended evening hours. The theme park will be open late to guests staying at a Deluxe resort.
These dates/hours and parks change. Check here for up-to-date information.
Lightning Lane Passes
In 2021 Walt Disney World announced they were not bringing back FastPass to the parks. FastPass was the line reservation system that was a big perk if you were staying on-site.
They replaced it with Genie+. Genie+ is a line reservation system that is made the day of your park visit. It is a paid service offered to any guest visiting the parks (off-site and on-site)
All guests can make their first Genie+ reservation at 7:00am.
If you are purchasing an individual Lightning Lane pass, on-site guests have an advantage. They can make them at 7:00am and off-site guests must wait until park opening.
Individual Lightning Lane passes are available for:
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Tron (Magic Kingdom)
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (Epcot)
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (Hollywood Studios)
- Avatar: Flight of Passage (Animal Kingdom)
Individual Lightning Lane passes cost between $7.00-$15.00 per person/per attraction. You do NOT have to purchase them and can wait in the stand-by line if you prefer or they are not in your budget.
Currently two attractions have virtual queues. They are Guardians of the Galaxy and Tron Lightcylce.
These are booked at 7:00am for all guests through the My Disney Experience app. Guests must secure a virtual queue time (this is free) or purchase a paid individual lightning lane.
If you are joining the queue do it at 7:00am because they run out within seconds. Often they open another group at 1:00pm but this also runs out fast.
Disney On-Site Special Offers
Special offers have become less and less available the last few years due to the pandemic and pent up desire to travel to Disney World.
If rooms are booked, Disney is not going to offer deals. As of 2023 Disney World has begun to offer more special offers for on-site guests. It is always worth checking out the current specials.
One of the most sought out after deals is the “free dining” deal. This offers the Disney dining plan as part of your resort stay.
Typically this will save you money on dining but you will pay more for your resort room.
I highly suggest pricing out your trip with different options. Free dining is very helpful if you have older kids and plan on eating at character meals.
In my opinion if you are a family that is planning on doing a few character meals during your stay the dining plan is a win.
Not only do you save yourself waiting in lines to meet characters you enjoy a sit-down meal too.
We have priced it out and it always seems to go in our favor. Some deals are not worth it and do not save you as much money as you think.
We have had good luck with the free-dining plan. You should be aware that the meal plan is included but you are paying a rack rate for your hotel room.
Disney has not offered free dining in years and I do not know if it will come back again. Always check the Disney World special offers page even after you book.
Guests can change their package if a better deal is available.
3 Reasons to Stay Off-Site During a Disney World Vacation
Disney World Resorts are Expensive(for What You Get)
Walt Disney World resorts do have a value tier and these can be considered budget, but most start at $150.00 a night in a standard room that fits 4. These rooms are not large either.
Starting at 260 square feet the value resort rooms are not meant for spending a lot of time in. If you are planning on sleeping and spending more of your time at the parks, this might not be an issue.
If you are planning rest days, meals in your room, or have young children who need naps this might not be a good fit for you. More often you can find a larger space for the same amount of money.
We have stayed off-site at Lake Buena Vista Resort Village and loved the extra space to stretch out. Plus we could stock the fridge and eat meals in our room, which saves money.
Having more space for the cost might make staying off-site worth it. Be sure to include cost of parking and renting a car when you plan your off-site stay.
If you are traveling with a large party you may want to consider renting a house. We stayed at Encore resort and there was more than enough room for a couple families to stay. Splitting the cost might be a great option.
Too Much Disney
You may enjoy the theme parks but do not want to stay inside the Disney bubble at all times. This is okay and you can still have a great vacation. Staying off-site will give you a break from all things Disney.
Visiting Other Places in Orlando
Often when you plan an Orlando vacation you want to visit Universal Orlando or SeaWorld. If you are planning on visiting multiple parks consider staying somewhere in between these places.
When we plan trips that involve multiple theme parks we like to stay off-site or do a split stay where we stay a few days at a Universal resort and a few days at Disney World.
Is Staying at a Disney Resort Worth It?
Staying on-site at Walt Disney World gives you a vacation from the real world. From beautifully themed properties to getting you to the theme parks, everything is taken care of.
It is worth it if you are planning on staying on Disney property for the duration of your vacation. It might not be worth it if you want to head to the beach or visit other Orlando theme parks.
Staying on Disney property is a personal decision. The benefits of staying on-site at Disney may out weight the cons, but off-site has its perks too. When planning your trip you need to decide what best fits your family and know that either way you are visiting Disney World and it will be a great trip.
Read Next: 5 Best Disney World Accommodations for Large Families on a Budget
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72 thoughts on “5 Benefits of Staying on Disney Property (+3 Reasons to Stay Off-Site During Your Disney Vacation)”
Excellent post! Disney offers some really good deals to stay on-site. I completely agree that even if you are in a budget resort, the convenience and benefits Disney offers will generally beat out staying at an off-site hotel.
Thanks for reading!! I always try to stay on property. I love being in the Disney bubble!
We’ve been a couple of times and not stayed on site but we’ve said next time we’re giving it a go!
I think you will like it!
I really cant wait to go back to Disney soon! Great tips, I haven’t ever stayed at a themed hotel so hopefully I can get into one of them this time. What I love about Disney too is that they are always growing and evolving so there is always something new to go to and visit while still seeing the classics
Yes!! I feel that way too! Every time I visit I discover something new!
I agree that it is way better to stay on site if you can afford it. 🙂
I am writing a budget post about staying on-site soon.
I can’t wait to finally take our kids to Disney! We’ll definitely plan to stay on-site!
Yay!! It is so fun!
I think that extra hour makes a difference. Also, being able to take a break and go to the pool without a major production has got to make it easier!
Yes! It really is!
Someday we will go to Disney. Until then I will have to live vicariously through bloggers like you! 🙂
Ha! Thanks for reading! I hope someday you can go and my tips can help you plan.
It looks absolutely incredible there! I would love to go there someday with my family!
I hope you get there soon! It is a great time.
I love staying on property. I love all the themes between each hotel.
I like to try a new hotel every time because they are all so different and fun.
I relaly don’t need any reason! It looks sooooo cool!!!! 😀
Ha! Me neither!
It really doesn’t seem that much more expensive to stay on site, and I’m sure the convenience is worth it. Looks like a great time!
If you plan it right the cost isn’t too bad!
I totally agree with you, staying onsite has so many perks. I think it’s especially important if this is your first Disney trip, because you get that advantage on things like FastPasses and Extra Magic Hours.
Yes! Good point. I think your first trip has to be on-site…then you’ll never want it any other way!
I hope to go to Disney World when my girls are older, and it will be a must to stay on site.
It makes the vacation a little more magical!
Staying on Disney property is super great!! 🙂 Great read! Thanks for sharing! 🙂
Thanks for reading!
Awesome tips and information! I have never thought of staying in Disneyland but your post made me think about it 🙂
Thanks for reading!! If you are visiting Disney World in Florida on-site is a great choice. I have heard mixed reviews of on-site at Disneyland but haven’t visited the West Coast park yet.
Being right in the center of everything and cutting down on travel time to maximize enjoyable activities is always the best plan! Great tips!
Thanks for reading!
This is so awesome! We’re planning on planning a trip to Disney for 2018. I was debating this very thing, so this is great to know. Also, I didn’t realize there weren’t tickets for those under 3. Yayyy!
Under three is a huge money saver!! I am so glad my tips were helpful to you. Have a great visit in 2018!!
Hi there, I was hoping you could give me more info on the weather for the last 2 weeks of August. You mentioned in your blog that you went in August. We are from the U.K. so not that use to the heat. And everything I read online about the weather sounds just awful. So I want to know, how bad is it really? We can only take 2 weeks holiday in August or over Xmas, and then the reviews say the parks are so busy you can barely walk. So as much you can give me to make an inform decicion would be great.
Hi! Thank you so much for reading and reaching out. August is hot but I always remind myself-people live there year round. It is hot but I would rather have heat then high crowd levels. To beat the heat we took lots of breaks, you can always ask for free ice water through the park, and most attractions and the lines are air conditioned. You know your family best but if I was deciding between August and December I would go in August to avoid crowds.
You make a convincing argument! ? If we go to Disney again, I’ll definitely want to stay on-site! Sounds like too many perks to ignore!
Thanks for reading!!
Lots of great information! We probably will be visiting Disney in the next few years I’ll pin this info for later 🙂
Ugh, this makes me want to go to Disney World even more!
Ha!! Thanks for reading!! I felt the same way when writing it!
Omg I love this. I don’t need much convincing, but I can’t WAIT to stay on Disney property when we go with our daughter!! We probably won’t be going until she’s a couple years older…my dream is to stay in the Grand Floridian!
I cannot wait to take my kids to Disney World! We are planning for February 2018! I just bookmarked this for the future. I’m excited!
Thanks for reading!! Planning is part of the fun!!
Staying on resort is definitely one of the best things you can do at Disneyworld! Great post!
Thanks for reading!
Thank you for reading!
We went to Disney back in December and stayed off property in a villa time share. We are hoping the next time we go we can stay on site at last a few days to get that magical experience.
It is nice to be in the middle of the magic!
What fun! I agree. Avoiding driving for a week is a big perk! Disney always does a great jobs with whatever they do – hotels included!
Yes that is true!! Thanks for reading!
Great tips! We loved staying in a Disney resort when we went to Disney 2 years ago!
Belle | One Awesome Momma
Thanks for reading!
I stayed on-site at Disney World a few years ago and I agree the perks are worth paying a little extra. I would definitely choose to stay on site for our next visit. There is no such thing as too much Disney;)
I am with you!! Total Disney girl at heart!
We love staying on property! The atmosphere in the hotels can be magical too. And the transportation makes it so easy to get around. We love staying at Beach and Yacht because you can walk to Epcot!
That is a great perk!!
This sounds amazing!!! We have never been, but I would love to take my kids someday and this sounds like on site is the way to go!! Have a great week!! XO
Thanks!! It really is fun. Hope you can go soon!
So awesome! We definitely need to plan a vacation to Disney!
Thanks for reading! Have you ever been?
wow, that looks amazing. I should have a think about going there this year!!
Yes!! It is really fun!
Wow.. I honestly never thought we’d be able to afford going to Disney, especially to stay on site but we only have two more than you and thats not a bad price!
I’m planning a post about larger families visiting Disney soon. Ill let you know when it posts. There are ways to make it easier for sure!
So much fun, id love to stay on site!
Thanks for reading!! Hope you get too!
I agree! We did this as a child and I can remember the excitement of being right there.
It’s like being right inside the magic! Thanks for reading!
This was perfect timing… We are making plans for a possible trip to Florida later this year, and one of our possible destinations is Disney. Thanks for so much great information!
Yay!! Keep an eye on the blog! I am hoping to have a lot more posts about Disney soon! It is really fun!
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