Making the decision to stay on-site or off-site when visiting Walt Disney World can leave people with their heads spinning. Today we are sharing the reasons to stay on-site at a Walt Disney World resort and what the advantages are for your Disney vacation.
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If you ask people their opinion on staying on-site at Walt Disney World or off-site you will get a dozen different opinions. Some think it is too expensive. Some think it is too much Disney.
I think it is the perfect choice for your family if you are spending most of your vacation at the parks. The perks of staying at Disney World are numerous and can fit into any family budget.
Why Stay On-Site at Disney World
Growing up we always stayed off-site. We had family in Tampa and would go for the day.
At the time there were only 3 parks and Fastpass did not exist. The pace was slower and everything was a lot less planned.
Although it can be done, I would never visit without a plan. I know a lot of people think this takes the fun out of the vacation and ruins the spontaneity…I disagree.
Without planning you will end up waiting in long lines and scrambling to find a place to eat. Combine this with the Florida heat and you and your family end up in meltdown mode!
If you are at the beginning of your planning process start with Disney FastPass: What You Need to Know!
On our first visit as a family I knew I had to stay on-site. I wanted to stay at an on-site Disney hotel but I also had a budget. Often people wait on visiting Walt Disney World because they think it is too expensive.
We spent around $1700 to stay at the Pop Century Resort. This included tickets, hotel, and food for the five of us. Two of my three kids were under three so there was not a charge for their tickets or food but it was a deal and I am so happy we did it. (We visited in February 2013, prices have changed.)
After this visit I was sold on staying at the Disney resorts on-site. We had so much fun and didn’t have to worry about our car, traffic, parking, and directions.
If you are planning a Walt Disney World vacation longer than 4 days it makes sense to stay on-site. There are many reasons why but my most important reason is…
Everything is taken care of for you when you stay at an on-site Walt Disney World Resort and it is pure magic!
Okay…I’ll admit. Things can go wrong on vacation. Luggage gets lost. Rooms get mixed up. Things that you can’t control can happen and no amount of magic will change that, but the costumer service and added Disney touches always make it worth an on-site stay.
7 Reasons Disney On-Site Resorts are Magical
1. Transportation to Your Resort from the Orlando Airport (and Back)
Disney’s Magical Express, the Transportation service, is offered to/from the Orlando airport when you are a guest at a Walt Disney World resort. They collect your bags and you are on your way.
They will also bring you back to the airport. You check in to your airline at your Disney resort and your bags are taken care of.
Using this service will save you money on parking at the theme parks and renting a car. As of writing this parking is $20.00 a day. That can really add up if you are visiting a few parks during your vacation.
There is also a daily parking fee at the Disney resorts that range from $13.00-$24.00 a night. Using the Magical Express will save money on this fee.
Best of all it is included in your vacation booking. No extra cost. (Although I do recommend tipping the driver.)
Combine this with car rental and parking charges, and you can save $100s of dollars. You can read more about Disney’s Magical Express here.
2. Disney On-Site Resort Transportation
Disney offers complimentary buses to and from the theme parks and Disney Springs. I have heard complaints about using this but in all of our visits we have never had any major issues.
Sometimes you get on a bus and it takes longer than expected or the line is long and you have to wait for another bus. This does happen but if you were driving you would also wait in lines to exit the parking lots and run into traffic.
We have always used the buses and have had mostly great experiences. I love that we don’t have to drive for a week. We can be together more and enjoy the parks without worrying about our car.
Honestly the most difficult part was when all three of my children fell asleep after a full day at Magic Kingdom and we had to get them off the bus. Three sleeping kids and a double stroller was interesting!!
3. Disney Dining and Special Offers
Disney offers special “Free-Dining” plans and hotel discounts at different times of the year. You only receive these if you stay on-site at a Walt Disney World resort. Quick Tip: Price out different deals.
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.
In my own 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.
4. Booking FastPass+
FastPass+ is an online ride reservation system that Disney uses to schedule your ride times. You can book up to 3 a day and a 4th once you have used your 3rd.
It sounds very complicated but once you are logged into the system you can go and pick your times/days of your must see attractions.
If you stay on-site at a Walt Disney World resort you can book your Fastpass+ 60 days in advance. Off-site guests can book 30 days in advance.
Update: Walt Disney World has recently opened this window to guests staying at a Disney Springs/Good Neighbor resort. You can view the full list here.
If you stay On-site at Walt Disney World you can make FastPass+ reservation 60 days in advance of your arrival. If you are not on-site it is 30 days. This is a big deal for me because I like to make sure we will be able to see and do everything we want without waiting in really long lines.
Quick Tip: 60 days is from your check in day. So if you check in on January 1st and are staying through January 6th you can book your fast passes for the entire trip 60 days from the 1st. This was huge for us to get on the attractions that we wanted to do.
I have written a FastPass article for all 4 Walt Disney World theme parks as well as a step by step guide to get you started. I suggest starting with: Disney FastPass+ Tiers and Steps by Step Guide to Maximize Your Time in the Park
5. Extra Magic Hours
On select days on-site guests can enter a theme park an hour before opening or two hours after closing. This is a nice perk, especially at the end of the night.
We really enjoyed the extra two hours to enjoy the park during our last visit. All we had to do was swipe our magic band and we were off enjoying the rides.
6. Immersive On-Site Disney Resort Theme
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.
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.
7. Fun On-Site Transportation Options
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.
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.
The attention to detail and the added perks are a great value. Whether you are on a limited budget or the sky is the limit, Disney has something for everyone and can really enhance your vacation.
More Walt Disney World Planning Tips:
- 5 Best Walt Disney World Accommodations for Large Families
- 12 Walt Disney World Activities to Enjoy on a Non-Park Day
- The Best Disney World Tips for First Timers