Pros and Cons of Staying at a Disney Resort

Pros and Cons of Staying at a Disney Resort

When you’re staying at a Disney Resort hotel, you’re not just paying to be close to the parks and stay in a Disney-themed room — there are other perks too! And, they can make a big difference in your Disney vacation!

Between extra time in the parks, opportunities to save on park essentials, free parking, and early access to reservations, it’s important to know all of the Disney hotel guest benefits that you can take advantage of. After all, it could mean that you get to ride your favorite ride without much of a wait on busy days, save some cash for an extra Dole Whip treat, and secure that hard-to-get dining reservation.

So, what exactly are all the perks of staying at a Disney World hotel nowadays? And, are there any cons? We’re covering it all to help you decide where you should stay on your next Disney World trip.

Benefits of Staying at a Disney World Resort

When it comes to planning a Disney vacation, choosing to stay at a Disney World Resort can offer many benefits. Before we get into the details, it’s important to note that Disney does have a reservation maximum and only permits guests to book a stay at a Disney hotel for 30 consecutive days. So, if you’re looking for a long-term Disney getaway, you’ll only be able to take advantage of these hotel guest perks for about a month.

Now, let’s dive into all the benefits of staying at a Disney resort!

Early Theme Park Entry

In 2021, Disney officially discontinued Extra Magic Hours (which gave Disney hotel guests an extra hour in select Disney theme parks on certain days each week) and replaced it with Early Theme Park Entry.

Early Theme Park Entry is different from Extra Magic Hours in that it allows guests to enter all four theme parks 30 minutes before the park opens every day. So, if the park you’re heading to for the day opens at 8AM, you’ll be able to enter and start riding rides at 7:30AM, giving you a bit of a head start on the day.

Staying at a Disney Resort

Now, you’re probably not going to get on as many rides as you did when Extra Magic Hours, but the ability to enter any park early, every day of the week means that one park isn’t necessarily more crowded than others on certain days of the week (which was the case with Extra Magic Hours). It also makes it so that you have one less thing to think about when you’re planning which parks you’ll visit each day of your trip and making your Park Pass Reservations.

Extended Evening Theme Park Hours

If it’s extra hours in the park without crowds that you’re after, Extended Evening Theme Park Hours is just that!

Extended Evening Theme Park Hours were introduced alongside Early Theme Park Entry in 2021 as part of Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebrations and still continues today. It functions more like Extra Magic Hours in that hotel guests can stay an extra 2 hours in certain parks on select days of the week. However, there’s a BIG catch — unlike Early Theme Park Entry which you can qualify for by staying at any Disney World hotel (plus a few others!), you have to be staying at a Deluxe Resort or Villa to access Extended Evening Theme Park Hours.

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Disney has confirmed that Extended Evening Theme Park Hours will continue to be offered through 2025, and we don’t know the fate of it past that. Of course, we’ll keep an eye out for any updates!

Complimentary Disney Transportation

Getting to the Disney Parks is a breeze when you’re staying at a Disney World Resort! All of the Disney hotels provide free bus transportation to all four Disney Parks, Disney Springs, and the water parks. So, you don’t have to worry about navigating the roads or traffic — let Disney do the driving!

Disney Resorts With Boat Transportation

And, depending on where you’re staying, you might not even have to take a Disney bus everywhere you go. For example, some hotels are located on waterways so you can get to places like EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or Disney Springs by boat! This includes:

  • Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground (to Magic Kingdom)
  • Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (to Magic Kingdom)
  • Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows (to Magic Kingdom)
  • Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (to Magic Kingdom)
  • Disney’s BoardWalk Villas (to EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
  • Disney’s Beach Club Villas (to EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
  • Disney’s Yacht Club Resort (to EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
  • Walt Disney World Swan Hotel (to EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
  • Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel (to EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
  • Walt Disney World Swan Reserve(to EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
  • Disney’s Old Key West Resort (to Disney Springs)
  • Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa (to Disney Springs)
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — Riverside (to Disney Springs)
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — French Quarter (to Disney Springs)

Disney Resorts With Monorail Transportation

Other hotels are located on Disney’s highway in the sky — a.k.a. the monorail! This unique transportation system will get you to Magic Kingdom and EPCOT from:

  • Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  • Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
Caribbean Beach and Riviera Resort

Disney Resorts With Skyliner Transportation

And, lastly, Disney’s newest convenient transportation option that takes you off the roads is the Disney Skyliner! Using this gondola system, you can get to EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios from:

  • Disney’s Pop Century Resort
  • Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
  • Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
  • Disney’s Riviera Resort

Note that all of these hotels also offer bus transportation to any spots that you can’t get to via boat, monorail, or skyline. And, if inclement weather or unexpected maintenance holds them up, a Disney bus is available to get you where you need to be.

Free Theme Park Parking

If you want more flexibility and plan to drive your own car (or rental car) to Disney World, you won’t have to tack on the cost of parking at the theme parks to your budget — it’s complimentary with your hotel stay!

Disney World hotel guests have always been able to park their cars at the theme parks for free, but for nearly five years, Disney was charging an overnight parking fee that basically canceled out this “freebie.” But, in 2023, Disney brought free overnight parking BACK for all guests staying at any Disney World hotel. So, now you really are getting free parking at the parks!

All you need to do to take advantage of the perk is let the parking attendant at the entrance to the parking lot know that you’re a hotel guest. They’ll scan your MagicBand, MagicMobile, or Key To The World Card (whatever has your hotel reservation linked to it), and in you go — for free!

Early Access To Individual Lightning Lane Attractions

FastPass+ is no more, but there’s a new (paid) way to skip the lines at popular attractions in Disney World — Disney Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane entry. While Genie+ works the same for everyone whether you’re staying at a Disney hotel or not, Disney hotel guests have an advantage when it comes to securing a spot on the most popular attractions in the parks.

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If you’re not familiar, Disney Genie+ is a paid service that enables guests to select return windows throughout the day to skip the lines at certain attractions (much like FastPass+). But, not all attractions are included in Genie+. Instead, one ride in each park is a separate cost and you can pay to skip the line at these Individual Lightning Lane attractions a la carte whether you purchase Genie+ or not.

Currently, the Individual Lightning Lane attractions are:

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom
  • TRON Lightcycle / Run at Magic Kingdom
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at EPCOT
  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • Avatar Flight of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Most guests can begin purchasing Lightning Lane entry for these rides when the park opens, but Disney hotel guests get early access! Instead of waiting until the park opens, anyone staying at a Disney World Resort can buy their individual Lightning Lane entry beginning at 7AM. This gives you the best chance at securing a time in line that you prefer.

Discounted MagicBands

MagicBands have become perhaps the most popular Disney accessory thanks to the convenience of having everything you need on your wrist. They act as your park ticket, room key, credit card, and you can even use them to scan into any Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lane reservations you have. And, now there’s also the MagicBand+ which includes all the same features PLUS unique and fun ways that you can interact with the parks and nighttime entertainment.

MagicBands range in price from about $20 to upwards of $50+ depending on what design you choose, but when you stay at a Disney World hotel you can save if you purchase your band in advance! All you have to do is log in to your My Disney Experience account and click “My MagicBands and Cards.” Then, click “Get Started” and follow the prompts to select (or decline) a MagicBand for each member of your party.

Prices will vary, just be sure that you order your bands at least 10 days before your arrival date to secure the discount. If you’re not staying at a Disney World Resort hotel you can still purchase a MagicBand or MagicBand+, you’ll just have to wait until you’re at Disney to visit a store and will have to pay full price.

Early Access To Dining Reservations

Disney World is home to some of the best table service restaurants, but you have to secure a dining reservation to eat at them…which can be a challenge. Disney dining reservations are known to fill up months in advance, especially for the most popular restaurants. However, if you’re staying at a Disney World hotel, you have a better chance at getting the ones you want.

Disney Dining plan 2024

Currently, Disney resort guests can make reservations up to 60 days in advance PLUS the length of their stay (for up to a 10-night stay). Now, the real advantage here is the length of stay addition because all other guests can also make their reservations 60 days in advance.

So, if there’s a particularly popular restaurant that you want to dine at, head to Disney’s website 60 days before the first day of your trip and search for a reservation on a day towards the end of your stay. You’ll have a leg ahead with the extended dining reservation window!

Early Access To Disney Event Tickets

If you’re visiting Disney World when special events are happening, Disney makes it easy to ensure that you get a ticket by opening up the purchasing window early for guests with confirmed hotel reservations!

So, if you want to be sure you get some extra time in Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, or if you want to take advantage of the Disney After Hours events, staying at a Disney hotel can really come in handy! Tickets for these events do sell out (sometimes really FAST), so this perk can make the difference between you getting the ticket you want or not.

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Disney Dining Plan

Budgeting for dining at Disney World can be difficult. But, the Disney Dining Plan makes it a bit easier by letting you pre-pay for your meals. When you book your hotel stay, you’ll be able to choose from two different dining plans, each including a different number of quick service, table service, and snack credits per person, per day.

The total cost will be added to your hotel stay and that’s the last thought you’ll have to give to paying for your food! Once you’re in Disney World, you’ll just scan your MagicBand or Key To The World Card at the restaurants and you’re good to go.

“Hey, Disney!” Voice Assistance

There’s a brand new FREE hotel perk rolling out at Walt Disney World — “Hey Disney!”

In partnership with Amazon, Disney is installing Amazon Echo devices in all of the Disney World hotel rooms, and this new “Magical Disney Companion” can do A LOT to make your stay simpler and more FUN. You can order extra towels, check the weather, see when the parks are open, and more. PLUS, there are new ways to interact with your favorite Disney characters with Disney trivia, magical adventures, soundscapes, storytelling, personalized messages, and more.

“Hey Disney!” is currently in its early rollout phase so not all Disney resorts have it yet.

Free Water Park Admission on Check-In Day

And, soon, anyone staying at a Disney Resort will be able to get free park admission at any of Disney World’s water parks on the day they check into their hotel! This new benefit will officially begin for guests on January 1st, 2025, allowing you to spend the day at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park or Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park without having to pay for a park ticket!

Park hopping at Disney World

This can save you a little extra cash for the rest of your trip because you won’t have to worry about buying a theme park ticket if you aren’t arriving until later in the day — just head to the water parks for free!

Cons of Staying at a Disney World Resort

While there are many benefits to staying at a Disney World Resort, there are also some downsides to consider before booking your stay. There’s a reason that some guests choose to forego a Disney World hotel and stay off-site. Here are three things to consider when you’re deciding.

Staying at a Disney Resort

Affordability

One of the biggest drawbacks of staying at a Disney World Resort is the cost. Disney hotels can be quite expensive, especially during peak travel seasons. Even if you choose to stay at a Value Resort (the cheapest option when it comes to Disney hotels), it still might not fit into a tight budget.

While not directly on Disney property in most cases, off-site non-Disney-owned hotels are often more affordable and offer similar guest benefits. For example, staying at a Good Neighbor hotel can give you access to some of the same perks as Disney hotel guests, such as early theme park entry and free transportation to the parks. So, if you’re looking for a cheaper option with some of the same benefits, a Good Neighbor hotel may be worth considering.

Room Size

Another potential downside of staying at a Disney World Resort is the size of the rooms. While some of the more expensive hotels offer larger rooms, many of the standard rooms can be quite small. If you’re traveling with a large family or group, you may find that the rooms are a little too small for comfort. Off-site hotels, on the other hand, tend to have large guest rooms for the price. And, if you need even more space, you can often stay in a suite at an area hotel for the same price you’d pay for a standard room at Disney World.

So, it’s worth looking around at other off-site hotels if you’re traveling with a big group.

save money on Disney World

Access To Other Central Florida Attractions

While staying at a Disney World Resort can be convenient for accessing the Disney World theme parks, it may not be the best choice if you plan to explore other attractions in the Orlando area. Many off-site hotels offer complimentary transportation to Disney World and other Orlando attractions like SeaWorld and Universal Orlando, while Disney hotels do not provide transportation to other locations.

Conclusion: Is It Worth Staying at a Disney World Resort hotel?

Now, it’s worth noting that there aren’t currently as many Disney World hotel guest perks as there used to be. When the Disney hotels reopened in 2020 after the temporary closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney pulled back on a lot of the guest benefits. For example, Disney’s Magical Express no longer provides free transportation between the Orlando International Airport and the Disney hotels, Extra Magic Hours is different, the advanced dining reservation windows used to be longer, and MagicBands used to be free compared to the now discounted rates.

So, if you’re stuck in the comparison trap it’s not going to seem like you’re getting as many perks because…well…you aren’t. But, does that mean you should forego a Disney hotel altogether for your vacation and opt to stay off-site instead? Not necessarily! There’s still something to be said for the Disney hotels’ proximity to the parks, theming, and perks. Plus, many guests feel that the customer service provided by Disney Cast Members cannot be matched by other area hotels.

If you’re not sold on the Disney hotel experience and are considering staying at a nearby hotel instead, keep in mind that some off-site hotels do offer some of the same perks that you can get at a Disney hotel.

Of course, these Disney hotel guest benefits are subject to change, so be sure to check with your specific resort before booking to be sure you’ll be able to take advantage of all the perks you need during your stay. Ultimately, the decision to stay at a Disney Resort or not is a personal one. Consider your budget, priorities, and preferences before making a decision.

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Do you like to stay at a Disney Resort or do you prefer staying off-site? Why? Let us know in the comments what your favorite Disney World Resort hotel is!

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