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When it comes to picking a resort for your Walt Disney World vacation, there is a seemingly endless range of options. It can be overwhelming. But the question I hear over and over again is, “Should I stay at a Walt Disney World Resort?” While each family’s situation is different, my answer is almost always, “Yes!” And here’s why:

Worry-Free Airport Transportation

Every Walt Disney World Resort stay includes complimentary airport transportation through Disney’s Magical Express. Even better, your checked bag will be collected from baggage claim and delivered right to your resort hotel room. When it’s time to return home, the Magical Express will pick you up at your resort and deliver you back to the airport. Many airlines also participate in Resort Airline Check-In, a complimentary service that allows you to check your bag at your resort’s Airline Check-In desk. No need to haul all those souvenirs to the airport yourself!

Priority FastPass+ and Dining Reservations

There is nothing worse than getting to Walt Disney World and spending countless hours in line for the most popular attractions. The busiest times of year can see 3+ hour waits for rides like Flight of Passage and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. This is where FastPass+, an advanced reservation for an attraction that lets you skip the stand-by line, can be a game changer! With your Walt Disney World Resort booking, you can secure reservations for FastPass+ experiences 60 days prior to your check-in date for the length of your stay. Non-resort guests will have to wait until 30 days before they visit each park and book those FastPass+ experiences one day at a time. The earlier booking window means you will be the first to grab those “hard-to-get” FastPasses before they run out!

And advance dining reservations are no different. As a Walt Disney World Resort guest, you can make dining reservations—for up to 10 days of your trip—180 days before you check in to the resort. Non-resort guests, on the other hand, have to book dining reservations one day at a time, 180 days before the actual reservation. That gives Disney resort guests a jump on popular dining locations like Cinderella’s Royal Table, Chef Mickey’s, and Be Our Guest.

Photo by: Lauren Carnes Photography

On-site Transportation

It’s true that many off-site resorts and hotels provide shuttle service to some or all of the Disney parks, but Disney transportation is by far the most efficient way to travel. Just log into your Walt Disney World app from your resort hotel room to see when the next bus will arrive. When you stay at a deluxe resort, transportation is even easier. Hop on the monorail from the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, or Contemporary resorts and head to Magic Kingdom or Epcot. Or, grab the Friendship Boats from the Beach and Yacht Club and Boardwalk resorts to get to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Off-site hotels often rely on shared transportation between multiple properties and Disney parks, but each Walt Disney World Resort has its own bus system and separate transportation for every park (with few exceptions). With property roughly the size of San Francisco, Disney has your transportation down to a science!

Extra Magic Hours

Each day, Walt Disney World offers extends its opening hours for resort guests by offering either morning or evening Extra Magic Hours at one or more parks. We especially like to utilize Extra Magic Hours with our Park Hopper tickets to avoid the additional crowds that come with so many others also trying to maximize their time in the parks. Typically, we will visit a park with Extra Magic Hours in the morning then hop to another park when crowds reach their peak around lunch. Many times, we can accomplish more during Extra Magic Hours and the first hour of park opening than we can the rest of the day. For early birds (and night owls), this can be a huge benefit!

Photo by: Lauren Carnes Photography

The Magic

It sounds cheesy, but there really is something to be said for never leaving the “Disney bubble” during your vacation. From the moment you step onto the Magical Express at the Orlando airport or drive under the iconic “Walt Disney World” sign, you are immediately transported to another place. And whichever Disney World resort  you choose will be perfectly themed to match your vacation. Want a “larger than life” Disney feel surrounded by your favorite characters? Check out Disney’s Art of Animation and All Star Movies resorts. Or would you prefer a little more luxury, like an on-site spa, signature dining, and monorail access to your resort? The deluxe resorts may be for you. With more than 25 resort hotels, Disney is sure to deliver the magic your family is seeking.

Photo by: Lauren Carnes Photography

Final Thoughts

With airport-to-hotel assistance and on-property transportation designed just for Disney resort guests, your family can start enjoying the parks, resorts, restaurants and activities from the moment you land—and let Disney get you where you need to go.  And with Extra Magic Hours and FastPass+ and dining reservation priority, you can experience the most popular Disney attractions and still avoid the crowd.  Staying at a Walt Disney World Resort is one of the best ways to ensure that your family’s Disney adventure is also a Disney vacation!

5 Reasons to Choose a Walt Disney World Resort
5 (99.01%) 101 votes
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Comments

  • Well, the advantages are there just to justify the high price.
    The main reason to stay here is to optimize your time in the Disney Park.

  • For our most recent trip we stayed at a Disney resort and did extra magic hours per Mary Helen’s recommendation and it was a game changer for our trip! The Disney resort made everything easier and more fun!

  • this post is a great summary of why to stay at a Disney property. We have done so in the past and, while not cheap, was a great deal easier than staying off-property. A little tip – If you have flexible date options, call Disney and ask them what is the least busiest week or weeks for them. We did this some years back. It was a pleasure for us to attend during a non-busy week with almost no lines at almost all attractions!

    • Totally agree with the off-peak visit. I made a point of going with my son before he started kindergarten. We used touringplans calendar of projected crowd levels day-by-day throughout the year, found a totally off week and had a blast. In addition to everything being cheaper, it was a completely different experience. When you get to ride the flagship rides a dozen times in a row with a 1 minute max wait in between it is a lot more fun. Our school district just added a random week off in October which I’m convinced is solely to let everyone take an off-peak vacation. We might literally be the only schools off that week and we’re already planning the Orlando trip.

      • Mike, thanks for the heads up about touringplans and their calendar. Looks to be a great resource for planning that off-peak trip, if one has the flexibility to pull it off! Hope to be lucky enough to use it in the future.

      • The predicted crowds calendar is a great tip – I would probably look to tie it up with a cheap villa outside of the resort though

        • We did that once too. Even though we were literally right outside the Disney property, it still eats up a lot of time to get in and out of the park and you’re either paying for a car and parking (which we did) or captive to the hotel shuttle timetable. That said, we saved a lot on the lodging and with the kitchen in the villa and a grocery store a few blocks away we were able to save on some meals too. Each approach has its pros and cons; I’d have a hard time stating categorically that one beats the other.

    • What a great tip!!

    • charles janay says:

      Sounds like great advise.

  • An ad for Disney posing as a blog posting?

    • As much as we would love to have Disney World Resort as an advertising partner, it’s not the case. The writer that contributed this post helped one of the AwardWallet team put together an epic Disney holiday with his kids, and we think the info is worth sharing with our readers.

  • Beth McLeod says:

    Nice article and very accurate!

  • The Disney premium is definitely worth it when it comes to vacationing in the parks. It’s less to think about you can really enjoy the time. For the cruises however it’s not worth it in my opinion as other cruise lines offer very competitive products where they take care of mostly everything.

  • Thanks! These are GREAT reasons!! Disney is a premium place, but also excellent.

  • Have stayed at a resort hotel and really enjoyed it. Saves the daily travel which can often be quite a bit just to get to the parks and back. Plus lots of nice restaurants close by if you want a break from the usual resort food.

  • reginaacarroll@yahoo.com says:

    We stayed at the Grand Floridian and it was perfect for kids and adults. Airport transportation to and from the hotel could not have been any easier. We used FastPass + and it made a huge difference. I would recommend this no matter what time of year you go. For grandchildren not having to wait in long lines in the heat ( and you too) it made the whole experience wonderful. Go for a visit and enjoy.

  • Disney gets knocked (sometimes accurately), but it’s a true vacation. If you can R-E-L-A-X while you are there — even in lines, then you’ll love it.

  • Staying at the resort does cost more, but if you have young kids, it is worth it.

  • Steven William Van Meter says:

    All are good reasons but lower price was not mentioned. If the Disney experience is important to you, go for it.

  • Thanks. This is helpful. Like the magic hours.

  • ron_vaughn@hotmail.com says:

    I agree that saving the hassle and time of driving to the park and parking (plus the parking fee) is a big plus. While I can’t afford to stay in The Swan, I am hoping one of the themed motels isn’t too long of a bus ride into the park. Planning a trip for mid-January, which I hear is the least crowded time.

  • envy232014@gmail.com says:

    My mother and I were spending a couple of days celebrating her 82nd birthday and it was wonderful. Everyone at Disney was just lovely to her. We made special memories. As always, thank you. What a beautiful environment you get to work in every day….the island, the hotel, and people all make it so very special.

  • HawaiiDreaming says:

    Love the extra magic hours – that is our main reason for staying onsite.

  • Love epcot and animal kingdom

  • Having worked for Disney for years and attending several meetings and events at the park, I can attest to the exceptional quality of the Grand Floridian and the Dolphin & Swan. As for the pricing, well, let’s just say I’m glad Mickey was picking up the tab 😀

  • All good stuff, but out of reach for so many financially. Wonder what Walt Disney would think about the cost of what the “Disney” experience has become.

  • Wassim Cornet says:

    My last trip to Walt Disney World was in 1999–as a seven-year-old, the place was heaven on earth. I can’t wait to go back and will definitely be staying at one of the resort hotels.

  • Agreed, the only way to do Disney is staying on site Between the extra hours and the transportation system, it’s totally worth it.

  • Unfortunately you can’t earn or burn hotel points at Disney resorts…

  • Steven William Van Meter says:

    Nobody seems to match the levels of customer service that Disney provides. excellent offer.

  • I really cannot wait to take my kids here! It’s hard to decide between the on-site hotels! I want monorail and the first time Disney wow for my kids. I know that it’s just going to get more and more expensive at time goes on too. I appreciate the tips on magic hour time.
    My hubby and I went to Disneyland for our honeymoon and loved every minute. I want the same for my kids. All the options are just overwhelming. I’ll have to comb through the blog and see if their are other posts with more tips.

    • You should reach out to Mary Helen! She has a Facebook page. We are using her for our upcoming trip to Disney and she’s a wealth of info, plus her services are free!

      • Mary Helen says:

        Choosing a resort and sorting through all the ticket and dining options really can be overwhelming. Feel free to reach out via the Facebook or Instagram links in my bio page if I can help point you in the right direction!

  • I have done it both ways with stays on and off Disney properties. What do you value more, your time or money? With small children I would recommend to stay on the Disney property if you can afford it.

  • Great article! I love Disney.

  • I’ve been to Disney World once, and I think that’s enough for my entire life.

  • how do you justify 500% price increase in last 10 years when the rate of inflation has been below 2%

    seems like corporate American greed is alive and doing very well

  • You can only purchase the meal plan if you stay on property. Well worth it.

  • A good article and some helpful advise in the comments.

  • I am surprised by the amount of adults without children that enjoy going to Disney World. I think it has to do with the fine dining at Epcott on top of childhood nostalgia.

  • I am not sure if the cost of the on-resort hotel are worth the cost.

  • Nice information. Makes me want to pick up and go!!!!

  • I think that the general park experience has improved in recent years

  • I used to think resorts were a waste of money but they definitely provide a lot of benefits!

  • Helpful article. Thanks for the tips. Unfortunately the kids have outgrown this type of vacation, so time to find places with some deeper culture.

  • Good helpful information, especially the FastPass+. Thanks

  • Just looks like a way to separate me from my $$

  • Love Disney, despite all the negative attacks that we hear on the news and stuff.

  • I love the idea of the magic hours and transportation. I hope to utilize this soon.

  • Still not sure the higher prices make the benefits worth it.
    But good list.
    Definitely thought provoking

  • I can’t wait for more Star Wars!!!

  • charles janay says:

    I recall that there were lots of cheap enough places in Kissimmee where vans to Disney stop. I’m cheap, and woukd rather pay half as much and stay twice as long. Although, if staying longer means spending more days at Disney than you need, the additional admission fees would cancel out the savings.

  • I usually don’t need a reason to choose a Walt Disney resort but this is a great post!!

  • Great article! Will use next time I go!

  • Bill from Maine says:

    Thanks for the different perspective. Years ago I stayed at the Yacht Club as a convention guest. It was nice to be able to walk to Epcot and the bus transportation for the other parks was top notch. All I know from this experience was Disney does it right.
    As another comparative, I now use a timeshare week from my home resort in Maine($485.00 maintenance fee and exchange fee included) and an inexpensive rental car. We have exchanged Into a Sheraton Resort on International Drive the last 2 trips and usually make it to any park in 15 minutes and home in 35-45 minutes after park closing.
    My wife and I stay for a week and like to sightsee when we visit the area, so we don’t use the parks everyday. This mode of travel works for us.

  • Patrick B. says:

    With some of the news over the past few years regarding measles outbreaks at Disney World (California) and the overpopulation of alligators in the watered areas of Disneyland (Florida), would it be advisable to visit either of these places in the near future? They may be fun amusement parks to visit, but safety is paramount

  • As I haven’t been to a Disney park in 15+ years, I’m tempted to go. However, when I add up the costs, it seems like I could spend a week in EUrope for the same cost.

  • Alexandre says:

    Universal hotels are better, only the fastpass has already paid for the hotel

  • Alexandre says:

    Extra Magic Hours is the better benefit for me, get up early, stay in the park for 3 hours, get some rest in hot hours e came back later

  • Thanks! Looking at a trip in the next year so the tips are appreciated.

  • Love Disney but the “need” to book Fastpasses and dining reservations so far ahead of time has killed the ability to make spontaneous trips. Proximity to parks and EMH are perks that make on-site hotels worth the extra $.

  • Disney is definitely not only for kids!

  • Pawel Piskala says:

    Great post! Thanks for this!

  • Very accurate article. The extra hours were very helpful for me on a vacation to both Disney and Universal!

  • Luciano Stinchi says:

    Good ol’ times when WDW has fair prices. If the ticket prices are outrageous, you can imagine the hotels…

  • Didn’t know about the free airport transportation… great tip!

  • We usually rent an apartment and a car, and drive to the parks, next time we’ll have to re-consider for the time that we are spending in the parks to maybe stay in a Disney resort :).

  • This all would be great to take advantage of if we could afford all this.

  • Bob D'Alessio says:

    The extra Magic hours are especially beneficial if you can get the kids up early!

  • The Waldorf now gets you in for the extra magic hours. And it’s a fantastic hotel!

  • Definitely easier and if splurging for the vacation may as well truly enjoy the additional park time.

  • Extra hours + Time saved driving back and forth+ parking + rental car makes it definitely worth it staying on the property vs outside.

  • A lot of great tips in the comments as well. Thanks so much for this info. Planning a Disney vacation soon so this helps a lot!!

  • Sounds great to be able to maximize the time in the park & minimize lines if you can afford to pay the higher price for the Disney property. We went during Spring Break and it was crazy busy. Hoping to go back at an off-peak time once the kids are out of school.

  • Mark Singer says:

    Too bad it is so expensive compared to staying off grounds. Just not worth the money for the extra perks.

  • I’ve stayed on property and off and both were great.

  • shira tova says:

    unless you find an unbelievable deal at a different hotel, the perks of a disney resort make it so worth it.
    I agree with this article 100%

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