Whether it’s your first or your fifty-first trip to Walt Disney World one of the first decisions you’ll make is whether to stay at a Walt Disney World resort or stay off-site in a non-Disney hotel or a rental property. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, but before you make your decision, we wanted to provide a reminder of all the perks you get if you choose to stay at a Walt Disney World resort!

1. Extra Magic Hours

A benefit for Walt Disney World Resort guests and some non-Disney hotel guests are Extra Magic Hours. These are extended theme park hours available on certain days of the week. Guests can enter a park one hour earlier or stay in a park up to two hours later than normal park operating hours. During peak times (and sometimes with the opening of new rides and lands), Disney will add additional Extra Magic Hours to the schedule.

The main benefit of Extra Magic Hours is it allows you extra time in the park to see and do more.

List of Participating Hotels:

  • Walt Disney World-owned resorts
  • Walt Disney World Dolphin & Swan Resorts
  • Shades of Green
  • Disney Springs area hotels
  • Four Seasons Resort Orlando

2. Advance booking for Fastpass +

Fastpass+ allows guests to prebook rides and entertainment so they can skip the main standby line. Guests who stay at a Walt Disney World resort can book 3 Fastpass+ reservations up to 60 days in advance and for the whole trip. Non-resort guests can book 30 days in advance. This can be a huge advantage during peak season and for in-demand or popular new attractions. 

3. Disney Dining Plan

Guests of the Disney resorts are eligible to purchase a Disney Dining Plan. This is a prepaid meal option that allows guests to purchase credits that they can then redeem for meals and snacks. With a Dining Plan you can enjoy quick service and table service meals (including character dining) without adding last minute costs into your budget.

Included in the dining plan is Disney’s Refillable Mug. This mug is valid for unlimited refills at all resorts for the entire length of stay. The mugs may be refilled with Coke products, hot chocolate, coffee and tea. These mugs are not refillable at the parks.

Even if you don’t purchase a dining plan, you may still purchase a refillable mug for $19.99.

4. Advance dining reservations

Resort guests can book Disney dining reservations 180 +10 days in advance. In other words, for trips under 10 days you can book all your dining reservations on day 180. Non-Disney resort guests can book 180 days in advance and only 1 day at a time. This is definitely a benefit when you’re trying to secure that hard-to-get dining reservation.

5. Shopping Convenience

When shopping anywhere on Disney property you may use your Magic Band to make purchases in all Walt Disney World theme parks and resorts. For added convenience they’ll even deliver your packages directly to your resort room. So when you’re ready to purchase that giant plush Mickey Mouse, not only can you leave your wallet at home, you don’t have to worry about carrying it around the park with you all day!

6. Free parking at all the theme parks

Although Disney now charges for parking at the resorts, if you stay at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel you will not have to pay any additional parking fees if you choose to skip the free Disney transportation and take your own car to the theme parks.

7. Free Magic Bands

Magic Bands are available to all guests for a fee, but Walt Disney World resort hotel guests get Magic Bands for free. These bands are customizable for color and you may add your name or nickname for easy identification. If you customize your bands 10 days or more before your trip they will be sent to your home. Your Magic Band is connected to the My Disney Experience app and allows guests to:

  • Enter theme parks and water parks with a valid admission
  • Store Fastpass+ reservations and check in at Fastpass+ lines
  • Connect Photopass images to your account
  • Unlock your hotel room
  • Charge all resort purchases including food and merchandise to your room

8. Free transportation between airport resorts and theme parks.

As a resort guest, you’ll have no need for a car rental. When you arrive in Orlando, Disney’s Magical Express will meet you at the airport, collect your luggage and deliver it directly to your room. When it’s time to depart, you may check your luggage and check in for your flight at your resort and the Magical Express will return you to the airport. 

Resort guests have free, unlimited access to all modes of transportation around the resort as well. This includes buses, boats, monorail and the new Disney Skyliner.  

In addition to the cost savings benefit there is a time savings benefit as well.  You will spend less time going back and forth from your hotel to the parks, depending on where you stay. And it’s extremely convenient when you want to take an afternoon break to just hop on the monorail or the bus and return to your resort for a few hours. 

9. Guaranteed park admission during high crowd days

Disney may restrict admission to the theme parks on days with heavy attendance. On these days, priority is given to resort guests when allowing guests into the parks. Though you may not get into the park of your choice, if you’re a Disney resort guest, you’re guaranteed to get into one of the Disney parks. The only exception is when the parks are at their very highest level of attendance and then they are closed to everyone.

10. The Disney Bubble

For the ultimate Disney vacation there’s nothing better than immersing yourself in the whole Disney Experience 24/7. Disney is well known for their exceptional service and amazing resort themes designed by the Imagineers. The Disney resorts are top quality, well maintained, safe, convenient and clean. Each hotel is uniquely themed down to the smallest detail including amazing pools.

Some themes include:

  • Movies, Music and Sports (All Star Resorts)
  • Hawaii, South Seas Islands (Disney’s Polynesian Resort)
  • Turn of the century, luxury hotel (Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa)
  • National Park grand lodge (Disney’s Wilderness Resort)
  • Antebellum Plantation, bayou side retreat ( Disney’s Port Orleans-Riverside)
  • East coast boardwalk hotel (Disney’s Boardwalk Inn)
  • Caribbean Islands (Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort)
  • Disney Animated Movies (Disney’s Art of Animation)
  • and many more…

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

The best thing about staying at a Disney resort is the feeling of stepping into a bubble the moment you step off the airplane in Orlando. You can relax and be insulated from the real world (if you choose) until the moment you step back back onto the airplane home.

What do you think is the best reason to stay at a Walt Disney World resort? Comment below and let us know what you think!