This will be the first post for what I have decided to call my “Staying on Property Series,” in which I will be talking about everything to do with staying at on property resorts, including the perks and amenities associated with it, my experiences at different resorts, as well as overviews of the various resort levels. My first addition to this series will be a list of the 5 of my favorite perks that you can benefit from just by staying at an on property, and my personal experiences and opinion on each.
1. Free Transportation
The first perk that always comes to my mind when thinking of on property resorts are the various transportation systems. There are a variety of different complimentary transportation options on Disney property, but only guests of the many Disney property hotels and resorts can benefit from complimentary bus service to all 4 parks, as well as Disney Springs and both water parks.
Each resort typically has its own, centralized bus stop. Depending on your resort level- value, moderate, or deluxe- your bus stop will either be covered and have benches (deluxe and most moderates), or simply be composed of signs and a line queue (mainly value). Having stayed at Disney Resort Hotels in all three categories, I will say that I personally don’t mind either option, since the line queues are nearly identical to the bus stops at the parks, and I am usually too pumped up on Disney hype to bother with sitting down.
But that isn’t all! Guests who fly in to Orlando International Airport can also benefit from complimentary transportation to and from the airport via Disney’s Magical Express. This includes complimentary luggage delivery, allowing you to totally bypass baggage claim, which saves you hassle and lets the magic of your Disney vacation begin.
In addition to bus transportation, some hotels have additional complimentary transportation, depending on their location and proximity to the parks. The Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Contemporary have monorail access, which can get you to both the Magic Kingdom and Epcot (with one transfer over at the Transportation and Ticket Center). The resorts located along Disney’s Boardwalk have a boat option, as well as a walking path. Both options can get you to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
All of these transportation options have one thing in common: they are a good way to save money on gas, parking, and even a car rental during your stay at Walt Disney World. Let’s face it, any time we can use the words ‘save, money, and WDW’ in the same sentence, its definitely a big bonus.
What if you don’t want to sit on a bus after going to a water park? Not to worry! If you still decide to drive to and from the parks, all parking is complimentary.
My Personal Experience: As with all transportation systems around the world, I have had both good and bad experiences with the bus system. There have been times when we were stuck waiting for a bus for much longer than we would have liked to, however this typically happened whenever we chose to close the park, meaning that there was a large outpouring of humanity all attempting to get a ride back to their hotel at the same time. It is also worth noting that, by simply voicing a concern about a bad experience to the front desk often resulted in a set of complimentary fast passes which could be used on any fastpass attraction in any of the parks. This is not a perk that is to be abused!!! It is simply my way of letting people know that voicing a complaint in a civil way about any aspect of your vacation while staying on property is truly worthwhile.
2. Complimentary Mini Golf and more
One of my favorite parts of staying at a resort with my family are the vouchers you receive for a free round of mini golf prior to 4 pm. These vouchers are valid at either Fantasia Gardens or Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course.
Also included are vouchers for admission into the ESPN Wide World of Sports on event days. Discounts include:
- 10% off of a non discounted activity at Sammy Duvall’s Watersports Centre, which is located at the Contemporary Resort.
- One free charm with the purchase of a hair wrap from the Hair Wrap Company.
- 20% off of non- discounted puchases at all Joffrey’s Coffee and Tea Company locations on Disney property.
- 10% off bowling, food and nonalcoholic beverages, and non-discounted merchandise at Splitsville Luxury Lanes.
My Personal Experience: We always use the golf vouchers. Unfortunately, they recently changed the requirements, and you can’t go there at 8 pm like we used to do and go golfing when no one else is there. Now, there is a good chance that you will both wait a good amount of time to golf, and be stuck dealing with other (often rude) golfers.
3. Extra Magic Hours
Everyone always wishes they could have more time in the parks, right? Well, that wish is granted for guests staying at Disney Resort Hotels. Each day, one of the four parks either opens one hour earlier OR is open a few hours later for Disney Resort guests. This means that you get unlimited access to some of the most popular attractions before other guests can enter the park and also after other guests leave.
This particular perk has been specially extended for all resort guests at the Animal Kingdom. In honor of the Grand Opening of Pandora, Disney resort guests have the chance to explore the beautiful bioluminescent land until 2 am until July! There have also been several days when resort guest have gotten up to 2 hours of early access to Pandora.
My personal experience: I LOVE this perk. It’s useful in the morning because it gives you a better chance of getting on to more than one of your favorite rides at rope drop with very little wait, but it is even better at night. There have been several times where I have been able to stay on rides like Thunder Mountain for multiple rides because there was no one else in line. If you are a night owl like I am, Extra Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom will make you very happy.
And speaking of early access…
4. Early Fastpass + Booking
Have a young kid that will NOT let you go into Epcot without riding the consistently packed ‘Frozen Ever After’ ride? Well, you’re in luck, because Disney Resort guests get first dibs on all the awesome fastpasses 60 days in advance!! You get an email when it is time to set up your fastpasses, and then you can log in to your account and choose your fastpasses.
My Personal Experience: It’s important to point out that you can only book fastpasses at one park each day. You will want to plan out which park you want to go to each day of your trip BEFORE your day to book arrives. Fastpasses go quickly , and it’s important that you know EXACTLY what you want so you can navigate the website as quickly as possible.
5. Fun Resort Themes!
One of the best parts of actually staying at these resorts is the unbelievable attention to detail that goes into each and every one. No matter what hotel you choose, you are fully immersed into its unique, beautiful theming from the moment you walk into the lobby. The rooms, hallways, exterior, pools, and dining areas are all perfectly themed, and make you feel as if you are really in the French Quarter of New Orleans or in the middle of a life-sized Foosball table. Your youngest Disney fanatic would probably love to go swimming in the Big Blue Pool. This is the main, Finding Nemo- themed pool at the Art of Animation resort, where a dip under the water will have you listening in on some conversations between some of the film’s beloved characters.
At the Pop Century, the 20th century comes back to life with each group of rooms being themed to a different decade, denoted by giant statues portraying various icons from those years, including some of the most popular Disney films. Each room is themed slightly differently depending on which decade it is in. But don’t worry- not all of the resorts are over- the- top Disney. In fact, most of the resorts transport you out of Florida to the Polynesian Islands, a classic East Coast Boardwalk, or even a majestic lodge in Africa, complete with a savanna full of zebras, giraffes, and even an occasional ostrich. Even the restaurants are perfectly themed to each resort. At the Beach Club Resort, you will find the Cape May Cafe, where you can indulge in an amazing seafood buffet that will make you feel like you are at a clam bake in New England. The Pop Century’s Everything Pop Food Court has little “TV Dinner Specials” and include comfort food classics like Mom’s Meatloaf and fried chicken. If you arrive late after a long day at the parks, they even have a late night breakfast option available!
I have added links to some video tours of some of these resorts, which are from the Youtube channel iThemePark. They are an awesome channel that I would recommend checking out if you want to see any of the resorts before you book a stay!!
I hope this helps you in your travel planning! Let me know if I can answer any of your questions about staying on property!!