Grand Floridian

When beginning to plan a Walt Disney World vacation, one of the first decisions you must make is deciding to stay at a Disney World resort or to stay off property at another resort, hotel, or rental. Many people have their preferred method, but for others, it isn’t as easy; and with recent changes, the pros and cons of staying on property are not the same as they once were.

There are several benefits to staying at a Walt Disney World resort.

Image: Theme Park Tourist

First, there are free continuous transportation options to the parks and Disney Springs from all Walt Disney World resorts. While other hotels may have transportation to the parks, they typically are not as frequent or may cost an extra fee. Additionally, as a Disney World resort guest, you have earlier access to make dining reservations and (when it is released) make selections with Disney Genie.

As it stands, Disney World resort guests can make dining reservations 60 days out from their check-in date (up to 10 days) while non-Disney resort guests can only make reservations 60 days out, one day at a time. Beginning October 1st, Disney World resort guests will also be allowed to enter the parks 30 minutes earlier, with Deluxe resort guests also getting extra extended hours in the evening of specific days. One other major benefit of staying on property is the ability to receive a full refund up to 30 days before your trip if you should have to cancel.

Image: Disney

This is a major bonus with the way circumstances can change so quickly these days. Another convenience to staying on-site is the ability to charge items anywhere on property to your room using a magic band or Magic Mobile on a smartphone. Just note, this can sometimes result in an extra hold on your account depending on your bank. Dining options are also a benefit to staying on-site. All the Walt Disney World resorts offer one or more dining experiences ranging from food court-style offerings to character meals and signature dining.

Finally, there is what some call the “Disney Bubble.” When staying at a Disney World resort, you are immersed in Disney the whole time. Everywhere you go from the parks your room is dusted with sprinkles of pixie dust, and it can make you feel like you are completely separated from the stresses of the outside world. Many people prefer Disney World resorts for this single reason.

However, some old benefits are no longer available.

Image: Theme Park Tourist

One huge benefit to staying on Disney World property is being discontinued on January 1, 2022. The use of Disney’s Magical Express to transport you from Orlando International Airport to your resort will no longer be available. There will now only be paid options. Currently, there is also no dining plan.

While we have word it will return, we are unsure of when that will be. With no FastPass+, there is also no benefit to booking your fast passes a month earlier than everyone else. As mentioned, Disney resort guests can make selections with Disney Genie slightly earlier than off-property guests, however, you’re going to have to have to wake up at 7 am to take advantage of that perk. Lastly, if you drive you will have to pay a daily parking fee at all Disney World resorts. Although you must pay a resort parking fee, you do not have to pay to park at any of the parks.



The problem with staying off site right now is that it is NOT less expensive (if you have to fly to Florida like we do) because rental cars are so incredibly expensive (over $1000 for a week) that it wipes out any savings you would get from staying at an offsite hotel. And then of course you also have to pay for parking at the them parks. I've tried staying offsite without a rental car before and it was a disaster. The free shuttle buses from those other hotels only run once in the morning and once at night, so you're completely locked into whatever times the shuttle bus decides is good and have no flexibility. And if you miss it, you're out of luck.

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