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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Kaltved

The Benefits of Staying Onsite at Walt Disney World

Updated: Jul 6, 2023


Walt Disney World Andrea Kaltved

I have experienced almost everything when it comes to Walt Disney World lodging - I have stayed at Value resorts, Moderate resorts, and Deluxe resorts. I have stayed in standard rooms, preferred rooms, theme park view rooms, and villas. I have stayed at resorts with bus transportation, resorts on the monorail, and resorts with water taxi access. I have even stayed offsite, as far away as my parents' place in Winter Haven.


Without a doubt, I can tell you that the absolute best way to experience Walt Disney World is by staying on site.


There are so many reasons why it makes sense to stay on site. There are only two reasons I would ever consider staying off site (more on that later) - and even then I would still probably stay on site. So let's get into exactly why the "where" matters so much at Walt Disney World.


Transportation


I hate renting a vehicle. I haven't done it since my honeymoon in 2009. And I still think back unfondly on the expensive disaster that it was.


When you visit Walt Disney World, there is absolutely no reason you should be renting a vehicle. Unless you enjoy making your life more complicated. And in that case, I can help you rent a vehicle.


But seriously. You don't need one. The transportation options to and from the airport are plentiful - you have private transfers and group shuttles (which your friendly travel agent - that's me! - can help you book ahead of time), as well as Uber and Lyft galore.


Once you are on Disney property, transportation to and from all of the theme parks, the water parks, and Disney Springs is complimentary. There are buses and the monorail and the Skyliner and water taxis just waiting to whisk you away to another magical location and it is included with your resort stay. There are even resorts that are close enough to some of the theme parks for you to walk there!


If you are driving into Orlando instead of flying, park that car at the resort for free and don't touch it again until you leave. Just because you brought a car doesn't mean you have to use it! Or, if you really want/need to drive to and from the theme parks, if you are a resort guest your parking is free at the parks. So even though it isn't quite as cool as taking Disney transportation, you at least aren't going to be paying the $25-$50 in parking per day that you would pay if you were staying off site.


Okay, for argument's sake, let's say you want to head to a beach for a day and you must absolutely rent a vehicle to get there. In that case, there is a rental location on Disney property and they will even send a shuttle to pick you up at your resort. Honestly, they literally have everything you need right on site!


Dining


With the return of the Disney Dining Plan in 2024, it makes even less sense to stay off site. For those of you who aren't familiar with the Dining Plan, this has been probably the most anticipated announcement since the Covid shut-down of 2020.


What exactly is the Dining Plan? I could tell you, but then I'd have to help you book a vacation.... oh what the heck, why not?? There are two Dining Plan options for you to choose from depending on your eating habits. This allows you to budget for food more easily and helps you save money, as well. The catch? Dining Plans are only available to guests who are staying on site!


Here is exactly what you get with the two new Dining Plan options in 2024:


Disney Dining Plan Andrea Kaltved

In addition to the benefit of the Disney Dining plan, another great perk of staying on Disney property is the enhanced access to dining reservations for on site guests. If you have ever tried to secure dining reservations at some of Walt Disney World's most popular restaurants, this has likely been very challenging for you (or challenging for your travel agent, if you are using one... and I do highly recommend using one in particular - wink, wink).


Walt Disney World dining reservations open up for booking 60 days in advance. For the most popular restaurants, the reservations are usually gone by this time. How is that possible, you ask? Through the magic of the on site Disney dining reservation window. On site guests can book (or have their travel agent book) dining reservations 60 days in advance.... plus the length of their entire stay. Need an example? Let me break that down:


Guest 1 is staying off site and has theme park tickets for June 1, June 2, and June 4. Guest 1 can make dining reservations for each of those dates 60 days in advance of each date.


Meanwhile, Guest 2 is staying on site with a check in date of June 1 and a check out date of June 7. Guest 2's dining reservation window opens on June 1 and includes all dates through June 7. So now Guest 2 can swoop in and get the reservations on June 1, 2, and 4 that Guest 1 was hoping to get but now can't because Guest 2 and all of his on site brethren have already gobbled them up (pun totally intended).


Extended Theme Park Hours


Another big benefit of staying on Walt Disney World property is the extra time you get in the theme parks. All Walt Disney World resort guests get early entry to all of the theme parks one half hour before the park opens to off site guests. This can be the difference between riding Rise of the Resistance (or any comparably popular attraction) in a relatively reasonable amount of time and waiting in line for two hours.


There are even more perks for guests who are staying at a Deluxe resort on site. On select nights, Deluxe resort guests get several hours of extra time in select parks after they close to the general public. This allows you time in the park with low crowds and low wait times.


Individual Lightning Lanes


Each theme park at Walt Disney World has a premium attraction. Well, that's not exactly true... Magic Kingdom actually has two! These premium attractions earn their elite status by being one (or two) of the most popular attractions in that park. You can ride these rides using the standby line (or Virtual Queue in the case of Guardians of the Galaxy and TRON) if you have several hours to spare.


Or you can purchase something called an Individual Lightning Lane (ILL), which allows you to bypass the standby line for a small fee. My family almost always gets the ILL for the premium attraction because we find great value in having time available to do all of the other things that we want to do.


When you are staying on site, you are able to purchase ILLs at 7:00AM. When you stay off site, you can't purchase these until that park opens for the day. That can make a big difference - you might end up with a really late return time, or no return time at all by the time the park opens if you are not able to purchase your ILL at 7:00AM.



The Disney Bubble


This one is a little more subjective, unless you are me, and then it's arguably the most important reason to stay on site. There is just something very magical about staying in the proverbial Disney Bubble. You can feel the magic all around you, in every cast member's voice and every crisply folded linen and every everything. There is nothing like unlocking your resort door and entering your room for the first time while a welcome message displays your family name on the TV with Disney music playing softly in the background. There is something amazing about receiving a wake up call from Mickey himself as you are starting each day. And as you are walking through the grounds of the resort, you never know which magical characters might pop up!



Walt Disney World Polynesian Pluto Andrea Kaltved

Soooo... now about those two reasons I might consider staying off site. The first is if you have family in the area. But let me assure you, I do and I have stayed with them and it is pretty awful. Not the actual staying with my family part, but the part where I have to drive to Walt Disney World each morning. Especially if you are coming into Orlando on I-4. Oof. That is brutal.


The second reason I might consider staying off site is if I have a really large party that all wants to stay together. In that case, there are some Walt Disney World Good Neighbor properties that I would look into. But honestly, I wouldn't look very hard. Because I would prefer to just break up the travel party into smaller groups and stay on site at the same resort.


With over 25 on site resorts, there is a place for every type of person and every type of budget at Walt Disney World. If you are interested in finding the right accommodations for your family, send me a message! I'd love to help you!

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