“On property” versus “off property”, what exactly does that mean? As a travel agent, I get that question all the time. I also get “I want to save money by staying off property”. I totally understand wanting to save as much money as possible. After all, part of my job is saving clients lots of it! Often times, when I explain the major differences between the two, people change their minds and decide to be a Disney Resort Guest after all!
Here are my top 10 (because there are more!) reasons for recommending Disney Resorts over anything else.
#10: The Disney Magic continues! Employees that work at Disney parks and resorts are referred to as Cast Members. These people are ah-mazing. They go above and beyond to ensure you truly have a magical vacation. Anything from “Mousekeeping” (Disney’s housekeeping) leaving fun towel characters, to everyone wishing you a happy birthday or anniversary, to even helping with unforeseen problems or illnesses. You can even have a character wake-up call every morning if you wish, at no charge! Lastly, all televisions in the Disney Resorts have nightly bedtime stories for the kids to watch.
#9: Options for uniquely themed rooms: Disney refers to these rooms as Story Rooms. You can choose from-
-Family Suites: These are located at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, offering themes from Finding Nemo, Cars or The Lion King.
-The Little Mermaid Standard room at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
-Pirate themed rooms at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
-Royal Guest rooms at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside
#8: Free Entertainment: That’s right, I said free! Most Disney resorts offer Movies under the stars. They will all play a different movie each night, so be sure to check out the recreation guide printed by your resort. Several resorts also offer campfires where your family can relax by the fire and toast up some s’mores. My favorite place to enjoy free entertainment is at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. Here, you can find Chip ‘n Dale’s Campfire Singalong, which is so much fun!
And then there are the Disney pools…. Did you know that all pools at Disney Resorts, and even their water parks are heated? Even when it is really chilly out, you can still take a swim. Now the pools at the different resorts vary tremendously. The pools at the value resorts are nicely themed, but have no slides. The moderate and deluxe resorts have slides, and most of them have several different pools to choose from. Some pools have zero entry, and some even resemble a mini water park with lazy rivers and sandy bottoms!
#7: Wifi: All Disney Resort guest rooms offer FREE high speed internet connection via Wifi. Now some may think why would anyone want Wifi while on vacation. Well, some people still need to check email or do minor things for work while on vacation. For that reason, free Wifi is really nice to have!
#6: Shopping – have it delivered!: Have you ever been in a theme park, and your child wants to buy something that is bulky? Was your first thought that you REALLY do not want to tote that for the rest of the day? Maybe you wanted to purchase a photo of your family, but wondered how you would get it back to your hotel room without it getting damaged. If this is you, you will be happy to hear this. Guests staying in a Disney Resort may choose to have their purchased items sent to their resort. Typically they will send the items to your resort gift shop. After you are finished in the park, swing by the gift shop and pick up your items before heading to your room. EASY fix!
#5: Transportation: There are two parts to transportation. First, if you fly into Orlando International Airport, Disney’s Magical Express will provide free roundtrip transportation to your resort from the airport. This will save you money by not having to either rent a car or pay a taxi. The second part of this is all the transportation to anywhere on Disney Property is also free! That might not sound like a big deal, but did you know that Walt Disney World spans over 40 square miles? It includes 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, Downtown Disney and 21 resorts! Transportation between ALL of these locations is absolutely free! This also means that there are NO parking fees. As of right now, if you stay off property and drive to a park, parking fees are $20 per vehicle per day !!! Not to mention, if you ride Disney transportation, they drop you off right at the front gate of the park. Transportation options include monorail, bus and water ferry.
#4: MagicBands: These are bracelets that have an RFID chip in them, which is linked to your entire vacation reservation. This means that your park tickets are loaded on them, as well as your dining plan, resort room key, Fastpass +, memory maker (photo package) and you can even link your credit card to them. So when you arrive to the park, scan your MagicBand to enter the park, scan it again to board attractions that you have reserved a Fastpass for, scan it to use your dining plan, to purchase something with your credit card, and even to get back into your resort room at night. Imagine not digging around for those park tickets, not having to take your credit card into the park at all and when you get back to the room…..that’s right….no digging to find your room key! These MagicBands are free when staying in a Disney Resort. You can customize your color, and they will be shipped to you prior to travel. You can even purchase accessories for them once you arrive in the parks. If you stay off property, you can still purchase MagicBands to use, but they are currently $12.95 each!
#3: Extra Magic Hours: Disney offers these extra park hours to Disney Resort guests only. There are morning Extra Magic Hours, as well as evening Extra Magic Hours. For example, let’s say that Disney has posted that Magic Kingdom park hours are 9:00 am – 10:00 pm. If they are offering morning magic hours, those staying in a Disney Resort may enter the park at 8:00 am with very low crowds. If evening hours are being offered, the park stays open 2 hours past posted park times. This would mean that anyone not staying in a Disney Resort would leave the park at 10:00 pm, but you could stay until midnight enjoying attractions with much less wait times! Imagine walking into Magic Kingdom and getting those awesome photos in front of the castle with no one else in the photos!!
#2: Dining Plan: Disney offers three different dining plans to choose from. Talk with your travel agent about things you would like to experience while on your vacation, and we will suggest which plan will work best for your family. The dining plans essentially allow you to pre-pay for your food, which in turn gives you a discount. Not only can you save money with the dining plan, but you have a whole different experience while using it. You can sit down and order any entrée and dessert you want, not having to think about the price….because it is included!! That adds to the relaxation of vacation when it is all inclusive! Only guests staying in a Disney Resort may add the dining plan to their vacation. Not only will this save you money, but even if you opt to not have the dining plan, you get “first dibs” on dining reservations when staying in a Disney Resort as well. This is because if you are staying off property, you can book your dining reservation 180 days prior to the day you plan to eat at that particular restaurant. If you are staying on property, you can book all of your dining reservations for your entire stay 180 days prior to CHECK IN. Let me explain this…. You are visiting Disney October 5 – October 9:
Staying off property, you would be able to book dining reservations for October 5th on April 8th, which is 180 days in advance. You log in to your account to book it online, OR call to make the reservation. THEN April 9th, you can book reservations for your day on October 6th, April 10th you can book for October 7th and so on. You call as soon as the lines open, or log in as soon as the reservations open up. You are left wondering why there are no dining reservations for the popular restaurants. This is why….
Guests staying on property can simply log in or call on April 8th and do all their dining reservations for the entire week. (OR you can have your travel agent do it for you!!) So you see, if staying off property, you can lose out on those popular dining experiences.
#1: Fastpasses: This is number one because although all the other reasons to stay on property are important, this is BY FAR the most important reason. When staying on property in a Disney Resort, you can book fastpasses 60 days prior to check in. If staying off property….only 30 days prior! This is HUGE! Each attraction will only allot a certain number of fastpasses per hour. Guess what that means….the most popular attractions will “give out” of fastpasses within the first couple of days, sometimes first few minutes of the times opening up! If you can not book those fastpasses until 30 days prior, TYPICALLY there are few, if any fastpasses left for the popular attractions.
Honorable Mention: You can do Online Check-In prior to your resort arrival, and even link your credit card to your account to use with your MagicBand. This cuts down on check in time, allowing more time with your family to enjoy your vacation!