The INSIDER Summary:
- I recently took my family to Disney World and stayed in an official Disney resort.
- Staying in the Disney property made our lives so much easier.
- Because we stayed on-site, we didn’t have to rent a car, carry our luggage, or wait in long lines at the parks.
I recently took my family to Disney World.
I am not a Disney fanatic, and to be honest, I was kind of dreading the trip — I thought it would be overwhelming, crowded, expensive, and overrated. I was wrong. So wrong.
My family had an amazing time at Disney World. And a huge part of the reason is because Disney makes it incredibly easy for people — especially families with young kids — to visit.
But we wouldn’t have gotten the most out of these benefits if we hadn’t stayed in an official Disney resort.
Before our stay I considered all the accommodation options: a Disney resort, an apartment rental, or an off-site hotel. I was tempted by a three-bedroom apartment in a luxury condo near the parks for just $95 a night, but after comparing prices, amenities, and location, I realized that the only option that made sense was a Disney resort.
We settled on the Port Orleans – French Quarter Resort, which emulates New Orleans’ French Quarter, with cobblestone streets and colorful buildings with wrought-iron balconies. While a single room there cost about $200 a night — more than double the cost of a large off-site apartment — it was well worth the convenience of staying on-site.
Here are 7 reasons you should only consider staying on-site in a Disney resort if you’re traveling with kids.
1. You don’t need to rent a car
The thought of not having to lug two heavy car seats on a plane was enough to convince me to stay in a Disney resort alone. Disney hotel guests do not need to rent a car if they are planning to stay on-site. That’s because all internal transportation is included: There are free shuttles from the airport to the hotels, parks, and other Disney attractions, like Disney Springs.
2. This also means that you don’t need to deal with parking
If you do choose to rent a car, parking is free at the parks for hotel guests. But why would you want to drive at all, when you can take a free shuttle and not have to deal with the hassle of parking — which can often be miles away from the park entrances where you need to be.
3. You can check your bags directly from your home airport to your Disney hotel room
As part of Disney’s Magical Express service, their free airport shuttle service, Disney mails you luggage tags in advance. You just attach those tags to your bags before you check them at your home airport and Disney will know to grab your bags at the Orlando airport and deliver them directly to your hotel room. That’s it.
The fact that we didn’t have to wrangle our luggage along with our two toddlers made our trip so much easier. And since we knew that our bags would be delivered to our hotel room later, we just packed bathing suits and a change of clothes in our carry-on so we could start our vacation as soon as we arrived.
4. You can go straight to your hotel room — without waiting in any check-in lines
Disney will also mail you your MagicBands in advance if you are a hotel guest. MagicBands are Disney’s new high-tech wearable gadgets that serve as your room key, park pass, fast pass, photo pass, and credit card. (You can also customize your MagicBands, which kids will love.)
Before I arrived at the hotel, I got a text from Disney saying that my room was ready and what the room number was. Once I arrived at the hotel, I walked straight to my room and scanned my MagicBand to enter, since it is also your room key.
5. You get extra time in the parks — without the crowds
Disney offers extra Magic Hours when hotel guests can visit the parks without the masses. It can still be crowded then, but the crowds are generally much more manageable during Magic Hours.
6. You can go on the best rides without waiting in any lines
While everyone can get access to FastPass+, the service that lets you cut the line on your three favorite rides or attractions, hotel guests can book their FastPass+ selections long before the general public. Disney hotel guests can select their FastPass+ rides 60 days before arriving, while the general public can only do that 30 days in advance. That means that hotel guests get first dibs on the rides they want — FastPass choices tend to book up early for popular rides — without waiting hours in line.
7. Each resort has its own theme, staff, and activities that remind you that you’re still in Disney World
While the resort themes can be kind of cheesy for adults, my kids loved the fact that the hotel felt “magical.” Each hotel has its own theme, and some of them have characters who walk around the properties.
Since our hotel’s theme was centered around New Orleans, there were people dressed in elaborate Mardi Gras-inspired costumes giving out coins and colorful beads to kids, Mardi Gras-themed pool parties almost every day, and an elaborate water park for kids with lifeguards who also act as camp counselors that entertain the kids.
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