YAY! THE BENEFITS OF STAYING ON DISNEY PROPERTY:
* There is no longer a fee for Disney resort guests to self-park. (A fee was in place from 2018 to early 2023.)
* For those without cars, there’s free bus, monorail, new gondola, and ferry transportation throughout the resort. This is the biggest consideration for most people. (Then again, these things are free to everyone at Disney, hotel guest or not.) Guests can use the Disney World app to check transit wait times.
* Early Entry into the theme parks 30 minutes before the general public. That’s not a lot of time to do much, though, and not everything will be running. This perk is for every Disney hotel guest (and for some hotels around Disney Springs), but only people who pay for Deluxe resorts (the most expensive ones that regularly cost $600–$800 a night) will be offered a few opportunities to keep playing in “select” parks on “select” nights for longer than posted closing time. (The day’s chosen park might not match up with the one you planned to be in that day.) Guests at more expensive resorts are also targeted to receive a few other limited, line-based perks, such as the right to book a few Lightning Lane reservations, but the cash value of those won’t come near the extra amount you paid for the room.
* First crack at paid Lightning Lane reservations at 7am each day. Non-Disney hotel guests must wait until park opening time. A couple of rides, such as Hollywood Studios' Star Wars—Rise of the Resistance, will sell out its entry times to hotel guests before outsiders even get a chance to buy one.
* Disney transit drops you at the Magic Kingdom gates. Other hotel shuttles deposit you on the other side of the lake, by the parking lot.
* Every room has a small balcony or patio (except at Value resorts).
* Disney guests are allowed to charge purchases throughout the resort to your room.
* The general public has a right to make restaurant reservations 60 days ahead, but if you’re holding a resort reservation, you have the right to increase that lead time by the length of your stay (up to 10 days), giving you a slight edge. Obviously, this perk is useless if you make your hotel booking less than 2 months before your vacation.
* In-park shopping can be delivered to your room, when available. (The delivery lag time is such that you should be staying for at least 2 more nights.)
* Guests get three or four timed kids’ activities a day, albeit some at a charge.
* Theme park parking is free if you're a Disney resort guest.
* Wake-up calls feature Disney characters.
* You can purchase soft drink mugs ($20) that you can refill for free the whole time you’re staying at the hotel (and not a minute longer—they’re embedded with computer chips).
BOO! THESE THINGS ABOUT STAYING WITH DISNEY STINK:
* “Free” resort transportation doesn’t mean “fast.” Routes can be circuitous and require changing buses, waits can be aggravating, and you may have to stand.
* Rates are 40%–70% higher than off-property rooms of comparable quality. So is food.
* Stingy occupancy limits. Room rates are quoted for two people. For more people, add $15–$35 a night (depending on the resort category) for each person age 18 and over up to the room’s stated maximum capacity, so a $119 Value room will in fact be $149 if four people 18 and over stay in it. (One child age 2 and under can stay without being counted toward the occupancy limit.) Value and Moderate resorts cap occupancy at four (not including a babe in a crib) and Deluxe cap at five. Families larger than four must rent two units, doubling the expense, but if you have seven or more people to accommodate, it gets ugly.
* It’s hard to call the front desk; you’ll usually be routed to the main Disney number with epic waits. You have to go in person. Baggage service may also be impossible.
* It’s also hard to request a specific room ahead of time; usually, you’ll get your assignment at the check-in desk. In busy times, families with multiple rooms may get split apart.
* The most affordable Disney hotels don’t have restaurants. They have food courts (burgers, sandwiches, pasta—all at theme park prices of around $14) and the only room service item is pizza. This is less of a problem if you intend to save money by eating off property anyway.
* Disney resorts are so large (often 2,000 rooms) that lines, even for a cup of coffee, are an endless nuisance and sprawling layouts are confusing to small children, to say nothing of their weary parents. Disney has turned the failing into profit: It charges more for “Preferred” rooms nearer the lobby.
* The more affordable a room is, the more you could use a rental car. The most expensive resorts are beside the best parks, but Value rooms are about as far from the action as many off-property hotels. The Value resorts, in particular, are a good 15-minute drive from the Magic Kingdom (no farther than a decent vacation home).
* Safes are tiny (laptops won’t fit). In-room cooking is made difficult in that the most affordable rooms lack microwaves or coffeemakers.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.