My Disney Top 5 - Reasons to Stay on Walt Disney World Property

by Chris Barry, contributing writer
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Now that Memorial Day weekend has concluded, one thing is perfectly clear; summer has officially kicked in and it's time to think about the happiest word in the English language: vacation. School is wrapping up. The temperatures are rising. The shorts have been taken out of storage. It's time to go somewhere. How about the beach? How about the mountains? Better yet, how about going back to Walt Disney World?

That's a no-brainer. I just about always want to return to Walt Disney World. The fact of the matter is no matter what time of year—no matter how recently I was just there—I'm always planning the next Walt Disney World trip in my head. When are we going back? How long are we going to stay? What did we miss last time? Will I ever get a dinner reservation at 'Ohana? There are many questions that need answering, but the one question that has a definite answer is whether or not we will stay on Disney property.

If you've been reading my columns for any length of time—and once again, thank you if you have—you know there's only one answer to that question. My response has always been and always shall be an emphatic, enthusiastic, unwavering, "yes."

I was actually quite surprised that it's taken me seven years to tackle this topic in a Top 5 list. Even my daughter asked me, "You haven't done that one already?" Surprisingly I haven't. I've discussed it on the Parenting Panel and I've mentioned it in many of my articles on related topics, but I've never given it the full treatment until now. So with that said and clarified, why do I feel so strongly about staying on property when I visit WDW? Let's find out the answer with my Top 5 Reasons to Stay on Property at Walt Disney World.

5 – It's Super Convenient


Having a view of Cinderella Castle means I'm in a convenient location. Photo by Chris Barry.

Let's face it, there's nothing more convenient than staying at Disney's Polynesian Village or Disney's Contemporary Resort if you're a big Magic Kingdom fan. Likewise, you can't beat staying at Disney's Yacht and Beach Club or at Disney's BoardWalk Resort if you're visiting Epcot. Anytime the term "walking distance" can be put into play, the convenience factor goes positively off the charts. You certainly can't walk to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, or Disney's Hollywood Studios from an off-property hotel.

Let's say that those resorts are out of your price range, as they certainly are for many of us out there. I still think that the Moderate and Value level resorts are more convenient than venturing off-property. It seems like an obvious statement. After all they're "on property." You're never too far from the Disney magic when you're on property and to me that's super convenient.

4 – Disney Transportation


There's no better feeling than your Disney Transport bus arriving. Photo by Steve Russo.

I've heard the arguments against utilizing Disney transportation and renting a vehicle instead, and I will never relent on this opinion. You know what I do every day at home? I drive a car. Do you know what I can't do every day at home? I can't be ferried around on buses, boats, and monorails for free. Disney's transportation system is pretty mind-blowing when you stop and think about it. The amount of guests that Disney effectively transports on any given day is truly staggering. I will always let them do the driving and it's a major consideration when choosing to stay on property. Is it always perfect? No, it's not. Is it better than staying somewhere that doesn't offer such an amazing transportation system? Yes, it is—infinitely better.

3 – Magical Express


My luggage gets a happy ride to my Disney resort. Photo by Steve Russo.

This service, offered only to Disney resort guests, was a revelation to me when it began years ago. Let me get this straight. Disney will pick me up from the airport in a nice, comfy, air-conditioned coach bus? They'll play a cool Disney video on the bus to get me excited for my trip? They'll bring me to my resort? Wait, they'll also pick up my luggage from baggage claim and bring it up to my room? Then they'll do it all again on my return trip? And they charge what for this service? Nothing? Am I supposed to argue with this? In this writer's eyes, Magical Express was the proverbial icing on the cake. I wish every resort everywhere did this. But they don't and probably never will. It's a huge reason to choose staying in a Disney resort.

2 – Disney Theming


A walkway through the French Quarter. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

It's kind of cool to stay on a simulated Polynesian beach isn't it? Maybe you'd prefer staying in a grand National Park lodge or looking out on an African savannah? Disney's legendary attention to detail makes their resorts so much more special than your average hotel. To me, you can't beat the quaint streets of the French Quarter, or the stately surroundings of the Yacht Club. The Walt Disney World resorts are out of the ordinary and that, by definition, makes them extraordinary.

1 – The Bubble


Happiness awaits as the Walt Disney World arches approach. Photo By Steve Russo.

When Walt sought out acres and acres of land in Central Florida, it was because he wanted something he lacked at Disneyland in Anaheim. To use his own words, he was thrilled to finally have "the blessing of size." I'm not naive enough to think that Walt didn't want to control your whole Disney vacation experience. He wanted to keep you on his property. That's good business sense. It harkens back to the fact that there are no windows or clocks in a casino. They're designed to keep you there.

Walt definitely wanted you to stay with him, but he also wanted you to enter the Disney bubble and truly escape into his world of dreams. That's how I feel each and every time I drive through those arches and suddenly the scenery begins to change. The Disney transportation buses appear everywhere filled with people on their way to and from the magic. The road signs are different. The wires disappear from overhead. The regular world is out there, but it's positively not in here. Once I get in the bubble, I don't want out until I'm leaving to come home. It's a transformative feeling. I need that transformation in my life. I need to leave the real world behind every once in awhile.

I can get that from a day of skiing with my family, or a solitary session out on my surfboard at dusk, or getting lost in the music of the Grateful Dead or Bruce Springsteen at a live show with my wife or my good friends. So I seek out those moments and make sure they're consistently in my life. That same sense of escape happens when I'm on the Walt Disney World property and the real world melts into the background. That's the number one reason that I make Disney property my home when I visit, because being there transforms me. Why would I ever stay anywhere else when I'm down there? I wouldn't and I can't fathom that I ever will.

What do you think of my reasons for always staying on Disney property when I visit Walt Disney World? I know many of you agree and some of you disagree. Some of you may have additional reasons that I left off. As always, I'd like to hear what you have to say. Click on the link below; let me hear your thoughts and I'll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.

 

Comments

  1. By jerm

    I am actually a Shades of Green kind of guy, but that is for the price and convenience. But when I went in 2008, we split our stay. Most was at Shades of Green, but we started and ended ASM and POP, so we could take advantage of Magical Express. And that alone was awesome. We met my daughter at the airport (she flew in from another part of the country) and everything was taken care of for us.

  2. By travelinclass

    I'm not the average Disney guest, I live in Florida. I love, love, love the parks as much as you Chris, but we always stay off property. I agree with your pros, but I feel my cons outweigh them. I should probably respect the tradition of keeping the secrets of the locals just that, secret. There are several beautiful and new resorts in the area that offer awesome swim time, large beds, great views, full kitchens and laundry facilities free in the room, and best of all, great deals on the price. We also eat at fabulous restaurants that are competing with others in the area. This means we can pick where we want to eat at the last minute and the price is acceptable. We pass several grocery stores and drug stores as we drive to and from the parks, so we can easily pick up a rain poncho if the weather looks bad or bottles of water, or those little spray fan things at grocery store prices. I guess it's all about freedom for our family. And after the bills are totaled, we've saved enough to go on another vacation!!!

  3. By DwarfPlanet

    Like jerm mentioned above we also are Shades of Green (SoG) users. So number 2 & 3 are pretty much N/A for us. But they are very valid reasons for those who do stay on Disney resort properties.

  4. By familymemories

    I totally agree with every point. There are so many perks to staying onsite. When I was booking our trip last month for this upcoming August, totally surprised at what they do not charged for.

  5. By DisneyGator

    Because I come from so far away, staying onsite is a no-brainer. Now, if I lived close enough to drive, I may be enticed to stay off-site at a cheap-but-awesome hotel and drive to the parks. To avoid that rush to the buses at the end of the day...to not have to wait for 2 ECVs and their families to load on each bus....that would be great. However, I like the fact I don't have to drive when I go to WDW, and that's because I stay onsite and always will.

    Now for DL, I'd love to hear arguments pro/con onsite hotels. With so many across the street from the parks, this argument is a lot tougher to make when spending money on Disney hotels.

  6. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by jerm View Post
    I am actually a Shades of Green kind of guy, but that is for the price and convenience. But when I went in 2008, we split our stay. Most was at Shades of Green, but we started and ended ASM and POP, so we could take advantage of Magical Express. And that alone was awesome. We met my daughter at the airport (she flew in from another part of the country) and everything was taken care of for us.

    Hey jerm,

    Shades of Green has always intrigued me. It is an awesome location. Someday, I'd like to visit. It's also pretty cool that a resort exists there that specifically caters to those in the service.

  7. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by travelinclass View Post
    I'm not the average Disney guest, I live in Florida. I love, love, love the parks as much as you Chris, but we always stay off property. I agree with your pros, but I feel my cons outweigh them. I should probably respect the tradition of keeping the secrets of the locals just that, secret. There are several beautiful and new resorts in the area that offer awesome swim time, large beds, great views, full kitchens and laundry facilities free in the room, and best of all, great deals on the price. We also eat at fabulous restaurants that are competing with others in the area. This means we can pick where we want to eat at the last minute and the price is acceptable. We pass several grocery stores and drug stores as we drive to and from the parks, so we can easily pick up a rain poncho if the weather looks bad or bottles of water, or those little spray fan things at grocery store prices. I guess it's all about freedom for our family. And after the bills are totaled, we've saved enough to go on another vacation!!!

    All valid points. I, however, couldn't imagine walking into a drug store or grocery store while I'm down there. It's one of the truly unique things about Walt Disney World that I can be far away from the chain stores and strip malls and still be in one of the most popular resorts on the planet. I don't even like seeing the Hess station on property!! It brings me back home...and i don't want o be home when I'm there.

  8. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by familymemories View Post
    I totally agree with every point. There are so many perks to staying onsite. When I was booking our trip last month for this upcoming August, totally surprised at what they do not charged for.

    I've long argued that Walt Disney World is a great value. I never say it's cheap, but you get so much more for your money. Here's a link to one of my older Top 5's arguing just that point.
    http://www.mouseplanet.com/8952/My_D...d_is_a_Bargain

  9. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by DisneyGator View Post
    Because I come from so far away, staying onsite is a no-brainer. Now, if I lived close enough to drive, I may be enticed to stay off-site at a cheap-but-awesome hotel and drive to the parks. To avoid that rush to the buses at the end of the day...to not have to wait for 2 ECVs and their families to load on each bus....that would be great. However, I like the fact I don't have to drive when I go to WDW, and that's because I stay onsite and always will.

    Now for DL, I'd love to hear arguments pro/con onsite hotels. With so many across the street from the parks, this argument is a lot tougher to make when spending money on Disney hotels.

    Hey Gator,

    To me the best way to avoid the rush to the bus at the end of the day is to simply don't participate in it. Some of my most special times in the parks have been making my way to the exit slowly at closing time. For example, World Showcase just about completely empties out and it's all yours. I wait at least an 1/2 hour at closing time until I make my way to the exit. You'd be amazed what a difference that makes. It's a great time to stop in MouseGear or The Emporium and shop as well. We've walked out practically alone sometimes. It's pretty awesome.There's always another bus.

  10. By davidgra

    Quote Originally Posted by DisneyGator View Post
    Now for DL, I'd love to hear arguments pro/con onsite hotels. With so many across the street from the parks, this argument is a lot tougher to make when spending money on Disney hotels.

    I can think of one reason -- Extra Magic Hours. Getting into Disneyland or DCA an hour early is actually a big deal. On our last trip to Disneyland, we stayed at Disney's Grand Californian, and getting into DCA an hour early meant that we could go ride Radiator Springs Racers once, followed by a ride on Luigi's Flying Tires, and then queue up to get a FastPass for Radiator Springs Racers for later in the day. At Disneyland, we could head to Fantasyland and do a couple of attractions that are nice if you don't have to wait in line, but that you don't want to spend an hour in line for later in the day.

    Granted, we're DVC members and don't actually "pay" for our hotel rooms -- we paid in advance -- but we are DVC members specifically because we always want to stay on property. After a number of trips where we stayed in offsite lodging, we started saying, "Maybe we could stay on property now and again." A stay at Port Orleans, a stay at Caribbean Beach, a stay at the Contemporary, and finally a stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and we decided there was no reason not to buy into the DVC. We never wanted to stay at Extended Stay America again.

    It's funny, but I agree with Chris's list 100% here. I wouldn't include Extra Magic Hours in my top five reasons, either. When we didn't stay on property, the Extra Magic Hours always intrigued us. When we first started staying on property, we'd stay in the parks for the evening EMHs -- especially at Epcot. But, now that we always stay on property, we find that we just don't really have any interest in the Extra Magic Hours. The kids are older, we take our time with things, and we always know we're coming back, so we don't feel the need to spend every minute of every day in a theme park. Evenings are for a nice dinner, a swim, a stroll around Downtown Disney, or just hanging out at the resort.

  11. By Dave1313

    Quote Originally Posted by davidgra View Post
    I can think of one reason -- Extra Magic Hours. Getting into Disneyland or DCA an hour early is actually a big deal. On our last trip to Disneyland, we stayed at Disney's Grand Californian, and getting into DCA an hour early meant that we could go ride Radiator Springs Racers once, followed by a ride on Luigi's Flying Tires, and then queue up to get a FastPass for Radiator Springs Racers for later in the day. At Disneyland, we could head to Fantasyland and do a couple of attractions that are nice if you don't have to wait in line, but that you don't want to spend an hour in line for later in the day.................

    Unless this has changed, some off-site hotels near DLR actually have agreements/packages with Disney to include some level of EMH. I stayed at the Quality Suites on Manchester for 2 nights (3 day tickets to park) in early 2014, and I believe I had one EMH morning included in the package. (I did not utilize it properly due to being unprepared for what was actually open, but that was my failure). Not as good as every day if you stay in one of the 3 DLR hotels, but it's some opportunity.

    I'm pretty sure I bought my tickets and hotel just by going to the DLR site and buying the park tickets with added hotel.

    Not directly across the street, but not too far to walk either. Worked well enough for me.

  12. By worldlover71

    Now for DL, I'd love to hear arguments pro/con onsite hotels. With so many across the street from the parks, this argument is a lot tougher to make when spending money on Disney hotels.

    Lots of different packages include a day with extra hours. On my last trip, I bought a 3-day ticket and it included an extra magic morning. My hotel (which I bought separately) was actually CLOSER to the main entrance than the Disneyland Hotel or Paradise Pier Hotel.

  13. By cbarry

    When I finally make it to Disneyland, I'm not going to be thinking, "Which hotel is closer to the entrance?" If and when I make the long trek from NY to California, I can't imagine not staying at one of the Disney hotels. I know I'm going to want the whole experience. I think Disney does an amazing job with their hotels and their service and amenities. To me, it's not just a bed.

  14. By Dave1313

    Quote Originally Posted by cbarry View Post
    When I finally make it to Disneyland, I'm not going to be thinking, "Which hotel is closer to the entrance?" If and when I make the long trek from NY to California, I can't imagine not staying at one of the Disney hotels. I know I'm going to want the whole experience. I think Disney does an amazing job with their hotels and their service and amenities. To me, it's not just a bed.

    I think (but only looked into it maybe twice, so I could be mistaken in the long run) the cost differential is more substantial at DLR. I don't think annual pass-holder and other discounts are offered as frequently (or with as much of a discount) as in WDW.

    I suspect this is just the sheer larger number of rooms WDW is trying to fill. It takes a lot less visitors to fill the 3 DLR hotels to capacity.

    True, if on a "I'm doing this once" type of trip, then it is quite probably worth it. But if it's more casual for potential repeat visits, the 3 DLR resorts seem to ultimately cost significantly more than all but some of the Deluxe resorts at WDW.

  15. By davidgra

    Quote Originally Posted by cbarry View Post
    When I finally make it to Disneyland, I'm not going to be thinking, "Which hotel is closer to the entrance?" If and when I make the long trek from NY to California, I can't imagine not staying at one of the Disney hotels. I know I'm going to want the whole experience. I think Disney does an amazing job with their hotels and their service and amenities. To me, it's not just a bed.


    You're very right about wanting to stay in one of the Disney hotels. While it may not quite feel the same, there is indeed still a "bubble" at Disneyland, and we've taken several trips during which time we've never left the property -- we didn't even rent a car on those trips. Pre-DVC, we stayed all over the place, including at a non-Disney hotel that was walking distance to the parks. It just wasn't the same experience.

    That said, I'd advise against the Paradise Pier Hotel. While it's less expensive and it does have rooms that offer theme park views, it's just not at the same level of "Disney"-ness as the Disneyland Hotel or the Grand Californian. (It wasn't originally a Disney hotel, but Disney bought it back when they were developing DCA.)

    Yes, the hotels are expensive, but the experience of staying at the Grand Californian on multiple occasions has spoiled us for life. Being in a hotel that is essentially inside one of the parks -- with its own entrance to the park -- and that is in the middle of Downtown Disney and right across from a monorail station is something that can't be beat. Seeing Mickey's Fun Wheel, California Screamin', the Golden Zephyr, and the rest of Paradise Pier outside your hotel room balcony is even better. In Florida, the Contemporary comes close, but you still feel that "separation" from the actual park.

  16. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by davidgra View Post
    You're very right about wanting to stay in one of the Disney hotels. While it may not quite feel the same, there is indeed still a "bubble" at Disneyland, and we've taken several trips during which time we've never left the property -- we didn't even rent a car on those trips. Pre-DVC, we stayed all over the place, including at a non-Disney hotel that was walking distance to the parks. It just wasn't the same experience.

    That said, I'd advise against the Paradise Pier Hotel. While it's less expensive and it does have rooms that offer theme park views, it's just not at the same level of "Disney"-ness as the Disneyland Hotel or the Grand Californian. (It wasn't originally a Disney hotel, but Disney bought it back when they were developing DCA.)

    Yes, the hotels are expensive, but the experience of staying at the Grand Californian on multiple occasions has spoiled us for life. Being in a hotel that is essentially inside one of the parks -- with its own entrance to the park -- and that is in the middle of Downtown Disney and right across from a monorail station is something that can't be beat. Seeing Mickey's Fun Wheel, California Screamin', the Golden Zephyr, and the rest of Paradise Pier outside your hotel room balcony is even better. In Florida, the Contemporary comes close, but you still feel that "separation" from the actual park.

    Those were my thoughts. I actually don't see us leaving the resort either. We would probably do a few days over on the coast since we'll be out there, but while I'm at Disneyland, I'll more than likely just stay there. When I finally get around to it, it's either the Disneyland Hotel for it's history and significance, or The Grand Californian for it's beauty and location inside the magic!
    Now, if I can just plan a trip there!!!

  17. By carolinakid

    Our theme park view was right across from Grizzly River Run. Had no idea they turn the water off after park close. Makes sense but still it was an unusual sight. We love the Grand Californian and Disneyland Hotels and wouldn't think of staying off site. But when we visit, coming from the east coast, we always stay at least 8 nights.

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