When planning a Walt Disney World vacation one of the biggest expenses is the hotel. Good thing you get some perks while staying at them. Well, you use too! Not so true anymore but we will go over all of that in this post.
2022 brings many changes all around the world. The same holds true for Walt Disney World resorts. Below we are going to go over the current perks for staying at a Disney owned hotel. This is not to be confused with hotels that are located on Disney property like the Swan and Dolphin, Wyndham Bonnet Creek, or Disney Springs area Wyndham Gardens.
There is no question about it, booking a WDW Vacation can cost an arm and a leg. However, you get some pretty good perks, right? We will just have to see about that. So let’s get to it, here are the perks of staying at a Disney Hotel in 2022.
Quick info about what a Disney Hotel is
A Walt Disney World hotel is any hotel that is owned and operated by Disney. They have restaurants that are on the Disney Dining Plan (when/if that returns). Provide Disney buses to and from the theme parks and Disney Springs.
Disney resorts are staffed by Disney cast members. The one thing you do not want to confuse is the hotel’s location. Some hotels are located within WDW but are NOT owned and operated by the Disney company. Even if these hotels have Disney in their name.
First let’s explain what a perk is. A perk is an advantage or something extra that doesn’t cost you any more. Now this could be a little misleading. When you compare a Disney Owned hotel to some of the other area hotels you will notice a big price difference for the same type of hotel or resort.
Clearly, the cost of the perk is factored into the cost of the resort. However, many Disney fans like to think of them as being “free”. That’s because you are not “paying” for that perk. The added cost is to stay within the “magic” that a Disney resort offers.
Free Parking at the theme parks
Parking at any of the theme parks is expensive. However, it won’t cost you anything if you are a guest at a Disney Resort to park at the theme parks. You will have to pay for parking at the hotel.
- Value Resorts- $15 a day
- Moderate Resorts- $20 a day
- Deluxe Resorts- $25
If you were staying at a non Disney hotel it would cost you $25 for standard parking. The good thing is, it is only a one time fee per day. You can start your day off at Magic Kingdom and pay $25 then drive over to EPCOT in the afternoon and just show your receipt. You won’t have to pay again.
If you are staying at a Disney Resort. Parking is a “free” perk. However, as you can see from the bullet points above it still costs you to park at your resort. So if you are staying at a Value resort you are “saving” $10 a day.
When I visit WDW and stay on site I prefer to drive my car to the parks. I am not a huge fan of the buses at Disney. It is quicker to drive yourself. The only exception is when going to Magic Kingdom.
Walt Disney World does offer some amazing transportation options for resort guests. All of these are free. They include the Skyliner, boats, and buses.
Anyone visiting a Disney theme park can use any of the available transportation options to go from park to park. However, if you are staying offsite you have to rely on UBER or your resorts transportation options to the Disney theme parks. Most of the time that comes with a fee and limited hours.
Disney Transportation usually starts running an hour or two before the parks open to an hour after they close.
Dining Reservation window
Disney resorts guests get an extra ten days added to their dining reservation window. Instead of having to log on everyday to book a dining reservation you can book up to 70 days out.
For example if you have a trip that starts April 15th and goes till the 25th you can start booking on February 14th for all ten days. Guests staying off site can book a reservation for April 15th on February 14th but have to log on each day for the next ten days to get dining reservations for those days.
I can tell you it is very hard to get dining reservations right now. Having that extra ten days is a huge advantage.
Early Theme Park Entry
Guests staying at a WDW resort have access to the theme parks a full half hour earlier than regular park guests. Early theme park access is a new “perk” which replaced Extra Magic Hours.
Now in each of the four theme parks (Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and EPCOT), all resort guests enter a half hour before the general public. While that doesn’t seem like too much extra time (it really isn’t), you can maybe get one ride done before the park opens or be a little closer to the front of the line on some of the more popular rides.
Extended Hours for DVC and Deluxe Resorts
Guests staying at any of the DVC (Disney Vacation Club) and Deluxe Resorts have extended hours at Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. These extended hours are two hours long. Much better than the half hour you get in the morning.
You could get a lot done in those two hours. However, you will be up much later and staying at a DVC or Deluxe resort isn’t cheap. So is it really worth it?
Individual Lightning Lane early access
Sadly, Individual Lightning Lanes are what replaced FastPASS +. This is a paid extra for all theme park guests. However, if you are staying at a Disney owned hotel you can start booking your Individual Lightning Lane at 7am instead of when the park opens.
If you don’t mind paying for access to the Individual Lightning Lane. This can be a huge perk. This means you should be able to get a good time for the most popular rides. However, just because you have a chance to book them at 7am doesn’t mean you will get it.
Package Delivery to the Resort
Any Walt Disney World theme park guests can get something you purchased in the parks sent up front for pick up that day. You just can’t get it shipped to your hotel. If you are staying at a Disney Resort you can.
This can be a great perk when you don’t want to carry all your merch on the bus back to the resort. Or even carry it throughout the parks all day.
Charging Privileges with the Magic Band
Anyone can buy and use a Magic Band. You just have to be staying at a Disney Resort in order to charge things to your room. If you are not staying at a Disney resort you can still use the Magic Band to get into the theme parks. You Just cannot use it to purchase things.
Disney Dining Plan
Now I saved the best perk for last. The Disney Dining Plan (when available) can only be purchased by guests staying at a Disney Resort. There is no dining plan for non resort guests.
There is no question that food at WDW is expensive. The Disney Dining Plan is not cheap either. However, I like having my Disney Vacation to feel all inclusive. It’s nice not having to worry about paying for food since I have it rolled into my package. Just remember the Disney Dining Plan isn’t for everyone.
Perks we lost
Over the past couple of years we have lost a couple of great perks. All the reasons I liked staying at a Disney Resort are now gone with the expectation of the Dining Plan. The last Disney Magic Express Bus left a Disney Resort and headed back to MCO in January 2022.
Transportation from MCO (Orlando airport) to WDW is no longer free. You have to figure out your own way to get to your resort.
Magic Bands are another perk resort guest lost. Before you would get a free basic magic band when you booked at Disney resort. Now you have to pay for it. Just keep in mind you don’t need a magic band to get into your room or the theme parks. You will get a card instead.
Extra Magic Hours(EMH) have been replaced with early access. The only good thing I can say about early access is it is for all four theme parks. Before EMH were for one or two parks per day. You could almost count on whichever park had EMH would be the busiest in the morning.
FastPASS is another major perk we all lost. FastPASS was free and has now been replaced with Disney Genie, Disney Genie +, and Individual Lightning Lanes. Disney Genie + will cost you $15 per day per person. For a family of four that is an additional $60 a day. For ten days that is $600. It’s really sad that Walt Disney World is becoming so money hungry.
As you can see, staying at a Disney Resort does have some perks. However, are they really worth the added cost when compared to the other area resorts? For me I just don’t think they are.
How do you feel about it? Does the added 10 days to book dining reservations mean that much? Does getting a 30 minute head start save you that much time in the long run? Let us know in the comments below.
Do you want to plan a visit to WDW but don’t want to stay at a Disney Resort or even on Disney Property? Check out some of the Universal Orlando Resort hotels like Cabana Bay or Hard Rock Orlando. Universal still offers some amazing perks like an hour early access to their theme parks and pool hopping.