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A trip to Disney can be a magical experience all on its own, but if you’re looking to add a little something more to your vacation, you may want to consider staying on Disney property. With a wide variety of hotels around the world, there are plenty of options. However, the best perks of staying at a Disney resort come when spending time at Disneyland or Walt Disney World.
Here's a look at some of the best benefits of staying at a Disney resort, including early park entry, priority Lightning Lane access and more.
1. Early park entry
If maximizing your time at theme parks is at the top of your list, you’ll want to take advantage of this benefit. Known in the past as Extra Magic Hour, this perk used to allow resort guests early or late entry to a rotating selection of Walt Disney World’s theme parks. Nowadays, the benefit has changed; rather than being limited to a single park per day, resort guests can opt to enter any of Disney’s four parks thirty minutes before opening.
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2. Free transportation
Orlando is a sprawling city with a population of over 300,000 people. You’ll find a wide range of hotels, some at far distances away from Disney World. This means it’s easy to run up a bill when navigating to Walt Disney World, whether you’re grabbing an Uber or renting a car and paying to park.
Those staying at Disney World don’t have this problem; each Disney resort provides its own complimentary transportation to the theme parks as well as to Disney Springs.
Considering parking at the theme parks costs a minimum of $25 per day, the value of this benefit can quickly add up — and that doesn’t factor in the cost to park your car at the resort.
» Learn more: How to go to Disney World for cheap
3. Disney Dining Plans
Ever heard of the Disney Dining Plan? Although it’s not currently available, it’s arguably one of the best benefits of staying on Disney property — especially if you love food.
Available exclusively to Disney resort guests, a Disney Dining Plan allows guests to prepay fixed pricing for their meals. Then, they receive credits good toward food, snacks and restaurants within Disney World. Much like an all-inclusive resort, Disney Dining Plans can help travelers budget their costs ahead of time. Even better, there are plenty of websites out there aimed at helping you maximize your credits, and savvy diners can even come out ahead on their purchases.
There are different tiers of Dining Plans based on how you and your fellow travelers eat; the cheapest options include fast-casual dining, while more expensive options allow for sit-down meals.
» Learn more: How to budget for a family trip to Disney
4. Easy access to Disney parks
Another perk of staying on Disney property? You’ll have easy access to the theme parks. Sure, this includes shuttle services, but depending on the resort you're staying at, it can actually include much more.
Disney has done a good job of giving its resorts access to its theme parks, and it shows when it comes to your method of arrival. Fancy a monorail ride right to Magic Kingdom? Disney’s Contemporary Resort, the Grand Floridian and Disney’s Polynesian all feature direct entrances to the park via their in-hotel monorail stops.
If you’re staying elsewhere, you may want to consider the Skyliner, a gondola that soars to Hollywood Studios and Epcot.
Otherwise, you may want to take a boat ride or a stroll to the parks, both of which are options available to resort guests.
These benefits aren’t limited to Walt Disney World, either. The Grand Californian Lodge at Disneyland offers guests direct access to California Adventure via an exclusive entrance.
» Learn more: The best Disney resort for adults
5. First dibs on restaurant reservations, including character meals
Have your eye on one of Disney’s best restaurants? Those who’ve tried to make reservations in the past know the struggle of setting an alarm to wake up when their 60-day window opens. And if you’re staying for more than one day, repeating the process can get old.
Resort guests get to skip this step. Although they, too, need to wait until 60 days before arrival to make a restaurant reservation, once that window opens, they’re able to make reservations for their entire stay. No additional waiting is required. This means that if they’re there for, say, 10 days, they can snag spots for their last day of the stay a full 70 days out — practically guaranteeing their restaurant of choice.
» Learn more: How to plan a trip to Walt Disney World
6. Individual Lightning Lane priority
One of Disney’s newest offerings, Individual Lightning Lane allows guests to purchase fast-track access to high-demand rides. There are a limited number of Individual Lightning Lane passes sold per day. Once they’re gone, you’ll need to wait in the regular queue like everyone else.
And here lies one final benefit of staying at a Disney resort: You’ll have the ability to purchase Lightning Lane access before everyone else. Those spending their nights on the property are able to buy Lightning Lane passes beginning at 7 a.m. on the day of their park visit. Everyone else? They have to wait until the park opens, which can be hours later.
» Learn more: What you need to know about Disney FastPass
If you’re thinking of staying at a Disney resort
Disney vacations can be some of the most fun you’ll ever have. Between the great food, fun attractions and live entertainment, there isn’t a lot that’s missing on these trips.
Those who are looking to make the most of their experience may be considering staying at a Disney resort. Offering perks, Disney resorts can make your trip more enjoyable, whether you’re looking to dine with the best or skip the lines at the most popular rides.
(Top photo courtesy of Walt Disney World)
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