This week I was speaking with someone about my next trip to Disney and she wanted to know why Disney Vacation Club is so much better than the other accommodations located near Disney World. It’s a valid question when you consider that some non-Disney resorts are as close, if not closer, to the parks than a few of the Disney properties. The truth is though, when you break it down to the pros and cons of staying at Disney versus an Orange Lake or Bonnet Creek, you’re probably going to end up favoring a Disney property due to these 6 major perks:
1. Transportation to Disney Property
We think that this one is huge if you’re flying into Orlando. It’s not something that we take advantage of (we’re Florida residents), but it can make a big difference to your travel plans. The magic begins as soon as you get off the plane. Got lots of luggage? Don’t worry about it! Skip baggage claim and head straight to Disney’s Magical Express shuttle bus. That’s right, Disney will grab your bags for you and deliver them to your room. You don’t have to worry about the cost/hassle of waving down a taxi or arranging for a rental car. The shuttle service is complimentary for Disney guests.
When your Disney vacation comes to a close, Disney can also take care of airline check-in for your return flight. It’s one of those small conveniences that allows you to become fully immersed in the vacation experience without stressing about responsibilities.
2. Transportation to the Theme Parks
The first time we ever stayed on Disney property (~1996?) we were blown away by the convenience of getting around using Disney’s transportation systems. Whether by bus, monorail, or boat, you can move quickly from one place to another with minimal effort.
Because we’re Florida residents, we usually drive rather than fly to Disney World. Many DVC owners end up driving, or they rent a car so that they can go out to buy groceries, or see other Orlando attractions, etc. If this is the case, you’re still welcome to use the Disney transportation options listed above. However, as a guest at a Disney property, there is no added cost for driving from the resort to the park if you choose to do so. However, if you stay off-site and drive to the park, there will be a $17/day parking fee. Ouch!
3. Extra Hours at the Park
Every day one of the Disney theme parks opens 1 hour early and remains open 2 hours after the usual closing for the exclusive use of guests staying on Disney property. This can be a great opportunity to beat the rush to popular attractions, or hop on rides that you might have missed during the day when the lines were longer. The way we see it, if you’re making the trip to Disney World, you probably want to make the most of it. Extended park hours will help you do that.
4. Dining Packages and Villa Kitchens
Ah, that brings us to the famous Disney dining packages. Some vacationers love that this is an option for guests staying on Disney property. Others claim that it’s just not worth it. Frankly, we’ve never found them beneficial, but it’s all very personal. You can learn more about Disney dining packages here. Many DVC members don’t opt for the dining plans because the villas come with a kitchen that can be used to prepare meals on a family budget. Eating out can be expensive, and Disney dining plans don’t exactly offer a way around that, but one thing is for sure: the dining plans are definitely a huge convenience over planning and/or cooking meals multiple times each day.
5. Advance Booking of Disney FastPass+
A few weeks ago we did a comprehensive post on the FastPass+ system, and the major perk for guests staying on Disney property is that they can book their FP+ 60 days in advance of their visit. That’s double the typical 30-day booking window. While this might not be the kind of benefit that makes or breaks your accommodation plans, it’s just another way that Disney enables guests to get the most out of their visit.
6. More Magic
Our vacation and travel experiences have taught us to never underestimate the intangibles. There’s something wonderful about being greeted at the door with a friendly “Welcome home!” In our experience, the service and interaction with staff has always been outstanding at Disney resorts. That’s not to say that other resorts do a bad job –to the contrary, we’ve had some very positive experiences off-site– but the Disney team truly goes the extra mile.
Then there’s also all of the little touches that immerse you completely in the Disney magic. The resorts are always themed down to the smallest details. The hidden Mickeys are lots of fun for all ages to search for and discover. You just won’t get the same kind of experience at off-site resorts. If all you want is a place to lay your head after a long day at the park, maybe this isn’t such a significant factor to you. However, kids definitely appreciate the feeling that they’re “at Disney World” for the whole trip. Whether you have kids or not, you’ll appreciate that you’re not just staying at another hotel, you’re staying at Disney. It’s a big difference that you need to experience for yourself at least once.