6 Perks of Staying on Disney Property

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 FloridaWilderness Lodge Resort 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

Salad at Disney WorldAh, 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.

Choosing a Home Resort

The Importance of Home Resorts

Choosing a home resort is one of the biggest and most important decisions required of prospective Disney Vacation Club members. Though you can visit any of the DVC properties using your points, different resorts have different advantages/disadvantages as a home resort. The selection process is not complex, but there are some elements that require serious consideration.

Booking at Your Home Resort

As the owner of a particular resort, you have the privilege of booking your stay up to 11 months in advance of the proposed check-in date. To book a stay at resort other than your home resort, you’ll need to wait until 7 months in advance at the earliest. If you’re big on planning ahead (like we are), this could be a major factor. If there is a particular resort that you absolutely love, that should probably be your home resort. The ability to book almost a year ahead of time will ensure that you can get your accommodations of choice.

Annual Dues at Your Home Resort

Annual dues (a.k.a. maintenance fees) vary among resorts. Annual dues are paid on a cost-per-point basis and currently vary from about $4-$8. As far as annual dues are concerned, Vero Beach is typically the most expensive and Bay Lake Tower is usually the least expensive. This is an important factor that absolutely should not be overlooked!!! The cost of annual dues will inevitably surpass the initial purchase cost if you remain a Disney Vacation Club member for more than just a couple years. If you choose a home resort with a low purchase price but high maintenance fees thinking that you’re saving money, you’re destined to be disappointed. Womp womp :(

Also, keep in mind that the dues are likely to increase over time. Be sure to take a look at the history of annual dues and percentage increase.

Unit Availability

It shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that the DVC resorts and villas are not all equal in size and popularity. Wilderness Lodge and Beach club have fewer villas than the other resorts, making availability more scarce. Animal Kingdom Lodge is hugely popular. The 11-month booking opportunity for home resorts can really make a difference when trying to plan a stay at these resorts.

Certain units are also more popular than others. Studio villas are almost always in high demand, as are grand villas. One bedroom villas are typically the most widely available, but even these are not all the same: 1 bedroom villas at Old Key West are about 200 sq ft larger than the 1 bedroom villas at Boardwalk.

Home Resort Expiration Dates

All Disney Vacation Club contracts include an expiration date. If you’re planning on holding on to your DVC membership for a few decades and/or passing ownership on to loved ones, this could be a factor in your choice of home resort.

Vero Beach, Hilton Head Island, Boardwalk, Wilderness Lodge, Beach Club, and some Old Key West contracts expire on January 31, 2042.

Saratoga Springs contracts expire on January 31, 2054.

Animal Kingdom Lodge and some Old Key West contracts expire on January 31, 2057.

Bay Lake Tower and Grand Californian contracts expire on January 31, 2060.

Aulani contracts expire on January 31, 2062.

Grand Floridian contracts expire no January 31, 2064.

Special DVC Member Offer: $199 for a 4 Park Ticket

Get a Bargain on Park Tickets

If there’s one thing we love more than spending time at Disney World, it’s spending LESS MONEY at Disney World. Good news Disney Vacation Club members: Disney is currently running  a special offer of a 4-Day 4-Park Ticket for $199 (plus tax) per person. That’s a savings of about $180 over purchasing the tickets individually at standard prices. Not too shabby!

Who, Where, and When

These special offer tickets can be used to visit Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. The offer is open to all Disney Vacation Club members through the end of the year. The tickets must be purchased by December 31, 2014. The tickets can be used anytime through May 24, 2015 with no exclusions. Even though the tickets must be purchased by a DVC member, they can be given to non-members for admission to the park, so bring some friends!

The Fine Print

This isn’t a Park Hopper ticket; you can only visit 1 park per day. However, you can visit a different park each day for the 4 days. Actually, you MUST visit a different park each day — repeat visits aren’t permitted.

You’re required to use your ticket within 14 days of its first use. You can’t go to Epcot on Saturday and then try to use your 4-day ticket for admission to Magic Kingdom in June.

Enjoy!

We highly recommend taking advantage of this limited-time offer if you have the opportunity. If it doesn’t fit with your current plans, don’t worry about: Disney does a great job with keeping members happy and there’s bound to be another great promotion right around the corner.