If you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World, staying at a Disney Resort has its perks. From transportation to receiving early access to dining reservations, several benefits make a stay at the Walt Disney World Resort more appealing.
As we approach 2023, you’ll need to know that some benefits have changed. For instance, Disney’s Magical Express ended last year. That was the complimentary transportation service Disney formerly offered between the airport and its resorts.
This article will discuss the benefits of staying at a Disney World Resort and how they apply to you as a guest. Additionally, we’ll go over the recently retired benefits and how they might affect your trip.
Let’s get started.
This article was updated on January 10, 2023, to include new benefits.
Disney World Resort Hotel Benefits
Here is a list of the perks and benefits of staying at a Disney World Resort.
- Early Theme Park Entry
- Extended Evening Theme Park Hours*
- Early Access to Dining Reservations
- Early Access to Genie+ Lightning Lane Individual Attractions*
- Complimentary Parking at the Resorts and Theme Parks (New!)
- Proximity from Room to Parks for Breaks
- Staying at a Disney Resort Saves you Time
- Many Standard Rooms Can Sleep up to 5 Guests
- Fun-Themed Pools at the Resorts
- Plenty of Dining Options
- Resort Recreation and Upgrades
- Discounted Magic Bands
- Being in the Disney Bubble
Below we’ll look at each of these options in further detail. Then we’ll discuss the items that are no longer available. And we’ll wrap things up with the benefits on hold during this time.
Disney offers a variety of free transportation to and around its property. Depending on which resort you choose, you’ll have access to one or more of the following forms of transportation:
While Disney transportation is available to anyone visiting Walt Disney World, it offers a considerable advantage for resort guests. Being able to hop on a bus, at the very least, on your way to the parks is a huge convenience.
You won’t have to worry about where you are going, how you will get there, rely on GPS, or anything else that comes along when traveling. In most instances, you can locate the bus stop nearest your room and wait on the next bus to your preferred park.
Of course, you’ll want to brush up on which resorts offer various perks, like Skyliner or Monorail access. If you’re itching to stay at a hotel that has these options, you might consider these articles:
- Hotels on the Monorail at Disney World
- Skyliner Resorts at Disney
#2 Early Theme Park Entry
Disney World began offering early theme park entry in recent years and recently announced that the perk would continue through the end of 2023.
This newer benefit allows guests to access the theme parks 30 minutes early. Early theme park benefits apply to all resort guests and are available daily at all four parks.
So no matter which park you visit on any given day, you can enter 30 minutes ahead of the crowd. Of course, you’ll want to get to the parks early enough to take advantage of this offering.
Related: Hotels Eligible for Early Theme Park Entry
#3 Extended Evening Theme Park Hours
Let me start by clarifying this new benefit is NOT for every Walt Disney World Resort. It only applies to guests of Disney Deluxe Resorts and Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts.
After closing, select parks offer extended theme park hours on special evenings. Extended hours allow specific guests to stay at certain parks for an extra time after the park close.
It was recently announced that this new benefit would extend through the end of 2023. You can view the list of applicable resorts and the schedule here on Disney’s site.
So far, these evenings are offered twice weekly. One night Magic Kingdom is open later, and the other evening Epcot is open late.
Throughout the past year, there have been a limited number of evenings offered at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We have taken advantage of evening hours a few times and have been able to ride the majority of attractions we desired during the time period.
#4 Early Access to Dining Reservations
Advance reservations for meals can be booked up to 60 days in advance. This perk is probably a significant change from the former 180-day mark you might have had on a previous trip.
What’s the benefit here? Every resort hotel guest can make reservations 60 days in advance, plus the number of days they are staying. Have a week-long trip planned? Then, you can start making reservations 60 days out for all your vacation days.
While this might not sound like a huge advantage, it is when securing a dining reservation. So mark your calendar and don’t miss these extra few days! With each day that passes, reservations become more challenging to secure.
In addition, this same practice applies to Disney’s Enchanting Extras like cabana rentals and fireworks cruises. You might be surprised at how quickly some of these activities fill up! You can view the different options here on Disney’s site.
#5 Early Access to Genie+ Individual Lightning Lane Attractions
Disney Genie+ is a service that all Walt Disney World guests can purchase on the morning of their park day. But there is an extra perk for guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort.
Resort guests can begin purchasing their two individual Lightning Lane attractions starting at 7:00 a.m. EST on the day of their park visit.
Guests not staying at a Disney Resort have to wait until the park opens to purchase Lightning Lane attractions.
How much of an advantage is this? If there is a specific attraction you want to secure for your family, it’s a pretty big deal. But getting up at 7:00 a.m. every morning to purchase something while you’re on vacation isn’t magical.
You can view the complete list of Lightning Lane attractions here on Disney’s site. Note that these selections can change from time to time.
#6 Complimentary Parking at the Resorts and Theme Parks
Until recently, parking was one of those catch-22 things at Disney. Formerly, if you were staying at a Disney Resort with a car, you had to pay to park there.
However, as of early 2023, that’s changed. As of January 10, 2023, resort guests with a car will no longer incur nightly parking charges at their resort.
This is a huge deal because parking charges ranged between $15.00–$25.00 per night, depending on the resort category. This benefit will also make more guests consider staying on-property versus off-property.
To take that a step further, if you’re a resort guest and drive to the parks, there is no additional charge. We have an article that discusses parking charges at Disney if you would like to learn more.
#7 Proximity to Resort from the Parks for Breaks
Spending the morning in the hot Florida sun might make you want to return to your resort mid-afternoon for a break. And who can blame you? Especially if you’re going to return in the evening and stay late for fireworks.
A huge advantage of staying at a Disney Resort is that you can reasonably get back to your resort. For instance, if you are staying at Magic Kingdom, the bus stop is right outside the park’s entrance.
However, if you were staying off-site, you would have to travel back to the Transportation and Ticket Center. Then you’d have to find where your off-property shuttle picked up and wait for it. Or you’d have to tackle the tremendous parking lot.
Meanwhile, you’d probably already be fast asleep in your resort room had you stayed at a Disney Resort. Or maybe at the pool? Who knows if you’ll even return to the parks after a bit of relaxation time?
This brings us to our next point…
#8 Staying at a Disney Resort Saves Time
If you don’t know your way around the Lake Buena Vista area like the back of your hand, staying on Disney property will save you time. It’s true.
Sure there could be times when you feel like you waited forever for a bus. Or you might not know the best way to get to Epcot from Magic Kingdom. But these times will probably be trivial in the overall scheme of things.
Additionally, you won’t get stuck in traffic like the people waiting to pay at the park entrance. Disney buses have their own entrance lane for accessing the parks.
And if you are headed to Disney Springs, a separate bus lane begins as you approach the venue. It’s a massive time-saver on a crowded evening.
Plus, you’re on Disney property, which means minimal traffic lights and large open roads with multiple lanes. Traffic tightens when you leave the property, and those long Florida traffic lights are everywhere.
Not to mention, Orlando traffic has become a bit of a nightmare. Thankfully, you’ll never experience it when you stay on the property.
#9 Many Standard Rooms Sleep Up to 5 Guests
Are you a party of five that includes at least one small child? Many Disney Resort rooms have options with an individual pulldown bed that accommodates a small child.
For instance, this bed at Disney’s Grand Floridian is designed for a 5th guest.
Now, this benefit isn’t available at every single resort. Check with your travel agent to see which resorts might work best for you.
We use and recommend Firefly Travels. You can check with them here to learn more.
#10 The Pools at Disney World Are Awesome
That’s right, all of the resorts at Disney have fun pools. You might pick one of the resorts that have a waterslide or keep it casual at a value resort.
And don’t get me started on Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Beach and Yacht Club. It’s more of a water park than an actual pool.
Don’t like all the crowds and fuss at a large pool? Well, Disney has you covered. All of the resorts have quiet pools in addition to the feature pool.
With one exception, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, and we’ll let them slide. They use their extra acreage to house African animals. How cool is that?
Related: Best Pools at Disney World
#11 You’ll Have Plenty of Dining Options Nearby
You will have plenty of dining options when you stay at a Disney Resort hotel. However, you are limited to large food courts at the value resorts. But even they offer a multitude of different stations with a variety of menu items.
If you were to stay at a moderate resort like Disney’s Coronado Springs, you’ll be bombarded with options. For example, there are eleven different restaurants at Coronado Springs.
Additionally, the deluxe resorts have plenty of dining options. And if you want something a little different, you can take a bus to Disney Springs. However, it might be hard to choose with so many options.
Consult our list of the best restaurants at Disney Springs to learn more.
#12 Resort Recreation and Upgrades
Another perk of staying at a Walt Disney World Resort is the plethora of things to do! Each resort offers free recreational activities to take advantage of during your stay.
One of those things is the Movie Under the Stars program. Most of these movie nights are held nightly at or near the resort’s feature pool.
So pull up a lounge chair, grab a complimentary popcorn, and settle down for a unique Disney movie experience. Maybe they’ll be playing Star Wars or one of your family’s favorites.
#13 Discounted Magic Bands
Sure, Magic Bands used to be complimentary. But, unfortunately, they are not offered anymore.
If you want to purchase a Magic Band to use on your trip, you’ll need to buy one.
Disney offers a discounted “pre-arrival” price for Magic Bands to guests who are staying at their resorts. You can select colors, characters, and even add your name.
Do you need a Magic Band? With so many people using My Magic Plus on their phones these days, a Magic Band is not a necessity.
However, they are excellent for scanning photos, charging purchases to the room, accessing the parks, and opening the door to your room. Personally, I still use mine and enjoy the convenience.
#14 Being in the Disney Bubble
While it’s not some mysterious, foreign planet like it sounds, staying in the Disney bubble has its perks. From the moment you step on the property, it’s like you’ve entered a self-sufficient city that does things a little differently than everywhere else.
You’ll have easy access to dining, transportation, pools, and many other things we’ve already discussed.
In addition, Disney is well-manicured, and you can expect touches of magic that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s the one all-inclusive thing that sets a stay here apart from anywhere else.
Before we wrap things up, I wanted to discuss a few critical changes to the resort benefits that you’ll need to be aware of when planning.
What Resort Benefits Are Out
All of the items listed below ended over a year ago or so. But we’ll leave them here in the meantime for guests who might have used them in the past.
First and foremost, FastPass+ is long gone. Its replacement is Genie+, a newer “cost-to-you” type of program.
Guests can still access standby lines and virtual queues (where applicable) at attractions. However, now you have to pay to enjoy shorter lines. So you’ll want to get familiar with how this system works moving forward.
Secondly, Disney’s Magical Express has ended. Disney formerly offered complimentary transportation from the airport to your Disney Resort hotel and back again.
Lastly, Extra Magic Hours, as we knew them, are no more. Instead, Disney implemented the early theme park benefit we discussed earlier, and it appears to be a new way of doing things, at least through 2023.
What Resort Perks Are Still on Hold?
There are a few things that aren’t taking place right now. One of them is the purchase to resort room delivery. That’s where you would make a purchase in the parks, and Disney delivered it to your resort.
My suggestion, have Disney ship your park purchases to your home if you don’t want to carry them. It will likely arrive at your house about the same time you do!
Several people have mentioned doing this with their lightsabers instead of having to deal with them on a plane. Sometimes spending a few extra bucks is worth the convenience.
You can check the exact status of this former perk here.
Perhaps, the most popular thing we’ve yet to discuss is the Disney Dining Plan. Unfortunately, at this time, dining plans are not available.
However, Disney has acknowledged that dining plans will return at some point in the future. But who knows when?
Final Thoughts on the Benefits of Staying at a Disney World Resort
As you can see, staying at a Disney World Resort offers many benefits, even with all the changes we’ve recently seen. From complimentary on-site transportation to the early theme park benefit, you’ll definitely want to take advantage of these perks.
With that being said, you’ll want to consider what’s not available anymore. Were these things big deals to your family? Did you always stay at a Disney Resort on prior trips because of the convenience of Magical Express?
For some, this might be a good time to weigh your options. Our guide to off-site hotels near Disney World article might give you a few suggestions.
Related: Best Off-Site Hotels Near Disney World
For more planning, check out a few of our related articles:
- The Single Parents Guide to Disney World
- Best Table Service Restaurants at the Disney Resorts
- Disney’s Boardwalk vs. Disney Springs
- Best Breakfasts at Disney World
In the Comments
What do you think about the benefits of staying at a Walt Disney World Resort? Do these pros outweigh some of the cons? Is there anything else you consider a perk of staying at a Disney Resort?