You have decided to visit Disney World, what now? Where do you begin? First thing first! What time of the year will you be going? What is your budget going to be? Once you have decided those two things, you are ready to begin!
If you are not use to humidity, Florida’s summers can be brutal. In fact the majority of the months have humidity, but the summer’s humidity can take its toll on you. I would try to avoid hurricane season and summer. Hurricane season starts in June with the worst months being August and September, and could last until November. I like to schedule my visits between November and early May for great weather.
I have been in September, and the heat and the humidity tire you out faster making your days shorter. We stayed on property and took advantage of early morning park entry to the parks. We were at the parks by 7:00 in the morning and did the majority of the rides, went back to the room during the height of the heat, and then returned to the parks in the evening when the sun set and cooler temperatures were out. During the warmer months this is something to consider. Making sure you are hydrated and cool is most important.
November, January, and February have been my favorite months to visit. Perfect weather, great deals, and in November you can see the Christmas decorations!
Now you have what month you would like to visit, and you have your budget… let’s book a room. I would tell you to stay on property 100 percent of the time, I am a big believer in all the amenities Disney has to offer. Being fully immersed in your vacation is the way to go. But, with COVID other hotels and amenities have been brought into consideration, and they are making staying off property look pretty good!
Staying on a Disney property meant you were able to access the Magical Express at the airport. You do not need to organize a shuttle to your hotel, nor do you have to grab your luggage! Disney sends luggage tags to your home to tag your bags, once your flight lands your bags are whisked away and put in your hotel room. Once you check your luggage at the airport upon departure, you will not see them again until you enter your hotel room! You then load onto your Magical Express bus and it will take you to your hotel on property, for free! Not having to lug your luggage all around the airport looking for your shuttle to take you to your hotel and shelling out extra money is priceless! Not to mention they do the same thing on your return flight home! They drop off tags for your bags to your hotel room the night prior to you leaving, tag your luggage then drop them off at bell services. They will make sure they make your flight home, and they arrange the Magical Express bus time for you back to the airport. It really is magical. Note that this service is ending at the end of the year, they will no longer offer it after this year. Big disappointment, this was one of the selling points for me.
Another selling point for staying on property was Magic Bands! They were free band they would send to your home prior to your trip and was the key to everything! You do not have to go to the front desk to check in, your Magic Band is your hotel key ( they check you in when you land so you can go straight to your room when you get of the Magical Express). You link your credit card on it and you can pay for almost everything in the park on your Magic Band! Your Photo Pass is also linked to your band. This is the last year they are sending Magic Bands to you for free, after that you will have to pay for them.
Staying on Disney property also allowed you extra hours at the park before opening. Another huge selling point! To be able to get in the parks before they open allowed you to ride all the rides that other wise would have long lines. During COVID they are not honoring early morning park hours for hotel guests.
Shopping! Yes, even shopping has staying on property advantages! I love being able to shop at the parks and not have to lug it around with me all day. If you make a purchase in the parks you can have it delivered to your hotel. As long as it isn’t the day before you are leaving, during the rest of your stay shop all you want and your shopping packages are delivered to your hotel. Each night when I returned to my hotel I would stop at my hotel gift shop and pick up the items I purchased that day throughout the parks. I think I spent more knowing I didn’t have to carry it around all day. You know how heavy those mugs are!
Transportation around the property is free! Staying on property has it’s advantage and this is one of them! Buses, monorails, ferries, Skyliner, and walking trails are some of the ways to move around the property. Busses are available at all Disney resort hotels. I am sure other hotels offer the same service, but not as frequent as the Disney buses, you can always find a bus!
Monorail Hotels: Polynesian, Grand Floridian, The Contemporary
Skyliner (gondola) Hotels: Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach, The Riviera, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Boardwalk
Ferry/Boat Hotels: Boardwalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Swan Hotel, Dolphin Hotel, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge
Now keep in mind the boats, Skyliner, and Monorail don’t go to all the parks. The Monorail from the resorts will only take you to the Magic Kingdom (unless you access the monorail from the Transportation Center, you can take the TC Monorail to Epcot). The Skyliner will take you to Epcot or Hollywood Studios, the boats depending on where you are will take you to Epcot/ Hollywood Studios, or Magic Kingdom. You can only take buses to Animal Kingdom. Ubers, or Lyft prices fluctuate depending on time and demand. It could be up towards $100 on some days just getting to your off property hotel a couple of miles away. Please keep this in mind. Renting a car is always an option but you will have to pay a fee per night at the hotel as well as parking each day at the parks.
Another advantage to staying on property? You are close! You are tired at the end of the day, staying on property means you’re a little closer to all the magic! Not to mention every property has a bus that will take you to Disney Springs. You defiantly wan to go to Disney Springs a few times on your trip, there is so much to see and do and eat there!
Disney has hotels they call “Good Neighbor” hotels that offer almost the same advantages as the Disney resorts without the hefty price. They are usually close to the parks as well. They offer shuttles, not like the Disney hotels, in fact a lot of them advertise park shuttles but what it really means is they drop you off at Disney Springs and you have to take the Disney bus going to a Disney hotel and take a bus from that hotel to the park you want to go to. That’s a lot of buses! Read your fine print or ask for an explanation of their shuttle system. Some offer “Early Morning Hours” like the Disney resorts (even though the are not offering it during COVID). Biggest draw to staying at a Disney Good Neighbor Resort is honestly the affordability. The rooms are less expensive you can stay longer.
Another thing to consider is where and how will you be spending your time? Do you have a few days to take advantage of the pool and other resort activities? Do you just need to place to sleep and shower? Will you be visiting other parks like Universal? Take all of these under consideration. If you have some days to space around the resort splurge a little and get one with a nice pool, great restaurants, and other activities. I have stayed at a hotel closer to Universal for two days once when I was going to do the Universal Studios Orlando and Island of Adventure, after doing the math on Ubers it was cheaper to get a room for the night right next to Universal and walk to the parks. After we checked into a Disney resort for the rest of our stay. I only did it this way because I was already in Orlando and would not be needing the Magical Express for the beginning of our trip. I needed it for the end of our trip so it made sense.
So many decisions! I have stayed at off property hotel – Gaylord Hotel, Good Neighbor Hotel – Hilton, and on Disney property – All Star Sports, Caribbean Beach, Pop Century, and Art of Animation. I have been super pleased with them all. They fit my needs at the time.
This will be an ongoing series of posts. I hope this article helped get you thinking as to where you want to stay when visiting Walt Disney World. This is just the beginning!
**All photographs are my own**