If you’re planning a trip to “the most magical place on Earth” this summer, you might want to think twice about staying at an on-site hotel. As some perks are no longer available due to health precautions, it might not be worth it to book that Finding Nemo room on this trip.
Disney World has been open to the public since July 2020 after closing in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The park has seen a steady increase in crowds since then and Summer 2021 is looking to be extremely busy. As more people get vaccinated and families try to make up for trips lost over the last year, the upcoming months are going to be a popular time to visit.
Disney has implemented multiple health-related policy changes since the parks reopened, from requiring masks at all times to limiting the capacity on rides. Many of these changes have also resulted in the removal of several perks that used to come with staying in one of its hotels. The prices, however, remain the same.
Table of Contents
There are three main types of accommodations to explore when visiting Disney World:
- On-site Disney hotels: These properties are owned by Disney World.
- Off-site hotels: There are many convenient hotels and resorts that are not owned by Disney.
- Private rentals: You can also use a website like Airbnb or VRBO, to rent a privately owned home or apartment near the parks.
Each option has its own pros and cons. Price, location, and amenities all need to be taken into account.
It’s common for people who are doing multiple things in Orlando, like visiting Universal Studios or other parks, to stay at a location somewhere between all of their destinations. However, this will depend on what you want to get out of your vacation.
Before the pandemic, staying at an on-site Disney hotel offered a long list of perks. Hotels guests used to be given complimentary MagicBands, which were bracelets that can link to your hotel key, park tickets, and wallet for convenience around Disney World. MagicBands now have to be purchased by all guests for $15-$25.
Other historic perks that no longer exist include the following:
- Extra Magic Hours: These allowed guests into certain parks before or after the official opening or closing time.
- Packages: You used to be able to pick these up directly at your hotel.
- Flight check-in: You used to be able to get assistance with this at the hotel front desk for your flight home.
- Disney Dining Plan: You used to be able to purchase this prepaid meal option at your hotel that was extremely popular.
- FastPass+ reservations: Hotel guests used to be able to book these “skip the line” passes 30 days earlier than other park guests. At this writing, they’ve been completely suspended.
So, what benefits have actually stuck around since Disney World reopened? On-site hotel guests still have the main benefit of convenience.
Disney World is huge and staying on the property allows you to be much closer to one or more of the six parks spread out all over Orlando. Some on-site hotels are even within walking distance to a park or two.
Hotel guests also receive complimentary transportation around the parks and hotels via buses, ferries, Monorail, or the Skyliner. Finally, many people enjoy the feeling of the “Disney Bubble” that they never have to leave for their entire vacation when they stay on-site.
Before the pandemic, most people who chose to stay in an off-site hotel or home rental while visiting Disney World did so because of price. The ability to get extra time at the parks and book FastPass+ reservations for popular rides with long lines used to require less time to see and do everything.
This could, theoretically, save money on hotel costs, park tickets, and food if you didn’t need as many days to fit everything in.
However, all of the benefits that could potentially save money, or at least equal the cost of a longer trip in an off-site hotel, are currently gone. This makes it much harder to justify staying on-site if finances are a concern, especially as those hotels cost $500+ per night.
The most practical accommodation option for Disney World this summer is staying off-site. You can splurge on a Disney hotel or resort when all the perks are reinstated.
Of course, it’s up to you. If you really want to stay on-site, you’re taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip, or you think the current perks are good enough, go for it!
While you’re prepping for your trip, kick the anticipation up a notch by making some of these famous Disney treats at home!