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  • Writer's pictureSophie from Most Magical Guides

Is Staying At A Disney World Resort Worth The Money Anymore?

Lots have changes have occurred at Disney World in the past year and a half and the Disney World Resorts have been impacted too.

So are the Disney Resorts still worth the money? What is different when staying at a Disney Resort now?

In this blog I will break down the pros and cons of staying at a Disney World Resort now and whether they offer value for money anymore!

The Pros

Free Transportation

Disney Resort Guests can take advantage of the free transportation that takes you all around Walt Disney World Resort.

All resorts have free buses that take you to the parks and Disney Springs but many also have a second mode of transport such as Disney Boats, the Monorail or the Skyliner.

Free transport is amazing as you don't need to hire a car to visit Disney World or pay for taxis or shuttles, you can get everywhere on site with their free transportation! This can help save you money and is super convenient.

Check out my blog post all about the free Disney transportation versus hiring a car.

Booking 10 Days Of Your Dining At The 60 Day Mark

Booking dining reservations is a big part of any Disney World trip and in the past year and a half has become harder than ever with fewer restaurants open and limited seating capacity.

One big advantage Disney Resort guests have is being able to book their entire trips dining (up to 10 days) at the 60 days mark!

People not staying in a Disney Resort can only book their dining reservations one day at a time, exactly 60 days before each date.

This is a massive benefit for resort guests as it means they have the best chance of booking the hardest to get dining reservations.

Cheaper Genie+

Disney have just announced that Brits purchasing new Disney World tickets will be able to add Genie+ to their booking for £6.99 a day. This is a great saving as Genie+ ususally costs $15 per day, per person!

This offer is currently for the newly released ticket for UK guests called the Magic Ticket. This replaces the previous Ultimate Ticket.

The difference between the new Magic Ticket and the old Ultimate Ticket is that the Magic Ticket requires you to set a date you will be visiting the parks, whereas Ultimate Tickets were undated (they just had to be used within the same year they were for).

The downside to this new dated ticket system is that ticket prices fluxcuate depending on the time of the year.

The benefits are that you can now use your 14 days ticket over an 18 day timespan (instead of the previous 15) which is great for people doing 3 week trips as you will have more flexibility!

The big bonus is being able to add Genie+ to the entirety of your trip for less than £100 for 2 weeks!

You don't have to add Genie+ to the entire trip. Instead you are able to purchase it one day at a time at $15 per person, per day. This can be a cheaper option as you may just want to try Genie+ for a few days of your trip, if you felt the parks were busy.

But if you are wanting to be able to skip the queue every day of your trip then adding on the Genie+ option for £6.99 is the best, and cheapest, way to do this!

Although this offer is technically only available to purchase with new tickets people there have been reports of people who have bought tickets or packages directly with Disney with the old Ultimate Ticket that have been able to add Genie+ for £6.99 a day to their booking!

Read more about how Genie+ works and my opinion piece on whether Genie+ will benefit, or ruin, your trip!

First To Book Individual Lightning Lane Passes

People staying in a Disney World Resort can book their Individual Lightning Lane Passes at 7am, whereas people staying off-site have to wait until the parks open to book theirs.

The Individual Lightning Lanes Passes can sell out so this is a bonus for resort guests. When this system was first introduced in October 2021 there were days where all the Individual Lighning Lane passes for some attractions were sold out before park opening, leaving day guests with no opportunity to purchase them.

If there are certain rides, such as Rise of the Resistance or Remy's Ratatouille Adventure, that you cannot miss during your trip staying at a Disney Resort can help ensure you can buy the Individual Lightning Lane passes to ride these attractions.

30 Minutes Early Entry To The Parks

Disney World Resort guests are able to enter the parks 30 minutes early each day. This gives them the advantage of being able to head straight to the rides they wish to ride and get on them first, before the park is open to day guests!

Extended Evening Hours

Disney World recently launched Extended Evening Hours. On select days of the week Magic Kingdom and EPCOT stay open for an extra 2 hours exclusively for deluxe and DVC resort guests. This is a way to experience the parks with far fewer people and shorter wait times.

Check out the Disney World web page all about this to find out what resorts are included, what rides are available to enjoy and the schedule!

Save Money With Free Park Parking

If you do hire a car you will need to pay to park at your Disney World Resort but you do get free park parking. If you are staying in a value or moderate resort you can actually save money on parking this way!

To pay to park at the parks cost $25 a day. To park at a value resort is $15 a night and a moderate resort is $20 a night so you can save money this way!

It costs $25 to park at a deluxe resort per night, which is the same amount as park parking.

Theming Of The Resort

If you are looking for the full Disney experience staying in a Disney World Resort can offer you this! Some of the resorts have special Disney themed rooms, such as the Royal Guest Rooms at Port Orleans Riverside or The Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation Resort.

You can also have unique rooms, such as a savannah view room at Animal Kingdom Lodge where you can see zebras and giraffes from your room or the treehouse cabins at Saratoga Springs.

Proximity To The Parks

If you are staying in a deluxe resort the proximity to the parks is a big perk. The Contemporary Resort is just a 5 minutes walk to Magic Kingdom, The Grand Floridian Resort is a 15 minute walk, or one monorail stop, from Magic Kingdom and the Polynesian Resort is two monorail stops away. Wilderness Lodge is just a short boat ride away from Magic Kingdom.

If you are staying in a BoardWalk Resort such as Yacht Club, Beach Club or BoardWalk Inn, you can walk to both EPCOT and Hollywood Studios or catch a boat that takes you between the two.

If you would like to stay in a moderate or value resort that has good connections to the parks consider staying in a resort on the Skyliner route. The Skyliner connects Hollywood Studios and EPCOT via Caribbean Beach Resort, Riviera Resort, Art of Animation Resort and Pop Century Resort.

The Disney Bubble

One of the biggest reasons people like to stay at a Disney World Resort is to stay in the 'Disney Bubble'. This is the feeling of being immersed in Disney during your whole trip, rather than just visiting the magic during the day! There really is something special about this feeling and is the best way to get the full Disney experience.

The Cons

Many Perks Removed

A lot of the perks previously offered to stay at the Disney World Resorts have been discontinued. There is now:

  • No Free Magic Bands

  • No Extra Magic Hours

  • No Free Magical Express

  • No Free Reusable Cup

  • No Free FastPass

The free FastPass+ system has now been removed and replaced with paid for Genie+ system. This hasn't been welcome news for anyone visiting Disney World, as something that was once free now costs money, but this change impacts resort guests in an additional way. People staying at a Disney Resort were able to book their FastPasses 60 days before their trip, whereas day guests could only book theirs 30 days beforehand. This meant resort guests had the best chance of getting the hard to get FastPass reservations.

Now everyone can purchase Genie+ from midnight on the day of their visit. You can then book your first reservation at 7am. So there is no benefit for resort guests as this is a system open to everyone at the same time.

Disney Resort Guests have a slight advantage when it comes to booking the Individual Lightning Lane passes as you can book them at 7am, whereas day guests have to wait until the parks open.

The Disney Dining Plan is also currently suspended. It it thought that it will return in the future, but whether the free dining plan offer will ever return is in doubt. This was a fantastic deal for Brits and saved tons of money! We have seen the free dining credits offer for 2022, which does help with costs, but is not as good an offer as the free dining plan. Read my post all about how to get the most out of your free dining credits in you are visiting in 2022!

Early Park Entry

This feature makes it on both the pros and cons list! Although you do get to enter the park 30 minutes early it is too short a time to have any real benefit so it is not really that big a perk for resort guests.

Extended Evening Hours

This is another perk on both the pros and cons list! The extra evening hours is only offered to Deluxe and DVC guests, which means value and moderate resort guests don't get anything similar to the previously offered Extra Magic Hours.

The bad news for Deluxe and DVC guests is that these Extended Evening Hours are only two nights a week, one in Magic Kingdom and one in EPCOT. There is a chance, depending on how long you stay, that you may only get one, or even no, extra hours in the parks.

First To Buy Individual Lightning Lane Passes

Resort guests will be able to buy Lightning Lane passes at 7am before day guests so will get the best chance of getting passes for rides like Rise Of The Resistance. But essentially Disney are allowing you to be the first people to pay more to ride rides. You also have to be awake early which is not everyone's idea of fun whilst on holiday!

Updated Rooms Have Lost The Disney Theming

A lot of Disney Resorts have had updates in the past few years but sadly some of these updates have taken away a lot of the Disney theming. The rooms, particularly in the value resorts, look sleek but there is much less Disney theming, usually just some artwork on the walls.

The move from full on Disney theming to a subtle nod means the resorts can feel less exciting and a bit more like a standard hotel you can book anywhere. So this begs the question do you pay more to stay onsite for a room somewhat similar to something offsite that would cost significantly cheaper?

Prices Still Incredibly High

Although a lot of the perks have been removed the prices have not changed, and in fact are higher than ever! The high price is due to many things, including less staff and therefore fewer rooms available to be sold, many people needing to reschedule trips which causes a surge in pricing and Disney wanting to recoup money lost in the pandemic. Unfortunately all of this gets passed onto the guests who get far, far less for their money with trips costing far, far more than before.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go (Somewhere Else)?

I love staying in the Disney Bubble, I love the theming of the resorts and the love the convenience of being so close to the parks. But do I currently think the resorts are worth the extra cost? Sadly not. This is due to the higher than ever costs with virtually all the previous benefits taken away.

I would say that if you get a Disney offer, such as the free dining credits in 2022 offer or a discounted rate, it can work out well. But you do need to do all the maths to see if it is viable or whether by staying at a Disney World Resort you would end up paying significantly more with little to show for it.

For example, staying at an off site hotel you will need to factor in the cost of resort fees, hotel parking and paying to park at the theme parks, which can add huge costs to your trip. Once factoring all these in it can work out about the same, or just slightly more, to stay on-site at Disney. In this instance I think it is worth the extra money.

If you would love to stay at a Disney resort and maybe you are celebrating a special occasion then the extra costs may also be worth it.

My next trip I originally booked to stay off-site as I had a fantastic deal for 2020. When it came time for me to book my Disney dining I had a very hard time getting the reservations I wanted. When that trip unfortunately was cancelled and couldn't go ahead Disney had launched the free dining credits offer.

Because of these two factors I decided to treat myself to staying at Disney World. Once I did the maths although staying at a Disney Resort cost slightly more, I would be saving money on food because of the free dining credits offer and would also receive a $200 gift card. In total the offer gives me $704 dollars so taking that into account the diffence between staying on-site and off-site wasn't that large.

The cost of staying off-site had also increased a lot as travel is now opening up. So it worked out there wasn't much difference, once you factor in all the costs.

Staying On-Site at Universal Orlando

A lot of people are now considering staying at a Universal Orlando hotel instead of a Disney World Resort. This is because Universal Orlando hotels can be a lot more affordable and you are still close to a theme park.

A massive benefit to staying in one of the Premier hotels at Universal is that Express Pass included in the price, which can save you tons of money! The Express Pass starts from $85 a day per person and can reach over $300 a day per person in peak times of the year! The Express Pass is even included in both your check in and check out days so you get the most out of it!

The value resorts at Universal Orlando are far cheaper than the value resorts at Disney World and are much more affordable.

All Universal Orlando Hotels include free transport to the parks and many are within walkable distance too!

All Universal Hotel guests also get 1 hour early entry to the parks! This is a great perk as you can head straight to the rides that get the biggest queues and ride them with a much shorter queue time.

Universal hotels are far cheaper to stay in, include free transport and have a variety of hotel categories for all budgets. Compared to Disney World, where even the value resorts are expensive and many of the perks have been taken away, staying at a Universal Orlando hotel is more and more appealing!

Staying Off-Site in Orlando

Staying off-site in a hotel, villa or Air BnB can be significantly cheaper than staying on site at a Disney World hotel.

The only real disadvantage to staying off-site currently is having to work out your transportation to the parks, booking Disney dining reservations and having to wait till the parks open to buy Individual Lightning Lane passes. Not all people will want to dine at table service restaurants in Disney or buy Individual Lightning Lane passes so if that is the case the only downside is getting to the parks!

Many off-site many hotels offer shuttles to the theme parks or you can use services such as Uber or Lyft to make your way there. If you stay in the Lake Buena Vista Area you are super close to Disney so this helps you keep transportation costs down.

The money you can save on the room rate by staying off site can then go towards theme park shuttles, car hire and parking fees or taxi fares.

People travelling in groups or families may enjoy staying in a villa as you have lots of room and amenities to enjoy and won't need to spend a lot of money on multiple hotel rooms.

Check out my blog post all about whether you should stay on site or off site to see the pros and cons of both!

Split Stay

Another way to stay at Disney but save some money is to do a split stay. If you stay for part of your trip at a Disney Resort you can get the benefits, the experience and the chance to stay in the Disney Bubble but then reduce your costs by staying off-site for the rest of your trip.

This gives you the best of both worlds!

Check out my blog post to find out all about doing a split stay between Disney World and Universal Orlando!

So Should You Pay More To Stay At A Disney World Resort???

Whether the Disney World Resorts offer good value for money anymore can sometimes come down to personal preference. Benefits such as free transportation, close proximity to the Disney Parks and getting the magical feeling of staying in the Disney Bubble can be a good enough incentive to splash out on a Disney World hotel!

Other factors to consider are whether you need the (small) advantages you now get as a resort guest. For example if there are certain rides you cannot miss and plan to use Individual Lightning Lane Passes, or you are desperate to book some Disney dining reservations, then the ability to get ahead of day guests can really enhance your trip.

With so much accommodation available in Orlando, and with Universal offering more affordable accommodation with added perks, there is a wide variety of options of where to stay that can cost significantly less than staying at a Disney World Resort.

To truly see whether the costs add up it is a good idea to work out the total price of your trip if staying at a Disney World Resort or an off site property. Sometimes you can be surprised there is not much difference once you factor in all the costs!

Things to consider are:

  • The room rate

  • If there are any resort fees to be paid in off site properties (there are none at a Disney Resort)

  • Accommodation Parking Fees

  • Theme Park Parking Fees

  • Dining Costs

  • Cost of Genie+ and / or Individual Lightning Lane Passes

  • Any offers by Disney, such as a free dining credits or a $200 gift card, that can save you money on your trip

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