Sophie from Most Magical Guides
Should You Pay More to Stay At A Disney Resort in 2021 With So Few Benefits On Offer?
A trip to Disney World is a dream vacation! Staying on-site at a Disney Resort can add so much to the experience. But is it worth paying the extra cost currently?
Disney have removed a lot of the benefits that were offered to guests who stayed at one of their properties to cut costs to help recover funds that were lost due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Let's look at some of these benefits that are currently not being offered and whether you still get your monies worth staying at a Disney Resort in 2021.
No Extra Magic Hours
Extra Magic Hours were a benefit offered to resort guests, where they could enter the parks one hour early or stay two hours later than day guests. This was a great benefit as it gave you more hours to enjoy the parks and also enabled you to experience them with lower crowd levels.
If you visited on a day where the parks opened early you could head straight to the most popular rides to take advantage of being some of the first people in the queue!
When the Disney Parks reopened in July 2020 Extra Magic Hours were off the cards. As park capacity was reduced for safety there was less need to offer these extra hours as queue wait times were reduced. Cutting these extra hours also helped reduce running costs.
However in recent months the wait times for rides have been creeping up as more and more people visit the parks. Now we are starting to feel the impact of not having Extra Magic Hours.
Disney have just announced that later this year they will be offering Early Guest Entry. This will enable resort guests to enter any park 30 minutes early than day guests. You will still need Park Pass Reservations for the park you wish to visit that day. It will give resorts guest a slight advantage to head to the attraction they wish to ride first but 30 minutes is not a long enough amount of time to give any significant benefits.
No Free Magic Bands
When staying at a Disney Resort you would receive free Magic Bands which worked as your room door key and park tickets plus linked you FastPass+ reservations, dining plan credits and your Photo Pass photos to your My Disney Experience account.
Disney have recently announced they will stop giving away free Magic Bands to resort guests. You can still purchase Magic Bands online before your trip to be delivered to you (for US guests) or to purchase them in the parks and resorts. You may also still be able to use a previously owned Magic Band (depending on the model).
Instead resort guests will now receive a Key To The Magic card. This card will work much the same as a Magic Band and will open your resort room door, be your park ticket and connect your Photo Pass images to your My Disney Experience account where you can view and download them.
You can also use the My Disney Experience app to do things like enter your resort room with the virtual room key feature, check in to your dining reservations and book your Rise of the Resistance Boarding Passes.
Receiving a complimentary Magic Band was a great feature of staying at a Disney Resort as it made life so easy just using a band on your wrist to do so much at Disney! The Key To The Magic card does offer most of the features a Magic Band does but will need to be taken out and put somewhere safe every time you need to use it.
No Luggage Tags Sent To You
A really fun touch was when you received your Disney luggage tags! They came in a range of designs and were a lovely gift to add some sparkle to your trip!
Although resort guests will no longer receive their luggage tags in the post you can request them at the front desk of your resort at any time during your stay. I am glad to still be able to collect these!
No Dining Plans
The Disney Dining Plan was a pre-paid meal plan. The Dining Plan was a great option for people wanting to not worry about budgeting for their dining during their trip or to know the majority of their trip was paid for in advance.
You could purchase one of the available dining plans ahead of your trip and know all your meals and snacks were already paid for. No need to worry about how much money to take with you for food, everything was covered in advance!
There were different types of dining plan.
Quick Service Dining Plan - 2 quick service meals and 2 snacks a day
Disney Dining Plan - 1 quick service meal, 1 table service meal and 2 snacks a day
Deluxe Dining Plan - 2 table service meals and 2 snacks a day
The Dining Plan was something resort guests had to pay extra for but many people enjoyed this option.
The cancellation of the dining plan was particularly bad for Brits as the Free Disney Dining offer was a massive benefit to staying on-site! On my last trip I saved all my receipts from all the meals and snacks we had on the Disney Dining Plan and it saved us over $2000!
When Disney World shut in March 2020 the Dining Plan was suspended and all pre-purchased Dining Plans were cancelled. There is currently no date for the dining plan to be reintroduced but when it is it is unlikely the free dining offer will be available.
It is possible that in a few years time the amazing free Disney Dining offer may once again be advertised as it was a fantastic deal and a great incentive for Brits to pay more to stay on-site. But there were also rumours that the free dining deal was looking to be phased out and Covid may have sealed the deal.
Not all of the Disney Resorts are currently open so this may impact you if the resort you want to stay in is still closed.
If you have a reservation for one of the resorts that is yet to have a reopening date then you will be automatically moved to another Disney Resort. This can sometimes work out in your favour as some people have reported getting upgraded!
Four more Disney Resorts scheduled to reopen this year. They are:
All-Stars Movies Resort – 22nd March 2021
Beach Club Resort – 30th May 2021
Wilderness Lodge – 6th June 2021
Summer 2021 – Polynesian Village Resort
By this summer the majority of Disney World Resorts will have reopened.
With less resorts being open this can mean prices can increase as less rooms are available across Walt Disney World Resort properties.
It may also be a slight inconvenience if you booked a resort for a specific reason, such as it's location, it's transportation options or the restaurants on offer at that particular resort. If the resort you have booked is still closed and you are moved to another resort it may not have the facilities you were looking for.
Disney World has over 200 restaurants on its property! Luckily a large majority of these dining locations have reopened. However not all restaurants are currently open. This may impact your plans if a restaurant you were hoping to dine is remains closed.
Fan favourite restaurants such as Ohana, Boma, 1900 Park Fare and Trail's End Restaurant remain closed at this time.
Many Disney Resorts may now be open but it may be the case that not all the restaurants at the resort are open. This may be something to consider if you like to dine at your resort.
If this is the case it is good to research before you book which restaurant are available for you to dine in.
For an up-to-date list of which restautants are currently open at the four Disney Parks, Disney Springs and Disney Resorts check out my Guide to Restautants Currently Open at Walt Disney World!
Magical Express stopping in 2022
Disney just announced the shocking news that the Magical Express, the complimentary coach service that takes Resort guests from Orlando MCO International Airport to their Disney Resort and back, will no longer run from 1st January 2022!
Mears, the company that operates the Magical Express, have announced that they will continue a service from the airport to the Orlando theme parks and resorts. This is great news as it means you can still easily to get Disney via a coach shuttle but this will now be a paid service.
In 2023 a Brightline train station will be opening at Disney Springs that will connect Disney with South Florida. The great news is this service will also connect Orlando MCO airport to Disney Springs, giving guests another mode of transport to get to Disney World.
Although the Magical Express will be stopping in 2022 Disney do offer other complimentary transport. If you are staying on-site you can easily travel around the whole of Walt Disney World Resort using the complimentary buses, ferries, monorail and the Skyliner. This is one of the big benefits of staying on-site at a Disney Resort currently.
When the Disney Parks reopened in July 2020 the FastPass+ system was suspended. With lower capacity, and therefore lower wait times, this system was not needed to help people skip the wait time.
Although everyone who visited Disney World could use the FastPass+ system Disney Resort guests had the added benefit of being able to book their passes 60 days in advance. Day guests could book their passes at the 30 day mark. This gave resort guests a huge benefit to snag the hard to get passes for the most popular attractions such as Flight of Passage, Slinky Dog Dash and 7 Dwarfs Mine Train.
The FastPass+ system did have some controversy as people believed it pushed the normal queue time up as the FastPass+ queue funnelled into the normal queue. But this is why it worked out as such a great benefit to resort guests! They had a much better chance of being able to get the best of the FastPass+ system. Having paid big money to stay at a Disney Resort it was one of the best perks to help you maximise your Disney experience.
No Fireworks or Nighttime Spectaculars
The lack of fireworks may not be an obvious disadvantage to resort guests but it will be if you have paid for a park view room. A park view room costs more but one of the benefits is that you could watch nighttime spectaculars from your room!
If you currently stay in a park view room you can stillget the amazing views looking over the parks but you can't watch the fireworks from your room.
So Should You Pay To Stay at a Disney Resort in 2021?
Although lots of benefits to staying at a Disney Resort have been stopped, it is hoped these are temporary measures. Because of the Covid-19 operational changes, the closure of Disney World for four months in 2020, the continued impact of Disneyland remaining closed and Disney being unable to film or release movies into cinemas, Disney are needing to cut costs.
Hopefully some of these benefits will return once Disney start to recover. Disney will need to bring back benefits to entice people to stay at a Disney resort, to justify the hefty sums.
If you are looking to experience the full benefits of staying at a Disney Resort, it is your first trip to Disney World or is it your once in a lifetime trip to Disney World postponing your Disney Resort stay until 2022 may be a better option for you. Don't forget you pay a premium for these benefits and with so many stripped away, without any reductions in prices, you aren't getting as much bang for your buck as you would usually get!
Staying at a Disney Resort costs a premium so without the usual benefits does it make sense for you to pay out such a large sum of money with less in return?
Pluses to Staying At A Disney Resort in 2021
But it is not all doom and gloom! Here are the current benefits of staying at a Disney World Resort.
You are in the Disney bubble!
You can use the complimentary Disney transport to get around to all the parks, resorts and Disney Springs. This saves a lot of money on car hire, parking or taxis.
You can easily take breaks during the day and head back to your resort room. This is a great bonus if you have children or if you fancy resting your feet or enjoying the Resort swimming pools to cool off!
If you have a car you only pay to park at your resort. Resort guests get free Park parking. If you are staying at a value or moderate resort the cost of parking there is cheaper than the cost of parking ath the parks so you can save money! It costs $15 a night to park at a value resort, $20 at a moderate resort and $25 at a deluxe resort. It costs $25 to park at the Parks each day.
The Electrical Water Pageant has returned! This is a great way to have some nighttime entertainment. Head to one of the resorts around Seven Seas Lagoon to see this light spectacular!
Later this year Early Entry for Resort guests will be available to use. Although it is only an extra 30 minutes you can head straight to the most popular attractions to be the first in the queue.
Remy's Ratatouille Adventure is opening this year. As a new attraction this will be super popular and will attract long queues. Be sure to use the Early Park Entry benefit to head straight to this new ride once it is open!
Modified Character Dining is now available. You can enjoy these modified character experiences at Chef Mickey's in the Contemporary Resort and at Toplino's Terrace at the Riviera Resort.
Caravan Around The World pop up experiences are happening at the resorts. This is a great way to still get to see characters at your resort but with safe physically distancing in place. The RV will arrive at random times throughout the day so keep your eyes peeled!
Whether it is worth splashing the cash to stay on-site at Disney World at the moment really comes down to the type of trip you are looking to have.
If you don't mind missing out on the benefits, as they are features that are less important to your trip, then a 2021 stay in a Disney Resort can still be a wonderful experience for you!
If you are wanting the full Disney experience and to get the most out of your money staying at a Disney Resort in 2021 isn't going to offer you your monies worth. Postponing until 2022 will give time to hopefully see these benefits return.
If you liked this post check out my two other articles about planning a Disney World trip in 2021!
Should I Cancel My 2021 Disney World Trip?
What Recent Updates Tell Us About Disney World in 2021
Are you planning a Disney World trip in 2021? Do you think enough benefits are being offered to make staying at a Disney Resort worthwhile?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, over on Instagram @most.magical.guides or on Facebook!