There have always been certain perks or benefits to staying at a Walt Disney World resort hotel. Through the years, we’ve seen changes — some things have been completely removed, other things revamped. So what can you expect when you check into your Disney hotel?
You may be familiar with things like Disney’s Magical Express, Extra Magic Hours, and even package delivery to your resort hotel. But the times have CHANGED. So what’s included in your Disney resort reservation in 2022?
Free Theme Park Transportation
One of the best perks of being a Walt Disney World resort guest has always been the free theme park transportation. You don’t need to worry about a rental car once you’re on property, no need to pay for parking, and you can go ahead and enjoy the lounges and drinks with dinner — you’ve got a built-in designated driver. Disney transportation options boast buses, boats, monorails, and the latest addition, the Disney Skyliner.
The monorail system is one of the quickest ways to go between several of the deluxe resorts and Magic Kingdom, or from the Transporation and Ticket Center (TTC) to EPCOT. On the resort monorail, you can go from Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa to Magic Kingdom and the Transportation and Ticket Center. There’s also an express monorail that goes only from Magic Kingdom to the TTC for guests driving in and wanting to get to the entrance of Magic Kingdom via the monorail.
A second line takes guests from the Transportation and Ticket Center to EPCOT. You can take the monorail from those monorail deluxe resorts and transfer to this second line to go to EPCOT.
Disney World Skyliner Gondola System
The newest addition to the free theme park transportation list is the Skyliner. If you’re heading to Disney’s Hollywood Studios or if EPCOT’s International Gateway is your goal, the Skyliner can make your trip a little more scenic. Connecting to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, Disney’s Riviera Resort, and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, the Skyliner can be a quick alternative to resort buses, although waits can get a little bit long at park opening and closing.
The Skyliner is also an awesome way to travel between EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. And if you just want to head to the Boardwalk resort area for some evening dining or entertainment, the Skyliner can get you in fairly close proximity to a walking path or boat access.
Resort Boat Transportation
Ferries, water taxis, friendship boats — oh my! The various type of watercraft transportation will satisfy the sailor in you if you were hoping to traverse the Seven Seas (Lagoon, that is!). Water taxis can take you to Magic Kingdom from Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, the Polynesian Resort, and the Grand Floridian.
Trying to get to EPCOT or Hollywood Studios? Catch the watercraft leaving from Disney’s Beach Club Resort, Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, and Disney’s Boardwalk Villas. You can also sail your way to those parks from Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resorts.
You’re also in luck if you’re trying to get to Disney Springs from Disney’s Old Key West Resort, Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort, or Disney’s Port Orleans Resorts — both French Quarter and Riverside. There’s a boat for that trip, too!
All of the resorts have buses of some sort. Some resorts, like the All Star Resorts, share a bus. Other resorts only have bus transportation to destinations where there is no other form of transport (the Monorail or Skyliner, for instance).
The resort bus stops have schedules posted, so you’ll know when you arrive approximately how long your wait will be.
Recently, Disney announced a new service called “Hey Disney!” Disney has characterized this as a “custom voice assistant” that uses “Alexa technology for supported Amazon Echo devices.” The “Hey Disney!” voice assistant will work alongside Alexa and will respond to vocal prompts. You’ll be able to talk to “Hey Disney!” to request things like extra blankets or pillows (Disney notes you’ll be able to say: “Hey Disney! Can we have some extra towels?”), which will then be delivered by Cast Members.
Access to “Hey Disney!” will be offered as an optional, complementary feature during stays at Disney World’s resort hotels. It will start rolling out across the rooms at Disney World’s resort hotels in 2022, as part of the 18-month-long 50th Anniversary celebration.
Free Theme Park Parking
When you are adding up the cost of a Walt Disney World vacation, it’s easy to overlook parking fees. If you are staying onsite at a Walt Disney World resort hotel, you’ll have overnight parking fees at your resort. Planning to stay offsite? You’ll pay a daily fee to park at the theme park. So you’ll likely end up paying for some form of parking (if you drive yourself) regardless of where you stay, with a few exceptions. Luckily, parking is free at Disney Springs!
Cost of Parking
Just how much could you be saving if you are a resort guest using your own or a rental car to get to the parks each day? Well, parking for the theme parks is $25 per day, and if you park hop to another park, you don’t have to pay that fee again. Preferred parking is $45 to $50.
Parking your car at a value resort will be $15, a moderate resort parking spot will cost you $20, and if you’re staying at a deluxe resort or deluxe villa resort, you will pay $25 per night. It’s kind of a wash if you are staying at a deluxe resort.
There’s one other thing you need to know about parking. The parking fee for oversized vehicles is $30 for standard parking.
Extra Theme Park Time
Walt Disney World resort guests have long enjoyed the perk of having extra time in the theme parks with Extra Magic Hours. The tradition continues, but with a bit of a facelift on the program.
Early Theme Park Entry
If you are a resort guest at any of the Disney resorts, you’ll be eligible to take advantage of 30 extra minutes each morning at each of the four theme parks. You just have to show proof that you are a resort guest, and you can enjoy the theme parks for a full 30 minutes before the general public.
Although you won’t have access to all of the attractions, there’s a lot to do. Many of the most popular attractions will be available during the early theme park entry time frame.
Extended Evening Hours
For guests of select (key there being “select!”) Disney resorts, the fun doesn’t end when the theme parks close to non-resort guests. If you’re staying at one of Disney’s deluxe resorts or deluxe villa resorts (AKA the $$$ ones!), you’ll be able to enjoy up to two hours at select theme parks on some nights.
If you happen to be staying at Shades of Green or the Swan and Dolphin Resorts, you can also take advantage of these bonus hours. Only certain attractions are open, but we’ve seen pretty low wait times. That will let you see and do quite a bit in the extra time you have!
Want to know what the difference is between Extra Magic Hours and the New Extended Hours? Check it out HERE!
Resort Activities and Recreation
With online check-in and direct-to-room service now a thing, you might forget to stop by the front desk at your resort. You totally don’t want to do that! The resorts always have something going on, and the front desk will have a schedule of what’s happening. Don’t suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out). Find out what’s going on!
Movies Under the Stars and Campfires
At the end of a long theme park day, it’s nice to watch a movie and chill. Cozy up near the outdoor movie screen at your resort, bring a snack, and enjoy a favorite Disney movie. The movies are G or PG-rated, and they will usually be titles you and your kids already know.
You may also find accompanying the movies will be a good old-fashioned campfire! Many resorts have a firepit set up, and you can purchase S’mores kits to enjoy in the brisk, night air. Okay, it’s Florida — the less hot night air.
You will find some of the most incredibly themed pools at the Disney resorts. Water slides, splash pads, and other water and playground features combine to make the resort pool a destination in and of itself. Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club’s Stormalong Bay is almost a full-fledged water park experience in and of itself! We’re talking slides, sand-bottomed pools, a lazy river, and more!!
With only a few exceptions for Disney Vacation Club Members at other DVC resorts (when allowed), and at the Port Orleans resorts, pool hopping is not allowed, and if you aren’t a guest at a resort, you aren’t allowed to use the pool there. With how amazing some of the pools are, that’s a pretty awesome perk to staying at Disney!
Poolside Games and Activities
Well, sure you can go to the pool at your resort and just RELAX, but you just might be tempted to climb out of that lounge chair for some poolside fun. We’ve seen water balloon tosses, bingo games, hula hooping, and more. Look for activities like sunrise yoga to help get your day started. Namaste. (Keep in mind some of these activities, like sunrise yoga, may be temporarily suspended due to health concerns. Be sure to check!)
A lot of the activities are totally free — we are so here for free things on vacation. Others, like tie-dying t-shirts, and some holiday-themed activities, do have a nominal fee associated with them to cover the costs of materials.
Or shuffleboard. Or volleyball. Or whatever sports you may encounter at your resort. Many of the resorts will loan out sports equipment for free to resort guests, so you can partake in some healthy vacation competitions.
The resorts have different activities available, but you can grab a loaner basketball for a pick-up game at the Grand Floridian, or borrow some tennis racquets at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort. DVC members with proper ID can borrow equipment like volleyballs and tennis supplies for free. There is a small fee for other resort guests, but the use of the courts is included with your resort stay, so if you bring your own equipment you’re good to go!
After walking miles at a Disney theme park, you’ll be happy to know that you can then go back to your resort and work out again. Some of the resorts have fitness centers with equipment that can be used for free during your stay.
Hours vary at the fitness clubs, and some equipment may be put away at night — like the weights. You may need your resort key to access the fitness center, so have your smartphone, MagicBand, or key card with you.
Some of the resorts will have lawn games like chess or a Connect Four type of game that you can play as a resort guest.
The pieces for these games are usually already in place, but you can ask if you don’t see what you need.
Community Hall Rentals
Many of the Disney Vacation Club resorts feature Community Halls where you can hang out, play games, or kill time on a rainy day. Anyone staying at a resort with a community hall can take advantage of board games, foosball, ping pong, and other complementary activities, while other things, like DVD rentals, may come with a small fee for non-DVC members.
There is always a schedule of activities taking place in the Community Halls. Check them out for crafts and games if you have some downtime at the resort.
Unique Resort Experiences
You could argue that every hotel, wherever you go, provides you with a unique resort experience, but if you’ve seen one chain hotel room, you’ve pretty much seen them all, right? Not so at Walt Disney World.
You can enjoy your morning coffee while gazing across an African-like savanna full of incredible creatures at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Stick your toes in the sand at the Polynesian. Walk among giant icons from your favorite Disney movies at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. Relax in front of a giant stone fireplace, surrounded by vibes from the Pacific Northwest at Wilderness Lodge. It’s like you’ve gone to Florida and been somewhere else at the same time.
Each resort has self-service laundry facilities that guests can use during their stay. You can pack lighter to avoid those insane baggage fees, or you can relish the bliss of going home from vacation with all clean clothes. Better yet, you aren’t tied to the laundry room, losing precious vacation time. Go relax by the pool or have a cocktail. You’ll get text updates letting you know when to run back to avoid wrinkles! Some resorts do charge a minimal fee (usually around $3 per load) to use the machines. Soap and softener is usually available in machines in the laundry facility for about $1 a pop.
We can take this one step further. If you are staying at a deluxe villa resort, you may not even have to leave your room to do your laundry. The villas that are one-bedroom or larger have a washer and dryer right in the villa. They come with a single-serve box of detergent, but you can grab more at your resort gift shop.
Check out our tour of one of DVC’s most loved villas.
Arcades and other activities
Although not free, there are some activities and amenities included at the resorts that you can enjoy for a nominal fee. You’ll find game arcades, bike rentals, and even carriage rides at some resorts. These experiences are perfect enhancements if you are planning a day away from the theme parks or if you want to do shorter days at the parks while still enjoying some vacation activities.
Always check at your resort for anything fun you might be overlooking. They can steer you towards all the fun things.
Disney resort guests have a convenient bonus when it comes to carrying around wallets and handbags. You don’t have to. Use a MagicBand or your My Disney Experience app to charge snacks, souvenirs, meals, and more to your resort account.
MagicMobile is super convenient, and one of the biggest perks of being a resort guest if you like to travel light. Don’t forget to keep a photo ID with you, and if you have any type of discounts, like an annual pass or a Disney VISA card, keep those with you as well (you often won’t get your discount without them!).
Access to Your Resort
Ummm, what? What does that even mean? Well, in the current COVID climate, there have been some serious restrictions placed on who can come and go from the Walt Disney World resort hotels. Unless you have a resort reservation or a dining reservation in a particular resort, you generally are not allowed at that resort.
As you drive into any of the resorts, security will ask you your name and verify that you are either checking into that resort or have a dining reservation there, and you can be denied entry if you have neither. One workaround to this is to take resort transportation between the park and a resort since they won’t ask every person on a bus or boat for proof, but for the most part, the only one to be in your resort hotel is to “live there,” temporarily, at least. Welcome home!
Booking Individual Theme Park Attractions Ahead of the Crowd
We know, we know. You’re still weeding through all of the information about the new Genie, Genie+, and Lightning Lane. Did you even know this 7AM thing was a thing? It’s OK. We got you.
Disney resort guests who are opting to use the pay-per-ride service (Lightning Lane) will be able to make their selections beginning at 7AM on the day they wish to ride. All other guests will have to wait until the theme park opens. That gives you quite a leg up over non-resort guests at getting the attractions you want, especially during busier times, when there’s a chance a ride will sell out of its Lightning Lane option.
Bounce Back Offers
Oh, those glorious little notices that you will find only in your Walt Disney World resort room, enticing you to come back, enjoy more of the magic, and save some big bucks in the process…BEFORE YOU EVEN LEAVE. They may seem as rare as a golden unicorn, but they are a real thing, and they are only offered to resort guests.
The future stay offer may be a percentage off your resort room, or we have even seen free dining offered as a bounceback deal, back when the Disney Dining Plan was available (Note that the Dining Plan has yet to return since the reopening). You can only book these offers up until 10 PM on the day you check out, so you’ll definitely want to take a serious look at the offer if you plan to return. If you don’t see the notice in your room, you can also check with the front desk at your resort to see if a bounceback offer is available. Also, check your emails! There may not be a flier in your room, but an email from the resort general manager. There are rules to these offers, so check the fine print!
Things That May Become Available Again
There are a few things that have not yet returned since the reopening last year, but they are definitely perks of being a resort guest. One of these things was the package delivery service. You could souvenir shop to your wallet’s limitations and not have to carry a thing around with you. The shops at the parks would deliver the items to your resort, where you could pick them up usually by the next day. Although not currently available, it may return at a later date.
The other thing available only to resort guests is the Disney Dining Plan. This allows you to prepay for a number of meals and snacks at some of the restaurants at Walt Disney World. It’s returning…soon? Disney announced it WILL return but remained quiet on the actuals, so TBD. It’s a great budgeting tool for some people, and we expect this to return at some point in the future.
While Disney resorts may not always be the least expensive option available, there are always some perks or benefits to being a resort guest. Keep in mind that this list can change, so you can follow our latest news right here at the Disney Food Blog for any updates.