7. Nothing is actually "nearby" when you don't stay on property.
Walt Disney World takes up about 25,000 acres - or 40 square miles - which is geographically the same size as the city of San Francisco! By staying at a Disney resort hotel, you are right in the heart of the parks and all there is to do! Considering there are at least 5 miles of exits off I-4 for Walt Disney World, and you still have to drive a way to actually get to any of the park entrances, plus traffic ... you'll save a lot of heartache and time by just staying at a Disney resort hotel.
6. You save by not needing to pay for a taxi, Uber, or rental car.
When you stay onsite, the Disney Magical Express offers complimentary air-conditioned motorcoach bus transportation to and from your hotel from the Orlando airport (MCO). One of the best things - you don't even need to stop and wait for your luggage! Disney takes care of it for you and it just magically ends up in your room after you arrive! Plus, all the transportation onsite is also complimentary between theme parks, hotels, Disney Springs, water parks, miniature golf, and more!
5. You get FREE Magic Bands!
So these little rubber bracelets don't seem like a big deal - until you've ever stayed "nearby" and not at a Disney hotel. You literally feel lost without it! Besides being a cute fashion accessory - it has a little RFID chip in it that is programmed in to be your hotel room key, dining plan, park tickets, Fast Pass+, Photo Pass or Memory Maker, and even attach a credit card to charge back to your room (you set up a PIN so no one can steal your Magic Band and go on a shopping spree!) By the time your vacation is over, you'll be trying to use it to unlock the front door of your house when you get home! At $13-35 a piece, that can really add up for a family when you stay offsite.
I don't stay on property that often because I live in central Florida and typically make day trips to Disney, but I have friends coming to visit in 2 months and I'm treating them to their first Walt Disney World experience and spending a few days at the parks. When I set up my Fast Pass+ (the ability to jump to the front of the line on rides and character meet and greets), usually I don't have the luxury of getting the good rides like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Frozen because I only have up to 30 days before to set them up (and let's face it, only a few hours or days when I make a spontaneous trip to Disney). I'm not one that likes to wait 45 minutes or even sometimes HOURS for a ride that is only going to last about 3-10 minutes! I've never been on Frozen at Epcot - it opened a year ago - but this morning was the 60-day mark for our Fast Pass+ selections and you better believe that was one of the first rides I selected - I am pumped to FINALLY get to ride it... despite the drops I've heard about from friends (I can survive the one on Pirates of the Caribbean so I'm sure I'll survive this)! Plus I got Seven Dwarfs for the kids and they're beyond excited!
If you're going to eat at least one or two sit-down meals a day during your vacation, especially any all-you-care-to-enjoy buffets or character dining experiences, you could easily save money by adding a dining plan to your Disney resort hotel stay. This option is ONLY available if you stay on property - not available if you're at a "Good Neighbor" or other "nearby" hotel. The Dining Plan package usually costs about the same as a buffet dinner plus a snack... so your other meal(s), snack, and refillable drink mug for each day of your visit is pretty much free! You pay a set price per night of your visit and the dining "points" (entitlements) can be applied to any of your meals and snacks during the calendar days that you are checked in to your resort hotel. AND they make you eat dessert! I'm not going to argue with them on this one!
Got food allergies? Not only is Walt Disney World one of the happiest places on earth, it's also EXCELLENT when it comes to dining out with food allergies - without the fees that most restaurants upcharge (why should you pay $2 more for a gluten free bun or pizza crust?) The chefs and restaurant managers are well trained in food allergies and preventing issues like cross-contamination that can take place in "regular" restaurants. In the Disney "bubble", they typically have a separate, dedicated kitchen area that is just for preparing allergy-friendly meals. And they can modify or whip up just about anything your heart desires. Trust me on this - I pretty much cried the first time I had the gluten free fried chicken at 50s Prime Time Cafe!
Below: Finger-lickin' good gluten free fried chicken from 50s Prime Time Cafe (Hollywood Studios)
Hate crowds and lines? Me too! What if you had an extra hour or two every day where there's less than 40% of the normal number of people in the park? Enjoy Extra Magic Hours when you stay at a Disney resort hotel! Every day, one or two theme parks will either open an hour early or stay open a few hours late JUST for resort guests staying on property! Less time in lines and less people to deal with = more fun for you!
1. You are surrounded by the "magic" for your entire vacation!
There's just something about being in the "Disney bubble" when you stay on property - the Mousekeepers are super sweet, the front desk people are friendly, the bus drivers are hilarious, and the chefs will wow you! Everywhere you turn, there is a Cast Member that wants to add some magical moment to your vacation and create memories to last a lifetime!