The benefits of staying "on property" in Walt Disney World

Ever since the first time the Hubby and I went to Walt Disney World together we have stayed "on property" at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. During our two week holiday we spent the first week in an Econolodge (no longer there) and half way through we transferred to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. We've stayed in one other hotel, The Swan Hotel, during a surprise week-long trip to Walt Disney World in 2008.

What is "on property"?

"On property" basically means that you're staying in a Disney hotel. The hotels are divided into sections - Value Resort Hotels, which includes Disney's Pop Century Resort and Disney's Art of Animation Resort - Moderate Resort Hotels, which includes The Cabins at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Disney's Port Orleans Resort - Deluxe Resort Hotels, which includes Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (our favourite) and Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Then there's the Deluxe Villas. If you stay at any of these properties you get lots of extra benefits when visiting Walt Disney World.


Disney's Magical Express Service

When you arrive at the airport you're going to have to get to your hotel, but Disney have this in hand if you aren't hiring a car. Disney's Magical Express Service transports you from Orlando International Airport to your Disney resort hotel via coach, including luggage delivery service at no extra charge.


At resorts and parks there's other free transport too including complimentary coach, ferry boat, or monorail. The Monorail travels between Magic Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Epcot, on the way stopping off at the Polynesian Resort, Contemporary Resort, and the Grand Floridian. There's also a ferryboat that travels between various resorts. And even if you DO hire a car you can still get in on the ferryboat action because there's a large ferryboat that travels from the Transportation and Ticket Center to the Magic Kingdom.

A Ferryboat waits at the dock for people to board. The sky is clear blue and people are walking into the ferry.

Free parking

If you happen to hire a car (which we do every time) you can rest easy on those parking charges because if you're staying on property you have free standard parking throughout the parks, water parks, Disney Springs, and the hotels (any of the hotels!). You can travel to between places without having to worry about parking charges.

Magic Bands

A Magic Band is a wrist band, something resembling a watch strap, available in 7 different colours that can be customised. Magic Bands can be used for all sorts of things including:

Unlocking your room at the Resort
Get into Theme Parks and Water Parks (valid park tickets required)
Charge food and merchandise (needs to be linked to a credit card at hotel check in)
Connect Photopass images to your account
Check in Fastpass+ attraction and entertainment lines

If you have charging set up on your Magic Band (you can also allow your children to charge if you want to - but don't have to) it means that you don't have to carry cash around - in fact we recently got told that Animal Kingdom Lodge is a cash-free resort. Tips can still be given in cash but for paying bills it's all cash-free.

Fantasy and reality often overlap.

Walt Disney

Dining Plan

When we booked our holiday staying at a Deluxe resort we get a Disney Dining Plan for free, but you can purchase it separately - or upgrade - if you choose.

The Disney Dining Plan gives you credits to pay for your meals throughout Walt Disney World. We have had a Dining Plan the last few times we've visited and find it very useful. It's basically a pre-payment system where you can redeem your credits on food or snacks (including drinks) purchases. The Disney Dining Plan can be used for restaurant meals (Table Service), fast food (Quick service), and snacks (drinks/sweets/churros/cake at shops).

A plate of food, containing Seabass on a bed of salad.

We love the Dining Plan, we can let the kids get their own snacks if they want to simply by scanning their Magic Band at checkout which helps them interact with Cast Members while not having to worry about money. They can choose to have snacks when they want them (as long as there's credits left) and we don't have to say 'no' all the time.

Extra Magic Hours

Get into the parks before everyone else, or stay later than everyone else - now doesn't that sound like a brilliant benefit? 

Each park opens an hour early (on different days) for Resort guests - so anyone staying at a Disney Resort can go to the park an hour earlier than anyone else. This means you may be able to get on that ride you've been looking forward to, without having to use up one of your Fastpass+ choices. You will need to have a valid park ticket (why would you be there if you don't?!) and your resort ID will be required (your Magic Band will work for this).

The Extra Magic Hours can be found via the My Disney Experience app or by checking the Times Guide either online or in your resort Welcome Folder.

Fastpass+ early access

FastPass+ is basically a way to beat the lines (sometimes) and get on those rides that end up being busy all of the time. Once you have purchased your park tickets you can link them to your account and then you can reserve access to a ride or entertainment up to 30 days in advance - you get 3 FastPasses at one park, per day. Once you've used your first three you can then book more if you choose to via a FastPass+ kiosk at the park or via the app.

When you stay "on property" you get early access to FastPass+, this means instead of the 30 days early access you get 60 days early access prior to check-in (and for the entire length of your stay) to book your FastPasses. So if you know you're definitely going to want to ride Everest on a particular day you could book it today if you were going to check in on 2nd July 2018.

Your reservations can be changed at any time, for example if you decide you can't make it to a ride or if inclement weather means you can't ride, you can change your FastPass+ reservation using the app or by visiting a FastPass+ kiosk in the parks.

A photo fo Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World. A train is coming out of the mountain and people in the train have their hands in the air. The sun is shining.

Charging and Delivering to your room

I've spoken about Magic Bands and how this allows to charge things to your account. When you're in a park and you want to buy something, if you don't have the Disney Dining Plan, you can do so by scanning your band and it will be charged to your account. You can also have things delivered to your resort. We have done this many times over the years and it always proves useful.

Imagine you're in one of the parks and have stopped into one of the many shops. Your little one has fallen in love with a huge Mickey Mouse plush and you don't have it in you to say no - but you don't want to have to carry it around the park all day. Not a problem - simply ask the Cast Member at checkout if you can have it sent to your resort. The Cast Members are more than happy to help and all you have to do is pick it up from the designated place (usually the resort shop) when you arrive back at your resort later in the day.

Like I said we've done this lots of times, we've bought art, cross-stitches, and plushes, to mention just a few things. We find it really useful.


This is one thing that I have only ever experienced at Animal Kingdom Lodge, although I'm sure it's the case at other Disney resorts. The instant I step into the lobby of Animal Kingdom Lodge I relax, it's almost like I'm home. The atmosphere is truly amazing. The magic flows into you the second you cross the threshold and the smiles from the Cast Members and the "Welcome Home" greetings make you feel so welcome.

A photo taken from a viewing point in Animal Kingdom Lodge showing part of the hotel and inside the Savannah.

At Animal Kingdom Lodge they have TVs in the lobby for the children to sit and watch, there are comfortable chairs, bean bags, and stools for the children to sit on too. They have clearly put thought into the check-in process and the fact that parents often have to go to Reception but they want the children to behave, so Disney have made it easier by offering entertainment for the children. But it's not just the TVs - in Animal Kingdom Lodge there's other entertainment too - and I have no doubt this is the case for the other resorts.

When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.

Walt Disney

I consider Animal Kingdom Lodge to be my second home, I truly feel like I belong when we arrive and I am instantly happier. Yes, I'm on holiday, but after hours of travel and being exhausted it can take a little time to adjust, but as soon as I walk through those big doors I feel like I'm home. It's magical.

But it's not just the welcome, Cast Members do their utmost to make you feel not only welcome but treasured. They go out of their way to help with any issues you may have. We had an issue the last time we visited, and for the life of me I can't remember what the issue was - why? Because they made it good. Cast Members did all they could to resolve the issue and went above and beyond for us. I love what the Hubby had to say about them...

"They value guest satisfaction more than any other company I've encountered."

And he's right too.

Walt Disney World is truly an amazing place and I cannot imagine staying anywhere but "on property" when we visit. There's something truly magical about being within Walt Disney World for your entire stay and I highly recommend it.

Are you about to book a holiday to Walt Disney World but not sure where to stay? Here are some benefits if you stay "on property" in Walt Disney World.

Have you stayed on property in Walt Disney World?

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