The benefits to staying at a WDW Resort have been slipping, but is it time for a come back?
2020 was a bizarre year and it brought a lot of changes to Disney World. Some of the changes were not merely COVID-related, some had been in process for a while. Over the past several years, the benefits to staying “on property” at a WDW Resort had been diminishing. It’s no secret the Nerd is a huge fan of staying on property partially for the benefits but just as much for convenience and staying in the “Disney Magic.”
Disney World list six benefits of staying at a WDW Resort:
- Early Access to FastPass+ Planning (and the whole FastPass+ program): SUSPENDED
- Extra Magic Hours: SUSPENDED
- Complimentary Transportation: REDUCED/ACTIVE
- Leave the Park, Not the Magic: ACTIVE (and a big one for us!)
- MagicBands: REDUCED/ACTIVE
- Disney Dining Plans: SUSPENDED
The Nerd completely understands some of the benefit suspensions and reductions. Given the unknowns everyone is facing, the reduced crowds, and adaptations like masks, Disney World needed to make some alterations. FastPass+ makes sense, especially with their liberal cancellation policy and the necessity for guests to plan last minute or call an audible on their vacation. The Nerds experienced first-hand in the summer of 2020 of the frustration of putting in the time to make FastPass+ plans only to have them altered or cancelled due to governmental and regulatory challenges associated with COVID-19.
Same goes for Disney Dining Plans and the unpredictability of being able to allow guests to utilize their dining plan as restaurant capacities were changing as rapidly as guests’ plans. With reduced crowds and the temporary closing of WDW Resorts, it didn’t make sense to continue with Extra Magic Hours (though it sure would have been fun!). The Nerd feels a little differently about the elimination of complimentary MagicBands, though a $5 charge for a standard color isn’t horrible.
But all of this begs the question: is it worth staying at a WDW Resort given these changes?
The answer is….drum roll….it depends! The reduction in benefits has been met with a reduction in room rates and Disney World packages and some interesting offers.
To be sure, there are great deals to be had throughout Orlando as resorts battle one another for guests. And now, more than ever, taking advantage of these offers will have the smallest impact on your Disney World experience. So all things being equal, if you have been wanting the try staying “off property”, this is the time to try it. If this is the first time you have seriously considered staying at a WDW Resort during your trip, we are all for it…the Nerds just remind you that you are not getting the full experience.
Currently, Disney World has a very flexible cancellation policy for packages – and this would include your park tickets – giving a boost in the column for an “on property” stay.
Plus, the Nerds are fans of staying at a WDW Resort whenever possible. More than anything, we feel it enhances the Disney experience. It ties the entire vacation together and makes you feel like you are being bubble-wrapped by Disney in a good way! It seamlessly ties the trip together and if you can stay somewhere with easy access to the Skyliner…do it!!
Even once you have made the decision to stay at a WDW Resort or not, know that you are just getting started. If you are staying “off property”, there are hundreds of options where you have to factor in price, distance to WDW, distance to restaurants, distance to the airport, etc. If you are staying “on property”, you have to decide between 33 different resort properties and that’s before you get into a debate over property type and room type.
Today, with the reduction in benefits, there is no clear winner and yet the Nerd (and Nerdlings) feel pretty passionate about staying at a WDW Resort because we think it’s a ton of fun and there are some great values out there! And you know how we feel about the value of the Pop Century Resort…