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Is it possible to have too many Disney tips? Well, yes, if they're from your crazy uncle Louie, but not if they're straight from the experts, the folks who plan perfect trips for others day-in, day-out: Disney travel agents! Keith Anderson, an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner and co-owner of Mouseketrips, has been doing that for years. He's learned a lot about Disney, especially how to save money on a Disney vacation without skimping on the frills or the thrills. Every week, in Disney Travel Tips from Mouseketrips, Keith will distill new Disney wisdom - just for you! Don't tell Uncle Louie...

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FROM: Disney Travel Tips from Mouseketrips Published Saturdays

The Many Splendors of Disney Hotels

When you hear people say they intend to book an off-site hotel for their Disney vacation, it's time for an intervention. The arguable savings of a few dollars per night simply doesn't stack up to the many perks of 24/7 Disney magic.

A few years after Walt Disney built Disneyland, he quickly realized that he didn't leave enough of a buffer between the park and the encroaching world of tacky motels and cheap eats. To this day at Disneyland, many of the non-Disney hotels on Harbor Boulevard are closer to the theme parks than the Disneyland hotels.

When Walt started planning Walt Disney World, one of his strokes of genius was to leave miles of buffer between his theme parks and any non-Disney property. Of course, today, the fact that your hotel is a few miles away from the parks isn't going to deter anyone from staying off-site.

I used to stay off-site all the time at Disney World. It was mainly a monetary decision, as we owned a timeshare not too far away, and with a large and young family, it just worked well for us. Then one trip, we decided to stay on-site at Dixie Landings (now known as Port Orleans: Riverside). From that stay onward, we never set foot in another off-site hotel again. Disney does a fantastic job of providing enough perks for me to stay onsite, even though (at first) it is usually more expensive.

Here's why you should stay in a Disney World resort hotel:

  • Disney Discounts - Staying in a non-Disney resort excludes you from any of the special packages that Disney runs from time to time. Whether it is Kids Stay and Play Free or the Free Disney Dining promotion, these discounts often bring your package price down to below what you can get staying off-site.
  • Extra Magic Hours - Disney World opens a park an hour early each day, and keeps one park open three hours late most nights, exclusively for Disney resort guests. Many times during the year, the extra magic hours are the least crowded times in the parks, and the three hours at night are always after it has cooled down - just a great time to be in the parks.
  • Magical Express - Disney provides free transportation from the airport to your WDW resort and back for all resort guests, even if you are just staying one night. I used to spend $500 or more on a rental car for a week. I no longer have to spend that money, since we get a ride to our resort and back for free.
  • Disney Transportation - Disney has wonderful transportation directly from your resort to all the theme parks, water parks, and other areas of Disney World. You can ride monorails, busses, or boats (or all three!) for free.
  • Disney Magic - I love the theming of most of the Disney resorts; staying at one is a vacation in itself. I love being surrounded by the Disney magic 24/7. Great resorts, great customer service, great vacation.
  • Disney Dining Plans - I love the dining plans. I have been using them since they were first introduced. They save money, are super convenient to use, and I like having everything pre-paid and budgeted before I leave home. With the dining plan, I could care less what my 14 year old orders, or whether she even bothers to eat any of it.

While you may save a dollar or two staying off-site, it rarely adds up in the end. At Mouseketrips, we stopped booking any non-Disney hotels years ago. Our clients never saved any money and all we heard were complaints. We don't bother with them any more, and neither should you.

Please note there are some resorts located on Disney property that are not owned by Disney and that do not participate in most or all of the items listed above. Shades of Green (U.S. Military), the Swan and Dolphin (Starwood), and the Downtown Disney hotels are owned by third parties.

Don't assume that since a hotel is on Disney property you will get all the perks. You won't. The Swan and Dolphin have access to the Disney World Transportation system, and those two hotels and the Hilton have access to Extra Magic Hours. However, none of them have access to the Magical Express, Disney Discounts, the dining plan, etc. Before you book a non-Disney hotel, make sure you know what perks are (and aren't) included.

While you're waiting for Keith's next Disney tip, why not ask him to plan your next Disney trip? Mouseketrips does nothing but Disney - and they're really good at it! Hook up with them at their website, through Twitter, or on Facebook.