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For the first twenty years that I visited Walt Disney World, I never once stayed at an on-site resort. In fact, I never set foot on any Disney hotel property. Being Floridians with annual passes, my family visited often on weekends and  stayed at inexpensive chain hotels just outside of the park on route 192 or International Drive.

Fast forward to early 2013 and we begin planning our first Disney World vacation for our boys after nearly a decade away from the parks. The Art of Animation resort is brand new and its Cars section appears to be even more exciting for our Cars-obsessed boys than the parks themselves! We decide that staying close to this Cars courtyard is imperative for their first Disney World visit.

That single Disney resort experience completely transformed our views on Disney lodging and we’ll never go back to a “main gate” hotel again!

For us, the main benefit of an on-site resort is never leaving the “Disney Bubble.” The Bubble became real to us one night during that 2013 trip as my sister and I were driving back to the resort after a late evening at EPCOT. Somewhere along the way, we took a wrong turn and ended up on route 192 west, smack dab in the middle of a sea of bright commercial lighting and signs for chain restaurants and hotels. We’d inadvertently left the “Bubble” and quickly found the first possible u-turn!

In that one moment, we realized how important it is to stay on Disney property, to remain in this bubble of joy and childlike wonder that is so uniquely Disney.

This is why we vacation, isn’t it? To remove ourselves from the challenges and problems of everyday life for just a brief moment? Relax, recharge, and be ready to face the world again.

Staying on site is the best way to maintain that all-inclusive bubble of VACATION and there are plenty of other perks that influence our decision to chose a Disney resort every time.

FastPass+ reservations / Disney resort guests are able to begin making FastPass+ reservations 60 days in advance versus only 30 days for non-guests. Depending on the time of year, Fastpasses can be gone entirely for popular attractions even 30 days in advance giving resort guests first pick at for the best times.

Extra Magic Hours / Resort guests can take advantage of morning or evening Extra Magic Hours at one or two parks every day to enjoy additional less-crowded park time.

Free parking / If you drive your own car into the parks each day, parking fees are waived with a resort reservation. Disney parking is a whopping $20 per day at the time of this writing so this is a significant savings and should be considered when comparing pricing of Disney resorts to off-site hotels.

MagicBands / All resort guests receive free MagicBands which serve as the room key, park ticket, FastPass, PhotoPass, and can be linked to a credit card for in-park purchases. I’m a huge fan of the convenience of MagicBands and, while they aren’t required for park access, they make a day in the park much more convenient. Guests not staying in a resort must purchase MagicBands separately.

Other resort guest perks include the Magical Express free bus transportation between the airport and Disney property, the Disney Dining Plan, additional days beyond the standard 180 to make Advance Dining Reservations, and package delivery of in-park purchases to the hotel. We haven’t used any of these perks (yet!) for various reasons, but it’s nice to know that they’re available should we need them.

Staying on-site may not be economically feasible for a large family or group, or if you want to visit other attractions in Orlando. But if Disney World is the focus of your vacation and you have a small family, I highly recommend on-site lodging and enjoying the benefits given to resort guests.