Exclusive Perks At Disney Hotels

by on September 23, 2013 24 Comments

Filed under: Resorts, Walt Disney World (FL)

When planning a Walt Disney World Resort vacation, choosing to stay on-property opens the door to a certain amount of built in perks, namely:

  • Disney’s Magical Express – a complimentary shuttle for resort guests between Orlando International Airport and the WDW Resort.
  • Extra Magic Hours – extended hours either before or after (or both, depending on the season) regular operating hours avaialble just for resort guests.
  • Free transportation – buses, monorails and watercraft are all at guests’ disposal, and/or parking fees are waived at theme park autoplazas with valid resort identification.
  • Resort Hotel Delivery – all merchandise can be arranged to be delivered directly to WDW Resort hotels, with no additional charge.

While these perks are reason enough for many guests to book their vacation package, believe it or not, there are some additional – as well as some ‘little known’ – bonuses at some of the resorts that are worth considering. The following is a list of some fun perks that might come in handy when planning your next trip – by no means is it comprehensive, however, so please share any other fun tips you’ve found!

Resort(s): Disney’s Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach and Port Orleans (Riverside) Resorts

  • Step Into The Story With Immersive Theming

All WDW Resort Hotels tell a story, but these special rooms go beyond the theming of the grounds and hallways, and immerse your family into an adventure from the minute you wake up! Art of Animation has family suites themed around Finding Nemo, Cars and The Lion King, as well as standard rooms with The Little Mermaid decor. At Caribbean Beach, you can be a real buccaneer in a pirate-themed room, or choose the fairytale experience with Royal Guest Rooms at Port Orleans Riverside.

Resort: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (and Villas)

  • Get a taste of Africa with Culinary Tour(s) at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge 

Lindsay DuBose wrote a fantastic review (HERE) about this daily tour that departs each evening at 4 p.m. from the Boma desk. Tours are led by Cultural Representatives, special Disney Cast Members on exchange from a variety of participating African countries and feature colorful descriptions of the many sensory aspects of the lodge’s signature dining experiences, Boma and Jiko. Although it is open to anyone (not limited to just registered guests) I considered it a perk on this list, since it’s the most convenient for guests staying at either the lodge or villas. For additional information, or to confirm dates, consult the Resort Activities Calendar or call (407) 938-3000.

Note: there is also a tour of Sanaa (review HERE) daily at 4 p.m. which lasts 20 minutes and departs from their podium at Kidani Village.

  • Embark upon the “African-Inspired, Disney-Designed” Tour

Lindsay shared her thoughts HERE about this daily 20-minute tour, a colorful look into the inspiration behind the resort. Tour departs at 4:30 p.m. from the Johari Treasures Gift Shop. For additional information, or to confirm dates, consult the Resort Activities Calendar or call (407) 938-3000.

Unlike the previously mentioned experiences, this special booking is exclusive to guests of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas only. Limited to just 12 guests, this personalized experience features an animal-spotting tour aboard a safari vehicle, plus a decadent meal at Jiko. Reservations must made be through the itinerary planning office or Concierge at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge at (407) 938-4755.

Resort: Disney’s Beach Club Resort (and Villas) (+ Disney’s Yacht Club Resort)

  • Take a Dip at Stormalong Bay

All WDW Resort hotels have pools, but the swimming complex known as Stormalong Bay at the Yacht and Beach Club is definitely a guest favorite. While guests are generally dissuaded from pool-hopping in general, proper identification is a must here. Erin Foster provides a comprehensive guide to this, and other deluxe and villa-resort pools here, along with detailed descriptions and helpful photos.

Resort: Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (and Villas)

  • Discover History With The Wonders of the Wilderness Lodge Tour 

Also previously reviewed in Lindsay DuBose’s review (HERE), this unique hour-long tour takes place Wednesday through Saturday at 9 a.m. and features a look at the history, design and inspiration of the resort. Like the Culinary Tour at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, this tour is open to all guests, but due to its location, may be most convenient for guests of the Lodge and/or Villas. For additional information or to confirm dates, consult the Wilderness Lodge Resort Activities Calendar (on site) or call (407) 824-3200.

Resort(s): Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, and Disney’s Polynesian Resort

  • Travel With The Greatest of Ease (And Options) 

Although free transportation is included with every Walt Disney World Resort stay, nothing beats the array of options of the three “monorail resorts.” Along with the resort monorail, the Grand Floridian and Polynesian provide boat launches to the Magic Kingdom, as well as bus service to the other theme parks and Downtown Disney. Additionally, the Contemporary (and DVC component, Bay Lake Tower) provides an easy walking path to the entrance of the Magic Kingdom.

Side note(s):

Other fun perks offered at multiple Walt Disney World Resort Hotel locations:

  • Relax with a fun family campfire at these 14 locations: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas – Kidani Village, Disney’s Beach Club Resort, Disney’s Boardwalk Inn, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, Disney’s Old Key West Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Resort, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort (both French Quarter and Riverside), Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and the Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort (note: Ft Wilderness’ campfire experience includes a Sing-a-long with Chip ‘n’ Dale, see Daisy’s recent post on that experience here). Call 407-WDW-PLAY (939-7529) for more information.
  • Watch a movie under the stars – offered at multiple resorts, call 407-WDW-PLAY (939-7529) for current schedules.


 What other special perks do you know about that are offered at certain WDW Resort Hotels?

Posted on September 23, 2013

24 Responses to “Exclusive Perks At Disney Hotels”

  • This feels a bit too much like a Walt Disney World press release. There’s some solid information, but I’m not seeing much beyond what would be provided by Disney. It just seems odd for such a great blog to have a post like this one.

    • Dan – I am sorry to hear that you were disappointed by this post. The objective of this post, for me, was to share some information that I found challenging to locate on the official WDW website – if it was on there at all.

      My formal training is in public relations so I can see how it could sound Press Release-ish – I was just hoping to keep the presentation unbiased. I appreciate your honest opinion, however, which is what I love about the Touring Plans Blog – it is a forum for discussion, and while we might not always agree on the content, it’s a place where we can share and learn from each other.

  • I don’t think you mentioned that FREE taxi service is also available from the resorts IF you have a reservation before parks open or after they close and you can’t travel by bus or monorail. For example, we always have a character breakfast early one morning and the bellhops get us a free taxi!

    • Wow, Nicole, I actually did not know about this! Thanks for sharing.

    • How do you get a taxi without paying for it?
      We recently stayed at the Grand Floridian, and had Disney Photography appointments at Epcot before the park opened. We asked everywhere about how best to do this, and everyone told us we would have to take a taxi, including the concierge and bell services. It was only $20 after tip, but certainly not free.
      All the taxis waiting outside the resorts are 3rd party operators, they don’t work for Disney, so if you don’t pay them who does?

  • At Saratoga Springs, there is a TV area in the main lobby with tiny chairs for the tiny humans that you maybe travelling with. Also, the area in between the main lobby and the Artist’s Palette restaurant there is quite a few sofa’s for some down time in the middle of a busy day when you’d rather not be in your room but want to have a coffee and read the paper. Saratoga Springs also boasts a well themed ‘club’ similar to british working mans clubs with a pool tables and a bar that also serves starters which is a nice touch for a relaxing evening drink.

    • Bex – thank you for sharing this, I’ve stayed at SSR many times and had no idea! I will definitely take advantage of that next time 😀

      • As we come over from England, after a 9 hour flight and 5 hour time difference I never feel like venturing into the parks on that first day so I tend to explore the hotel and by doing this at SSR I found all the querky things mentioned and more and the resort quickly became my favorite place to stay out of all the options in and around Disney. Another thing that I failed to mention though is that SSR also boasts a walkway to Downtown Disney that takes about 10 minutes to walk. So no hassle with the Disney buses or trying to park.

  • Nothing noted in this would make me want to spend the extra money to stay on WDW premises. Rather save the $ on the room and get what I believe is a better room off site at a much, much, cheaper rate.

    • Hi Gus – thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

      Staying off property is definitely a good option for many guests – that’s what I think is the best thing about vacations at WDW – the array of options.

  • I think the biggest perk of staying at a Disney Resort is the ability to make dining reservations 180+ 10 days out. It’s a great way to guarantee those extremely hard to get ADR’s.

  • Wow Kristina thanks for the great blog. I had no idea that there were culinary tours at AKL. I will definitely have to give that a go. What a great way to test drive the restaurants at AKL. And free Zebra Domes?? It’s a dream come true!

  • Speaking of taxis, I believe if you have a golf tee time at one of the WDW golf courses, you can get a free taxi from your resort hotel to and from the golf course.

  • Yes, Michelle, that is true too about the golf. Basically, if you have a reservation somewhere else on property and the only option is a Taxi, they will get you a free ride. They want people staying on property and not leaving, so if you have to rent a car just to get somewhere on property that defeats their own goal- so they are more than willing to help those without a car because they aren’t leaving WDW!

    • Wow, how do you get the taxi for free? Does the resort simply pay for the 3rd party taxi’s fare? Is there a Disney taxi that will make a special trip with you? Please share!

  • Kristina – nice article! It’s easy to overlook these “hidden perks.” I did want to point out one thing, though. There is no boat launch from the Contemporary to the Magic Kingdom. There is a walking path, however. I believe the boat launch from the Contemporary goes to Wilderness Lodge.

    • by Kristina Murphy on September 24, 2013, at 9:06 pm EST

      Katie – thank you for the correction, you are absolutely right! Blue launch transports guests from Ft Wilderness/Wilderness Lodge to the Contemporary. I appreciate that!!