Yesterday I wrote about our upcoming summer stay in Daytona Beach Shores. I’ve been eyeing the cost of plane tickets for different departure days. Since we’ll be booking our flights using FlexPoints or Chase Ultimate Reward points through the travel portal, the cost of flights affects the number of points we will use. So, the cheaper the flights, the fewer points we use.
With that in mind, flights during the middle of the week are cheaper than Saturday flights. So this is how my mind works: Wouldn’t it be fun to fly in a few days prior to our condo reservation (on cheaper flights) and do something fun in Orlando first? I said this to my husband and he immediately said, “Um, I know exactly what you are thinking, so don’t pretend.”
Yes, I know, I know. I’m a Disney freak! And yes, I do prefer a Disney Cruise over the Disney parks. But I still love the parks in small doses.
Even though we’ve been to Disneyland the past two years, our last time visiting Disney World was January 2016. And even then, we only spent part of a day in the Magic Kingdom and didn’t visit any other parks. Before that, we’d visit one or two parks before a cruise, but never all four parks or a longer week since 2010. I haven’t been to Disney’s Animal Kingdom park since 2010 when I was pregnant with my youngest child.
Tempted by Pandora—The World of Avatar
Truthfully, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has never been my favorite theme park. So when we visit Disney World for only one or two days, it never makes the cut.
However, last year Pandora—The World of Avatar opened inside Animal Kingdom. Reviews of the land and the two new rides are outstanding. I’ve been thinking we should check it out sometime, and since we will be landing in Orlando this summer, it’s a good opportunity for us to make a detour to Disney World.
Mid-June should be a good time to visit Disney World. Since Toy Story Land opens on June 30, some people are delaying their arrival until then.. This will be the second summer that Pandora is open.
With the money we’re saving by knocking down our beach rental from four to three weeks, I can afford to buy theme park tickets. But the big question is, do we stay on-site, or use hotel points to stay offsite?
Disney Springs Hotels with On-site Benefits
If we stayed at an on-site resort, we could take advantage of benefits like Disney’s Magical Express from the airport, extra magic hours and a 60-day FastPass+ window (instead of 30 days for off-site guests). The cheapest on-site resort during our dates is $290.57 for two nights at the All-Star Sports Resort, including the summer sale price. I’ve never stayed at an All-Star value resort, but I know that the rooms and amenities are very minimal.
I decided to see what I could get with our Hilton points and sacrifice the on-site resort benefits. As I perused the Hilton options, I noticed something that I completely missed these last few months.
In 2018, guests of Disney Springs area hotels now have access to extra magic hours and the 60-day FastPass+ window. Disney Springs hotels with these benefits include:
- B Resort & Spa
- Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort
- DoubleTree Guest Suites by Hilton Orlando
- Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista Palace
- Hilton Orlando Resort Lake Buena Vista
- Holiday Inn Orlando
- Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista
When this benefit first rolled out in the beginning of 2018, it wasn’t clear if only rooms booked through Disney would qualify, or only vacation packages would qualify for the on-site benefits. It appears that the quirks have been worked out and all reservations qualify for the benefits.
In my opinion, this is a game changer for staying offsite! Reserving FastPass+ at 60 days is a huge benefit, especially when you’re trying to reserve times on new and more popular rides like the Avatar rides.
Hilton Buena Vista Palace
After much thought, I decided to book a few nights at the Hilton Buena Vista Palace for me and the kids. It costs 50,000 Hilton Honors points per night for the nights we needed.
Reviews of this hotel are mixed. Most of the negative reviews focus on the parking situation, but that doesn’t apply to our stay. Hilton took over the hotel in 2015 and completed a major renovation.
The main reason I booked this hotel over the other two Hilton properties is because it has a lazy river. My kids love lazy rivers, and I can see us enjoying the pool area for an entire afternoon.
We can cross a pedestrian bridge to get to Disney Springs for meals and entertainment. We could even walk next-door and have an inexpensive character breakfast at the Wyndham, no reservation needed!
We will be able to book our FastPass+ reservations 60 days in advance. Hilton has instructions for how to navigate the My Disney Experience app to link your hotel reservation. The hotel has free transportation to the parks every 30 minutes. We can also send our purchases from the park directly to the hotel’s Disney store to be picked up later.
The main thing I will miss about staying onsite is the free airport transportation. Instead, we will just take an Uber for around $24 each way.
On-site vs. Off-site
Are these on-site benefits at off-site hotels a game changer for you? Would you rather save money and use points for a stay at one of these hotels, or splurge for an on-site resort?
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.