Pros and cons of staying on property at a Disney resort

The entrance to Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

ORLANDO, Fla. (WTHR) — If you've ever sped past the Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, or through the Contemporary Resort on the Disney monorail, you may have imagined the true spectacle of lodging in one of these Disney resorts. Well, before I reveal the spectacularly astronomical prices of some of these Disney Resorts, let's focus on the perks of staying "on property."

One of the most commonly known facts of staying at a Disney property is you get access to the parks an hour before everybody else. But, you can also stay two hours after the parks close if you're a Disney resort guest.

Disney Resort guests get their pick of coveted FastPass reservations because they can book them online 60 days out, instead of 30 days out for the normal FastPass holder. That means Disney resort guests often gobble up all the FastPasses for the premium rides before anyone else.

If you stay on property, Disney employees will pick up your bags for you at Orlando International Airport and bring them straight to your room. You simply get on the free Disney Resort Bus. That saves money on a rental car and on parking at the resort. You also get to use all the Disney boats, buses and monorails for free to get around throughout your stay.

If your child wants to have breakfast with the Disney characters or dinner with a Disney princess, resort guests have it so much easier booking reservations than everyone else.

Other advantages to staying on property include quick access to your room for midday naps, and outstanding pools and spas, but that's enough of the sales pitch.There is bad news: the cost.

During the week of March 16-23, the most sought after Disney Resorts like the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and the Polynesian Resort run between $800 and $1,000 per night. It's a steep price, but there is some good news. Disney's All-Star Sports and All-Star Movie Resorts are offering special rates at under $200 per night in March. So you can see what it's like to stay on property, a little off the beaten path near the Animal Kingdom without taking out a second mortgage on your home.

So how does this all compare with staying off-property? At last check Friday, there were nine four-star resorts near Disney priced at less than $150 bucks per night for the week of March 16-23. You don't get the Disney perks, but you do save a bunch of cash.

There is no wrong choice here. Every person I have spoken with who has stayed on property calls it a truly magical experience. Vacationers who have stayed off-property near the park are proud of the money they've saved. It all comes down to what you want for your family during your vacation. Either way, Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy will welcome you with open arms at the park.