10 Reasons to (Still) Stay at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel

10 Reasons to (Still) Stay at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel

It’s no secret that life has been a bit of a roller coaster for everyone the last few years. If you’ve taken a vacation more recently, I suspect you may have noticed some changes in the way traveling has changed. When talking about vacations to Walt Disney World in particular, I’ve had several people ask what the benefits are to staying on Disney property; I thought it was the perfect opportunity to share some key reasons why we should (still) stay at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel.

Reason #1: Location, location, location!! This one is a no-brainer. You can’t beat the proximity of the Walt Disney World Resort hotels to the parks. You can take advantage of all that the resort has to offer without worrying about how you’re going to get to and from the parks, being on a tight schedule to catch a bus, or get lost trying to follow signs (especially if you’re not a seasoned Disney guest that knows your way around) … which brings me to…


Reason #2: Disney Transportation. Yes, your off-site resort may offer transportation to/from the parks. But does that shuttle come every 20 minutes (or less)? Is that shuttle complimentary? Do you need to make an advance reservation for that shuttle? When you stay at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, even if you just saw your resort bus pull away, there will be another coming right behind it. No need to keep an eye on the time and worry about a bus schedule or the “reservation” you made to go back to your off-site hotel. Disney has buses, the monorail, the skyliner, and boats to help you get around property. Plus the buses will run until every last guest has exited the parks to ensure nobody gets left behind.

Reason #3: Some resorts are actually WALKING distance to parks!! Some people may not want to walk to/from the resort since there’s already a fair amount of walking on a Disney vacation, but some people absolutely love to have this option. Where can you walk to/from?

  • You can walk to the Magic Kingdom from Disney’s Contemporary Resort
    (including Bay Lake Tower), Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (though I will caution that the walk would be a bit longer to/from the Polynesian, so I don’t recommend it).
  • You can walk to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios from Disney’s Beach and Yacht Club Resorts, Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, and the Walt Disney World Dolphin, Swan and Swan Reserve Hotels.
  • You can walk to Disney Springs from Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. If you love shopping and dining (especially in the evening), this is a great resort to consider!


Reason #4. Complimentary Parking. Are you driving to Orlando, or perhaps considering renting a car upon arrival? If so, you’ll be happy to know that self parking at the Walt Disney World Resort hotels is now COMPLIMENTARY!! And guests staying on-site at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel will also have complimentary parking at the parks if you want to drive to the parks rather than utilizing the Disney transportation!! If you stay off-site, you will be charged the current parking rate to park at the theme parks (parking at the theme parks currently starts at $25 per day), plus your hotel may also charge a parking fee – so be aware of this if staying off-site is on your radar – those parking fees at both the hotel and as well as at the parks can really add up quickly! 


Reason #5: Early Park Entry and Extended Evening Hours. When you stay on-site at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, you’ll get to take advantage of Early Park Entry – this means you’ll be able to enter ANY of the four theme parks 30-minutes early EVERY DAY. This is the perfect opportunity for you to get into the parks and walk right on to some of the rides that tend to have longer wait times before the park gets too crowded. You’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish when you arrive early. BONUS: If you’re staying at a Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resort, you’ll have the added perk of Extended Evening Hours. On select nights at select parks, guests staying at a Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resort will have 2 extra hours to stay in the park without the crowds. This is also a huge timesaver – can you imagine being able to practically walk right on some of your favorite rides that usually have long waits all day long?! I literally walked right on Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Frozen Ever After and Test Track on my last visit during Extended Evening Hours – it was AWESOME!! Plus we still made it to Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind with the Virtual Queue (yes, that’s offered for Extended Evening Hours too!!!) 

Reason #6: Mid-Day Breaks. Do you like to take mid-day breaks from the parks to rest or swim before heading back into the parks at night? Staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel makes this SO much easier, especially when utilizing Disney’s transportation. Hop on a bus (or monorail, skyliner, or boat) back to your resort. Take a nap. Go for a swim. Get refreshed, and then head back to the parks for the evening festivities (and hopefully fireworks!)


Reason #7: Charging Privileges. Do you love to keep your vacation on one bill? When you stay at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, you will have charging privileges to your room via your MagicBand (or via MagicMobile or Key to the World if you choose to forgo the MagicBands). No need to worry about carrying cash or credit cards with you. Just charge everything to your room and you’ll get your final bill upon checkout via email! 

Reason #8: Book All Your Dining Reservations at Once. Currently, dining reservations can be made 60-days prior to your check-in date (and for up to 10 days into your vacation) when staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel. If you’re staying off-site, you won’t have access to book all of your dining at once – in other words, you’ll need to book each day’s dining reservations separately when that respective day is 60 days away. This means you run the risk of not landing that coveted dining reservation at the hard-to-get restaurants as Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests will get the first chance to snag those reservations for the entirety of their trip. While it may not be impossible to get those reservations as your trip gets closer, it will certainly not be easy either.

Reason #9: Bundle Your Room and Tickets With a Package. This sounds straightforward, but let me explain. Disney offers some of its best deals when you package tickets and your resort stay together. Plus, when you book your vacation as a package (especially with a Travel Advisor), you only need to pay a $200 (refundable!) deposit for your vacation package. The balance of your package will be due 30 days prior to your arrival. You can also make payments in any amount at any time through your Travel Advisor if you prefer to pay for your vacation in increments ahead of time. This makes it much more manageable for many to not feel overwhelmed paying for their vacation all at once and budget ahead of time. Buying tickets separately when you’re staying off-site means paying for them in full at the time of purchase and they are also non-refundable. And since Disney is currently requiring you to make park reservations for entry into the parks each day, you’ll want to have those tickets linked to your account as far ahead of time as possible to be sure you are getting into the park you’d like each day.

Reason #10: Be Fully Immersed in the Disney Magic. Here’s a truth bomb… I’ve stayed off-site before, and there’s nothing wrong with it, but it wasn’t the same and I wouldn’t do it again. There’s nothing like staying in the middle of the Disney Magic – especially if you’re traveling with your family. If you’re planning to visit the parks more days than not, staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel gives you that full Disney Experience that you won’t get anywhere else. The theming at every resort is amazing, and there’s truly something for everyone when you’re picking among all of the incredible resort options at the Walt Disney World Resort.


Aly Hirst - Gilbertsville, PA

Aly Hirst - Gilbertsville, PA

Lead Travel Advisor

Hi, I’m Aly Hirst, Travel Advisor with Living with the Magic Vacations! For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a Disney-obsessed gal. Even though I didn’t take many Disney vacations growing up, I can remember requesting the old vacation planning videos that Disney use to send in the mail; I would watch them over and over again to learn every nook and cranny of the Walt Disney World Resort as well as the Disneyland Resort and Disney Cruise Lines. I was thrilled to be given the opportunity in college to participate in the Disney College Program for a semester – who didn’t want to spend a semester of college living and working at the Walt Disney World Resort? (Bonus for me – I moved down to Orlando in January that year so it was the best winter escape for me from snowy New England!) 

Sandals and Beaches Destination Weddings

Sandals and Beaches Destination Weddings

Do you dream of getting married on a Caribbean island with a beautiful beach background?  Sandals and Beaches Resorts can do that for you for free!  When you stay 3 nights or longer, your wedding is included with your stay.  No vendors to find, no venue to pick, no worrying about applying for a marriage license, it is all done for you! From the travel agent helping you and your guests choose their rooms and activities, to a wedding planner ensuring everything is running smoothly, this will be a day you’ll never forget! 

 So what is included when you book a wedding at Sandals and Beaches Resorts?   


  • Personal wedding planning team
  • Preparation of marriage documents
  • Wedding Gift Registry
  • Customizable Wedding Website


  • Receive 15% discount on Red Lane® Spa services for the bride and groom. 


  • Picturesque Ceremony Location. Our islands feature the most beautiful and natural backdrops for your destination wedding.
  • Bouquet and Boutonniere. A bridal bouquet and a groom’s boutonniere fuchsia Dendrobium orchids.
  • White cushioned Chiavari chairs for all guests.
  • Pre-recorded musical accompaniment of your choice.
  • Complimentary 5”x7” wedding photo. 



  • Wedding Cake. Enjoy a two-tiered white fondant wedding cake with fuchsia Dendrobium orchids.
  • Table setting with white linens, silverware and crystal, white china, sparkling crystal, crisp white linens, and shining silverware.
  • White cushioned Chiavari chairs for all guests.
  • Decorative lantern centerpiece for the head table.
  • Cocktail reception with sparkling wine and hors d’oeuvres.
  • Bride and Groom signature cocktail. 



  • Romantic turndown service with flower petals on the first evening of your honeymoon.
  • Breakfast in bed with mimosa on any morning of your choice.
  • Honeymoon dinner with white-glove service in a specialty restaurant


At Sandals and Beaches you receive additional perks when you stay 7 nights or when booking 5 or more rooms .  The perks for booking more than 5 rooms range from sangria bars to $1,000 Credit towards a catamaran cruise for you and your guests.  You will get to choose anywhere from 1 to 6 of the options available depending on the number of rooms your party has booked.  When you book a 7-night stay or longer, you will receive 


  • Up To $500 towards license and administrative fees, 
  • $500 Towards Room upgrade
  • $200 Photography credit on select packages
  • $200 Anniversary credit or Videography credit on select packages
  • $100 towards scuba, snuba, cabana, or candlelight dinner


Are you afraid your wedding won’t have any personal touches?  Besides having a cocktail inspired by you, you can mix and match tasteful décor options to reflect your personal style.  The customizable features do have an additional cost that your wedding planner will go over with you.  


Ready to get started planning your destination wedding?  Contact us today to get started! 

Kelly from Jenison, MI!

Kelly from Jenison, MI!

Lead Travel Advisor

Hi! I’m Kelly Van Eerden, a Lead Travel Advisor with Living With The Magic Vacations. I currently live in Jenison, Michigan with my husband, daughter, and son.   

We love traveling as a family because it gives us time to spend time together without all the activities that life with older children brings.  Walt Disney World will always have a special place in our hearts as one of our first family vacations, but we also love exploring new destinations!  Some of our favorite places to visit have actually been new to us in the last few years.  We took our first Disney cruise in early 2020 and my kids fell in love with cruising.  We have also visited Universal (both Hollywood and Orlando) and Disneyland recently, and we all found something to enjoy.  We love the thrills that the Universal parks offer as well as the Marvel and Cars Land at Disneyland. 

In 2012, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and multiple food allergies.  Despite the challenges that traveling with food allergies can bring, our vacations have not stopped.  I still continue to travel and look for destinations that are allergy-friendly.  My favorite allergy-friendly destination is Walt Disney World because they do such a great job going above and beyond to serve their guests with allergies, but the options are endless!  

Know Before You Go: Questions To Ask When Ordering Your Allergen-Safe Meal on Vacation

Know Before You Go: Questions To Ask When Ordering Your Allergen-Safe Meal on Vacation

When you have food allergies and you’re having people cook for you, making sure you ask some additional questions is always important to help keep you safe. 

Here are 3 questions to ask when ordering with celiac disease, food allergies, or food intolerances:     

  • Is there any information about cross-contact at the factory it was made in?  Here is where you need to know your comfort level with shared lines and facilities.  The chef or manager will let you know what the labels say about how the food is made.  
  • Where will it be cooked in the kitchen?  Will there be any of the ingredients you avoid on a shared surface or oil?  If they don’t have an allergy-safe fryer available, can they bake it for you?  If there are any ingredients you avoid on the cooking surface, can they pan-fry the food instead?  
  • Are any sauces, broth, or marinades in the food and if so, what are those ingredients?  For my garlic allergy, chefs often have to find a plain protein for me and then can season it appropriately.  With sauces, ingredients like dairy and gluten can sneak in, so always double-check them!

Chefs are a great resource and are there to help you.  They want to keep you safe and more important, comfortable when eating out, so don’t be afraid to ask for certain accommodations if it will help you feel more comfortable. 

When ordering a safe meal on vacation, make sure to pack your patience.  Chefs definitely do their best to make your food quickly but it does take time when you have to make meals that are not already on the menu.  I have had some meals that are done in under 10 minutes, and some take 30 minutes or more.  For our family, we generally ask that all our quick-service food is brought out at the same time.  If you have a little one that can’t wait that long and they are not the one with the allergy, talk to the quick-serve location or your server to see if they can get their meal quickly!  If you are staying at the resort you want to eat at, talk to the chefs ahead of time and they may be able to have something waiting at a certain time so you don’t have to wait long for your food!



Lead Travel Planner & Certified Autism Travel Professional™

She currently lives in Jenison, Michigan with her husband, daughter, and son.  They love to travel and one of their favorite destinations is Walt Disney World. Kelly grew up visiting Walt Disney World with her family and continued the tradition with her children.  From the first time they saw Cinderella’s Castle at the age of 4 and 7, they were hooked and still are 13 years later!  As the kids have grown up, they have continued to explore new destinations as well. They went to Universal Orlando as a family in 2019 and on their first Disney Cruise in 2020.  They look forward to exploring more destinations as a family this coming year.  Shey loves being able to get away as a family to relax and recharge from the day-to-day activities that keep them busy.

Featured Facebook Group: Mama Needs a Vaca

Featured Facebook Group: Mama Needs a Vaca

Hey Mamas: If you’ve ever laid awake in the middle of the night thinking about the half million things you need to do… and then thought how you REALLY need a vacation — I see you, I feel, and I GOT YOU!

My name is Aly Hirst and I’m a Lead Concierge Travel Planner at Living With The Magic Vacations. While my love for Disney Destinations are what led me to become a Travel Planner, I also specialize in all-inclusive vacations to resorts like Sandals and Beaches, cruise vacations, and Universal theme parks. 

My Facebook Group “Mama Needs a Vaca” is a way for me to share the latest news and tips in the travel world (including any deals that pop up!!) to help you plan an incredible vacation, no matter the destination. And of course, no “mom” group would be complete with a side mom humor that many of us can relate to (you know… the things that nobody warns you about when you become a mom). 

I hope you’ll join us so we can keep in touch for when you’re ready to plan your next vacation!!

~ Aly 

Things Your Travel Agent Wishes You Knew 

Things Your Travel Agent Wishes You Knew 

Oftentimes when planning a vacation (especially if you’re planning on traveling somewhere new or that you haven’t visited in a while), it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by how daunting the task may seem. Where do you start? How do you know where the best places are to stay? Where should you eat? What are the best things to do and places to explore? 

Using a Travel Agent will take a huge weight off your shoulders. Our job is to help not only make the best suggestions based on what you’re hoping to get out of your vacation but also to take the stress of the planning process off your shoulders so that all you need to do is pack your bags and go! 

But this begs to question… are there things your Travel Agent wishes you knew?

First, email is our best friend. In addition to the many phone conversations you’ll have with your Travel Agent, email is our next preferred method of communication. Though we may sometimes connect to one another via social media (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, etc), communicating via email makes it so much easier to keep all of the things we’ve talked about for your vacation in one place. There’s nothing more challenging than trying to go back through a Facebook Messenger conversation to find what we discussed regarding dining at specific restaurants at Walt Disney World or which excursions you wanted to experience when on your cruise or all-inclusive vacation. Facebook Messenger messages get lost in the shuffle so easily too – where we’ll keep your emails in our email inbox until we’ve resolved the task at hand so nothing slips through the cracks. To us, using email is like having a virtual filing cabinet with all our notes in one place so we don’t miss a single detail for your vacation. 

Next, we do our very best to keep you in the loop of any changes that may pop up for your vacation. And we will communicate everything via email so that we both have a point of reference if there are any questions. Reading the emails that we take the time to put together with all the things you need to know will help ensure that your vacation goes as smoothly as possible. For example, if you’re going to Walt Disney World, we will be sending you a lot of information before you travel to make sure we cover everything you need to know before your trip, but we won’t inundate you with everything at once. So don’t forget to read those emails so you can make the most of your vacation… you’ll learn about Genie+, we’ll remind you to purchase your MagicBands ahead of time so you can take advantage of discounted pricing, we’ll remind you about important dates for your trip (Disney Dining, Enchanting Extras such as reservations for special events for fireworks, book a makeover for your little one at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, or to build a droid or lightsaber for your Star Wars fans), and so much more. 

Speaking of important dates – and I can’t stress this enough – if we are planning a vacation to Walt Disney World, in particular, time is of the essence. The best chance for us to get you your preferred reservations for dining and Enchanting Extras on your preferred days/times are to book these for you on the day the reservations become available to book (currently 60 days prior to your scheduled arrival date). While we are certainly here to help make changes as they pop up if you want to change your plans or think of something else you want to do, the best way for us to make that happen for you is if we have a plan in place ahead of the day that we are able to make these reservations for you so that we can be ready to go right when reservations open.

Timing is also super important when it comes to the actual booking of your vacation. Something important to keep in mind is that prices quoted are not locked in until you’ve actually booked your vacation. This means if you decide to hold off a few weeks after receiving your quote before deciding to book, there is a good chance the price is going to increase. Vacation prices often change based on supply and demand, so as more people book their trips to that destination over the dates we’ve quoted for you, the price for new bookings will (usually) increase over time. If you’re waiting for the price to go down, some destinations do allow your Travel Agent to monitor the price of your vacation in the event a promotion is offered to get you a better deal – this is especially true of booking vacations to a Disney Destination, Universal Orlando, and several major cruise lines. Be sure to ask your Travel Agent if your requested destination allows price monitoring – it will be a lot safer to book ASAP and have your agent watch for a better deal. Some destinations will also allow your Travel Agent to place your vacation on a courtesy hold for a set number of days (for example, your vacation to the Walt Disney World Resort can be held for up to 3 days before your deposit is due – otherwise it will cancel itself after midnight following the third day). If you’re leaning toward booking the vacation but need to circle back with someone else you’re traveling with or double-check your calendar on the dates, this is a fantastic option so you don’t lose your quoted price. 

And finally, keep in mind that we are on your team! Whether you need help picking the right destination, narrowing down resorts or cruise ships, selecting the right excursions, or arranging dining reservations… our job is to help you determine what may be best for you and your travel party. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t be afraid of over-sharing. The best way that we can help you make your next vacation perfect is by you telling us exactly what you’re looking for – or maybe what you’re not looking for, for that matter. There’s really no such thing as “TMI” with your Travel Agent. Share all of your specific wants and needs. Be honest about your budget. And we will, in turn, be honest with you too. Our ultimate goal is to have happy clients, so share away! 

Now pack your bags… you’ve got a vacation to go on!! Enjoy!!

How to Work with a Travel Advisor – A First Timer’s Guide

How to Work with a Travel Advisor – A First Timer’s Guide

You’ve found the perfect travel advisor, and now’s the time to put them to work on your dream trip! If you’re new to working with a travel advisor, there are a few things that you can do to help make the process run smoothly. 

Having been described as the travel industry’s ‘matchmakers’, a great client-travel advisor relationship is worth its weight in gold. From personalized attention everywhere you go to perks and upgrades that only come with being the client of an esteemed advisor, the benefits of using a travel advisor are exponential, but how do you go about building that valued relationship?

Be Honest About Budget
Of course, you want your dream trip, with all of the bells and whistles. However, it does both you and your travel advisor an enormous disservice to not be upfront about your actual budget. 

Going one step further, once you establish your budget, identify what’s high on your priority list. Perhaps you aren’t as focused on your accommodation, rather you’d prefer to have mind-blowing travel experiences in every destination you’re visiting. This helps your travel advisor not only build your dream trip but decide how and where to allocate your budget.

Trust Their Expertise 
A travel advisor’s job is just that – travel. While the photos on a hotel website may have you ready to book, your advisor may know that it’s on a congested motorway or next to noisy construction. Trust them. 

Great travel advisors go out of their way to familiarize themselves with destinations, properties, and various other tourism suppliers the world over. It’s their job to get to know you and match you with suitable experiences that just fit

Collaborate & Delegate
Travel advisors are here to save you time, but if you have a dream destination, experience, or property in mind – tell them! A great trip is a collaboration between enthusiastic clients and a knowledgeable travel advisor.

In that same vein of saving time and collaborating, don’t be afraid to (politely) delegate to your travel advisor, and request that they look into a particular property, research specific activities for your family, or even have them hunt down restaurant reservations. At the end of the day, they’re working for you!

Accept Advocacy
For those of us with can-do self-sufficient attitudes, this can often be a hard pill to swallow. Your travel advisor is your advocate, especially when they’re 3,000 miles away and you’re traveling on the journey that they built for you. 

If something goes wrong, accept your advisor’s help and grant them the opportunity to fix it. This may mean biting your tongue at the hotel manager if something goes wrong, and waiting on your travel advisor to work their magic. It will be worth it in the end. Try to remember, that travel advisors have valued relationships with hotels and tourism suppliers, and they will bend over backward to keep them (and their clients) happy, and returning with future bookings. 

Build Your Relationship
Let your travel advisor get to know you. The more that you and your advisor connect on a personal level and become familiar with your quirks, likes, dislikes, hobbies, and interests, the better your trip can be tailored precisely to you, and no one else. 

Unique, personalized trips are where most travel advisors shine, so by opening yourself up and sharing parts of you (and your family) with your travel advisor, you’re only improving the chances for a beautiful, custom-made journey. Remember, the best relationships only get better with age, and a long-term travel advisor is someone you will want in your corner for years to come.

Our agents at Living With The Magic Vacations would love the opportunity to work with you! With a variety of experiences and specialties, we know that we can be the right fit for your next vacation! Be sure to take a moment to Meet The Team!