Onward to Walt Disney World. Sorry, it's a little blurry, but this map will give you a good idea of the parks, various onsite hotels, and an idea of how they are situated.
Stay on Property
Now this advice isn't nearly as beneficial as it was at Universal Florida, though I wished they would do something similar with the Express Passes.
Anyhoo, staying onsite does have some advantages: Extra Magic Hours, Transportation . . . and the new, but questionable, My Magic+ bracelet, though I believe this bracelet is intended for day trippers in the future.
As I've mentioned before, many of these parks have 'soft' openings. For example, the Magic Kingdom has a little show above the entrances where the train comes into the station. Once everyone is greeted, the Mayor says his spiel, old timey characters dance and sing, and Disney characters arrive by train, then everyone is allowed to pass through the tunnels and into Magic Kingdom--ten minutes before the park opens.
Don't kill everyone trying to be first to Space Mountain, because they won't let open the line until the park 'officially' opens. Actually we use this time to get in line (that crosses the Future World plaza), while the hubs goes to get some Fast Passes for later. Just make sure return time is compatible with your schedule before you get them.
Many of the hotel properties have their own ambience. Granted these are the more expensive hotel rooms, but you are paying for convenience and the overall Disney experience. For example: The Animal Kingdom Lodge has African wildlife in their 'backyard'. For a premium room, you can have coffee on your balcony while watching the elephants, giraffes, etc. roam around. Or the Wilderness Lodge, which has it's own geyser, and gives the feel of being at Yellowstone . . . sorry, no bears, moose, buffalo, or elk, except for the topiary variety.
Many of the hotels that are close to the parks offer a variety of transportation. The Magic Kingdom hotels: The Grand Floridian, Contemporary, or Polynesian can arrive at the Magic Kingdom by monorail; Wilderness Lodge and the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds provide boat transportation for their guests. Some hotels are walking distance from various parks. And all hotels provide bus service.
If you are doing a Disney Cruise/Disney Park package deal, remember that if you stay in a cheaper stateroom on the cruise, you will be in a hotel that is farther away and can only be reached by bus. The better the room on the cruise, the better the hotel room.
One of the benefits of staying on property is the transportation, especially if you don't rent a car. Even if you do rent a car, sometimes you just want to ride a boat or the monorail, jus because. Every hotel has transportation to all the parks, including Downtown Disney and the two Water Parks.
If you want to go to another hotel, let's say for dinner, you will either have to drive your car, or take a bus to the Ticket and Transportation center to transfer to a different bus to take you to the hotel.
Or you can play with the various transportations:
Wilderness Lodge via boat to Magic Kingdom.
Magic Kingdom monorail to Ticket and Transportation to monorail to Epcot
Exit International Gateway to boat to Disney's Hollywood studios for Fireworks show.
Take bus back to Wilderness Lodge.
It can be done. We've done it a couple of times, BUT I will say that three parks in one day is very exhausting, plus you lose time in the parks while waiting for the various transportations if your timing is off and you miss the bus/boat/monorail.
Extra Magic Hours
You need to check the Times Guide that comes in your hotel packet for Extra Magic Hours.
Sometimes you can get this information from the website to help you plan your days prior to your vacation, but I won't list them here for the simple reason they've been known to change due to the lengthening or shortening of the park's hours.
It's been my observation that the Extra Magic Hours in the morning are the best. True, you are there with tons of other park guests who are staying at the hotels, but the parks are far emptier than they are during the day when day trippers are visiting. I've also discovered that the evening Extra Magic Hours are so crowded because everyone pours in from the other closed parks. So chances are you won't be able to ride many rides, UNLESS you do it during the various fireworks and shows.
I'm not a fan of the evening Extra Magic Hours, can't you tell? But then again, I'm a morning person, so it's no hardship for me to get out of bed early to head to the parks.
My Magic+ bracelets
We didn't stay at any of the hotels where they were testing the new My Magic+ bracelets, but we wanted to try them out. These bands can work in tandem with your Smartphone. Talking with various guests, some like it, some don't. There are some bugs that need to be worked out of the system. One gentleman couldn't get his to work AT ALL, but his entire family had no problem with their bands, and they were all tied to the same credit card. He had to resort to using his plastic room key card to get into the park, etc.
Last we heard, in August, Disney was planning to do a full launch in October.
Anyway, these bands will be replacing the cards for everything. Right now the cards have a microchip in them that allow you to use them as a room key, to enter the park, and purchase items, since there is a credit card attached to them.
The theory behind this idea is also supposed to give you the option of preplanning your fast passes.
The problem with this plan is that it forces you into a rigid touring idea. You can't freestyle to another park, or even another section of the park you're in, if you want to take advantage of your fast pass that might be scheduled later that day, plus you can only pick one park to preschedule your four passes.
One lady we talked to wanted to change her FP times for a particular ride--but the only FP's left were at times that didn't work for them--late at night or when they would be eating dinner at another park.
If you can still generate FP's at the kiosk instead of preplanning, then I'm good with it.
Tomorrow, I'll break down the rides of the various Disney World parks.
I will tell you this--NONE of the Disney rides are as hard on your body as the Universal Florida rides are.