So you’re planning a Disney World trip? You’ve come to the right place! As a seasoned Disney traveler, I’ve visited Orlando’s Disney World more times than I can count. (Thanks mom & dad!) With my family, I’ve stayed on property at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. But on my most recent visit, we stayed at an “off property” Disney resort: Hilton Buena Vista Palace.
Is this a sponsored post?
No. I was not commissioned to write this post and Hilton has no idea that I’m writing it. All opinions are my own. I want to share my experience because planning a Disney trip is a lot of work.
On Property vs. Off Property
Technically, Hilton Buena Vista Palace is an “Official Walt Disney World Hotel” and it is located in Disney Springs. It’s also called a “good neighbor resort” sometimes. In the past, Hilton Buena Vista Palace was regarded as an “off property” resort because it didn’t share the perks of on property stays. But last year, that all changed. Guests of the Hilton Buena Vista Palace enjoy the same on property perks as other official WDW hotels, including:
- Extra Magic Hours
- Complimentary shuttles (buses) to each park
- FastPass+ scheduling 60 days before your stay
What do you miss out on?
Not much. If you’re staying at a Disney Springs hotel that has Extra Magic Hours and the FastPass+ 60-day perks, you’ll miss out on a few things:
- Magic Bands not included – This is a minor thing for us, especially since we already had Magic Bands from our previous trips. But if you’re going to the parks and want a Magic Band, please keep in mind that off property stays do not include Magic Bands. With the money you save through booking an off-property resort, you can choose any Magic Band you want. But remember you’ll need to link the Magic Band to your tickets and stay.
- Connecting your Magic Band to a credit card – When you’re staying on property, you can connect a card to your magic bands and leave your wallet behind. Confession: I did miss this “perk” the most, because I was afraid of pulling out my wallet and dropping something out of my bag. But luckily that did not happen.
- Priority bus locations – The buses are typically a little bit further away than the on property resort buses. You also may experience different schedules. For example, the bus stops going to Disney Springs after 11pm. You will still be able to get your hotel bus, but you won’t be able to go directly to Disney Springs on a bus after 11pm. No biggie, though. You can take a Lyft, Uber, cab, or Minnie Van.
- Monorail access – While anyone can ride the monorail (even people who don’t have a park ticket), you won’t have a monorail at your hotel. But since there are only three hotels with Monorail access (The Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Contemporary) most on-property guests don’t have this perk anyway.
The biggest benefit? Significant savings.
Our trip was booked through Costco Travel. Although my husband had an annual pass from the previous year (which helped us save a ton at the Polynesian last trip), we still needed park hoppers for myself and our two children. The best thing about booking through Costco, aside from the savings, was the ability to customize who got tickets.
When you book a package through Disney, everyone must have the same tickets. So this would force us to do a room-only or purchase an extra park hopper we didn’t need. Through Costco, we were able to purchase 10-day park hoppers for the three of us who didn’t have tickets.
For a 10-day stay with three 10-day park hoppers through Costco, our trip rang in at about $2.8k. Compare this to last year, where our 8-night stay at the Polynesian cost significantly more than that for just the room.
Unexpected off-property experiences
Time to swim
Despite staying at hotels with gorgeous pools in the past, we never used the pool! At the Hilton Buena Vista Palace, we actually went swimming twice. Even my husband – who has never in our six years of marriage gone swimming (and we HAVE a pool) – went swimming at the resort.
The Hilton Buena Vista Palace pools, lazy river, and hot tubs were accessible and inviting. There were plenty of warm towels lined up for the taking. The pools and lazy river were perfectly heated. The entire swim environment was gorgeous. We had so much fun at the pool.
There was also an area for outdoor activities. It had a turf field with a mini-soccer field set up, volleyball, giant ConnectFour set, and a fire pit next to the pool bar. Next time, we would plan to spend a few days just enjoying the resort. There was plenty to do and see. And everything was clean, accessible, and inviting.
Extra Magic Hour cards
Another unexpected experience was the Extra Magic Hour cards. Unlike the on-property resorts where the EMH benefit is linked to your Magic Band, you get an Extra Magic Hour card for each person staying in your room. This card is then presented when you’re at the resort.
Additional perks for booking through Costco Travel
Since we booked through Costco, our stay included all taxes and resort fees. It also included free parking and complimentary Wi-Fi, which were nice things to have.
Other benefits? Service.
As much as we loved staying on-property in the past, Disney resorts – and to be completely transparent, Disney in general – is lacking in the service department. This is really sad considering Disney used to be known for its magical moments and guest service. Lately, that hospitality has been going away.
At the Hilton, we received incredible service. Every person we interacted with was pleasant, helpful, and genuinely cared about giving us the best experience on our vacation. The room was well cleaned and tended to each night. And one night, the manager on duty surprised us with a basket full of goodies to enjoy on our trip.
About the Hilton Buena Vista Palace
The hotel itself is newly renovated and gorgeous. It has a bar, a couple restaurants, room service, and some great outdoor amenities. My family really enjoyed the lazy river, hot tub, and pools. There’s also outdoor games and play areas, like a mini-soccer field, oversized Connect Four set, fire pit, and other fun activities by the pool.
Since we were on a “Disney vacation,” we didn’t use the resort amenities as much as we would have liked to. But the days we used the pool were amazing. It’s heated, as is the lazy river, and it was lots of fun for all.
I would go back and stay just to use the resort and its amenities.
Hilton Buena Vista Palace – Inside the Room
The room was very clean, comfortable and spacious. The beds are a dream. I found out you can buy one for your home, too, which is something I’ll consider when it’s time for a new mattress. We stayed in a room with two queen-sized beds. Our kids are small enough to share a bed. (Though they typically pile on top of me and leave my husband with a queen bed all to himself!)
- Balcony overlooking the lake and pool. I had breakfast out there with my daughter one morning and it was perfect!
- Flat screen TV
- Desk with pull out table
- Comfortable chair and coffee table for lounging
Pedestrian Skybridge to Disney Springs
Another big deal for this hotel is walkability. As someone who works in Manhattan and enjoys living in a town where I can walk to everything, staying at a resort where I can enjoy the same experience is key. The Disney resorts really lack in this department. In fact, the Contemporary is the only hotel where you can walk to the Magic Kingdom. The Epcot/Hollywood Studios/Boardwalk area hotels are walkable, so those may be an option if you’d like to stay on property and close to those parks.
We really enjoyed walking to Disney Springs on many occasions. There is so much to see, do, and eat in Disney Springs. It’s a quick 5-minute walk to Disney Springs (if you’re fast). If you’re not used to walking or prefer a leisurely stroll, it may take 15 minutes to walk to Disney Springs. Either way, you’re not far from all the action.
Walking over to Disney Springs? Here are our favorites
Favorite Disney Springs Restaurants
Our favorite places at Disney Springs are Amorette’s Patisserie and Raglan Road. Amorette’s is much more than just a patisserie. Their sandwiches and crepes are incredible, and we highly recommend stopping there for lunch or a late night bite. One night, we brought takeout from Amorette’s back to the room. The Hilton has a nice pull-out table under each desk, and we shared a fun and delicious late night dinner with grandma and grandpa after visiting the pool.
Raglan Road was a new stop on this trip. It was delicious and fun! The Irish pub has live entertainment. Next time, we’d request a seat by the stage for added fun. Everything we tried on the menu was fantastic and the kids loved it, too.
Favorite Free Disney Springs Activities
I’m not sure if this is a holiday-only thing, but each year when we visit, there’s been a kids dance party in Disney Springs each night. It’s super cute. There’s an “elf” leading dances, and sometimes there are toy soldiers on stilts or other performers. It’s next to the Christmas Tree Trail, so you can stop there before or after to get some energy out.
Another thing to look into is the scavenger hunts. Right now, there’s a Stitch hunt going on.
There’s also the samples. And Ghirardelli gives free chocolate out to each visitor, regardless of whether you make a purchase or not.