Update: these benefits have been extended into 2020.
Today I received a press release noting that the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels will be gaining access to Extra Magic Hours beginning January 1, 2018, and, those “who have booked a Walt Disney Travel Company package including a stay at one of [these] hotels, and theme park admission” with a linked, valid theme park ticket, can make FastPass+ bookings at 60 days beginning January 10, 2018.
While never called an experiment in the press release, the Extra Magic Hours benefit is explicitly referred to as lasting through December 31, 2018, and is noted as being “subject to change without notice.” The FastPass+ at 60 days discussion the press release does not contain such limiting language. But one rumor I’ve heard is that “these benefits are going to be temporary to help during all the Disney resort closures for construction.”
The seven Disney Springs hotels are all on the far (eastern) side of Disney World, to the east of Disney Springs itself. They have on the order of 3,700 rooms in total. They include (descriptions from the press release):
- B Resort & Spa – the stylish resort opened in June 2014 with 394 newly renovated guest rooms, the full-service B Indulged AVEDA Spa, and features American Kitchen Bar & Grill
- Best Western Lake Buena Vista – the 18-story, 325-room resort overlooks scenic Lake Buena Vista and the Walt Disney World Resort, and offers two restaurants, a lounge, and wireless internet
- DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando – the luxurious resort hotel features 229 spacious suites, and is the only all-suite resort hotel in the Disney Springs Resort Area
- Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace –the 27-acre, newly renovated hotel features a beautifully redesigned pool area with four pools, seven restaurants and lounges, spa, and a Character Breakfast every Sunday
- Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista – the closest hotel to Disney Springs, the resort offers two pools, a Disney Character Breakfast each Sunday, seven restaurants and lounges (including Benihana Steakhouse), and 24-hour fitness center
- Holiday Inn Orlando – offers the ideal setting to stay and play, featuring modern Florida décor, a beach entry swimming pool, and complimentary Wi-Fi in all guest rooms and public areas
- Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista – featuring a Disney Character Breakfast 3 days a week, 394 guest rooms, six dining options, and the Oasis Aquatic Pool Playground with interactive water features
While there has already been much concern–even panic–about the impact of these ~3,700 rooms gaining access to these Disney World perks, the overall increase in rooms with access to these benefits is only about 15%.
Not everyone in them is there for a Disney World vacation (most of the times I’ve stayed at the Disney Springs Hilton, it’s been for conferences). Moreover, on the 60 day FastPass+ issue, not even all those in these hotels aiming to go to Disney World will have booked their stays with a “Walt Disney Travel Company package.”
So what I expect is that what was already hard—for example getting FastPass+ for Flight of Passage or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train—will get a bit harder, and what was already crowded—evening Extra Magic hours and morning EMH at Animal Kingdom—will get a bit more crowded. But I don’t expect a huge change from the expansion of these perks.
I speculated a month ago about this possibility and what might be the thinking behind it. What we’ve seen—so far—is just a subset of the hotels that were rumored to possibly be part of this plan.
The long-time travel agent partner of this site, Kelly B., can help you book your Disney World vacation at a Disney Springs Resort Area hotel or anywhere else–contact her at KellyB@DestinationsInFlorida.com or 980-429-4499.