Vote of the week: What's the best perk for staying at an on-site theme park hotel?

July 29, 2010, 5:32 PM · Part of the reason why we chose to stay at Hotel Breakers when we visited Cedar Point last weekend was the opportunity to get into the park one hour early, to get a jump on the lines for some of the park's top roller coasters.

We'll be staying at the Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando when we get in Orlando in a couple weeks, where we'll get front-of-the-line access to (almost) all of the Universal attractions while we're there.

If we were staying on-site at Walt Disney World a little bit later in August, we could have gotten free dining at the Disney parks and hotels during the visit.

Which brings me to this week's vote on Theme Park Insider: Which perk would you prefer with an on-site stay at a theme park's hotel? Early access for just the hotel guests, front of the lines access to the park's rides, or free dining at the park and hotel restaurants?

I'd love to hear your personal experience with any of these perks, and whether or not you feel that they're worth the extra price of staying at an "on property" hotel.

Replies (20)

July 29, 2010 at 5:49 PM · My trip report should be of some help for visiting Harry Potter Robert when you get there!
July 29, 2010 at 5:59 PM · Personally, I prefer free dining.

Whilst front-of-the-line access is a fantastic bonus I'm now so used to trip planning and working out a time-friendly touring plan that I really don't see a need (in most cases) for front-of-the-line access.

For me free dining is the best for saving money and hence is my personal favorite.

July 29, 2010 at 6:51 PM · I'm not familiar w/ the front of the line access- how does it work? Are you actually walking right on to a ride, or is there a shorter, front-of-the-line...line... that you're waiting in?
July 29, 2010 at 7:37 PM · Front of line access, no question about it. I'm not a big fan of waiting in line. I'll pay for food, and early entry wouldn't really be needed if you had a front of the line pass.
July 29, 2010 at 7:56 PM · Think FastPass: You move past the main line into a shorter line for other hotel guests and Express Pass holders, which mixes in with the regular line at the load station.
July 29, 2010 at 8:45 PM · I said front of the line, but my main reason for staying at an on site hotel is the ambiance.
July 29, 2010 at 8:58 PM · Tough question.

Front of the line access

It's a beautiful thing and was ultimately my choice. No lines, no whines.

Free dining

Without thinking into it too heavily, this was my first choice. It would save you a tonne, which is exactly what you would weigh at the end of the trip if you chose this option. I simply can't survive off of theme park food, especially outside of Disney World and Universal Studios. It's great for a day or two, but then I start to feel physically terrible.

Early entry

This would have been my choice, though I didn't agree with your specification of "early". I love being at the park after hours. The lines and crowds are limited, the atmosphere and temperature are cool, the employees are laid back. However, I don't enjoy waking up even earlier to get to the park just to have one hour of extra play. If you had just specified this category as "extra hours", then I would have chosen it.

July 29, 2010 at 10:10 PM · Front of Line Access just makes park touring an absolute breeze. When we last stayed at Universal's Royal Pacific (2007), we had the most relaxing, laid back theme park vacation I have ever experienced - all because we did not have to worry about lines!
July 30, 2010 at 5:57 AM · I never stay on site, but I voted for "front-of-line" privileges. By the time you get to a ride on early entry, you've eaten up a portion of the hour. You're lucky to get 3-4 rides in, less if your next ride is on the other side of a huge park like CP. Then you still have to deal with lines all day, anyway.

I'm fat, and I eat too much. However, I eat infrequently in parks, and If I knew I had unlimited food, that might change. So no need for that.

Front-of-line all the way for this rider.

July 30, 2010 at 7:00 AM · The early hour, especially in Orlando is not just an extra hour to play. It is essential to the entire day flowing well. At Sea World you can knock out the rides with little lines. Islands head straight to Jurrassic or HP. And at Magic Kingdom in the middle of summer we are able to knock out most rides in the park before Noon. Strategic planning, fast pass makes everyone in our large party appreciate waiting out the early opening. We usually wait 30 min at the front gate, but so worth it. Sitting down to a reservation at Noon for a meal, accomplishing so much prior is a great experience. Allows the rest of the day to fit in shows, etc. Everyone should consider the benefits of the first hour of the day.
July 30, 2010 at 8:12 AM · I think there were more that could be added such as free transportation to the park, staying late, and transportation/check in to airport from hotel. The Check in/Magical Express would be my vote.

Why aren't you staying at a Disney resort while going down there? They are great!

July 30, 2010 at 11:19 AM · I absolutely prefer early entry. Front of the line often means you miss the queue areas. Attractions like Men In Black, Potter, Revenge of the Mummy have great queues (which often contribute to the attraction's theming and story). Experiencing an attraction loses something when you don't get the full treatment.

Arrive early, take in three attractions before the park opens, fast pass a couple without the interactive queus. Midday take a break and then return for extra hours.

July 30, 2010 at 8:53 PM · This is one perk for which I'll give USF and IoA the nod -- being able to enter the "express" line makes it possible to do the park at your own pace, and without worrying about whether or not you'll be able to do all the attractions you want to. So, give me the "FotL" access for staying at the resort, and I won't need the early entry/late hours. We were there during the soft opening of the Simpsons ride, and enjoyed being able to practically just walk on. Same thing with Spidey and Hulk... and MIB... and the other FotL attractions.
July 31, 2010 at 5:23 AM · You don't have to use your express access, TH, but you CAN if you want or need to....

It sure is a nice perk to have in your back pocket, especially if you have already traversed the full queue once or twice.

July 31, 2010 at 6:34 PM · It's got to be free dining.

In the days of $8 theme park hamburgers and $3 soft drinks, nothing has more value than free meals at your favorite theme park, especially ones that isolate themselves from off-site restaurants (WDW).

Front of the line access is cool, but with FastPass, single rider lines, and other tricks of the trade, FOTL is only a perk for the uneducated.

Early access or even late access for that matter, are cool, but most parks that offer this perk, you're only able to get one or two extra rides, and that's only on the most popular attractions. Also, for those who have been to parks many many times, getting an extra hour here or there really doesn't make that much difference in enjoying a day.

Everyone needs to eat, so it's absolutely free dining for me. In fact, it's so enticing that our trip to WDW in October will be an on-site visit because of the free dining promotion.

July 31, 2010 at 7:50 PM · Hmmm. Looks like the vast majority of us are "uneducated" FotL'ers...

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