One of the first questions, people ask when planning a Disneyland vacation is whether should we stay and a Disneyland hotel in Disneyland California? The natural instinct is when booking your stay to just head to Disney and let them take care of everything. Disney Hotels are fantastic and perfectly located right by the park, and surely by booking a Disney hotel you are entitled to a host of benefits and perks that other guests will not.
However, while staying at a Disneyland Resort Hotel is certainly a fantastic experience, it certainly comes at a price. And that price is some seriously expensive hotel rates, with prices STARTING at $350 a night and topping out in the $ 1000s you really have to shell out for that Disney Magic.
Should We Stay at a Disney Hotel?
With the eye-watering prices, many people will take a lot of convincing that they should indeed stay at Disney property. If that is what has brought you here then you may find yourself disappointed as we, on the whole, do not feel the perks and benefits of Disneyland Hotels are worth the vastly inflated prices. These hotels can run into the $ 1000s for a three-night stay when perfectly suitable accommodation can be found for $3-400s only a few minute’s walk away. This doesn’t feel like money well spent to us and can find far better uses than to give it to Disney.
However, it’s not quite that simple and the Disney hotels offer certain benefits that just cannot be found staying in the local motel or ANY other hotel in the area. So whether or not these benefits are worth it to you is obviously up to you, so let’s take a look at why you SHOULD.
Disney Hotel Perks – Benefits of a Disneyland Hotel
There are three main reasons to choose a Disney Hotel: Complete Disney immersion, Enviable Positions, and Disney Hotel Perks. We will come onto the other reasons later but the perks on offer for choosing a Disney hotel are very tangible and worthwhile. Unlike the Disney World Orlando Hotel perks that can completely make or break a trip, the Disneyland perks are less impressive but still worthwhile.
Extra Magic Hours – This is the main selling point as far as perks go. On certain days the parks are opened early for half an hour exclusively for Disney Hotel Guests. Queues are minimal and the park is quiet and relaxed, quite unlike any other time of day. It really is a special perk. Unlike over in Florida, there are only 2,500ish hotel rooms available amongst the Hotels owned by Disney at the Resort so even at full capacity it’s a fraction of the full capacity of the parks. In Dinsey World, there are over 30,000 Disney guests so Extra Magic Hours can actually be times to avoid (head to another park) as the Disney guests flock to the Magic hour park. This happens far less in Cali and an early rise is rewarded with an empty park and bagging a good few rides before the main gates open.
The Extra Magic Half Hour will alternate between Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure so check the Schedule to see which days which park will open early.
Magic Morning – it should be noted at Disneyland Park Non-Hotel guests can purchase special tickets to get in during the Magic Hour so Disneyland Extra Magic Hours can be busier than Disney California Adventure where ONLY guests can get in on the Magic Hour. It is still pretty quiet in Disneyland during the Magic Morning/Extra Magic Hours so you will likely enjoy a very quiet park and 5-10min queues on almost all rides!
It is worth noting that as of 2019 Star Wars: A Galaxies Edge is not open for the Extra Magic Hours or Magic Morning, this will probably change at some point but for now you are limited to the main park area.
The Hotels are also in the best locations imaginable. Right next to the park entrances and on the doorstep of loads of restaurants and amenities in Downtown Disney. However, it must be said the city planning office did not play ball with Disney in the early years of the parks and there are many hotels with equally convenient locations as you can see from our Best Disneyland Hotels Article.
But no hotels offer quite as perfect locations as the Disney properties, especially the Disneyland Hotel and The Grand Californian whose entrances are directly into Downtown Disney, and the Grand Californian even enjoys a private entrance directly into Disney California Adventure park! If you want an absolutely zero-hassle stay then the Disneyland Hotels are a perfect choice.
Complete Immersion into Disney.
Some people just want to give ALL their money to Disney and be completely immersed in the experience. That is fine, as it is also a good thing to be completely inside the Disney Eco System. Everything is linked and the hotel Concierge will have access to Disney Discounts, booking systems, and up-to-date knowledge of everything Disney. For some, this is a little much and they actually like to escape the Disney fantasy for a few hours with the full-on 24/7 Disney being a little much. But for others, they just can’t get enough Disney time, and staying at a Disney Hotel extends this magic.
But remember this is only Disneyland, not DisneyWorld and the Hotels and parks are a lot less intense than the DisneyWorld experience, where after a few days of full-on Disney most people need a break from the mouse’s clutches. At Disneyland, you are probably staying a few days and things are just a little more refined. Most people can stomach this amount of Disney without any real issues.
There are also certain hard-to-get reservations for dining and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique appointments that are set aside for hotel guests. You will still have to pay the full price but some reservations that are sold out to the public can be magically made available to hotel guests.
Issues with Staying at Disneyland Hotels
The main downside of Staying at a Disney hotel is the cost. The rooms are limited and prices are HIGH. The Quality of the Hotels is high but not as high as the Price dictates. Instead, the price is based on exclusivity and convenience.
Some people just don’t look beyond the Disney experience and just book away. But there are some really good hotels in equally great locations (well nearly) for a lot less, or a budget room, for an awful lot less and spend more time in the park. Whatever you choose there are a lot of reasons to avoid the Disneyland hotels, and unlike staying off the resort at Disneyworld, it will not overly affect your trip.
Other than the extra cost the Disney hotels are actually really good, the Grand Californian is a really splendid location and stunning hotel, and the Disneyland Hotel is a pleasant and upmarket retreat. The reason people score them so low on review sites is the high cost brings a very high expectation and as Disney has such a reputation they expect everything to be perfect. Any issues and they attack them on the Review sites with 1-star reviews.
If you have paid $100 for a budget motel people are far more forgiving! A couple of stains, slightly run-down, overlooking a car park…Who cares we only paid $100, Disney wants $600 a NIGHT! Pay $600 a night and everything needs to be perfect.
It really is a simple equation, are the very high prices worth the extra convenience of being right in the middle of Disney and the Extra Magic Hours (half hour)?
For most people, we tend to think not. This is why we wrote our full article on the best Hotels at Disneyland so you can find a Non-Disney hotel to suit every taste, Budget, and Expectation. It is not that there is any real downside to the Hotels, they are all really excellent, they just don’t justify the extra cost.
Disney has 3 properties at the Disneyland California Resort, and would you believe that not one of them ranks in the top 30 traveler-ranked hotels on Tripadvisor! So should you avoid these hotels? Is there some serious issue with the Disney properties that mean they are rated so poorly? Well not really, it’s more a quirk of psychology and people’s expectation and why you should NEVER put too much trust in TripAdvisor ranks.
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
- $600+ a night!
This is Disney’s top-end resort and has fantastic architecture, stunning woodland rooms, and a phenomenal position actually inside Disney California Adventure. Complete with its own private entrance to the Park and Disney Downtown.
The Grand Californian comes the closest out of the three to justify its price tag, while it is the most expensive it really offers a truly unique and wonderful experience one that cannot be replicated by any rival hotel in the area, as such they can charge what they please.
- $450+ a night!
The Mid-range offering is still a serious outlay and offers a much less unique experience. Sure the Pool deck is fantastic and the rooms well appointed and the locations second only to the grand, but it’s just not quite as special and really at this price point it needs to be very very special indeed.
Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel
- $350+ a night!
This is the Budget offering and we struggle to reconcile a $350 price tag as budget. You can bag decent non-Disney hotels with great locations for less than a third of that elsewhere. The Pier is a nice hotel but the offering is not at the same level as the other Disney Hotels and has the worst location of them all. However, Disney began renovations on the Paradise Pier Hotel in September 2022 with the view to transforming it into Pixar Place: a shiny new, updated hotel immersive experience of all things Pixar! Renovations are being completed while the hotel is open so construction may affect your visit for a while yet as there is no official end date for the renovations at this time.
Disneyland Hotel Prices
As you can see prices per night range from $350-over $600 per night + Taxes, and that’s base rates before surge pricing, these are some of the most costly hotel rooms in the States. While we really like hotels, it is just not what we consider acceptable value. If you want a Once-in- a-lifetime, Money No Object experience, then you may be able to justify it, or if money is of little consideration to you, then these hotels are fantastic, but for most people, we think you could find something a lot better to do with that money and stay in one of the many much cheaper Non-Disney alternatives.
The one saving grace is you are likely to only be staying a few nights at a time so these huge price tags will only be for 2 or 3 days you may not need to re-mortgage the house, but it’s a very expensive 2-3 day trip! Think about what else you could see and do with that cash!
Disney Good Neighbour Hotels
The Good Neighbor Hotel Scheme is a bit of nothingness really. The Hotels are normally very close to the Parks, however, you do not need Disney to tell you this as a map would suffice, and they meet minimum criteria and standards according to Disney, however you get none of the benefits of the Disney Hotels. You can, however, book them through Disney direct if you like. This is what it really means, Disney can get a cut if you book through them.
While most of the Disney Good Neighbour Hotels are fantastic, and many feature on our list of best hotels. The fact they are Good Neighbour hotels is really neither here nor there. If you choose to not stay at a Disney Hotel there is very little reason to book a hotel through them. You are bound to get the same room cheaper from an internet booking site.
Have Your Say
Have you stayed at a Disney Hotel? Was it worth it to you? Did you find the perks worth the expense or did it all feel like an overpriced tourist trap? We know many people feel very differently about the Hotels and while we fall on the “overpriced” Side of things we know others swear by the Disney Properties and we would love to know YOUR opinion! So just let us know in the comments below. Also if you have any questions just fire away.