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March 15, 2018, 3:41 a.m. EDT

Walt Disney World to eliminate free overnight parking for hotel guests

Guests with cars will now have to pay up to $24 more per night when they stay at Walt Disney World

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By Jacob Passy

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Walt Disney World will soon charge guests staying at its hotels an extra fee if they choose to park their cars there.

Planning a road trip to the most magical place on Earth? It’s about to get more expensive.

Disney /zigman2/quotes/203410047/composite DIS -2.10%  announced Wednesday that it will begin charging guests at Walt Disney World Resort hotels a fee for overnight parking. The change will go into effect for travelers who make reservation starting March 21 and beyond.

How much guests pay will depend on the hotel. Guests at Walt Disney World’s Value Resorts, the least expensive tier of the group’s hotels, will pay $13 per night. Those at the moderate-tier of hotels will be charged $19 per night, while travelers staying at the most expensive hotels will pay $24 per night. These fees include applicable taxes.

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Members of the Disney Vacation Club, the timeshare program operated by Disney, will not be charged for overnight self-parking regardless of whether they use timeshare points to book a stay. And vacationers staying at the Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort will not be charged for overnight parking. Those looking only to park at a hotel during the day will also not be charged a fee.

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Travel experts said that the new fees were unlikely to dissuade consumers from traveling to Walt Disney World or staying at other hotels in the Orlando area.

“Right now about half of visitors to Florida drive, and that’s driven largely by the cheaper cost versus flying. Adding a few tens of dollars per day to the trip isn’t going to change that decision,” said Len Testa, co-author of “The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World” and president of travel website Touring Plans. “And nobody is going to stay on the other side of Orlando to save $24 per day in parking — the extra 30 minutes you’d spend in your car isn’t worth it.”

Prior to the change, overnight parking had always been free at Walt Disney World hotels, and hotel guests will still get free parking at the resort’s theme parks. The new fees were added to bring Disney in line with standards across the travel industry, a Disney spokeswoman told MarketWatch. Around 80% of hotels in Central Florida charge a parking fee, according to research by Disney.

For instance, guests staying at hotels on Universal Orlando /zigman2/quotes/209472081/composite CMCSA -1.53%   property pay a $22 fee for parking per night, according to the Orlando Sentinel . Universal Orlando also charges parking fees for day guests. Travelers staying at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif., and Aulani, Disney’s resort in Hawaii, already paid for parking, the Disney spokeswoman said.

The Disney spokeswoman said the resort will not be making any changes at this point to the parking fees it charges theme park visitors who aren’t staying at its hotels. Parking fees at the resort’s theme parks start at $22 per day. The company recently raised admission prices for its theme parks at Walt Disney World and Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.

Also read: Walt Disney World will finally welcome dogs at (some) hotels

The change comes as Walt Disney World prepares for a number of major expansions over the next few years. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park, new areas themed after the “Toy Story” and “Star Wars” film franchises will open this June and in 2019 respectively. The resort will also add new hotels and new attractions at its Epcot theme park in the coming years.

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Jacob Passy is a personal-finance reporter for MarketWatch and is based in New York.

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