This post is part 2 of the 3 part Walt Disney World 101 series. If you have ever searched for information and advice about how to plan a WDW vacation, you will know there are TONS of resources and websites that can help. This can be daunting, overwhelming and stressful. Walt Disney World 101 covers the basics and allows you to make decisions about your Disney World vacation quickly and efficiently.
Staying at a Walt Disney World Resort vs. Staying Off Site
After deciding when you will visit, you will have to decide whether to stay on Disney property or off-site. There are pros and cons for each option which are described below.
Benefits of Staying at a Disney Resort:
1. Complimentary Round Trip Airport Shuttle Service – Known as Disney’s Magical Express Transportation, the shuttle service is free for all guests of Walt Disney World Resort hotels. Luggage delivery and on-property flight check-in is also included as part of this complimentary service.
2. Free Transportation to the Theme Parks and the Downtown Disney Area – Guests staying at a Disney World Resort can take a bus, monorail or boat (all part of the Disney Transportation system) to the parks or Downtown Disney for free. Complimentary transportation is available one hour prior to the Theme Park opening time and up to one hour after Theme Park closing time. Buses operate until 2:00 AM from the Downtown Disney Area to Disney Resorts.
3. Extended Theme Park Hours – Every day, guests stay at Disney Resorts can beat the crowds at at least one theme park (including the water parks) by entering an hour early or staying for later evening hours. This is known as Extra Magic Hours.
4. Free Package Delivery to your Disney Resort – If you make any purchases at any of the theme parks or the Downtown Disney area you can choose to have theme delivered to your resort instead of carrying bags of souvenirs with you all day. They can be picked up the following day at the merchandise pick-up location (usually in the gift shop) at your resort.
5. Dining Plan Option – Disney dining plans are available exclusively to guests of Walt Disney World Resort hotels. To take advantage of a Disney dining plan, you must purchase a Magic Your Way Vacation Package (accommodation + park tickets)
Benefits of Staying Off Site / Non Disney Hotel:
1. Lower Cost, More Space – Rooms at non Disney hotels are usually bigger. For the same price as a Moderate or Deluxe Disney Resort, you may be able to get a suite with several bedrooms, kitchen and in room laundry facilities at some off site properties. If parents want to relax after the kids go to bed, the extra space and rooms come in handy and you are able to watch TV or eat a snack without worrying about waking up your children.
2. Saving Money on Meals – Many Orlando vacation rentals have full kitchens (stove, oven, microwave etc.) so it is easy to prepare meals if you don’t want to spend money eating at the parks. The full kitchen also means you can warm up and sterilize bottles easily.
3. Washer and Dryer in your room – Many suites and homes comes with a washer and dryer so if you want to wash clothes during your vacation, you can. This means you also have to pack less in your suitcase!
While staying off site most likely will cost less than staying at a Disney World Resort hotel, make sure you factor in the additional costs of staying off site.
You will need to rent a car if your off site hotel does not have shuttle service to the parks – some hotels have, some don’t. You will also have to pay for parking as parking on Disney property is free only if you are a Disney World Resort guest. You may need to rent a crib if the off site property does not provide it.
Finally, if renting a condo or home, there maybe cleaning and security fees that will be added onto your final bill. It is recommended to check with the property management company before booking.
Ultimately, the decision of where to stay is a personal one. If you are planning on visiting other attractions in the Orlando area that are outside of the theme parks are on a tight budget or have a family of 5 or more, it might make more sense to stay off site. If free airport shuttle service, dining plan options, extended park hours and free transportation to theme parks are important then it may be worth it to pay a bit extra for those perks.
Read the entire Walt Disney World 101 series.