Opting for a Walt Disney World trip is possibly one of the easiest decisions in the world — no matter how old you are, a few days of rides, characters, and general magic will go amiss. But visitors also have a more challenging decision: should they go for on-site or off-site accommodation?
It probably hasn’t passed you by that Disney has numerous hotels within its resort — it’s not exactly quiet about promoting its accommodation. But if you’re questioning whether the price tag is worth it, you might also want to consider other options.
Don’t let the choice overwhelm you — we’ll carefully examine the pros and cons for both options so you can be as informed as possible. If you’re already decided to stay off site, be sure to check out our top resorts for staying off site. Also, if you want the best of both worlds, one of our favorite resorts remains the Swan and Dolphin Resort. This is suppose to be a vacation, put a list of what’s important for you, that’s another reason why I also consider the best pool options when staying on Disney property.
You’re visiting Disney World for a reason — either you really love Disney yourself, or someone that you love really loves Disney. In either case, the prospect of staying onsite in a Disney hotel is probably going to hold plenty of appeal.
You should consider a few caveats before making your decision, but first, let’s get into the positives.
The key advantages of staying onsite can be broken down into a few key categories:
Let’s look at each one in turn.
If you want the true “Disney experience,” then let’s face it — traveling between Disney World and a hotel in the city every day just isn’t the same as being in the resort 24/7.
Does seeing Disney-themed furniture, decor, and refreshments sound like heaven on earth? You’re going to love staying in an onsite hotel. Nothing can compare to the atmosphere you’ll experience.
Even if bursting the Disney bubble at the end of each day doesn’t make you recoil, it’s worth considering how much more relaxing your experience will be if you never have to leave the resort.
No need to worry about where to buy groceries, eat, or park — you have everything you need within the resort’s boundaries. We go on vacation to relax, so let Disney look after you.
That leads nicely to our next point.
Staying at an on-site hotel will give you access to free transportation between the other parks, making your stay as easy and relaxed as possible. At some locations, you’ll even be able to get around on a monorail, Skyliner, or boat.
This helps to make your trip as relaxed and stress-free as possible. Head back to the hotel for a cup of coffee, a nap, or a quick game of cards as many times as you want without it taking up too much of your day.
You can even get transport directly to and from the hotel. Don’t say they don’t treat you well!
Okay, that’s enough of the practical considerations — Disney World is all about having fun! And nowhere can help you maximize your entertainment options quite like an onsite hotel.
All resorts are jam-packed with restaurants and weekly activity schedules, which could involve anything from crafts to movie screenings to meeting your favorite Disney characters.
Themed hotels tend to offer themed activities.
While we’d all like to live in a magical Disney fantasy world forever, it doesn’t come for free. There are also a few factors you should be aware of before you rush into a decision:
- High costs
- Parking costs
As they say, you get what you pay for. If you want to stay in a comfortable hotel in a premier location with maximum convenience, expect to open up your wallet.
In fairness, they’re not all prohibitively expensive. You’ll find some that are suitable for a lower budget — but let’s not mince our words, you’ll almost definitely get a cheaper deal if you stay elsewhere.
Some people like the buzz of staying within the Disney bubble and being with visitors who are also enjoying the magic. For others, the idea of being surrounded by constant crowds and activity sounds more like a nightmare.
If you like to get away from it all at the end of a busy day, staying at an on-site hotel might not be the right choice.
As if paying over the odds for a hotel on-site wasn’t bad enough, you’ll also have to fork out for your car to stay over. Depending on the hotel you choose, this could be anything up to $24.
But on the bright side, you’ll be able to park your cars at any of the parks for free if you stay onsite, where parking is more expensive.
Feeling adventurous? Head out of Disney World’s boundaries and into the outer realm to find a hotel.
As we’ve seen, price is a huge drawback to staying onsite at Disney World. But while this is a major consideration, it’s not the only thing that staying offsite has going for it. We’ll explore the following factors:
- Lower cost
- Greater variety
A hotel inside Disney World is more expensive than a comparable establishment offsite, even if the two places are incredibly close to each other in practice. That can make Disney’s prices hard to stomach.
It’s not just the accommodation that’s cheaper, either — you’ll also find more affordable restaurants and amenities in the area.
There’s more to Orlando than Disney World — it’s an entire city with plenty to offer tourists in its own right.
Why not head to Madame Tussauds, SEA LIFE Aquarium, or one of the many other attractions found there?
Given Disney World is home to 25 different hotels, with something suitable for a range of budgets and preferences, it would be unfair to say that it lacked variety.
But that can’t compare to having the whole city of Orlando to find accommodation in. Whether you’re looking for a small, homely hotel in a quiet location or a towering hotel with a swimming pool, you’ll find something to suit your tastes.
Naturally, staying off-site also comes with some significant disadvantages:
- Transportation costs
- More organization needed
- Less magical
When you stay off-site, you’ll need to organize transport to and from the park each day, which means paying for parking and petrol.
This can seriously add up, so don’t assume that your cheap hotel means you’re automatically saving money.
More organization needed
It’s not just the costs of transport you need to consider. You’ll also have to navigate through unfamiliar territory, find a parking space, and avoid the rush hour every day. Sounds stressful, huh?
Then there’s the struggle of figuring out where exactly to find everything you need, like groceries and good restaurants. When you leave the Disney bubble, you’ll be fending for yourself in the wild.
This one is subjective, but it’s worth emphasizing. Your trip to Disney World is about more than just pragmatic considerations — it’s about having a fantastic time.
Staying off-site just doesn’t offer the same atmosphere and experience, so don’t pressure yourself into it if you’re dying to eat, sleep, and breathe Disney for a few days.
Where dreams come true
Wherever you decide to stay, we’re sure you’ll make it work for you and have an amazing experience.
But it’s best to know what you’re signing up for, so consider your budget and preferences carefully before you make a booking.