So you’ve planned when you are going to go Disney but haven’t decided where to stay during your Disney vacation, you’re in the right place. This will be a general overview of whether to stay on or off Disney property. Both have pros and cons which I will go over. For me, the benefits of staying onsite at Disney outweigh staying off site but doesn’t mean that it’s right for everyone. If you haven’t decided when to go, check out this HERE. We will start with staying off site as this one is a little more straight forward
Benefits of staying off site – saving money without losing the amenities.
The biggest benefit that I’ve seen with staying off site is the cost – you can save a bit of money by staying off site. This will of course vary depending where you decide to stay whether 3 star or 5 star resort. I have friends that go down to Florida every couple of years and rent a house for the week – which for them works out well. They have 4 kids and usually go down with other family members, so renting a house is by far the cheapest option. The value resorts are around $110 a night – so figure around 800+ with tax. You can rent a house for about $1000-1500 per week, which is worthwhile if you are splitting the cost with another family. Depending on the Disney resort, it can be quite expensive at times. There are a lot of options out there for resorts and locations, each with their own amenities; so with this it is best to shop around.
Amenities are a big pro for staying off site. With a lot of the resorts that cost roughly the same as a value resort, you often get more room amenities such as a kitchen. This may not seem like a great thing for some, but it can help you save money during the trip if you can make 1 or 2 meals a day at the hotel. If you are staying off site – you can usually get to a groceries store easily to stock up on things for the trips for meals or snacks. Other amenities that maybe beneficial to some, is they often have a gym or fitness room. The only resorts at Disney that have gym access is the deluxe resorts.
The third biggest benefit is that you have more freedom, so to speak. If you are staying off site, you may not feel obligated to eat at a Disney restaurant or restricted to shop at Disney stores. You are more likely to go out and explore Kissimmee and Orlando, which there is a lot to do. I’ve stayed off site in the past, which was fun to walk and explore the surrounding areas. The only caveat with this, is that you will need to either rent a car or pay for taxi/Uber to get to the Disney parks – which can add up quickly. The cons of staying off site are really just the benefits of staying onsite at Disney, which I will get into next.
Benefits of staying onsite at Disney – What makes it so magical?
#1 – YOU”RE IN DISNEY!! You get to wake up in the most magical place on Earth! The resorts have a variety of themes that you can think about when choosing where to stay, I’ll have a small break down HERE, later on. But all of the resorts have a touch of Disney with small details all around.
Extra Magic Hours
For me, this is the biggest perk of staying on Disney. I try to take advantage of both the morning and evening extra magic hours. Extra magic hours (EMH) are the times when the park is open to resort staying guests only. The morning EMH are usually the least busy because guests may not want to get up an extra hour early. Magic Kingdom, for instance, opens up at 8am instead of 9am. There are night time extra magic hours as well; such as EPCOT, which has them from 9pm to 11pm. You can look up to find out the daily EMHs on Disney site HERE
This is the when we usually get a lot done, there are still quite a few people but not nearly as many as mid day. There are some rides that do not start running until actual park hours, which I will have a post HERE
Free transportation to parks and downtown disney
For those that are flying down and don’t want to rent a car, Disney has transportation options for you. They have a bus service that will take you to each of the parks and to Disney springs. These are continuously go between the parks and the resorts. Timing can be tricky at times because there are a lot of people usually trying to get to the same bus, but overall I haven’t had any issues. It does take some planning to make sure that you get on the bus, say if you are going to EMH. All of the busses have ramp for wheelchairs and usually 2 designated spots on the bus. They have seats as well as hand rails to hold on to for those what are standing. It can get squished at times, especially after the fireworks but it is usually a quick trip (less than 15 minutes of feeling like a sardine). One major change which caused a lot of unhappy Disney goers was the loss of free parking. This change took place on March 21, 2018.
The Magical express is the shuttle that will pick you up at the Orlando airport and bring you to your Disney resort to check in. They will grab your bags as well, if you opt for the Magical express; you’ll get a specific yellow sticker to put on your bags. This makes it easier to spot and will have your luggage delivered to your room. This can take a couple of hours to get to your room but after check in, you can always head to the parks, Disney Springs, or Pool (depending what’s in your carry-on).
Linking magic bands to room and debt/credit card
I remember in the past, when you would get a key to swipe into your room and also be linked to your debit card; which was pretty cool. Now Disney has gone above and beyond with the Magic Bands. This links your park passes, fast passes, room access, and debit card all on one device. It saves a lot in convenience. This is not exclusive to resort guests, as these can be used for just park passes and fast passes to non-resort guests. But the linking to the room, makes it easy that you want accidently lose it.
Delivery of Purchases to rooms
One thing that has always been a pain is finding something early in the day that I wanted to buy but not wanting to carry it around all day; if you are a resort guest, Disney has you covered. They offer a free delivery service for any purchases made in the parks. You fill out a form at the time of purchase and it will be delivered within 48hrs. Each resort has a pick up area within the shop. This works great at the beginning of the trip but be careful towards the end of the trip to make sure it has enough time to have it transported to the resort.
Poolside bar…..’Nuff Said, all though this is nothing special/unique to Disney as a lot of other resorts around Orlando have the same thing, but its nice that each resort has it too.
On-site food court
Each resort has, at least, a food court if not restaurant which is usually open late; around Midnight for a lot of them. This allows you to get back from one of the parks and grab a snack or drinks before bed. Each food court has its own menu which can be ordered from and made in front of you. The food court also has fountain drinks that you can use the refillable mugs at.
Ability to take a midday break
In the past, when we went down we would spend all day in the parks and be absolutely drained the next day. We started taking advantage of the resort being on site and taking a 1-2 hour break mid day to either relax by the pool or just hang out around the resort. It has made a big difference to be able to recharge a little. We usually time it towards 1-3pm as these are busy times and can avoid the crowds a little. For the little ones, Disney as activities around the pool for kids; so would be a good chance for parents to kick back by the pool and have the kids participate in the pool party.
Disney Dining plan
This one I will briefly touch upon and will have a full Article posted later on. For resort guests, you can add the Disney dining plan to your trip bill. What this is, is a tiered plan that basically pre-pays for your meals. This may be quick service or sit down restaurant. For the sit down restaurants, you can order anything on the menu as this has essentially already been paid for. There are pros and Cons of the dining plans – so this may not work for everyone. You get snacks with each of the dining plans that can be used in the parks or at the resorts. For more information, click HERE
There are a lot of benefits of staying onsite at Disney but overall it comes down to money and what fits within your budget. If you can go to Disney for a day or two but need to stay off site, then go for it. Some people prefer to be able to step away for a little bit. It’s all in what makes you happy and fits within your cost. Over the years, I have done both and both have their own merits. Personally, I like staying onsite but again, may not before everyone. Overall, you can make the most of your trip no matter where you stay.