Disney World Vacation Planning – Do I Stay ON property or OFF-site?

Disney World Cinderella Coach

If Disney World is your vacation destination, you’ll likely need a place to stay while you’re visiting (besides the castle since we’re all princesses!). Disney World travel planning can instill fear in even the best vacation planners. There are hundreds of options within a few miles of the parks. While there are condo and home rentals as well as timeshare options, I wanted to focus on hotels today. Unlike other vacation destinations, this is where an informed certified Disney travel agent can be your best friend.

When I was planning my first trip to Disney World, the Grand Floridian was the only property I was interested in. But when I was told it wasn’t available for my dates of travel I had a little panic because I hadn’t researched any other options. I was so intent on that one property it never dawned on me that I wouldn’t be able to reserve my dates. That’s when I discovered that hotel options at Disney abound. Whatever your budget there is something for you!

While staying at the Grand Floridian isn’t for everyone, when it comes to visiting Walt Disney World the first decision about hotels you make is this: Do you stay on-property or off-property? (Oops, I jumped the real first question which is do you want to stay in a hotel or other type of property. For this discussion, we’ve decided to stay in a hotel.)

So, back to the discussion. We’re staying at a hotel, now to determine if it will be on-site (a Disney-owned accommodation) or off-site (owned by another company but close to Disney World). There are benefits and drawbacks to both decisions. I’ve stayed at both types and both worked well for my family. You know your family and your travel needs, so don’t believe that one or the other the only option. Disney’s all about options!

Staying on-site means you’re staying at one of the 25 resorts, villas or campground in the Value, Moderate or Deluxe and Villas categories of accommodations. Disney also has a campground facility for those who wish to camp or are traveling by camper or RV and want to enjoy the benefits offered to guest staying at Disney properties.

With over 30,000 rooms, you’ll definitely find a Disney Resort to fit your needs. This is where working with a certified Disney World Travel Agent like The Affordable Mouse can really help. With so many options, and possibly special needs due to size of family or need for certain types of amenities, it’s nice to have someone to prompt you and narrow down your options quickly.

The benefits of staying at a Disney Resort are many. They include Extra Magic Hours (getting to enter the parks early or stay later), complimentary airport shuttle service on Disney’s Magical Express, in-park package delivery back to your room (who wants to carry around bags all day?), using your room key for in-park charges, convenient and complimentary transportation to and from the parks to your hotel, the option of using one of the Disney Dining plans as well as the 24-hours a day Disney magic sprinkled throughout your stay.

Of course, there can be drawbacks to staying on-site which could be a deciding factor. The magic does not come free. Disney resorts are often at a premium when compared to other similar area resorts. However, it’s not an apples to apples comparison and you’ll need to prioritize your needs to make sure you’re getting what is best for you. One other concern I’ve heard from people is that they don’t like having to pay a deposit equal to one-nights stay when they book a Disney property. Over the past few years, though, that policy has begun to carry over to off-site hotels as well so it may not be a factor.

For many people, the benefits to staying off-property when traveling to Disney World far outweigh the drawbacks. While I missed the convenience of Disney’s Magical Express it was nice to arrange my own times for transportation. And since my family doesn’t do the Extra Magic Hours that was a benefit we were willing to forego. Overall, staying off-property for my family wasn’t a big deal. Then again, we stayed at the Swan hotel so we were close to both Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios and were able to use the Disney resort transportation services.

If reading this has you  concerned about choosing the right resort when you visit Disney World, don’t fret. Like most other hotel decisions these days, when you get online and start researching options the choices can become overwhelming. Nancy from The Affordable Mouse did an excellent step by step plan to help you decide which hotel option is best for you when planning your Disney World vacation. It’s a great first step to helping you create a magical Disney vacation.

If you’re planning a Disney vacation, using a certified Disney World travel agent is free to you and will not increase the price of your vacation. Nancy is terrific and can help you maximize your magic!

When planning your Disney World vacation, do you think you’d stay on-site or off-site?

Disclosure: Using The Affordable Mouse will NOT increase the price of your trip. If anything, it may save you money. Please let them know I sent you!



Author: Sara

Sara is a life-long dreamer, creating a list of things she wants to do "someday". Realizing there is no "someday" on the calendar she's taking the steps to make her somedays a reality. Between saving for retirement and college and paying for all the usual things, many women find that they're often putting their hopes and dreams on hold. Saving For Someday is Sara's way of encouraging women everywhere to find ways to save on the ordinary so they can do the extraordinary. Sara is also a licensed attorney and writes about legal issues affecting bloggers, content creators and online professionals. This blog is for informational purposes only. You can also find me on Google+

6 thoughts on “Disney World Vacation Planning – Do I Stay ON property or OFF-site?”

  1. What a great post! We are on our way there now, staying on-site for a few nights, then in Downtown Disney for a few. I’ll let let you which one we prefer!

  2. Becca, would be interested to hear your comparison. I’ve never stayed in the Downtown Disney area, whether on or off property. I’ve taken the bus from my resort to Downtown Disney and have wondered that commute would be if we stayed nearby. Downtown Disney is a lot of fun!

  3. What a very nice post. Thank you so much for letting us know all there is to know about Disney. More power to you and your site!

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