So you’re going to Walt Disney World and you’re not sure where to stay, right? Trust me, it can be a very overwhelming process to plan a trip to Walt Disney World especially if its your first or only trip to the Kingdom. Before you decide much else, you need to make the decision about whether or not you will be staying onsite, on Disney property or offsite. Here’s a quick guide we hope you find helpful in making that first decision.
Pros of staying offsite at Walt Disney World
It can save you a lot of money
Ok so this is not always 100% true. Depending on what time of year you are going, how big your family is or what discounts you could otherwise be getting by staying on property at Walt Disney World will all make a difference in whether or not you’ll be saving money. Currently, my daughter and I are Annual Passholders so we don’t qualify for a lot of the special discounts available, but we no longer have to worry about paying for our tickets so we generally don’t worry about what any of that anyway . We could probably do it either way but we really do love being on property at WDW and usually opt for that.
Before we were passholders though, we always booked the Free Disney Dining when it was available and that discount was enough to keep us onsite. Its really just a matter of math(eww) but really how much you can save depends mostly on how many people you’re traveling with. Which leads to the next pro…..
You can get bigger rooms
Ok also-not always 100% true, but the possibility is much more so. Families of 6 or more generally have to get two rooms on property at WDW or a suite. And trust me, depending on the season, the suites can be super expensive!
Even so, most off property hotels have bigger rooms than the Walt Disney World resort rooms. We have stayed in every category resort on WDW property and honestly we don’t spend much time in the room to begin with, so size has never been an issue or even mattered much to us. We also only ever travel with the two of us or with Rochelle along so we don’t really need a ton of room.
But if you prefer more space or are traveling with a larger group, you might be better off staying offsite.
You can really get away from it all
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE staying on property. I love the Disney resorts, the theming, the vibe. But the truth is that even at some of the most relaxing resorts, there seems to always be an element of chaos. We basically always resort hop when we are there because we love the resorts just as much as we love the Parks. Who doesn’t love grabbing a dole whip with their toes in the sand while at the Polynesian? Or having tea at the Grand Floridian during a classic Florida thunderstorm?
But even then, there are ALWAYS people around. While that’s fine for some people, other really do want to get away. The closest you’ll probably get to seclusion is at the Caribbean Beach resort, which is WDW’s biggest resort, but even then, you’re never really alone.
By staying off property, you have so many more options and can really get away from it all. You can easily get a condo or even a whole house. Orlando has a lot of them, and some of them even have their own private pool. Check out Groupon for discounted hotel rooms and condos or AirBnB for unique listings and when you sign up through this link, you can save $40 on your first stay!
You can (sometimes) cook your own food
Unless you’re staying in a DVC villa, you won’t have access to a kitchen during your vacation on WDW property. For some people that’s great! However if you’re watching your budget or your waistline, you may prefer to cook your own meals even just occasionally while at WDW. We have seen some offsite hotel properties that offer small kitchenettes and if you’re going all out by staying in a condo or a house, you’ll have all the comforts of home right there for you.
While I love love love the food at Disney, I eat clean 80% of the time(basically when I’m not at Disney) and find after staying there for 7-10 days really makes me wish I had access to a kitchen. So I could cook some broccoli. Yep I’m a weirdo.
You’re closer to other things if you need to be
Want to visit Universal Studios? Trying to get away to Winter Haven for a day or even planning some beach time during your WDW vacation? You might be better off staying off property. When we visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, we stayed at a hotel 5 minutes away from Universal. It was 30 minutes from Magic Kingdom. WDW is so huge that getting on and off property can take a long time, even without factoring in the crazy traffic that can sometimes happen.
We are usually at Disney just to be at Disney, so for us this is not normally an issue but definitely something to keep it in mind if Disney isn’t the main focus of your trip.
Cons of Staying Off property at Walt Disney World
Its just a lot less magical
I love staying on property at WDW and there’s really just one reason why. I love the theming of the resorts. I love that some of them are more Disney-centric while other have small touches of Disney everywhere. With Disney, it really all is in the details! Ok so here’s the thing: for me that is a con. I am a huge Disney fanatic(obviously) and wanted to be submerged in the Disney bubble as long as possible!
However, for some people this point could actually be a pro. You may not want to be in the Bubble all day every day and that’s fine. So I’ll leave that one up to you.
You’ll have to pay for parking
Unless you’re an Annual Passholder or are taking an Uber, the sad fact is that parking at WDW is EXPENSIVE. At $20/day, depending on how many days you plan to go, that can add up pretty quickly.
You won’t have access to the big discounts
Well obviously. Any discount that is part of a Magic Your Way Package is not available unless you’re staying off property. Its just that simple.
You won’t have transportation
While I can truthfully say I’ve driven in much worse places(Los Angeles, I’m talking to you) driving in Orlando can sometimes be a less than desirable experience. We didn’t run into many issues with congestion or accidents but I’ve heard enough stories to know that I am grateful for the Disney transportation system no matter how flawed it may be.
Which leads me to another point-you might not mind not having access to the Disney transportation system. And if you really don’t want to drive or rent a car, there’s always tons of Uber drivers available to you!
*Side note-even if you’re not staying on property, you will have access to Disney transportation once at the Parks. So if you’re wondering how you’ll get to 1900 Park Fare for dinner, don’t worry, you can still take the monorail.
You don’t get the Resort Perks
So for me, it really comes down to the first con and this con that make me choose staying onsite. By staying on property, you have access to booking your dining reservations a little earlier than everyone else as well as your fastpasses. And for us, that makes a huge difference. You also don’t have access to Extra Magic Hours if you’re not staying onsite but that’s not as big of a deal to us because we usually find it more crowded during EMHs anyway.
I hope this has been helpful in your decision to stay off or on property when visiting Walt Disney World. The truth is that its not a one-size-fits-all type of equation and will really depend on your family’s tastes and budget, especially when traveling with a larger group.
Have you stayed off property before? Did you like it better than staying onsite? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!