Staying on property vs Staying off property

Disney’s Contemporary Resort (Courtesy: Liberty Travel)

Now that you have decided on the dates of when to visit Walt Disney World. Let us continue with “Livin’ the Disney Life!” six-part series. Part two of this series will help you decide on where to stay during your vacation. There are so many choices and options at your disposal on where to stay, that both offer advantages and disadvantages. So do you stay on property or stay off property? There are currently over 30 resorts on Walt Disney World’s property. With all of them offering different price ranges, amenities, complimentary airport and resort transportation, and distinctive benefits for staying on property. Staying off property will save in the cost of the hotel, the use of hotel or credit card reward points, and perhaps to just get away from Disney itself. So let us dive in…

Staying on property

With Walt Disney World having over 30 resorts from which to choose from. Families and just about everyone will be able to find a resort that fits within your budget. Disney resorts are broken into pricing tiers or categories: Value, Moderate, Deluxe and Deluxe Villas. So therefore, you can get an idea of what you would pay based on where you choose to stay, room type, and location too. On Disney’s explore resort hotels page, you can filter what category, price range, location, and characteristics that interest you the most. Because each resort is uniquely themed, each one offers different amenities such as themed pools, jogging/walking trails, bicycle rentals, golfing, and entertainment. So there is a resort for families of all sizes, couples, and just those getting away. I have had the opportunity to stay at a Disney resort in all three categories: Disney’s All-Star Music Resort (Value), Disney’s Port Orleans Resort-French Quarter (Moderate), and Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa (Deluxe Villa). With the last two resorts being wedding anniversary stays, I do highly recommend Port Orleans-French Quarter just simply because of that New Orleans, Louisiana flare.

So lets talk about the many advantages of staying on property. If you are flying into Orlando International Airport (MCO), Disney’s Magical Express complimentary motor coach service will assist you with your bags and drive you in comfort to your resort. Therefore your Disney vacation can officially begin! Staying on property also gives you complimentary transportation throughout Walt Disney World. These options may include buses, water taxis, monorail, and the new Skyliner; all depending on which resort you’re staying at. Staying at a resort also gives you complimentary magic bands too. But perhaps one of the two biggest advantages to staying at a Disney resort is the 60-day advance window to book FastPass+ for three rides for each day at one of the four Disney theme parks. Whereas everyone else (Annual Passholders and those who buy tickets online) only get a 30-day advance window. The second big advantage is extra magic hours. On select days, one or two Disney theme parks will either open early or stay open late for guests staying at a Disney resort. So you either get an early start or hang out late. These two advantages are huge and helps make your vacation truly worth it. Finally, one last advantage of staying on property, you can always return to your resort room for a nap (especially if you have little ones) or take a dip in the pool, or when you just want to rest your feet and get away from the crowds during the middle of the day before heading back out for nighttime entertainment.

In fairness as the saying goes: “you get what you paid for”. With that being said, there is a certain level of expectation and the fit and finish to the rooms depending on where you stay. If you’re staying at a value resort, obliviously, the amenities and the fit and finish won’t be absolute top notch; but the best possible accommodations available. Simply put, don’t expect a Rolls Royce interior inside a Chevrolet Sonic. But one suggestion I do recommend, always check the “special offers, deals & discount” page to find all the offers and discounts that are available.

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (Courtesy: Disney Fine Art Photography)

The one disadvantage I will say about staying on property are the resort parking fees if you are driving your own vehicle or rental. The parking fees will vary depending on what category resort you are staying at. Parking fees for 2020 at Value resorts are $15/night, Moderate resorts are $20/night, and Deluxe resorts are $25/night. So you must truly factor this into your budget.

Staying off property

Now staying off Disney’s property is an option that many people do consider. Because there are many advantages to this option. Staying off property allows you to choose any hotel or resort brand that is in the Lake Buena Vista, Kissimmee, and Orlando area. Since the cost will probably be cheaper, it allows you to find a great hotel or resort that is within driving distance of Disney World. There is absolutely no shortages of hotels, resorts and timeshares all within perhaps 10 miles. Plus, these hotel and resort brands have their own rewards and discounts that you can choose from; as well as using credit card reward points to cash in too. My family and I have stayed off property plenty of times when visiting Disney World. Many of those stays being at StayBridge, Holiday Inn Express and Holiday Inn Orange Lake Resort. Sometimes your budget may not allow you to stay on Disney’s property every time and that is understandable. You and your family can still have a great time off property, get better space and amenities for a much better price.

One of two real disadvantages to staying off property is just that…staying off property. You will constantly have to get in your vehicle and drive to the theme parks. You will have to sit in traffic as everyone else is driving to the theme parks. Traffic coming and going to Disney World is usually rush hour no matter what time you’re driving on I-4, Highway 192 (W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy.), and S. Apopka Vineland Road. Staying off property will require you to pay a $25 parking fee at each theme park you visit; unless you’re visiting multiple parks the same day. One tip: park at Disney Springs and ride the Disney buses to your theme park destination and back. But there will be a wait time between bus arrivals. Now, another way to avoid driving to the theme parks is by using the hotel/resort’s bus transportation. But the downside is that you have to be at the pickup/drop-off location at a certain time, or risk waiting for another one hour or two for the next bus. The second real disadvantage is that when you want to take a breather from the theme parks, you do not have the option to just take a quick ride to your Disney resort and take a nap or a dip in the pool, and then return. When staying off property and you leave, you lose that prime spot in the parking lot and then you have to fight late afternoon/early evening crowds that are returning more well-rested than you.

So there you have it, reasons to either stay on property or stay off property. You have both advantages and disadvantages as stated above. The one and only factor for where you stay will most likely be your budget. Unless you and your family have a real true desire to stay at a Disney resort. Then your decision is already made.

You now have the dates planned and where you’re staying reserved, now let’s talk about getting those tickets next.

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