Are you headed to Disney and trying to decide whether it is better to stay off site or worth it to stay at a Disney resort? Where to stay at Disney is one of the first questions you will have to answer as you plan your trip. Mainly because so many of your other decisions, including the remainder of your budget, will hinge off this very important detail.
Staying Off Site While at Disney
If you are anything like me, the first time I looked at the Disney Resort prices online, I walked away with a bit of sticker shock. So on our first trip we decided to stay off site and dip our toe in the Disney pond. And, for us, it was a big mistake for several reasons- but that doesn’t mean it will be for you. We decided to stay at the beach (90 minutes away) and take two days and drive back and forth to Disney that year. But, for a family that takes its time in the morning getting ready, our park days were really cut short in travel and not to mention the distance made for a miserable exhausting drive “home” each night.
For more reasonable (and realistic) off-site locations there are savings to be had, you just need to make sure you are aware of some of the less obvious trade-offs that tend to add up.
Possible Benefits of Staying Off-site
- You can often find nicer accommodations at a cheaper price off-site. From queen beds to spacious rooms, if you have a strong preference in a certain accommodation, you really need to do your research and weigh the costs because not all Disney resorts are created equal. However, a free Disney Travel Agent can help you quickly figure out how the Disney resort you are interested in comparing to your off-site location sizes up in the accommodations department.
- Many hotels provide free breakfasts. A free family breakfast can really help the food budget stretch a bit more in the parks. Disney resorts do not include free breakfasts.
- You many not actually be at your hotel very much. If you are going for a short stay (4 days or less), you may spend the majority of your time in the parks and just see the hotel for a little shut-eye, so it may not be worth the premium of staying on site for you.
- Some hotels do provide transportation to Disney. Just make sure you know the terms and do a google search on them to make sure they have a reputation of making customers happy in that department. You will also want to know how regular their transportation schedule is to make sure it will fit your schedule.
Staying Onsite at Disney
Advantages to Staying Onsite
- Disney Magic. There is something to be said for never leaving Disney during your vacation. Disney resorts are themed to help keep you in the Disney spirit through-out your stay. Everything from landscaping to pools to your breakfast waffles and the little soaps in your room will be full of the Disney touch.
- No Parking Fees. Disney resort guests do not pay parking fees for the resort or the parks. At $14/day for the park alone, this can really start to add up for non-resort Disney goers.
- Free Transportation. Disney offers free transportation to and from the airport and to all the parks.
- Extra Magic Hours. During certain days of the week certain parks stay open longer (or open earlier) for resort-only guests. Off site guests do not get to take advantage of these less busy times in the park.
- Dining Plan Options. If you are interested in possibly adding a dining plan to your vacation, you will need to be a resort guest. This includes the free dining promotion that pops up from time to time.
- Special Resort Activities & Amenities. All of the Disney resorts have different activities planned throughout your vacation like pool-side movie nights, campfires and children activity centers. Also, many of the resorts have amazing life-guarded pools with water features and water slides and will keep the kiddos entertained for hours.
Deciding Where to Stay at Disney
Where to stay at Disney all comes down to what works for your family. My family really enjoys the extra magic hours so that is a determining factor for us. We also like to take advantage of free dining when it is available, so we stay onsite when we visit. Working with a free Disney Travel Agent can really help you make an informed decision for your family.
Tomorrow I will share about the resorts we have visited and how we pick our resort. Do you have a favorite resort? Do tell!
This post is a part of our Disney Planning Series to stay tuned for more great tips and information.
- Part 1: Lodging (Onsite or Off and Choosing a Disney Resort)
- Part 2: The Parks (When to Visit and Which Park Which Day)
- Part 3: Top 5 Parks Tips
- Part 4: The Parks ~ Fireworks & Parades
- Part 5: Food Options
- Part 6: Characters
- Part 7: Our Favorite Places
- Part 8: Transportation Options
- Part 9: The “Extras”
- Part 10: Apps We Love
I am the mama behind GOODEness Gracious and the owner of Cris Goode Solutions. Here at GOODEness Gracious, we like to keep it light and fun as we cook up family meals, share our super mommy secrets and chat it up about the GOODe life:) So come on in and sit a spell.