We’re embarrassed, but we’ll admit it: last year we went to Disney and we didn’t stay on property. We learned our lesson and we promise never to do that again! Here’s why:
Travel Time Matters:
We wasted way too much time driving to the parks and then back to our condo. A hotel might advertise that they are 5 minutes from Disney World, but they are referring to the gates. Each park is another 10-20 minutes away. Stay on property and the Magical Express will have you back at your resort in 15 minutes for an afternoon swim. Stay off property and you have a long, hot walk to your car and a 30-minute drive to your hotel.
The cost of our car rental outweighed a lot of the savings of our cheaper hotel. Renting a car for the week usually costs about $300 plus $80 in gas and $20 a day for parking at the parks. Some off-site hotels charge $12 per day for parking as well. Condo properties and hotels with a water park charge resort fees of up to $25 per day. It’s true that lots of off-site hotels offer shuttles to the parks, but they are limited to a few times per day. If your little one needs an unexpected nap you might be in a bind.
Actual hotel comparison found in May 2017
If saving money is your top priority, you can get a cheap deal off property. But you need to ask yourself if saving a few hundred dollars is worth the compromise on quality and time. Ultimately you are paying to go to Disney. If you are driving back and forth to the parks – you are losing money. Plus Disney often has great discounts – click here to read about Disney’s typical offers.
Monorail Magical Express Water Taxis
There’s a property for everyone
There are two kinds of Disney guests: the ones who want to go to the parks every day and the ones who want a more relaxed pace. No matter which type you are, you can have an amazing experience by staying on property.
If you are going to the parks most days, you might not be as worried about staying at a luxury hotel – a Value Resort is a great option. Depending on the time of year, a room at a Value Resort typically costs $160 per night. These properties have lots of great Disney theming with character statues and cartoonish décor. Your kids will be wowed and you will appreciate that the pools, dining room, arcade and store are just a short distance from your room. Every resort has movies under the stars and fun poolside activities.
Pop Century Caribbean Beach
If you want a little more luxury and maybe an escape from the flash of the Mouse, a Moderate Resort will check both boxes. A Moderate room typically costs $200 per night depending on the time of year. The theming is much more reserved and understated. It is easy to forget you are still in Disney World. Many moderates have the feel of their namesake: at Port Orleans you can easily imagine you are walking down a street in Mississippi; at Caribbean Beach you can relax in the sand and play in a pirate’s fort (as part of the pool and splash pad).
Of course, you won’t regret splurging on a Deluxe Resort. One-night stays start around $400 per night. Your kids will be entertained all day with the free fun and educational activities while you can easily pretend you are in Hawaii, Africa or Atlantic City.
We think five days of park hopping and staying at a Value property then finished off by two nights at a Deluxe Resort would be the ideal way to experience Disney. This way you can enjoy all the parks and then recuperate in luxury so you can return home well rested.
Animal Kingdom Yacht Club
Disney Service is Top Notch
If something goes wrong, we know Disney will take care of you. At one dinner, the debit machine was having trouble. After 6 minutes of waiting, the waitress apologized and gave us our $12 dessert for free.
At Animal Kingdom Lodge we were able to check in at 11am, upgraded to a Savannah view at no extra cost and charged the standard room rate, even though we booked the last room available at this price on any Disney property (sometimes cancelled flights turn into the best day of your vacation).
Port Orleans – Riverside Beach Club
Securing Fast Passes
If you stay on property you are able to book your fast passes as early as 60 days before you travel. This gives you a much better chance of securing a fast pass for the rides that you want at the time that you want them. When you stay off property you have to wait until 30 days before you travel to book your fast passes. This delay can mean that the most popular rides have no fast passes left.
Not all breakfasts are created equal
Many times we have been fooled by free breakfast promos at off property hotels. We have found these free continental breakfasts to be less than yummy and always with very dubious eggs. When a family of four can eat breakfast at Disney for roughly $20 a day, don’t let a free breakfast entice you to stay off property.
Eating a kid’s breakfast at Disney can save lots – no one seemed to mind when we bought four kids meals for breakfast. A kid’s breakfast could include a drink, Mickey Waffles, bacon, a yogurt tube and grapes for $4.99. We expect it might not always be so easy for adults to buy a kid’s meal but on our last trip we were able to eat well in the morning for very little.
Disney is also one of the first places where we found low cost, healthy options for kids: All kid’s quick service meals come with fruit or veggies, plus you don’t pay extra to get milk.
(All prices listed are in U.S. dollars)
Bottom Line: Staying off property doesn’t always save money and it certainly doesn’t save time. Contact your Disney travel agent to price match your options, we recommend Click the mouse!