To Stay Onsite or Offsite on Your Disney Vacation: That is the Question

When planning a Disney vacation, you will be confronted with countless hotel options. Which one is right for you?

When they are contemplating where to stay on their Disney vacations, my clients often ask me about the benefits of staying at a Disney resort hotel versus an offsite property. There are distinct pros and cons to both options, and understanding them is the first step toward deciding which choice is right for each individual. Let’s start with the advantages of staying at one of Disney Word’s onsite resort hotels.

Impeccably clean and beautifully themed, Disney World offers lodging options at multiple price points to fit every budget. With 26 properties (including 17 resorts, eight villas, and one campground), everyone is sure to find a Disney resort that caters to his or her own needs and preferences. In addition, all Disney resort guests qualify for exclusive perks such as Extra Magic Hours (during which a select park opens early or stays open late on certain days). Onsite guests are also eligible to add the Disney Dining Plan to their vacation packages, which can be a convenient (and sometimes cost effective) way to pay for meals. Furthermore, Disney provides free and dependable transportation from its resort hotels to its theme parks, water parks, and Downtown Disney area (but if you do choose to rent a car, parking fees are waived for resort guests). Finally, when you stay at a Disney hotel, you eliminate all of the “guesswork” that comes with finding a place to stay. Regardless of which Disney resort you choose, you can rest assured that your hotel will be clean and safe and that the staff will provide you with the highest level of customer service. 

Now, let’s discuss the benefits of lodging offsite. First, staying in an offsite hotel can be a money-saver. In each case, though, it’s important to consider a few caveats and to do some math to determine if staying offsite is truly cost effective. While offsite hotels may sometimes offer attractive deals, shuttle service from many of these properties is less dependable (and sometimes nonexistent), frequently making it necessary to rent a car. When car rental and parking fees are factored in, oftentimes the savings of staying offsite is negligible. Another benefit of offsite hotels is that the rooms tend to be more spacious. In the past few years, however, Disney has created exciting new lodging options for larger families, including the affordable new family suites at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. Still, if you are traveling with a very large group, it’s hard to beat the affordability of an offsite condo or villa. Finally, Disney hotels tend to attract families with small children due to the intangible “extra-magical” feeling that comes along with staying inside the “Disney bubble” for their entire vacation. Consequently, for people traveling without small children, staying offsite can provide a welcome respite from that aforementioned “bubble”.   

All points considered, I almost always recommend that my clients stay at a Disney resort hotel. Disney hotels provide the convenience, dependability, reputation, and “magical vibe” that many of them are looking for. However, there are cases where an offsite hotel may be a “better fit”. These include (but are not limited to) very large groups, people who prefer to prepare most of their own meals, and clients who intend to visit other Orlando-area attractions (like Universal Studios and SeaWorld) during their vacation.

What about you? Do you usually stay onsite or offsite when visiting Disney World? Do you have a favorite hotel that you always go back to? 




"Drinking the Kool-Aid: A Mom's Guide to Disney World"

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Bryan Bentley December 02, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Concur Dean...
movinon December 03, 2012 at 05:35 AM
Ms McCutcheon seems like a nice lady trying to relate to people on a subject that should be fun and not bring controversy or complaints... and there aren't to many online who don't want to pick a fight. God bless her
Meredith McCutcheon December 03, 2012 at 11:24 AM
Thanks for the kind words everyone. I truly appreciate it.
anonymous December 03, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Just one more clarification regarding DVC points. You do NOT have to take a "Disney" vacation every year. DVC members can make trades with RCI and there are endless options available. Using our DVC points, we have taken many non-Disney vacations, including stays in San Diego, Big Bear Lake (CA), Washington, D.C., many different cities in Florida, Missouri, Hawaii and Colorado.
Meredith McCutcheon December 03, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Absolutely. These exchanges are done through a third party broker, not through Disney. They are limited in availability, of course. As with Disney destinations, these non-Disney options "cost" different numbers of points, depending on factors like availability, destination popularity, accommodation class and size, and time of year. I am not opposed to the DVC in any way. My husband and I have personally been considering a DVC membership. I think that's it's a great option for some people, especially if they know how to use it to the fullest extent and get the most "bang for their buck."


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