Staying on Walt Disney World property versus off-property is one of those debates where there will never be a clear winner. When people ask me for advice on where to stay at Disney World, my answer is always the same: it depends on what you want to do on your vacation. I’m going to try and approach this as unbiased as possible, but keep in mind, you and I may vacation a little differently. Personally, I’m an on-property kind of vacationer. We go to the parks everyday and rarely spend much time at our hotel, so convenience is our priority. Staying on-property is generally more expensive, but there are ways to keep the cost down. Recently, Nick and I have stayed in the cheapest hotel that was available on-property when booking. I also think that the extra costs are worth the convenience, but that’s what we look for. I also have quite a bit of experience staying off-property as well, and that also comes with its own perks.
On Disney World property:
- More Disney magic: It’s true that once you cross the Walt Disney World border, you enter into a Disney bubble. Everything around you is themed to perfection and you never feel like you’ve left the magic. It has the feel of being in a completely different city which gives you the feeling that you have escaped the real world. When staying on-property, you get to experience the Disney magic even when you leave the parks.
- Dining plans: Nick and I have historically used Disney’s Dining Plan which has been extremely convenient and saved us a couple hundred dollars each trip. Now, there are only two of us, and we both are adventurous eaters, so the Dining Plan has very much paid off in our experience. I recognize that a large family with several small children who are picky eaters may not get as much use out of it, but that is different with every family. It is also super nice not having to worry about your wallet and being able to track your meals and snacks on your Magic Band.
- Free transportation: The Disney buses run constantly from every location (resorts, parks, Disney Springs) and back throughout the day. This is a great option to avoid paying to park at the parks and the insane traffic that comes along with that. This also eliminates the need to rent a car if you are flying into Orlando. Disney has free transportation to and from the airport at their resorts so no need to worry about getting an Uber. Some off-site hotels will provide shuttles to the parks during the day, but not all. Be sure to look into that if you choose an off-site option. In addition, Nick and I like to enjoy a glass of wine or cocktail while on vacation and we never have to worry about how we’re getting back to our hotel.
- Extra Magic Hours: Disney World gives guests staying in their hotels the benefit of an extra hour before or after regular park hours. The times are different each day and are for one park a day, so be sure to keep your eye on the park hours. The extra time in the parks allows for more time to get on rides without as much of the crowds. It’s a great time to go on the busiest rides and enjoy the park with less people in it.
- Fastpass advantage: For regular guests, Fastpasses are able to be reserved up to 30 days before the trip. For Disney Resort guests, however, Fastpasses can be booked up to 60 days in advance. This is extra helpful for the newer thrill rides that book fast – Flight of Passage and Slinky Dog Dash, for example. To get a Fastpass for these rides, you have to book it 60 days in advance, or you won’t get it. I myself have been online at 7 am on the 60 day mark before our trips and have struggled to get the good rides. Staying in the Disney Resorts is such a benefit for those who are really looking forward to the newer more popular rides. It could be the difference between getting a Fastpass for them, or having to wait in extremely long lines to ride them.
See Also: The Best Disney Resorts
Off Disney World Property:
- Cheaper options: It is no secret that Disney is expensive. Staying off-property allows you to find cheaper hotel options than even the cheapest Disney Resort. You do have to factor in the cost of parking at the theme parks or a rental car if necessary. Parking for the day costs $25, so be sure to factor that in to the difference in hotel costs or look for a hotel that provides shuttles to the parks. Staying off-property is a great option for those who do not intend to go to the parks everyday and are looking to save money. For Nick and I, we are everyday park people, so in the long run, paying for parking everyday would make it more expensive than staying on-property.
- Cheap meals: In the past, I have stayed at condos off-property where we were able to stock up the kitchen and make our own meals. This can save you A TON of money. Disney food is great, but very pricey. A quick grocery shopping trip at the start of your vacation can save you a lot. We would stock up on things like bagels and granola bars for breakfast, take in waters and bananas with us to the parks for snacks, and usually get dinner in the parks if we were there all day. This is also a great option if you do not expect to spend all day at the parks. When we were younger, especially, we could not make it for twelve hours straight in a theme park without at least taking a nap in the middle. We would eat breakfast in the condo before going to the parks, take a midday break and have an early dinner at the condo before heading back to the parks for the remainder of the night. All around, a huge money saver.
Related: How To Do Disney On A Budget
Whichever option you choose, you will have a great time no matter what. There are huge pros with both staying on or off property and they both come with their own cons as well. Really think about what will be the priorities for your family and what will benefit your vacation style the best. Does anyone have any additional benefits to staying on or off Disney property? Let me know in the comments below!