Affordable Disney Vacations Step by Step. Part Seven: Should I Stay ON Disney Property or OFF Disney Property?

This is part seven in my blog series: Affordable Disney Vacations Step by Step. You can read the rest of the posts here.

I get many questions from people who are thinking about visiting Walt Disney World and want Disney World vacation tips and suggestions. Disney vacation planning can be very involved and confusing as well, so the goal of this series is to start at the beginning, and look at everything you need to think about, in the general order you need to think about it. Each week’s post will be numbered and link to all the others so that, when complete, you will have a guide with all the steps and information you need to plan your own Disney magic.


Should I stay ON Disney property or OFF Disney property?

This is probably the single most frequent question I get from folks planning a Disney World vacation. And the answer that I give….depends on a number of things.

(You should probably see a pattern here by now if you have been reading along with the series…:))

Let’s talk about why you would want to stay off-site first. To start, you may save money, possibly a good deal of money, or at a minimum, get larger/better accommodations for the same price. (Note that I said “may”, because depending on the time of year and if Disney has any promotions…and a couple of other factors as well…this may not always be the case.) If you have a larger family, where a standard size hotel room is not going to do it for you, this can be important if you will be getting more than one room. And, you may also find it easier to find rooms in your price range if you are planning on traveling during peak travel times, or if you are trying to book all this at the last minute.

Other things that will come into play here however, are things like transportation to the parks and meals.  You will want to see if the off-property hotel you are considering offers things like free breakfast, or free park shuttles…or will you need to rent a car?

The transportation part should be looked at very carefully in fact. Traveling to and from the parks can be a challenge, depending on the available shuttle service: some hotels share shuttles, or charge for their use. If you want to take afternoon breaks from the parks, you may want to consider renting a car, but if you do, realize that there will be a parking fee, and if visiting on peak holidays, the parking lots may be closed to non-Disney guests.

Now why would you want to stay on-site? Well, the already-mentioned transportation issue is a big one. Disney “perks” like “Extra Magic Hours” are a nice way to get additional time in the parks. Plus Disney offers the Disney Dining Plans, as well as those increasingly frequent promotions that should never be overlooked when planning affordable Disney vacations.

Then there is “the Magic factor”. 🙂

Arguably the most important thing that a Disney property provides, that you will not have if you stay off-site, is that 24/7 immersion in the Disney “magic”. Of course, for many folks, that may be the biggest disadvantage! After all, how often can you stand to hear “It’s a Small World” in one day? It may be that for your family, having a break from all that pixie dust may be a very good thing indeed.

Now you should also take a look at the “non-Disney” hotels that are located on Disney property: there a few in the Downtown Disney area, as well as the distinctive Walt Disney World Swan and Walt Disney World Dolphin located near Epcot and Hollywood Studios. These hotels, while not owned by Walt Disney World, still offer a number of those great Disney perks, but without the corresponding Disney property cost. It’s a nice compromise if you are trying to save money but would still like the Disney ambience.

Both on-Disney and off-Disney properties have their pros and cons, and as you can see there really is no one perfect-for-all solution. Even for your own family, the best choice for an affordable Disney vacation may be different depending on the year, season, month, or even week.

Our next post will discuss the accommodations available at the Walt Disney Resort, and then it will be time to book! 🙂

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