Every time we start planning a Disney World vacation, one of the first questions is always, “Where are we going to stay?” In fact, after deciding WHEN to go, WHERE to stay is usually the most important question. My advice to those who might be thinking about this for their first Disney visit, is “It’s all about the research”. Check out your options. Have an open mind. Consider EVERYTHING. Then, and only then, after you have done the math, see what is your most affordable option.
Most people know that Walt Disney World area offers a wide array of choices from hundreds of off-resort properties to many options on Disney property itself. The consensus is that it is always cheaper to stay off-property. Well, sometimes yes and sometimes no. It can actually vary, depending on a number of things: time of the year, size of your family, and need for transportation while there all factor in your decision.
The time of year that you travel makes a big difference. Looking to go when the kids are out of school, either over the summer or on Christmas break? Neither will be your most budget friendly, although with continued economic problems in tourist-hungry Orlando, there are a lot of great deals for the coming summer months, both on Disney property as well as in the hundreds of off-site hotels and motels. Research this carefully, preferably far enough in advance to have a number of choices.
The size of your family plays a part too: if you have a number of kids and one motel room won’t do, you will need to look for a larger “suite” or multiple rooms. The Walt Disney resort has 3 “levels” of accommodations, and often offers excellent discounts and packages, especially on some of their larger, “deluxe” properties that can feature one and two bedroom suites. Be sure to look at their “value” properties as well: it is not unusual for some of these to be part of promotions for as little as $60/night. In a case like this, two rooms could end up being less expensive than one in a different location. In addition, there are many options off the Disney property. Besides traditional hotel/motel choices, consider renting a vacation home, condominium, or time-share. If you need the space, do the math: it can be a definite cost-saver and will go a long way in achieving an affordable Disney family vacation.
You will need some sort of transportation while there. You can stay with Disney and use their free resort transportation, consisting of buses, monorail, or boats. If you are off-site then you will need a way to get to the parks: find out if your hotel/motel has a free shuttle. If not, or if you are staying in a private property, then factor in the cost of renting a car or van.
Once you do the math for all of these, then compare to the other options to see what the most affordable option for your Disney family vacation will be. You may be surprised to find out that traveling to Walt Disney World can be in your budget after all!