When you go to plan a Disney vacation, there’s a few questions that immediately pop into mind. First and foremost, you think about resort accommodations or tickets. Tickets, and the best deals on tickets we’ve found we recently covered in our Disney World Tickets 2018 article, but one topic we haven’t devoted a full article to quite yet is staying off property and what to consider in that process.
Personally, many of you know that I don’t recommend staying off property if you can avoid it and there’s a few good reasons why. The first and biggest reason is hidden costs, but we’ll get to that farther into the article. For me, the loss in experience isn’t worth the tradeoff. Many will say that isn’t necessarily the case, but if you ask a majority of guests who have stayed both ways, the preference is vastly “on property” accommodations. While I can always simply state that up front, it’s easier to understand why if I break it down and share a few things you’ll want to consider before making the leap to stay off property for various reasons.
When you book off property, it’s easy to be drawn in by low costs and impressive accommodations for the money, but what many do not realize are the hidden costs of their stay. For example, if you stay at the Double Tree near Disney Springs, the cost is pretty comparable to a value resort at face price but once you add in a $10 parking fee per night at your resort and the additional set back of transportation to and from the airport if you are not driving or renting a car, you get fairly close to the equivalent cost of a Disney moderate tier resort. Additionally, at many of the more “resort style” accommodations like the Waldorf Astoria or JW Marriott, you incur a second nightly “resort fee” that many chains will hide or keep in fine print during the booking process. Sometimes the cost of this non-optional add-on alone can be near $40 per night and can be a huge shock at check in or at the final step of the booking process. I wont say that all resorts in the area feature these hidden costs but many do so it’s something you’ll want to be aware of when looking into the various costs of a vacation.
As a somewhat non-measurable difference, when you stay off property you lose a little bit of that Disney magic that comes with a well themed and vastly impressive attention to detail that each of the on property resorts bring to the table. I’m obviously a sucker for the little details of an experience, but it truly makes a big difference in the overall stay and true Disney experience. Staying off property is a great option if you’re looking to try Seaworld, Discovery Cove, or even Universal, but you can always stay at Disney resorts and take advantage of the Disney theming while still venturing over to those parks. I understand theming sounds like a vague difference but give Disney property resorts a chance and book at discounted rates and you’ll be surprised at how different the experience can be. I’ve tired both many times and short of staying for a very long duration of time, staying on property is really the way to go in order to achieve that “Disney Bubble” feel that everyone talks about upon returning home.
Transportation and Parking
As touched on above, transportation from the airport to your resort, or even transportation from your resort to the parks can be very expensive and easily overlooked. On property, Disney provides free airport transportation via the Magical Express service and free transportation to the parks for all guests at resorts. It’s free, it’s worry free (most of the time) and you don’t have to deal with the ridiculously expensive parking fees at the Disney parks each day of your stay. Even if you do want to drive to the parks on your own, resort guests are given free parking! In that regard, you can save $100+ over a week long stay and even more for longer stays.
Many off-site hotels offer a free shuttle service to Disney but what many of them don’t tell you is that the shuttle does not run all day and that when it does run it will be stopping at a whole series of resorts along the way. Additionally, if you’re headed to Magic Kingdom, you’ll get dropped off at the Transportation and Ticket Center and then sent to a monorail or ferry (with many other guests driving to the parks) to arrive at the gates of Magic Kingdom. It’s not the end of the world but isn’t the most convenient option, especially if you can utilize Disney transportation and stay on property at about the same overall cost.
There’s never an ideal resort accommodation for everyone and finding what works best for you is one of the joys of a Walt Disney World vacation. Additionally, your situations isn’t going to be the same as everyone else so what ever gets you to the parks is always a win in my book.
As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or you favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you’re there and we’ll keep the conversation going in the future. We’re not the largest Disney community, but we’re one that’s there and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!
Need help planning your vacation? Let our friends over at Destinations to Travel (FREE – no obligation quote request form below) help you out at no additional cost to you! Their services are free and a great way for you to help out the site at no extra cost to you!
A few short years ago, I was sitting in a college apartment trying to figure out what was "next" and came up with this idea to share my accumulated knowledge of the Disney Parks and Resorts with others. The end goal was to help others make the most of their Disney experience and it's been quite the journey!