(Photo: Four Seasons Pool, Kissimmee)
While I generally recommend staying on Disney property, there are a few reasons why you might want to consider staying off property. For the average Disney guest, staying on property makes the most sense, both in terms of finance and convenience. However, if any of the following points apply to you, you might want to consider staying off property for your next trip to Walt Disney World.
7. If you have a car with you
If you’re bringing a car with you to Walt Disney World, and you’re planning on driving it instead of using the bus system at the Disney resorts, it might be better for you to stay off property. Technically speaking, complimentary transportation is a resort amenity, so one way or another some of what you pay for a Disney resort hotel room is paying for those buses. If you’re not using the buses, you might be better off staying somewhere cheaper and off property and putting the extra money towards gas for your own vehicle. The benefit of this is something that really needs to have the costs worked out though, as you also need to factor in that for a non-Disney resort guest, you’re looking at a $22/day parking fee ($27 for campers or trailers) to get into the parks.
6. Vacation home/family to stay with
If you already have a vacation home off property, then staying off property should bring a no-brainer. I wouldn’t expect you to consider staying on property unless you were looking to vacation from your vacation home. Another reason why you might want to stay off property though is if you have family to stay with. If your aunt and uncle live in Orlando and offer to let you stay with them for a couple of days, would you pay for a hotel room? I guess it depends on what your aunt and uncle are like, but the free bed to sleep in can easily override the fact that you’d be paying to park at the theme parks.
5. Non-Disney food
If you’re planning on having most of your meals be from restaurants outside of Disney, you’ll want to consider staying off property. Orlando does have a lot to offer in terms of dining, and while I love Disney food and wouldn’t stray from it, I completely understand the desire to get out there and try different things. Eating around the Orlando area would be much easier if you were not staying on Disney property.
4. If Disney is only a small part of your visit to Orlando
If you’re traveling to Orlando to go to Universal, and spend only a day or two at Disney, you’re simply better off staying where you’ll be spending most of your time. This same logic might also work for guests who are just driving through on their way to somewhere else. It might not be worth staying on property if Disney is only a small part of your trip.
3. Saving money
It’s a no brainer that staying off property is much cheaper than staying on property. For me personally, I find that the extra price of staying on property is well worth it. The Magical Express service and complimentary Disney transportation is extremely helpful, and I enjoy staying in the “Disney bubble” by having Disney all around me at my resort. If these things are not as important to you, and you don’t mind being a little bit further away from the parks, staying off property might not be a bad idea, as it will definitely save you money.
2. If you don’t mind being outside the “Disney bubble”
This is that bubble that I was referring to in the last point. Even if you’re okay with missing out on Extra Magic Hours, or you don’t need the complimentary transportation, make sure you’re fine with being outside the Disney bubble before you book a hotel off property. I really enjoy being surrounded by Disney during a Disney vacation, and I simply couldn’t do it any other way. I like going to Disney to escape from the real world, and to me, going off property takes a little bit away from that. But that’s just my opinion, and you might be completely fine with it.
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1. If you’re visiting Orlando, and not Disney
To me, there’s a huge difference between visiting Orlando and visiting Disney. The two scenarios are completely different vacations. Visiting Orlando means that you’re hitting all the big tourist attractions—Disney, Universal, Sea World, Aquatica, Downtown Orlando, Outlets, etc… and visiting Disney means that you’re exclusively visiting Disney. If you find that your vacation is really about Orlando and not Disney, I would stay off property. If only a small portion of your time would be spent in Disney, I’d deal with the parking costs instead of switching to a Disney resort for a couple of nights and spending time and money on that.