One of the first steps in planning your Walt Disney World vacation is deciding where to stay. Of course, Walt Disney World offers many resorts designed to match many budgets and family sizes, but it can be tempting to look at hotels nearby that are not owned by Disney. Today, we take a look at the benefits of staying in a Disney World hotel v. staying off-site.
Easily, the most obvious benefit of staying in a WDW hotel is the immersion in all things Disney. Staying on-site ensures you never have to leave Disney property, should you so choose.
To go along with the complete Disney immersion, is the ability to utilize Disney transportation. If you fly to Orlando, the Magical Express bus will pick you up and deliver you, and your luggage, to your resort. You can then utilize the bus, monorail and boat/ferry system to visit all the parks, Disney Springs as well as other resorts.
If you are lucky enough to live close enough to Orlando that you are able to drive, staying in a WDW resort allows you complimentary parking in all the theme parks. While the Disney transportation system is convenient, sometimes it is nice to have the freedom to hop in your car and drive to another park or resort should you choose without having to think about the additional fee.
Staying on-site also provides you with complimentary Magic Bands. Of course, you can still purchase these if you choose staying offsite, they will be the default gray instead of the other offered colors. Note, if you miss the pre-order cut off for Magic Bands, you will be stuck with gray anyway.
Staying on-site also allows for any packages you purchase in the parks to be sent to your hotel room, so you aren’t laden down with souvenirs while traveling the parks. A huge benefit when you want to travel light!
The last three benefits sort of tie in together, and are usually the biggest selling point for those deciding between on-site and off-site reservations. First, on-site guests are eligible for the Disney Dining Plan (briefly covered in the previous post) while off-site guests are not. Second, on-site guests enjoy Extra Magic Hours, where they may enter the theme parks either early or stay late (depending on scheduling), which allows for shorter lines at some of the most popular attractions. Third, and arguably the biggest benefit for staying on-site, is the early access to Fastpass+ reservations. On-site guests can access their Fastpass+ reservations a full 30 days before offsite guests (60 days v 30 days prior to their trip). This means, if you are staying off-site, it will be nearly impossible to score some of the most hard-fought Fastpass+ reservations, including Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and the Anna and Elsa meet and greet. Perhaps more importantly, on-site guests are allowed to make reservations for the entire trip, beginning 60 days from the first day of their trip. Which means, they could make reservations for Anna and Elsa potentially several days prior to many other guests, greatly increasing their chances. Also added to this, on-site guests have the ability to make Dining reservations for their entire trip all at once on the 180th day prior to their trip as well, upping the chances to getting hard to get Advanced Dining Reservations (Be Our Guest anyone?).
There are several benefits to staying off-site as well. First and foremost is cost. No way around it, staying in a non-WDW resort will most likely be more cost effective, particularly for large groups. To tie in with cost, off-site resorts often are larger, for less cost. They may offer full kitchens, 2 and 3 bedrooms, all while costing less than or equal to the cost of a value room at WDW.
For those planning on visiting other Orlando attractions, such as Universal or SeaWorld, staying off-site does allow for some additional flexibility, particularly if you have your own car.
Finally, again, if you have your own car, or have allotted for Uber or taxi costs, it can save you time to stay offsite, Disney transportation can be inconvenient at times, and quite lengthy if the buses make several stops between your resort and your destination. This is not always true, but is still worth mentioning.
I hope this has helped you to understand the benefits to staying on-site v. off-site during your next Disney World vacation. Really, it boils down to your priorities. Is it more important to you to be completely immersed in Disney, Disney, Disney? Or is it more important to you to save money, or have more room and privacy for the members of your party?