Updated: May 15, 2020
People have varying opinions on this and they tend to feel pretty strongly one way or another. Let's run through some of the pros and cons of staying in a Disney resort. PROS Theming - All onsite Disney hotels are themed. Each is designed to make you feel you’re in a special place or period of history.
Magical Express - Free transportation to and from the airport.Disney Disney Transportation - Buses run regularly to and from onsite resorts to any of the theme parks and Disney Springs. Many properties have other sources of transportation as well that go to specific places (Skyliner, Boat & Monorail). Package Delivery - If you’re staying at a Walt Disney World Resort, you can arrange to have park purchases delivered to your room instead of carrying them around with you all day. Simply tell the cast member during the time of purchase and arrangements will be made quickly and easily. Be sure there is enough time left in your stay to have it delivered though. Rest - Depending on your resort location, you may often be able to easily get back to your room to rest if you have a little one that has gotten tired or you just need a break. Time Savings - This is a BIG one in my opinion. The location of Disney Resorts can save you a ton of time and time is the most valuable resource you have at Disney World. After all, a single-day park ticket can set you back more than $100 per person. Staying at an off-site hotel may save you a little money, but it won’t help you maximize your minutes in the park. Expect to spend at least 30 minutes of extra transit time to get to a Disney World park from an outside property. Google may tell you it takes 15 minutes, but double or triple that time. You then want to account for parking time, getting through security, the ticket gate, and once you are finally in...you have to make your way to the restaurant, meet a cast member at a checkpoint, then on to the restaurant check-in. If you are running late, it could become quite STRESSFUL. (I know because I've done it. I've also done it in a relaxed mode and it was wonderful to take in all the sites and sounds on the way in!) At night, if you leave at a peak time - after the fireworks or at park closing, for example - you can expect to be in line for quite a while just to get to the parking lot. The same is true for character breakfasts. If you’re staying at a Disney Resort with a character meal, such as breakfast at ‘Ohana at the Polynesian or Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary, you can simply walk to the resort restaurant and let the fun begin. Otherwise, you’ll want to leave plenty of time to get there - especially if you’re driving and need to find parking. Keep in mind some reservations are prepaid - so no matter where you are staying it is important to leave in plenty of time to get there. Who wants to leave at 6 am for an 8 am breakfast? Extra Magic Hours - Guests at a Disney Resort property have access to one park either before or after normal operating hours each day through a program called Extra Magic Hours. Disney World has a schedule that shows which parks are open early or late each day. You’ll need to get to the park at least 30 minutes before morning Extra Magic Hours to get the most out of it so it’s best for early risers. Evening Extra Magic Hours can make for a late-night. It is often better for families with older kids. We will talk about Extra Magic Hours more when we plan your itinerary. Disney Dining Plans - Disney offers 3 dining plan options to guests staying at resorts onsite. This allows you to pre-purchase your meals and essentially turning your trip into an all-inclusive vacation. Resort Activities - Each resort has unique activities. Check with the concierge or front desk. They should be able to tell you where the list is posted. Some resorts tie-dye shirts, some have campfires, most all have movies under the stars... Some are free and some have a small fee. Online Check-In - You'll simply get a text to let you know when your room is ready. It is often ready before 3 pm but never guaranteed. You never have to go to the front desk. ****180-day ADRs**** - Staying on property allows you to make all your dining reservations 180 days out. Offsite guests are not able to do this. *****60-day FastPass+**** - you will be able to make your FastPass+ reservations 60 days out. Other guests make their reservations at 30 days. You want every advantage to get those hard FastPasses!!! Magic - Disney does a great job with their properties. There are small touches, such as Hidden Mickeys, characters on the walls, and other flourishes. Combined with the added convenience and complimentary transportation to the parks, all of these details can make your vacation that much more special. It’s part of what’s sometimes referred to as the “Disney Bubble.” Once you’re on Disney property, employees go out of their way to make your trip a special one. That leaves you time to focus on your children. It's magical. CONS Cost - Yes...you can often save money on your accommodations by staying off property. Large chains will always offer fantastic deals, but be aware of the fine print, resort fees, and additional costs your trip may incur by staying off property. Disney tries to offer a price range for everyone as well as special offers from time to time. Parking Fee - There is a parking fee per night if you have a vehicle at a resort. However, you will not be charged a fee if you drive to any of the parks. While this may be a con, it is also a pro since you are not double charged. Parking used to be free at both. If staying offsite, you are charged at your offsite hotel (sometimes it says "resort fee" instead of parking) as well as parking at the theme parks. NOTE: if you do not have a car at a resort, it is a good practice to check your receipt for the parking fee. This is still a new process for Disney and if you find this on your receipt a trip to the front desk or a phone call will take care of it. So....maybe I'm in the camp of you should stay on property. Here is what I know for sure: every parent loves their child. Seeing your child at Disney is nothing like I could have ever imagined. If I can help another parent have that experience, then I've done my job. But... I also know if you are stressed or tired before you even get inside the parks, you'll miss those moments. That is the simple reason why I don't recommend offsite properties. However, there are some fantastic hotels off property. Some even participate in Disney's Good Neighbor program. Why don't I recommend them you ask? There are simply variables that I cannot control or help you avoid when staying offsite. If I were to recommend any offsite property (even an expensive one) and the trip does not go smoothly because you wait in traffic...if a 15-minute drive turns into 40 minutes because GPS can't tell you how to get there...if you missed your prepaid dining reservation...if you aren't able to get the coveted FastPass+ you wanted at 30 days...if your trip isn't as magical as you envisioned, you would become an unhappy client. If you aren't a happy client, then I didn't do my job well. Obviously, none of these things may happen, but we've all heard stories. With offsite hotels, I am still able to book it for you, line up your package, and get you started. After the package is together, I'll pass along my FastPass+ tips/tricks and get you started on your magical journey. #DisneyWorld #WaltDisneyWorld #DisneyResorts