One of the first questions I ask anyone who says they are going to Disney World is “where are you staying?” Of course, my curiosity levels peak at any mention of the words Disney World and I love to know if they are diving into the big Disney bubble and are staying within reach of constant pixie dust or are they flying free and exploring the outside world.
Since I’ve been lucky enough to visit Disney World many times over the years (not a brag) I have experienced it from both sides and although you may assume (and rightly so) that I will forever crave and prefer to stay at a Disney World Resort hotel, as I continue to experience that term we call “adulthood” (yuck!) I can understand the appeal to explore offsite options.
Oh, my past-self cringed at that statement big time!
So I guess the big toss up between staying at Disney or offsite comes to a few factors. Perhaps it’s your dream to stay on resort but it doesn’t meet your budget or maybe you want a little more privacy during your stay. There’s no denying that there’s a lot to consider, but I’m hoping that this will help you think a little clearer.
We hear it all the time “it’s not all about money”, but it does certainly help right? And I totally get it. I work in a low paid industry so it’s not like a big splurge comes easily and without any guilt. Know the feeling?
Well here’s the thing, budget is a bit of an up and down subject in this scenario and although I can’t realistically say that a villa down the road from Walmart won’t be cheaper than a stay at Art Of Animation, I do urge you to think about a couple of things.
Disney offer dining plans that although may be an additional charge, can also often be included in package deals. And let me tell you this is a huge help. When Jase and I booked our trips, we saved over a $1000 in food alone and it was all down to using Disney’s Quick Service Dining Plan. We ate more food than we needed, never felt hungry and it meant that the money we had in our pockets was ours to spend on whatever we wanted at the time.
There was no worrying about budget for dinner that night and it suited us perfectly. No stress! Of course, this may not justify the cost of a full-blown Disney hotel but it’s worth considering especially when a package deal comes into play.
And much like dining, travel may be a big chunk of budget when planning a trip. Are you going to rent a car? Are you going to rely on Uber? Can you walk from your offsite location (especially in the heat)? There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s all down to personal preference.
If travel is not something you want to be thinking about, maybe Disney is more your cup of tea. Did you know that Disney offer free travel to resort guests? You can easily grab a bus to any Disney park or the Disney Springs area from right outside of your hotel.
Or perhaps you fancy a ride on the monorail, ferry boat or gondola? Yes, I said gondola! Interesting right? You can also hop onto the Magical Express and be taken to (and from) your hotel from the airport which is an undeniably very magical way to start your trip.
You may be thinking sure this sounds nice but it’s still cheaper to stay offsite and rent a car. You could be right but keep in mind that some Disney locations charge for parking (including Disney World resort hotels).
And for those of you who are exploring other areas of Orlando a villa may be more desirable depending on location. There’s so much in the area and it’s something to think about before picking your main base.
Will you be at Disney the whole time or are you just spending a couple of days before rushing over to the beautiful beaches?
Disney hotels are obviously great options for families but bigger the family, bigger the cost. Let’s say you have a family of 2 adults and two children. You may get away with sharing a standard room with 2 double beds. It’s totally doable! But if you have a larger family you may need to add additional rooms or pay a little more for a family suite.
Now you know I can vouch for the fabulous Art of Animation family suites that sleep up to 6 people (and come with a mini kitchen and 2 bathrooms), but they do cost extra for the luxury. And depending on the age groups, you may want some extra privacy. In this case is an offsite villa more desirable?
Obviously, Disney tend to prioritise their resort guests by giving them a few magical extras. For one, guests who book a Disney package deal can book their Fastpasses 60 days in advance and this is a HUGE bonus if you don’t fancy queuing for hours in the heat. And why would you?
Ever heard of Extra Magic hours? Well the clue is in the name. Disney World Resort guests are able to visit the parks for extra time before or after official opening and closing hours. This means you get to enjoy more time at the parks without having to fight the crowds so much.
The question is, are you willing to pay a little more for the experience?
So to sum it all up, I guess it all comes down to personal preference. But we kinda knew that already right? For me personally (as you can already tell) I will always pay the little extra to stay at the Disney World Resort when I can.
Staying in the Disney bubble is something you just can’t explain. If you have the chance, I recommend trying it for yourself at least once.
And there’s nothing wrong with a stay in a beautiful villa or offsite hotel, but you may need to plan in a little more detail. No matter what, visiting Disney will always be an unforgettable experience.