Are you planning to visit Walt Disney World? If you are, I suspect you have already considered where you will stay when visiting Walt Disney World.
This question isn’t easy and will usually include whether you should stay onsite at Walt Disney World or offsite elsewhere in Orlando. Both options have merits, and there are some fantastic hotels throughout Orlando, including those resorts within Walt Disney World. Each option has its own advantages, and this short guide will try to help you with this important decision.
Should you stay on-site at Walt Disney World?
If you are visiting Walt Disney World, especially for the first time, nothing beats being in the heart of the action by staying in a Disney World Resort. With over 30,000 hotel rooms, 3,000 Disney Vacation Club units & 799 campsites, the accommodation options in Walt Disney World are numerous.
Walt Disney World Resorts provide unique theming, accommodation to suit a range of budgets & the opportunity to stay close to the action. Staying onsite at Walt Disney World will appeal to many guests, but it is nearly always a more expensive option.
Disney Resorts come with extra perks that offsite guests won’t receive, but they have been reduced recently. Resort perks currently include:
- Free transportation around Walt Disney World
- Early Theme Park Entry to every park each day.
- Extended Evening Theme Park Hours on select days for guests staying in Deluxe Resorts.
- You can purchase a MagicBand+ at a special pre-arrival price.
- If it should become available again, purchase the Disney Dining Plan as part of your reservation.
- You can purchase Individual Lightning Lane attractions from 7:00 am when you visit. Other guests can book from the park opening.
- Make Dining and Special reservations for your entire stay (up to a 10-night stay) up to 60 days before your arrival. Guests staying offsite can only book 60 days in advance.
- Complimentary parking throughout Walt Disney World. This benefit has recently been reinstated.
While there are cheaper options than a Walt Disney World Resort, the closeness and added extras make them popular with many guests.
Our Guide to Walt Disney World Resorts has information on all the resorts at Walt Disney World.
Should you stay off-site when visiting Walt Disney World?
There are numerous accommodation options throughout Orlando. Accommodation options include luxurious villas, budget motels & 5-star hotels. All these options have one big advantage over Walt Disney World Resorts: the price. You will get more “Bang for Your Buck” staying off-site.
Whilst it isn’t a necessity to have a car, if staying off-site, it probably is desirable. Many hotels include free transportation to Walt Disney World but are rarely as convenient as Disney World Transportation. If you choose to stay in a villa, access to a car is essential. Transport stops are rarely as near to the parks as Disney Transport.
Other advantages of staying off-site include the following:
- Getting to other attractions, e.g., Universal Studios is often easier.
- Hotel rooms are often bigger.
- You can more easily experience some of the many outstanding restaurants in Orlando.
- You might get extra perks, e.g., free breakfast.
- You can get away from Disney. Staying at Walt Disney World can be pretty intense.
However, guests have to weigh whether these benefits outweigh Walt Disney World’s benefits.
A 3rd Option?
Guests who want to stay near the action but are happy to skip some of the Disney theming have a 3rd option which can be a good value-for-money alternative.
The Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels offer several resort advantages unavailable at other offsite hotels. In addition, these resorts are usually slightly cheaper than booking an official Disney Resort.
There are seven non-Disney Disney Springs Resort Areas Hotels. The hotels are:
- Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista
- DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando – Lake Buena Vista
- B Resort & Spa
- Wyndham Lake Buena Vista
- Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort Hotel
- Buena Vista Palace Resort & Spa
- Holiday Inn – Orlando Lake Buena Vista
These resorts all include shuttles to the theme parks, and you are also entitled to Early Theme Park Access each day. However, other Disney Resort perks are not available.
Another option is to consider staying at the Walt Disney World Swan, Walt Disney World Dolphin, and Walt Disney World Swan Reserve. Guests staying here can also take advantage of Extended Evening Theme Park Hours plus park for free at theme parks. Guests in these resorts get most of the same benefits as Deluxe Resorts, but sometimes at the price of a Disney Moderate Resort.
Staying off-site or on-site at Walt Disney World is not an easy choice. Ultimately the decision will probably come down to price versus convenience. However, you will almost certainly have a fantastic vacation wherever you stay.
Our Guide to Walt Disney World Resorts has more information on all the Disney World Resorts.
If you are planning to visit Walt Disney World, our Essential Planning Guide contains useful information.