One of the most frequent questions I get from families traveling to Walt Disney World is, “Should we stay on or off property at Walt Disney World?”. You are likely to find people whose opinions solidly fall on either side of the issue – some people wouldn’t even think about staying off property, while others absolutely prefer it.
While we personally tend to stay on property for our Walt Disney World trips, there are many reasons why families should consider staying off property. Here are some reasons to consider staying on and off property.
Disclosure: I am a former member of the Disney Parks Moms Panel and have been on some complimentary press trips at Walt Disney World, but all opinions are my own. I’ve also stayed at several off-property hotels both at my own cost and at no cost.
Should You Stay On Property at Walt Disney World?
Reasons to stay on property at Walt Disney World
Besides the obvious reasons, (proximity to the parks, fun themes) there are lots of financial and practical reasons to stay at a Walt Disney World resort hotel. You’ll be able to utilize Disney transportation (including the Magical Express from the airport), which is complimentary and runs frequently.
Plus, you can take advantage of their luggage service, so you won’t need to roll your luggage and your stroller through Orlando International Airport – a huge advantage! You don’t have to wait for your luggage at the airport, and it’s delivered directly to your room. If you’d prefer to rent a car, you won’t pay for parking at any of the Disney theme parks, although you will now need to pay for parking at the resort hotel.
Guests staying on property at Walt Disney World can also take advantage of the Disney dining plan, which can represent a great discount off of regular restaurant rates. You’ll want to do some research in advance to make sure it’s worthwhile based upon your plans.
Another benefit for guests staying on property is the early and late magic hours, which are special hours where the parks are only open to resort guests. If you have the park hopper option on your tickets, it’s a good idea to visit the park with the magic hours only during those specific hours.
If you are staying on property, you will receive a complimentary MagicBand 2 for each member of your family. MagicBands can be purchased if you don’t get them, so you don’t have to miss out. They aren’t needed if you aren’t staying on property, so don’t feel obligated to buy them.
MagicBands can be used to open your hotel room door, to enter the parks, to pay for purchases, to get access to the Magical Express, and to use your FastPasses. Solid bands are free for guests, or you can pay to upgrade to a band with a design.
On property guests are able to book their FastPass+ allocations 60 days in advance, while off property guests can only do it 30 days in advance. So if there are specific attractions that you want to experience, you’ll be more likely to get them if you are staying on-site. This is a huge benefit to guests – that extra 30 days can make a big difference.
Walt Disney World offers a variety of price points, from the concierge level at a deluxe resort all the way to a room at a value resort. So, there are lots of options for families regardless of budget. You should be able to find something in your price range.
Reasons to stay off property when visiting Disney World
After visiting many off-property hotels at Walt Disney World, I definitely know that there are some fabulous lodging options outside of the parks. Some families choose to stay off property because they want more space, and vacation homes and Orlando suite hotels off property can often be a great value.
Other families may have plans in Central Florida beyond Walt Disney World and don’t want to spend all of their time in the parks. Therefore, they prefer to stay outside the Disney theme parks.
If you do choose to stay off property, I’d really recommend that you do some significant research to find the best spot for your family. There are hundreds of options, and it can be overwhelming. Take a look at reviews and ask friends/family for recommendations.
If your chosen hotel has a shuttle to Walt Disney World, check to see when it runs. Often, families are disappointed to find that these free shuttles only make one or two stops per day to the parks. In that case, a rental car may be essential if you want more control over when you arrive and leave.
You may consider a Disney Good Neighbor Resort. These hotels aren’t located on Disney property but have been vetted by Disney. They offer information about Disney onsite and sell theme park tickets right there.
Many of the Disney Good Neighbor Resorts offer suites and other family-friendly amenities. These can be very budget-friendly. Just keep in mind that you won’t get the same perks as you’d get if you are staying on Disney property.
Regardless of what you decide, check out this post for reviews of the best hotels (on and off property) for a Walt Disney World vacation.
Do you stay on property, or off property?