When it comes to Walt Disney World, the big question is whether to stay onsite at a WDW resort or off-property. Weighing the decision can be not only confusing but downright taxing sometimes! To help with your WDW vacation planning, we’ve done the footwork (also known as miles and miles in the parks!) and have done the research as well to help you decide. Our reasons to stay off-property at Walt Disney World are both cost effective and sanity saving.
After you’ve locked down your dates, the first step in planning a Walt Disney World vacation is generally deciding whether you’ll be staying onsite at one of the WDW resorts or offsite at a private resort. While staying inside that “Disney bubble” is indeed fun, staying off-property can be just as much fun if you know what to look for and what to take in consideration when making that all-important decision. Here are our top reasons to stay off-property when planning to go to Walt Disney World.
More Space= Less Money?
You may be surprised to learn that, when staying off-property, less money per night correlates with more space. We have stayed at off-property resorts near Walt Disney World Resort and I can attest that is definitely the case. You’ll be paying a premium price to stay on-property especially during peak seasons (think summer, Christmas, Thanksgiving,and any other major American holidays), so off-property resorts love offering more space as a trade off to staying onsite. We’ve scored suites offsite for the same nightly rate as an onsite value hotel. If you have a flexible vacation schedule, consider visiting off-season for even bigger savings and lower crowds.
If you’re traveling with a large family or planning a multigen vacation, it’s always a good idea to give everyone their space – and that can mean their own bedroom. Another easy way to give kids (and the adults traveling with them!) space is to look into resort residence rentals with much larger areas and layouts, onsite amenities like a full kitchen, and personal washers and dryers.
I have a teen daughter who would much rather spend her time in the parks nowadays, but when she was young I couldn’t get her out of a pool when we would vacation, especially on hot, humid days. There’s something to be said about resorts with fabulous water features, and many of them in the Orlando area have not only pools but massive water parks with fun water features like climbing areas and lazy rivers. We love lazy rivers (hello, a great excuse to be lazy for an hour or two!).
You’ll also need to take into account the ages of your children and look for water features that will be age appropriate to make their time special as well- and remember that all-important sunscreen to help keep them safe in the Florida sun.
I’m putting this out in the open right now: as a Walt Disney World-loving family, we do love to stay onsite, but there is a definite draw to staying off-property – and that includes getting more bang for your vacation dollar when it comes to perks. When we do stay off-property we are always looking for a great deal and, even for a family of three, scoring free breakfast, free wifi, and free parking saves us money. Money we can spend in the parks! I have to disclose, WDW resorts do offer free parking and wifi when you’re a resort guest but, unless you score free dining, you’ll be paying a premium price for meals.
If you keep an eye out online while you’re still in the planning stage of your Walt Disney World vacation, off-property resorts like to offer cash credits that can be used on their properties during your stay towards meals, snacks, or other purchases while you’re visiting. It never hurts to call a resort you have your eye on to ask about special offers, too.
And don’t think you have to drive back and forth to the parks each day: many resorts offer a free shuttle service to save you from adding mileage onto your car or renting one. And you save the parking fees as well!
Downtime is a Must.
I have a teen daughter who was once a little princess. I’ve been there. Day after day, hour after hour in the Walt Disney World parks can take its toll on the little ones- not to mention the adults! We get the sore feet, hurting backs, and feeling that we’ve run a marathon. They get the meltdowns. When I’m in the WDW parks, I can tell the time of day without ever having to look at a watch by the meltdowns. Thousands of steps, early mornings, and late nights all take their toll on vacationing families and the easiest way to combat the meltdown is to take time away from the theme parks. And while we like to head back to our resort everyday during our vacation for a few hours to relax and recharge (and take a well-deserved nap), taking an entire day away from the parks is also a good idea. Again, here’s where great resort perks like a great pool, lazy river or water park work so well so the kids won’t whine that they aren’t at the park.