You’ve decided to stay off-property at Disney World but worry that saving money means losing the “Disney Magic.” Travel Hack Traveling Mom shares some easy ways to add Disney Magic and make your off-property stay feel special.
Ask a group of Disney experts (like the Traveling Moms) if you should stay on or off property at Disney World and you’ll soon fall down a rabbit hole of opinions. I’ll leave that debate alone for now and assume you’ve decided to stay at a non-Disney resort hotel in order to save money. I get it – and have done so myself. However, there’s no denying the Disney “magic” that sprinkles pixie dust over everything it touches. After close to 20 trips to the House of Mouse, I’ve learned some ways to bring that Disney magic into your vacation without the cost of a Disney-branded resort.
7 Tips to Add Disney Magic to Your Off Property Vacation
1. Get into character.
There’s no rule that says Mickey Ears are only for the parks. Wear your gear and get your princess all dolled up to add Disney magic to your off property hotel. Of course, you can spend beaucoup bucks at Bibbity Bobbity Boutique. However, you can also bring some hair glitter and throw her hair up in a bun. The pictures will be just as good! Nothing to wear? Get yourself to Disney Character Warehouse, STAT!
2. Let the pixies deliver nightly gifts.
Hit up the Dollar Store and Target before you arrive. I’m not kidding about the Dollar Store! I always find a ton of official Disney branded merch when I visit. Target also has a great variety of clothing and even Tsum Tsum characters. Leave a daily treat on the kids’ pillows and they won’t beg (as much) for souvenirs.
3. Make some Mickey Trail Mix.
Frequent Flyer Traveling Mom Leslie created an ingenious “Mickey trail mix” recipe that’s a cinch to make and sure to create smiles.
4. Go on a resort tour.
You don’t have to stay at a Disney World resort to enjoy a Disney World resort! In fact, you can watch giraffes at Animal Kingdom lodge, catch the fireworks and electrical boat parade from the Polynesian, or just grab some fun photos at the amazing Art of Animation resort. You should make an advance dining reservation for a resort restaurant if you want to park at a resort. However, you can also park at Disney Springs and take the buses if you’re making a day of it.
5. Eat a Mickey Waffle with some fab friends.
You don’t have to stay on Disney Property to have a character meal. You don’t even have to go on property if you don’t want to. The Wyndham Lake Buena Vista has two of the “Fab Five” joining guests for breakfast three days a week. Check out Traveling Mom’s guide to character breakfasts at Disney World for more info.
6. Get s’more hugs from Chip and Dale.
Did you know there’s a free character encounter at Disney World? Chip and Dale’s Campfire Singalong at Fort Wilderness is a must do every time we visit. You can buy a s’mores kit there or save a few bucks by grabbing supplies at Wal-Mart just outside the gates.
7. Use the money you’re saving on a fun extra.
Ever wanted to drive into a lake? You can do that in an Amphicar at Disney World! Or how about a try at conquering the Kitchen Sink at Beaches and Cream, a $29 sundae that features eight scoops of ice cream and an entire can of whipped cream?
Where You Stay at Disney World Matters
Many Disney World area hotels have “Disney World Good Neighbor” attached to their marketing. I thought “Good Neighbor” was good enough- until I actually stayed in a Good Neighbor hotel. Basically, Good Neighbor hotels have a Disney ticket desk and a park shuttle (which can be once a day) and that’s about it. Hardly magical.
Disney Springs – Wyndham Lake Buena Vista
I found a happy medium at the “Disney Springs” hotels of which the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista would be my choice. It’s located over a footbridge from the Disney Springs buses which run to Disney World resorts. The Disney Springs Hotels also have dedicated and frequent bus service to the parks. This means you can watch the fireworks from the Polynesian or close down Disney Springs and not have to worry about a long drive back to your hotel.
Even better, the rooms at the Wyndham have just been remodeled and they have options to fit every budget. The Wyndham Garden Inn rooms start at just $79. The quality is equal to a Disney Value Resort. The Wyndham Resort Tower Rooms rival the Swan and Dolphin- at 1/2 the price and much lower resort and parking fees.
While you don’t get extra magic hours at the Wyndham, the hotel experience is totally “Disney.” From the Disney Store in the lobby to the “Director of Fun” who does pin trading with you to get the magic. The pool is awesome, too!
How do you bring the Disney Magic when staying off property? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.