Are you on the fence whether to book a Walt Disney World on-property resort or stay offsite? While there are plenty of benefits and perks to both, it’s enough to make your head spin weighing the pros and cons. We put in the legwork to break it down and help you decide which is best for your family and budget. Here’s the scoop on Walt Disney World resorts: on-site versus off-site.
I’m a lucky lady; I’ve got a family that loves Walt Disney World. We jump at the chance to visit as much as we can. Whether it’s road trips or flying, our visits are always filled with the magic that only Disney can provide. And, while my ultimate goal is to stay at every on-property resort that WDW provides, there’s something to be said about off-property stays as well. Here are the pros and cons of on-property vs. off-property resorts at Walt Disney World.
Onsite Resort: Walt Disney World has plenty of resort options. From Value to Moderate to Deluxe, I’ve found that there’s one in our budget for each trip. There are at least two pools at each on-property resort; hourly activities at the main pool keep the kiddos occupied. A word to the wise: You’ll definitely find inflated room prices but the price per night will include free parking, free wifi, and no extra resort fees.
Offsite Resort: I’ve found the offsite pools to be just as nice, if not better, that the on-property pools. Be sure to research whether the property you choose charges for wifi, parking, and resort fees. Those extras can add up quickly. You won’t want to “save” money by staying off site only to find you paid the same or more, but missed out on the Disney magic that comes with on-site resorts.
The “Disney Bubble”
There’s nothing like leaving the world behind for a few days and thinking of nothing but Disney! Walt Disney World is our happy place for sure, and the ability to drive under those famous Disney arches and forget about the world while we’re there is priceless. Whether it’s a Value Resort or a Deluxe one, we love the submersion. Heck, even the television in the room has plenty of Disney channels to keep us happy.
Not staying onsite? You can still have an amazing vacation with offsite resorts! Many are Disney friendly and have touches of the parks in their themes.
Disney Dining Choices
Onsite Resort: There are folks on either side of the Disney Dining Plan coin, but for my family it works well. I love paying for our meals ahead of time and not worrying about budgeting for them once we arrive. If you plan your vacation around free dining offers (they are a great deal!), you’ll save some serious cash. If you purchase the plan (or receive it complimentary with a special offer package), you’re able to schedule your advanced dining reservations 180 days before the first day of your vacation.
Offsite Resort: Pay for meals out of pocket. If you decide to stay offsite and have a condo with a kitchen, you’ll save a ton of money by cooking yourself. You can also bring meals into the parks, sit on a bench or outdoor table, and enjoy the savings.
Onsite Resort: This perk is two-fold: if you fly in to the Orlando International Airport and are staying at an onsite resort, Disney’s Magical Express will pick you up when you arrive, grab your luggage, load it, carry you to your resort, drop you off, and send your bags to your room- for free! If you choose to drive in (this is our main means of getting to WDW), you can park your car in the resort parking lot and leave it there.
Offsite Resort: You can rent a car at the airport or drive to the parks- or Uber it. Happily, renting a car in Orlando is very inexpensive so you won’t have to sell your first born to have that freedom of driving yourself to and from the parks. Parking fees at the time this article was published are $20 per car if you’re not an Annual Passholder.
Extra Magic Hours
Onsite Resort: Each day, Walt Disney World schedules Extra Magic Hours at at least one theme park for guests staying onsite at WDW resorts. Disney transportation runs early (or late depending it the Etra Magic Hours are in the morning or at night) and it’s a great way to hop on those super popular rides that always have lengthy queues. Check the official schedule before you go so you can figure out which parks to hit on which days.
Offsite Resort: You have to obey each park’s opening and closing times. No worries, you can still stay in the parks until “The Kiss Goodnight” but you won’t be able to hop on any rides during that time. You’ll be able to take in the general splendor of the parks and shop if you like.
Onsite Resort: Staying onsite at Walt Disney World allows you to schedule FastPass+ selections 60 days before your trip plus a 10-day grace period. Head to the official Walt Disney World website and sign up for a My Disney Experience account to choose selections.
Confused? So was I at first, so here’s an example. Let’s say I’m visiting WDW in October and my check-in date is October 1st. 60 days before my check-in date of October 1st I can begin choosing FP+ selections for 10 days in a row. If you’re on-property more than 10 days, you’ll need to hop on the app every day after you’ve scheduled the first round to lock them in.
Offsite Resort : With valid theme park admission you can book FastPasses 30 days before your visit.
Onsite Resort: With a Walt Disney World room reservation, each member of your traveling party will receive a free standard MagicBand. At this point there are seven cool colors to choose from, and the bands can be personalized on the inside to include a name, great for when members of the same traveling party select the same color. (Here are the 12 most important things to know about MagicBands.)
Offsite Resort: You can use your theme park ticket for entrance and FastPass+ selections or purchase a MagicBand in the parks.
What if I Like to Shop?
Onsite Resort: One of our favorite perks of staying at an onsite resort is the ability to have our purchases sent directly to our resort room. The Kid loves saving up her money throughout the year to spend it all on souvenirs, and it’s a snap to ask to have the purchases sent to our chosen resort. There is a catch: You can have packages delivered to your resort up to the day before your last day onsite as it takes an entire day to get them there.
Offsite Resort: Carry your purchases around with you in the parks or rent a locker and store them.
So now that we’ve given you the scoop and weighed in on the pros and cons of staying on-site and off-site, which will you choose? Let us know in the comment section below!