Trying to figure out where to stay when visiting Walt Disney World in Orlando can be overwhelming, especially if this is your first visit. There are significant benefits that come with staying on-property at a Disney resort hotel, and there are definite disadvantages when staying off-site at an area hotel or Airbnb. Understanding the differences early on will help you jump that hurdle quickly so you can get to the fun of planning!
Walt Disney World offers more than 25 on-property resort hotels including popping your tent and camping, Value resorts with basic amenities and comforts, Moderate resorts with upgraded amenities like table service restaurants on property, Deluxe resorts with upgraded amenities like great transportation options to the parks, and fantastic table service restaurants, and Deluxe Villa resorts with lots of room to stretch out for larger families or those looking for more upscale accommodations. There is something for every budget and every travel style.
With these great accommodations come benefits that can help take some stress out of the planning and make your visit to the Most Magical Place on Earth easier and more fun!
Benefits of staying on property at the Walt Disney World Resort:
-Book your dining reservations and special experiences 60 days prior to your arrival for the duration of your stay.
-Early entry into the theme parks for all resort guests; extended evening hours on select nights for guests staying at a Deluxe or Deluxe Villa resort.
-Ability to add a Disney Dining Plan to your package.
-Early access to purchase an Individual Lightning Lane for the top attractions in each park.
-A flexible package where you can make changes, spread out payments (kind of like a payment plan!), or cancel for a full refund.*
-Free parking at the resort and at the theme parks.
-Ease of transportation to the four theme parks, water parks and Disney Springs.
-Disney may offer promotional discounts throughout the year to guests staying at one of Disney's wonderful resort hotels.
-Access to discounted MagicBands in the My Disney Experience app.
-Charging privileges resort-wide
-Early access for resort guests to purchase Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party tickets.
-Stay in the "Disney bubble" with Disney's theming and service throughout the Walt Disney World Resort.
Perhaps the biggest benefit:
-When you book your package with a Me and The Mouse Travel Specialist, you receive our concierge services to seamlessly integrate all your daily activities, park entertainment, transportation and so much more to truly make it an unforgettable vacation.
Although staying off-site may save some money on the accommodations, there are significant downsides when opting to stay off property that will affect your experience in the parks.
Disadvantages of staying off-site when visiting Walt Disney World:
-Tickets must be paid in full at the time of purchase and are non-refundable/non-transferrable
-No early access into the park or extended evening hours. Resort guests will already be in the parks forming queues and enjoying attractions before general admission guests are allowed into the parks.
-Parking fees at (and traffic on the way to) the theme parks
-If the off-site property offers shuttles, there may be a fee, they will operate on a schedule that may not be convenient when you want to head to - or head back from - the parks, and they are only allowed to drop off and pick up at the Transportation and Ticket Center where you will then be required to transfer to a Disney bus, boat or monorail (depending on where you are headed) to get to your next destination.
-While you will be able to book your first Genie+ selection (if you opt to purchase Genie+) at the same time as resort guests, you will not be able to purchase an Individual Lightning Lane for the top attractions in the parks until the official park opening. The newest attractions are often sold out in minutes when resort guests have access to them.
-Not eligible for Disney promotions (from discounts, ticket discounts, Dining Cards)**
-Less flexible cancellation policies
The biggest disadvantages to staying off-site:
-Reservations for dining, dessert parties, tours, and things like droid and lightsaber building (in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge) are available to book by on-site guests before off-site guests have the opportunity to reserve them and can only booked one day at a time at the 60 day mark. The most coveted locations and times are often already taken by the time the booking window opens for off-site guests.
-Travel advisors receive compensation when assisting on-site guests with their reservation packages (hotel+tickets). We all want our guests to have an amazing visit. Because of the difficulty and extreme efforts involved in attempting to plan the perfect vacation for off-site guests and the frustration that can come when we cannot successfully check off the dining wish lists, travel advisors will often charge a planning fee for guests choosing to stay off-site.
Knowing the benefits of staying on-site and the disadvantages of staying off-site will allow you to weigh your priorities, set realistic expectations, and plan for a memorable vacation to Walt Disney World.
* Modifications can be made to packages pending availability. All payments, with the one exception of travel insurance which is non-refundable, are fully refundable up until 30 days prior to your arrival.
** Disney releases promotions periodically. You never know if a promotion will be offered for the timeframe of your visit, but only stays at Disney resort hotels qualify.