The Great On-Property vs. Off-Property Debate

Trip Planning Tuesday CastleOne of the most difficult decisions when it comes to planning a Disney World vacation is to decide on your hotel. Before you can decide on where you want to stay you must face the difficult question of whether to stay in a Disney World resort, which will be called “On-Property” from now on, or an “Off-Property” resort. This decision is not one that we are going to tell you an exact answer on because there are many factors that you must look at and answer based on what will be best for your family. So below we are going to give some of our top reasons to stay on-property and some of our top reasons to stay off-property. As always, make sure you comment below if you have any questions.

Top Reasons to Stay “On-Property” When Visiting Disney World

  1. Location, Location, Location! – One of our top reasons to stay on property when visiting Walt Disney World is the location and ease of getting to the theme parks. When you say off-property you have to consider the hassle of driving, parking, riding the tram, and all of the other steps involved in getting into a theme park. When you stay on-site you are just a bus, monorail, or boat ride away from the parks, and you don’t even have to walk through the parking lot. The Disney transportation system is not perfect, but for the most part the location of being on Disney property is a great positive.
  2. It’s All in the Theme – Another of our favorite reasons for staying in a Disney resort is that you get to be completely immersed in the theme of a Disney resort, known to us Disney nerds as the “Disney Bubble”. The theming of Disney resorts are above and beyond anything off-property and it just makes you feel like you are on vacation and in a completely different place.
  3. You Mean I Am Actually Saving Money – Although the price of staying in a Disney resort is often higher than staying off-site you do get some features that could actually save you some money on your vacation. First, due to the free use of Disney’s Magical Express as well as the Disney Transportation System you can save on the cost of a rental car as well as gas money while in Orlando. When staying off-site it is almost impossible to do a trip without renting a car which can cost $250 or more for the week. Add that $250 to the cost of gas while you are in Orlando as well as $20 per day to park at the theme parks you could have an expense of close to $400 for transportation which you save when staying in a Disney Resort. This is an area you must look closely at when planning a trip and see where the biggest bang for your buck is.
  4. Disney’s Magical Express – One great feature of staying at Disney World is the added feature of free use of the Disney’s Magical Express service. Read more on this service in our blog post here.
  5. Extra Magic Hours – Disney really markets the use of Extra Magic Hours when staying at their resorts. We don’t actually recommend the use of this time a whole lot because they tend to be a crowd magnet, but it is still a nice where that every day one park opens an hour early or stays open two hours late for only Disney resort guests.
  6. Use of the Dining Plan – Another benefit many people enjoy that is only available when staying on-site is the availability of the Disney Dining plan, which in effect allows you to purchase your meals as part of your vacation package. Disney will market that the dining plan saves you money and it certainly has the ability to do that, but we do urge you to make sure you consider your family’s eating habits to figure out whether or not it is right for you.
  7. Uniqueness of Repeat Trips – This final reason we love Disney resorts is that when staying in these resorts complete with their fantastic themes you can take repeat trips to Disney World, but it feels like a completely different vacation destination. You can stay in a Caribbean Beach Resort on one trip and then return the next time to a relaxing stay in the Pacific Northwest at Wilderness Lodge. We feel that repeat trips being a unique experience for a family is a great positive for Disney Resorts.

Top Reasons to Stay “Off-Property” When Visiting Disney World

  1. Saving on Hotel Cost – No doubt, the biggest reason people stay off-site when visiting Disney World is that you can get a hotel for much less cost than on-site. These hotels will not be fancy, nor will they have a theme like those on-property, but they will almost always be clean and well kept and serve your family well. It is important to see #3 above and see if you can save enough by staying on-site to make this a tough decision, but if you can pay less for your hotel, rent a car, and pay for gas and parking, and still be less expensive than a Disney resort off-site may be the best option for you. We would be the first to tell you if you can take a trip and stay off-site or not take a trip at all, by all means, take the trip and stay off-site!
  2. Different Room Sizes – A great benefit to staying off site in a hotel or rental property is the ability to get rooms suited for bigger families. Disney has a lot of hotel rooms that sleep four people, but the options get drastically smaller once your family gets larger than that. Off-site you have all kinds of options in terms of multiple bedrooms condominiums to renting a house nearby that you can find something for any type of family for a price that works. Disney prices go up at very fast rates for rooms that sleep more than four people.
  3. Added Benefits at the Hotel – Some off-site hotels may have added benefits that a Disney resort will not. The major benefit we hear people talking about is hotels that service a free hot breakfast which is a great way to jumpstart your family before a long day in the parks. Another benefit may be a short walk to things such as restaurants and shopping. These restaurants may be cheaper than what you would find in the parks and would thus save you some money on your trip budget. Finally, if you have a membership in a certain hotel chain’s customer appreciation program (i.e. Wyndham Rewards) you may get a better rate, special perks, or free nights with your points.
  4. Ease of Visiting Other Orlando Attractions – A final reason we think staying off-site can be a benefit is if you are interested in visiting other attractions in the Orlando area such as Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, or LegoLand. If you are staying off-site you are probably closer to these attractions and already have a rental car which will be easy for you to get your family to these places. If you are staying on-site you would have to purchase transportation which could eat into the budget and make a trip to those locations as easy as if you were staying off-site.

Please leave a comment or question below about this topic and we will be by to answer your question as soon as we can.

Hotels of the Disneyland Resort & Good Neighbor Hotels – Episode 11

cropped-NEW-Icon-Edit-A.jpgIn this week’s episode, for July 24, 2016, Lysa will be giving us an overview of the hotels of the Disneyland Resort that she experienced on her recent travel agent education trip.

Please send any questions about the show to and visit our website, for more information. Also, like our Facebook page at and follow us on Twitter @MouseDreamsBlog.

Finally, thanks to our sponsors and friends at Big Dreams Travel, an Authorized Disney Travel Planner. Visit them at to help with your next vacation.

You can submit Disney trip planning questions for us to answer on the show by e-mailing us at, by tweeting your question to @MouseDreamsBlog on Twitter, or by visiting the listener questions page on our website at We would love to answer your questions on travel including Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Disney Cruise Line. Have a great week everyone and thanks for listening!

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5 Things to Know About Staying Off-Site at Disney World

Trip Planning Tuesday CastleFor today’s Trip Planning Tuesday article we want to share some tips for staying off-site. Below we have listed 5 things you need to know as you are in the process of booking your off-site hotel. These 5 things will help you pick the hotel that is right for you, will give you the biggest bang for your buck, and will make sure you get the added amenities you deserve when staying off-site.

  1. Know the Location – This is a huge part of selecting a good resort off Disney property. Orlando is a huge area and there are many hotels in many different areas, so you’ll want to make sure the ones you are looking at are close to Disney World. We recommend limiting your search to the towns of Lake Buena Vista and Celebration, as well as the area along highway 192 (the Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway). These areas will be within 10 minutes of Disney World and will offer any type of hotel room that you need at any price point. There are of course other hotels along I-4 and on International Drive that will do the same, but the further north you go the more trouble you will have getting back to the parks every day, so we recommend staying as close as you can. One of the best areas to be are what is called the Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels. There are 7 resorts located right across the street from Disney Springs that are mostly run by major hotel chains. These hotels usually have nice deals and discounts available if you are willing to do a little research. Of course we always recommend working with a travel agent who can help you select the perfect resort on-site or off-site. Travel agents are free to work with and you get someone working to help you plan the perfect vacation.
  2. Getting to The Parks – The one part of staying off-site that will be an inconvenience is having to drive in each morning to get into the parks. Orlando traffic can be bad, that is why we recommend staying as close as you can to Disney World property. Getting around Disney World is not easy for some people, although we find if you just follow the signs and not worry about what direction you are actually going you should be alright. Once you get to the parks you will have to pay the $20 daily parking fee, unless you are an annual pass holder. Make sure you have read our post on Everything You Need to Know About Parking. Once parked you can walk to the gate if you are close enough or there are always trams to take people to the front of the park. The key here is to make sure you leave yourself enough time to still get to the parks before rope drop as that is very important for park touring purposes as you will see on our Itinerary Planning Page.
  3. Can You Still Take a Break? – This is a major question that you need to answer when choosing an off-site hotel. On our Itinerary Planning Page we speak of the principle of visiting a park in the morning, taking a mid-day break, and returning to a park that night. This strategy allows you to enjoy the best things about your vacation while staying rested physically and mentally. If staying off-site we want to be close enough and easy enough to get to that you can take this mid-day break to let your family re-charge for the evening. Keep in mind though to take this break you will need to go back to your car in the parking lot, navigate your way off-property and back to your resort. This is often a little longer process than just getting back to  your on-site resort, so that makes location even more important.
  4. Are You Getting Extra Resort Amenities? – One of the benefits to staying off-site are some extra resort amenities you will get into one of these hotels. Make sure you are getting some extra perks that you will not get on-site. If a hotel does not have any extra perks we recommend finding a different off-site hotel as there is probably one that offers some extras. By extras we are referring to things such as a free hot breakfast or evening appetizers. Also, a big extra that some hotels offer is extra space in the rooms or rooms with multiple bedrooms for larger families. Whatever your choice is make sure you are keeping in mind these extra resort amenities when booking your off-site hotel.
  5. Getting Around Orlando – A very important part of your off-site trip is keeping in mind how you will get around Orlando. We highly recommend that you have a rental car if you are staying off-property as that is the only efficient way to get around. If you do not you will have to pay for airport transportation as well as find transportation to the parks. Some off-site resorts have included transportation to the theme parks, but this transportation is not all its cracked up to be. It is usually only at certain times of the day instead of being constant like Disney Transportation. Also, this transportation will often times just drop you off at a central location like Epcot and you have to ride Disney Transportation to the park you want to go to, which can take a while. Bottom line, the best way to go is with a rental car when staying off-property as that will give you freedom to come and go when you want as well as do any other attractions off-property without much hassle.

As always, please leave your comments or questions below and we will be by to help you as soon as we can.