When Planning a trip to Walt Disney World you have to think about a whole list of things. What rides do you want to FastPass? Where do you want to eat? Do you drive or fly? Or most importantly do you stay at a Disney Resort or Stay at a Resort in Orlando?
The answer is not an easy one. It depends on a whole list of factors like do you want the ability to book your FastPasses 60 days out or 30? Would you like to get the Disney Dining Plan? How big is your family? What kind of transportation are you taken to the theme parks? Are you visiting other attractions in Orlando or in Florida?
This post may contain affiliate links. It is at no extra cost to you for clicking a link, but helps me out. For more info click here.
Another important factor is the cost. While the cheapest room in Disney is listed at $99 a night I haven’t found them for cheaper than $150 at one of the All Star Resorts. You can find many hotels around Orlando for under $100 a night but there are many things to factor into the cost that you don’t have to when staying at a Disney Resort.
Cost is most families main consideration when determining if they will be staying on site or off site. Let’s face it a vacation to Walt Disney World is very expensive. A family of 4 (2 Adults, 2 kids ages 11 and 7) staying at All Star Sports for 8 days 7 nights with theme park tickets will cost OVER $3,500. That’s not counting food, souvenirs or travel to and from Orlando.
Now taking the theme park tickets away and looking just at the room from 2/19-2/26/20 it will cost you $1,511.82. For the same time period a stay at CoCo Key Hotel and Water Resort Orlando for two double beds will cost $646 for 7 nights. But wait there are some “hidden” fees at CoCo Key. There is a $32.95 daily resort fee for an additional $230.65. Now there is a good chance if you would stay here you would have a car with you. So add another $70 for parking. $10 a day.
If you decide to drive to the theme parks for the day you can add another $25 per day. So for a week long trip you can add another $175. So your “cheap” hotel off site which you thought was $646 for the week saving you $865 is really only saving you $390.
This is for your value type hotels. Now, let’s take a look at the Deluxe style hotels. For this we will look at the Contemporary and Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld. Both resorts offer theme park views just one is of the Magic Kingdom and the other is SeaWorld. Both also have spas and excellent dining options.Disney World Hotel Deals & Discounts
Contemporary at Walt Disney World will cost you $4303 for an 8 day 7 night stay from February 19th to the 26th. Staying at the Renaissance Orlando will run you $2175 in the same time period. Of course at Renaissance Orlando you have a daily resort fee of $33.75 or $236.25 for the week. Now parking at Renaissance Orlando is a little steep at $28 a day. So for the week it will cost you another $196. So for a week at Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld it will cost you a total of $2,607.25 saving you $1,696. Just don’t forget you would also have to pay for parking at the theme parks too or take the free shuttle which only offers limited times.
Also don’t forget the cost of gas driving back and forth from your hotel to the theme parks and the time it will take you. This 13 mile from the Renaissance Orlando, will easily take you 30 minutes or longer. Also, Orlando traffic can be pretty horrible.
While it usually IS cheaper staying off site you have to factor in resort fees, parking at the resort and theme parks and travel time. Plus don’t think that the free resort shuttle is the best thing. Many of them only offer one or 2 morning trips and evening trips.
So a shuttle might leave at 9 and 10 am and pick up around 7 and 8 pm. They don’t offer the flexibility like WDW Resorts do.
In this section we will talk about the different Transportation options. Food choices and how to pay for them. Extra Magic Hours and FastPass bookings.
While many hotels in the area offer free shuttles to the different area theme parks (Universal, Disney, SeaWorld) none of them offer a service from the airport to the resort like Disney does. There are a few different transportation companies that you can hire to take you from the airport to your hotel. Of course this isn’t free and will cost your around $100 on the low end for a round trip.
There is also Uber or Lyft. Not sure on the rate but as you know if you ever used either company the distance depends on the price.
Walt Disney World offers FREE transportation from Orlando Airport (MCO) to the many different Disney Resorts. Sure you have to wait for the bus at the magical express area. Than you might be the last stop on the bus. Usually it only takes less than 2 hours from when you land, to getting to your resort. Two hours is on the high end, most times it is much shorter than that. You also don’t need to get your luggage between certain times (overnight you will need to get your own bags).
Now we already touched briefly on the free resort shuttles to the theme parks from many area hotels, but let’s dig in a little more. One of the best things about staying off site is getting a cheaper price and still getting free transportation to the Disney Theme Parks. Now it is great to get free transportation from your resort but there is a little more to know.
For many resorts, you need to sign up, the night before for a spot on the bus. Plus Seating is very limited.
While some might not think of this as an extra, being about to get the Disney Dining Plan is only available if you stay at a Disney Resort. This is a great way to prepay all or most of your meals while you are visiting Walt Disney World. Let’s face it the food at Disney is pretty much over priced on a quick service side of things.
Being able to have most if not all of your meals covered while your on vacation is a huge perk. You can only do that if you are staying at a Disney Resort. When you book any value, moderate or deluxe resort you can add the Disney Dining Plan too. Now if you plan on staying at one of Disney’s Good Neighbor hotels like Wyndham Gardens Lake Buena Vista at Disney Springs, you get some of the same perks Disney Resort Guest get but you can NOT get the Dining Plan. However, you can get a Disney Quick Service Dining Card.
You select the amount of days you want the card for. The cards have a $40 per day value for an adult and $15 per day for a child ages 3-9. For our example family here it would cost them $117.50 to purchase the dining card for one day. The total value on the card would be $135. That’s a nice little savings that can add up for the week.
Now if you are staying at any other Orlando hotel or resort you won’t be able to purchase the Dining plan or Dining Card. The good thing about staying off property when it comes to meals is all the great options out there and their relatively cheap cost when comparing them to some Disney Restaurants. Pretty much every chain restaurant and fast food location is in Orlando.
There are also many resorts where you can get rooms that have full and half kitchens so you can cook your own meals instead of just eating at Disney. This can be a big factor for a larger family. Plus don’t forget you can bring in your own food to Disney theme parks. Of course there are restrictions like no glass.
Two of the biggest perks you get while staying at a Disney Hotel or Good Neighbor Hotel are Extra Magic Hours and being able to book FastPass 60 days (plus length of stay) out. The FastPass perk is huge. You still might not be able to secure a FastPass for that popular ride (Flight of Passage, Frozen, Slinky Dog Dash) with your 60+ days. But you have a much higher chance than if you can only do it 30 days out.
Staying off site you can book FastPass 30 days out. You also have to log on each day and do it. So for example our family who’s vacation is starting February 19th, 2020 can book ALL of their FastPass on December 21, 2019 if they are staying at a Disney Hotel or Good Neighbor Hotel. For the family that is not staying at one would have to start booking their FastPass on January 20, 2020 and do it everyday until January 27, 2020.
It’s a pretty safe bet that you WON’T be getting a FastPass for Frozen in EPCOT or Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom, Slinky Dog Dash in Hollywood Studios or even Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Magic Kingdom.
To me having the ability to book my FastPass 60+ days away is a huge deal and not worth the little bit of money I would save if I were to stay at a value style hotel in Orlando. That savings of $390 is not worth losing a chance to get the top FastPasses. Now Disney Resort guests can also use Extra Magic Hours (EMH) while those not staying on property cannot. EMH are an extra hour or two of the park being open in the morning or evening before or after official park opening and closing.
So for example Magic Kingdom may open at 9am but on this day they are doing an Early EMH. For resort guests they can enter Magic Kingdom at 8am and start enjoying many of the attractions before the park officially opens to the public. You can get a lot of rides done in that first hour saving you countless minutes or even hours later on in the day. Check out our post on how to avoid lines for some other tips.
OTHER THEME PARKS
Lets face it Walt Disney World Resorts are all about keeping you at WDW. You’re not going to the lobby of POP Century and able to find out when the next shuttle to Universal Studios will be. You will either have to drive or Uber to the different Orlando Theme Parks.
Disney is trying to make you stay at their resorts and theme parks for your whole trip.Tweet
They don’t want you going out and visiting Orlando. You might find out you can get some decent cheap souvenirs in and around Orlando. Or have a great meal for under $100 for a family of four. You might even find out that there are 3 other theme parks in Orlando that some people would consider better.
To be total fair if you are a roller coaster fan you should really check out SeaWorld Orlando. Currently they have 3 amazing coasters and a 4th one opening in 2020 called Ice Breaker. This park is pretty amazing and definitely worth a visit. You are also usually able to get cheap tickets if you served in the Military. That’s right even Vets not just retired Military can get low priced tickets.
Besides the theme parks in Orlando you could also visit Busch Gardens Tampa Bay which is able an hour and a half from Orlando depending on traffic. If you do head that way also check out Clearwater Florida and enjoy a sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.
Heading an hour to the east you will come across Kennedy Space Center. This is a great place to visit if you or anyone in your family loves staring into space. You never know you might be lucky enough to be in Orlando when a rocket is getting launched. One of these years I am going to see a rocket launch even if I have to turn around and head home the same day.
Everyone’s vacation style is different so it is really hard to say if it is better to say on site vs off site. Is the savings more important over convenience? If so than you should stay off site. Would you rather have the best chances of getting the hottest e-ticket ride? Better stay on site.
Be sure to follow us for all our latest post all about travel and Disney. Right now we have a giveaway going on until November 4th 2019. Don’t worry we will be hosting more if you missed this one.
Let us know in the comments below if you like staying on site or off site and why. We love to hear from our readers. Hope you all have a wonderful day.