Making the decision to visit Walt Disney World leads to a variety of other decisions, one of those being the decision to stay on site or off site during your vacation. While it’s simple to just look at the costs of staying in a Walt Disney World resort and staying at a property off site, there’s a lot more that should factor into your decision making.
Transportation to resort
On site: Guests staying at a Walt Disney World resort and flying into Orlando International Airport (MCO) have the benefit of using Disney’s Magical Express. This service is included in the cost of your resort room and will get you from the airport to your resort and back to the airport again when your vacation’s come to an end.
Off site: If you’re flying in, you’ll need to look into the cost of a rental car to use for the duration of your stay. For guests driving, you’ll have to look at a few different things: will you drive your car (look at the cost of maintenance/wear and tear) or rent a car, the cost of gas to and from your starting point to your destination and any stops you might make along the way (food, lodging, ect).
Parking at parks
On site: During your stay at a Walt Disney World resort, transportation is included to other Disney properties (theme parks, water parks, Downtown Disney, ect) at no additional charge.
Off site: Visiting one of the Walt Disney World theme parks in your personal vehicle is allowed but will cost you per vehicle per day. Disney transportation is complimentary for any guests visiting regardless of where you’re staying so once on property you too can make use of the monorail, boats or buses to help get you around.
On site: Tickets can be purchased in advance as part of a Magic Your Way package allowing you to pay for your tickets as part of the vacation package and have them paid for before your trip.
Off site: There are a couple of different options for guests staying off site but needing to purchase park tickets for their stay. You can purchase them in advance on the Disney website and pick them up once arrive for your vacation. Tickets can also be purchased once you arrive at Walt Disney World for your vacation from the Guest Services areas before entering the parks. Be sure to allow time in your day for this – the lines can be very long at times.
On site: Whatever Disney resort you choose to call home during your vacation will have some sort of food option right there. It may be a Quick Service dining location or even a Table Service place or two if you’re lucky. To help with the budget, resort guests will have the option of purchasing the Disney Dining Plan as part of your Magic Your Way package. Adding this option will allow you to choose a dining plan that best suits your family and pay for it in advance of your trip. Doing this will allow you to pre-pay for a majority (if not all) the food you’ll enjoy during your vacation. Resort guests can also bring items to their rooms for food or snacks. Staying on site doesn’t mean you need to eat all your meals on site. Renting a taxi to take a trip off property or having groceries delivered to mix things up a bit is certainly an option that should be accounted for in your budget.
Off site: Staying off site will afford more options as far as dining goes. Be sure to figure in the cost of groceries you purchase for meals to make at your hotel, condo or rental home as well as the cost of any meals you plan to purchase while on vacation as part of your off site dining budget.
On site: Finding a deal on a Walt Disney World resort isn’t always as hard as it seems. During slower times in the travel season, there are discounts offered on resort stays to encourage guests to stay on site. Also check with any groups you belong to (AAA for example). Using a travel agent will also ensure you get the best deal. They’re always checking for the latest discounts to apply to your reservations to help save you even more money. Booking a room only reservation requires one night be paid at the time of booking with the rest being due when you check in. Packages (a room with tickets, a dining plan or both) are paid for 45 days before check in which gives you comfort knowing your vacation is paid for before you even check in.
Off site: Use a site like Trip Advisor or Hotwire to make your reservations for off property accommodations to protect yourself. There are lots of deal sites out there but you never know what you’re going to get. If you belong to a hotel rewards program or get reward points on a credit card, consider booking that way for the rewards.
On the surface staying off site seems cheaper for many families looking to visit Walt Disney World. After looking at the different things that play into the costs of staying on and off site, hopefully we’ll help you get a better idea of the actual costs associated with each decision.
Do you stay on or off site during your Disney vacations? What other things do you take in to account when deciding to stay on site or off during your vacation?