No, not that grid. (I like my gadgets too much to ever go off that grid…) But the Disney Grid. I’ve been to Disney Parks dozens of times, and until last month I’d never actually stayed at a Disney Resort. Until this trip I never thought it was necessary. I’m not sure I can call myself a convert, but I definitely get the appeal now…
Advantages of staying at a Disney Property
The first advantage comes as soon as you get off of your plane. (Assuming you fly in.) You can ride the totally free Magical Express from the airport to your resort. The day I was leaving they had even printed out my boarding pass for my flight and had it hanging on the door to my room for me. It’s pretty hassle free. (Although it’s not the fastest way to get around, it was perfectly pleasant.)
You can currently only participate in one of Disney’s dining plan options if you’re staying at a Disney resort. You will receive a refillable mug that can be used to get free beverages at any time during your stay at your resort. Your meals and snacks are determined by what plan you select. There are times when meal plans are included free of charge with your reservation. It’s extremely convenient to have some (if not all) meals and snacks already covered during your trip.
MagicBands were the coolest part of my last trip. Disney’s MagicBands are only available to passholders and guests at select resorts. (Although I expect this will continue to expand until it’s parkwide.) The bands function as a room key and park ticket. If you have a meal plan it can be used to pay for your meals. You can even link it to a credit card. I used my band to pay for everything during my trip with no issues. (Meals, snacks and other purchases require a PIN, which you’ll set up at check in.) The band also functions as your FastPass for quick admission into busy attractions. (I was able to set up multiple FastPass+ selections for each day weeks ahead of our vacation via the My Disney Experience app.)
UPDATE: MagicBands are now available for purchase, making them available to guests staying off-site.
While staying at a Disney resort you have access to all of their transportation options. Buses arrive regularly to depots at each resort to take you to the parks and other attraction of your choice. Several resorts are also on the monorail system, which is the quickest and easiest way to travel to Epcot and Magic Kingdom. (Although you will pay a premium to stay in those resorts for that convenience.) Using Disney’s transportation system means you can avoid costly parking fees at the park entrances. If you fly in, between Disney’s resort transportation and the Magical Express you can realistically get by without a rental car.
Guests of Disney resorts also have access to Extra Magic Hours. Each day one of the four Disney World parks opens one hour early or stays open up to two hours late. Only resort guests have access to these extra park hours.
Disney frequently offers special discounts and vacation packages that are only available to guests staying at a Disney resort. Although staying offsite can save some money, the discounts and packages available when you stay onsite have the potential to make up some of that difference. (You can also include the money you’ll save on parking, rental cars and airport transportation when making your decision.)
Every resort offers their own entertainment. Crafts, movies and more are available for the family when you’re staying at a Disney resort. We didn’t have time to take advantage of this on my last trip, but there were some really cool activities to choose from.
Disadvantages of staying at a Disney Property
The main disadvantage to staying at a Disney resort is the price. You will pay a premium to stay at any Disney property. (Although there is a wide range of costs available between the resorts.) The convenience and perks of staying onsite should be weighed against the money you can save when staying offsite.
When you stay at a Disney resort you’re also unlikely to leave Disney property during your stay. It can be a very immersive experience. There are lots of great attractions, shopping and dining experiences in the Orlando/Kissimmee area that you will miss out on if you never leave the resort.
Advantages of staying at a non-Disney property
The number one reason to stay offsite? The savings. I’ve stayed in perfectly lovely hotels near Disney World for around $30 a night. (Yes, seriously.) Spend a little more and you can stay in suites, condos…even homes. I’m not the type to cook while I’m on vacation, but if you want to prepare your own meals, staying in a condo, timeshare or rental home make that possible. (Which is yet another way to save a little money.)
Staying offsite also opens you up to all that Orlando and Kissimmee have to offer. (Other than Disney World, of course.) There’s lots of shopping, dining and entertainment available to you. (Much of it at a significantly lower cost than anything you’ll find inside the Disney area.)
Disadvantages of staying at a non-Disney property
The biggest disadvantage? Loss of the perks you get when you’re staying onsite.
No MagicBands, no Magic Hours, no dining plans. And although some resorts try, you won’t have the Disney immersive experience you get when you stay onsite.
If you don’t drive there, you will have to find transportation to get around town and to get into the Disney parks. Many resorts offer Disney shuttles, but I’ve heard horror stories so I’ve always avoided them. Parking at the parks is expensive. ($15 per day at this time.)
So this begs the question: Where will I stay on my next trip to Disney World?
And my answer: Ehhh…I’m not sure. Although it will totally be a Disney resort if I can make the cost difference between onsite and offsite make sense!
Where do you stay when you visit Disney World?