Is staying off site better than staying at a Disney World Resort Hotel?

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I am normally a huge advocate for staying on property at a Disney Resort Hotel when I visit Walt Disney World – it’s way more convenient and closer to the Magic – but truth be told, sometimes those conveniences/perks of staying on site aren’t exactly free…and now that I have a family of my own, I am seriously considering staying off property (GASP! Shocking, I know…)

Read on to discover some of the perks of staying somewhere other than a Disney World-owned Hotel:

More Space: There are a TON of Hotels and Resorts near Walt Disney World, and many of them offer a wide variety of room sizes/styles – from standard rooms, to suites, multi-bedroom apartments, villas – there are so many options to choose from! For example check out this special the Disney Springs Resort hotels are running.  In addition to hotels, there are TONS of vacation houses, condos, and townhomes in the Orlando area that are available for rental through sites like airbnb.com and homeaway.com. Whether you’re traveling to Florida alone or with your kids and husband, or your friends or extended family – there are places of every shape and size out there for you to stay in – many with separate bedrooms/bathrooms so you can have some privacy and a chance to relax (after all, you are on vacation!)

Dining/Diet Flexibility: Walt Disney World offers some of the most delicious food I have ever tasted – and I have been lucky enough to dine in many of their restaurants (and am working on trying out the rest!), and would eat there all the time if I could afford to! The prices overall are not awful, and the service is always amazing, but if you stay off site, you can really save a lot of money on food. If you stay at a place with a kitchen, you can head over to a nearby grocery store (there are plenty in the area!) for whatever you want to cook up – at a much lower cost than buying a similar meal in the Walt Disney Parks or Resorts. You can also do what Chip does and use Garden Grocer. And if you are on a special diet for whatever reason, having your own kitchen and the ability to prepare your own meals would come in VERY handy. Even just purchasing some snack items/drinks at the store to bring along to the Parks can save you and your family a bunch of money (not to mention having snacks on hand can help fend off meltdowns – always a plus in my book!)

COST: This is for real the biggest perk to me – if I can save money on my lodging budget, that means I can allocate those funds elsewhere – more souvenirs, more character meals – or even another day or two at the Parks! Once you step offsite, the prices of hotels/Resorts/rental properties drops dramatically – and there are deals up for grabs every day on sites like Travelocity.com, or hotels.com – you just have to look for them! There are a bunch of hotels within walking distance of Disney, and a bunch more that offer free shuttles to the Disney Parks. Of course, there are places that are too far for walking or don’t offer shuttles, so the best thing to do in that case is rent a car – and even when you factor in the rental cost, gas, and parking at the Parks, you still can have a decent savings over the cost of a WDW Resort. Not to mention – having a car makes it easy to run to the store for more food/diapers/snacks, and it gives you the option of checking out places other than Disney World while in the area.

Bottom line is – if you want the comforts of home while you’re on vacation like privacy, multiple bathrooms, a kitchen/the ability to cook, space to hang out/relax – you just won’t get these on WDW Property without paying an arm and a leg, and staying off property gives you the chance to have all this and more at a much lower price

I have stayed on property at WDW many times – so I know firsthand what I would be missing out on by staying off property: the Magical Express service, Extra Magic Hours, and yes we would lose out on some of that Disney Magic too – but for someone on a tight budget whose kid might be a bit too young to fully appreciate what staying “on property” entails the first time he visits Disney, I have to say, off property is looking more appealing by the day for my family!

What about you – have you stayed off property, or are you strictly a WDW Resort family?

Let us know your experiences in the comment box below.

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