Your Disney Vacation: Staying on Disney Property vs. Renting a Vacation Home

By Sheri McDonald

There is a lot to consider when planning your Walt Disney World vacation in Florida. Nearing the top of the list is choosing your accommodations. Allow me to break down the considerations for staying at a Disney resort or at an off-site hotel or vacation home.

Transportation

Disney World

Disney offers the Magical Express, which is a free shuttle that takes Disney guests from the airport to their hotels and back again on departure. If you are a Disney guest and drive your own vehicle or rent a vehicle for your time in Florida, parking is free at all Disney hotels and theme parks.

Each Disney resort offers transportation to all four Disney theme parks, the two waterparks and Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney). They also provide taxi vouchers for their guests who are traveling to any of their golf courses.

Off-site Hotels and Vacation Homes

The Orlando airport has car rentals and shuttle options to transport guests to hotels outside of Disney World. There are fees involved that vary depending on which service you use. To reach a vacation home resort, you will need to rent a car or use a taxi service.

Some of the off-site hotels and vacation home resort areas offer shuttles to the Disney parks, with a fee. The shuttles from vacation home resorts are the highest and it can be cheaper to use a taxi than the shuttle, depending on the size of your group. If you drive to the parks, non-Disney guests pay a minimum of $20/day for parking.

Price

Disney World

Disney offers a variety of price points and comfort levels. They have campgrounds, hotels (ranked Value, Moderate and Deluxe) and Villas. When the hotel rates are compared to similar off-site hotels, they come in higher… particularly in the Moderate and Deluxe hotels. However, there are these things to consider:

• Packages of hotel stays and tickets are offered at a discount, so your overall cost of hotel and tickets may come in lower than an off-site hotel

• Free airport shuttles, free parking and free transportation within Disney also saves guests money

The cost of food at Disney can be what breaks the bank. Staying in a hotel will limit your food storage, but you can always request to have a mini-fridge in your room. I recommend carrying your own refillable water bottles and bringing some snacks from home. There are services that will deliver groceries to your Disney hotel as well.

Disney Dining is another option to consider. Disney offers dining packages for guests who are staying on-site. There are a few packages to choose from and they vary in price. I don’t recommend dining packages for children unless you are planning on doing several character meals.

Off-site Hotels and Vacation Homes

If you are traveling with more than four guests, a vacation home may be the better choice for you. While there are hotels at Disney and off-site that will accommodate 5 or 6 guests, the price is a substantial jump from four guests. You can find vacation homes that work for both small and large groups and the prices range depending on what is offered.

Off-site hotels will have the same food storage challenges as your Disney hotel. However, a vacation home can ease the food expense quite a bit (after a visit to the grocery store, of course). Plan for breakfast at the house, and a late dinner when you return. Disney allows you to bring your own water bottles and a cooler with food, so you can pack snacks or lunches to get through the day.

Other Benefits

Disney World

Disney offers some perks to their guests, which includes:

• Extra magic hours – each day one of the parks will either open early or close late just for Disney guests. This is a wonderful time to enjoy your favourite rides without long lines.

• Disney guests can book their fastpasses 60 days before their vacation begins, compared to 30 days for those staying off-site.

• Disney dining reservations can be made up to 180 days before your vacation begins, and Disney guests can make reservations for up to ten days beyond the arrival date.

• Disney guests can have any purchases sent directly to their resorts, rather than carrying them around the parks.

Off-site Hotels and Vacation Homes

Guests who stay outside of Disney World are more likely to visit some of the other attractions in the area, and Central Florida has a lot to offer. It is just an hour drive to the eastern coast to see the Kennedy Space Center, or two hours to the west coast to visit ‘Winter’ the Dolphin at the Clearwater Aquarium.

A vacation home offers more privacy for individuals, since they are less likely to have to sleep in the same room as other guests. Many vacation homes come with private pools and game rooms as well, so families stay busy without worrying about crowds.

My Recommendations:

My family has had the pleasure of using many different accommodations in Florida, and here are our favourites for 5 or more guests:

• Disney Value Resort: Art of Animation

• Disney Moderate Resort: Port Orleans Riverside

• Disney Deluxe Resort: Polynesian Village Resort

• Vacation Home: Global Resort Homes – Windsor Hills

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