Growing up, I was lucky to visit Walt Disney World Resort with my family multiple times. My parents weren’t rich but worked hard and made sacrifices to be able to spend on the things they viewed as priorities. Luckily for me, family travel was included in that.
We all know Disney World is way more expensive now than it was in the 80s and 90s when I grew up, but as a family of six – and usually traveling with some extended family – staying offsite was just more economical. So when my husband and I took our daughter for our first family trip to Walt Disney World, it was the first time we had stayed onsite. Now with several more onsite trips with kids under our belts, and a more recent offsite stay, I can see both sides of the argument regarding which of the two is better.
The perks of staying offsite
There’s no doubt saying that staying offsite saves money, especially for larger families. Disney resorts have limited options for families larger than four, other than getting more than one room and hoping they are connected. In the Orlando area, there are many hotels that are more affordable if you need to get two rooms, but even better, there are so many condos and houses for rent.
To continue the theme of saving money, you also have more dining options when renting a house or condo that are likely cheaper than those on property. If you prefer, you can also rent a place where there is a full kitchen to cook your own meals (and even pack lunches to bring to the parks). If you drove to Disney World, you could even find a hotel or rental where parking is included, unlike Disney hotels.
If you want more privacy, what is better than having your own private pool? We didn’t have to worry about finding pool chairs or forgetting something from our rooms because we were right there to go back inside to get it. Many rentals, like the one we stayed in, also have a community pool with more amenities, like a lazy river and water slides.
The perks of staying onsite
On the flip side, when you sacrifice cost savings and space to stay in a Disney resort hotel, you remain in the Disney bubble. This means you don’t have to have a car if you don’t want one. If you don’t drive in as we did; this is a money saver not having to pay for car rental, tolls, gas, and parking at the parks since transportation is included (other than from the airport now).
It is also worth mentioning that the drive to Disney World, while only about 20 minutes away, seems a lot longer on the way back from a long day at Disney. It’s so much easier to just jump on a bus back to your resort. When going to the Magic Kingdom, it’s a big perk to be dropped off right by the entrance instead of parking at the Ticket and Transportation Center.
The theming of the hotels is another onsite perk. Disney hotels are incomparable with theming to the other resorts in the area. Once in a while, there will be houses for rent that have cool-themed rooms, but overall, the entire resorts at Disney are themed. They even have fun games (usually) that can entertain the whole family. Disney movie night at the pool is a fun perk, too.
Of course, early park entry is a major perk, too. To be able to get into the parks early (and now any park you choose every day), you can rope drop and knock out a few rides before the parks really start to fill.
When FastPass+ existed, the 60-day window made staying onsite a must for us, but with that gone, Disney is making it more attractive to stay offsite with a large amount of cost savings and fewer perks. The major money saver and extra space were a huge benefit for our family, but in my opinion, being onsite is best if finances allow. The driving to and from the area was a major energy suck for us, especially when it came to deciding if we wanted to leave mid-day for the pool and come back at night.
What are your thoughts regarding staying offsite versus staying in the Disney bubble?
Sara is a Marketing Specialist by day, but her true passion is writing. She's been a freelance writer for 11 years and uses that side hustle money for traveling with her husband and three young children.