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Staying at A Disney World Resort vs Hotel Outside the Park

[fa icon="calendar"] Tue, Mar 15, 2016 @ 05:04 PM / by Mary Ellen Nunes

Mary Ellen Nunes

Staying at a Disney Resort or outside the park

There is no denying that it’s less expensive to stay an Orlando area property than staying at a Disney World Resort.  And there are many very nice resorts and hotels in the area with beautiful theming, pools, restaurants and more. 

So why would you choose to stay at a Disney resort and spend more?

There are pros and cons to all choices in life. This includes an Orlando area vacation.  Families need to weigh and measure factors like value per dollar, balancing the budget and the cost of their time.  Here are some pros and cons specific to Disney Guests.  For Universal Studios vacationers, there are some similar benefits to staying at Universal Resorts as well (But that’s another file!)


Staying "off" property

  • Many hotels and resorts in the Orlando area offer scheduled shuttle service to the parks, so you could use these and not worry about driving and paying for parking, but they are scheduled, not continuously running.  The schedules are posted at the hotel.  
  • Most resorts have nice pools and are family friendly locations.  
  • Some offer kitchenettes with sink, microwave, stove-top and frig for in room dining for larger families.
  • Most Orlando area resorts charge for parking, so if you rent or drive a car, plan to pay a parking fee at the resort, plus at many of the day attractions such as Disney World and Universal Studios
  • Most Orlando area resorts charge a per day “resort” fee in addition to their nightly rate. The fee cannot be paid in advance, nor is it optional
  • Most area resorts and hotels do not offer shared shuttle transportation to the Orlando International Airport – car service, MEARS shuttle busses (fee) or a rental car are needed. Figure a shared airport shuttle service will cost approximately $35 per adult and $30 per child roundtrip.  A private car service or rental car can cost even more.
  • Guests at a non-Disney property have a 30 day window once their tickets are purchased and attached to a My Disney Experience account, to schedule fast pass admission to select rides.

Staying at Disney Property:

  • Guests at Disney World resorts have the availability of continuous transportation between all Disney parks and resorts, and free parking at parks for guests who wish to drive.  
  • Disney World guests can purchase a dining plan with their resort stay, which provides the ability to prepay for most of their dining needs, and which can offer savings when compared to purchasing the same meal out of pocket.
  • Disney World guests have the option of scheduling fast pass admission to rides 60 days before the start of their vacation. This can save you a great deal of time waiting in line!
  • Guests of Disney World are eligible to either enter a select park one hour early or stay 2 hours later during Extra Magic hours.
  • Disney World resort guests receive Magic Bands, color water proof wrist bands, which can be used to unlock resort hotel rooms, enter theme and water parks (with valid admission), check in at fast pass entrances, connect to Disney PhotoPass, and charge food and merchandise purchases to your Disney Resort hotel room during their stay.
  • Disney resort guests are able to use Disney’s Magic Express for free transportation between Orlando International Airport and their Disney resort.
  • In the event that any of the Disney parks are at their maximum capacity (this often happens at peak times around Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Easter, and July 4), Disney World Resort guests are given a higher preference to park admission
  • Disney World resort prices start at approximately $100 per night for one of their value resorts. That price includes all the perks and features mentioned here. Of course the sky is the limit if you want a luxury suite or themed room.

Here are some additional questions to help you decide which hotel option best for your family:

Is the cost difference alone a deciding factor to determining if you can go?  If you want to visit Disney World and staying at an Orlando area hotels is the best fit for your budget, then do it!

Will you be driving to Orlando?  Having a car makes it much easier if you are not staying at Disney World. You’ll pay for parking, but you will be in control of your arrival and departure times.

Will you be doing more than just Disney World?  If you are planning on visiting multiple attractions – Disney World, Universal, Sea World, etc, then it may make more sense to stay in an Orlando Resort not inside Disney World.

Do you plan on returning to your room during the day for naps or meals? If so, it’s not terribly convenient to drive in and out of Disney World, and staying at a Disney Resort makes more sense.

Do you not drive (or not want to drive on vacation)?  Then you’ll definitely want to stay at a Disney World resort, where you have access to complimentary transportation throughout your stay.

Still not sure which is the right way for your family to go? Talk to one of our Disney Specialists. They can walk you thru ALL the options, do the math comparisons and help you make the RIGHT decision for your family.  In addition, they can offer tips and secrets that will help you get the very most out of your vacation experience.

I Need Help Planning A Disney Vacation


Topics: Disney Vacation

Mary Ellen Nunes

Written by Mary Ellen Nunes

Mary Ellen is our Vacationkids expert on all things Disney: From the parks to cruises and Disney's Adventure Bound vacations, Mary Ellen will help you plan your Disney vacation. She is also a Certified Family Travel Specialist from the Family Travel Association, having been helping families create amazing memories since 2014.