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Disney Resort stay verses staying outside Disney

by Jill Williams
(Bham, AL )

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“We have only been to Disney World once, 3 years ago We stayed at the All Star Sports Resort. We are on a budget and although we enjoyed our stay I was a little disappointed in our room. I have found several places to stay outside of Disney that look nicer and are cheaper. What the advantages of staying inside the park vs outside the park?

I know we would have to pay for parking but other than that is there really that big of a difference.

Magic versus Reality

Goofy with a surf board at the Pop Century

The Pop Century is a good option – Photo by Rich Ramos

Hi Jill,

This is a great question. It’s one that a whole lot of us struggle with. Let’s start with Disney Resorts.

Dad’s Disney Hotels page

The hotels at Walt Disney World are great. They are special. The theming is spectacular. The Disney Magic is part of why we go to Walt Disney World. It’s a great experience, for the most part.

The problem is they are just too expensive. Yes, I said it, they are too expensive.

The Perks of Staying with Disney

What are the “perks” of staying in a Disney Hotel?

  • Disney Magic – All Disney all the time is fun.
  • Extra Magic Hours – Extra Magic Hours get you into the park an hour before the park opens or up to two after they close. It’s a nice perk but not essential.
  • Disney Dining Plan – you have access to the Disney Dining Plan which if used correctly can save you some money (although most people don’t).
  • 60 day FastPass+ reservations. You get an extra 30 day head start making FastPass+ reservations. A pretty big perk, but not worth hundreds of dollars.
  • Free Parking – Parking is now $22 per day.

All of those perks are nice. They do bring a lot of extras and Magic to staying at a Disney Resort, but at what cost?

Staying Offsite

A Value Home near Walt Disney World

Staying in a Vacation Home near Disney World is an option – Photo by Top Villas

I LOVE staying in Disney Hotels. I still do it almost every trip, but I’ve started staying offsite a little and it’s a very viable option.

Reasons to stay offsite

Here are some of the reasons to stay offsite

  • SAVE MONEY – this is the number one reason. You can save a LOT of money. You can get a Vacation Home near Disney World for a fraction of the cost of a Disney Resort. in fact our partners at Top Villas have over 100 homes that will sleep up to 6 for less than $100 per night.
  • Get out of Disney – all Disney all the time can get a little old for some. Not me, but for some. It can be nice to get out of the Disney Bubble for a while
  • Restaurant choices – there are a whole bunch of restaurants available around the WDW area that have options not available in the parks. Less expensive options
  • Entertainment – A lot of interesting entertainment options have sprung up around WDW. When you stay outside it’s easier to head over to Universal, Sea World, NASA, ride the Orlando Eye, or maybe even take a helicopter ride.
  • Did I say save money?

Destinations to Travel

Dad’s Bottom Line

Jill, the bottom line is it’s a very personal decision. Are you willing to spend the money for the Disney Magic, or save the money and use it elsewhere? It really boils down to that.


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Comments for

Jul 06, 2018 Staying IN Park Vs Out of Park
by: Jill

I am trying to weigh the pros and cons. I guess the thing is my kids are teens so all the Mickey Mouse cutesy stuff is not as appealing to them now, so staying in park is not a must.

However with them being teen 19 and 15 staying in park and with the park hopper they can take the shuttle or tram to other parks and I feel “safe” that they are in park and do not have to “drive” everywhere they want to go.

Is Park Hopper offered for visitors that stay out of the park? One hotel I found had a shuttle bus but do they run continually, like Disney, I doubt it. Also we are going Nov 8-14 so hoping it wont be as busy ( although I know it is always busy).

Do you recommend the Mickey Mouse Christmas Party, its $100 extra per person (yikes)?

Dad Answers

I WOULD recommend staying in the parks with teens. Disney is toning down the “cutsey” stuff in the rooms. The new decor is very muted (a little too muted for my tastes).

The main reason I recommend it for teens especially older teens is just what you mentioned. They can hop on Disney Transportation (very safe) and get some time away from Mom and Dad and you don’t have to worry about them (although you will).

Also, the extra 30 days to make FastPass (FP) reservations is vital for those big rides. You might get a FP for Flight of Passage at 60 days, you won’t at 30.

As to tickets, all the Disney tickets are available to anyone whether they stay offsite on onsite. The Disney Dining Plan however is only available to guests in Disney Hotels.

Most hotel shuttles run on a schedule. Say once or twice per hour. They aren’t continuous.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is called a Special Ticketed Event. Event being the big word. It really is a special event. It is an experience. The snow on Main Street. The special shows. The Christmas Parade. The FREE snacks. The fireworks all make for a very special experience. Oh and the lines for the rides are really short.

Is it worth $100 per person. If you want a special experience and are willing to pay for it, then yes. It’s worth it.

If you’re just going for the short lines, then no, it’s not. If it strains your budget, skip it.

I hope that helps.

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