Walt Disney World Hotels: Should You Stay Onsite or Offsite?

Who should stay at a hotel inside Disney World? Good question. Not everyone needs to stay with the Mouse. In fact some of you definitely shouldn’t stay in a Disney hotel.

Choosing a hotel for your magical vacation is the most important choice you’ll make. It’s the place where you’ll spend the most time. There are lots of choices when it comes to Orlando hotels. The first decision is whether to stay onsite (at a hotel inside Disney World) or offsite (somewhere else).

Staying Onsite at a Walt Disney World Resort

We love staying at Disney Resorts. Our favorite is the Polynesian Resort. Dad thinks the Polynesian is just about as close to heaven as you can get. We stay there on any Disney World vacation where we can afford it.

When Disney opened the All Star Resorts it became affordable for almost anyone to stay in one of the hotels inside Disney World.

Pros of Walt Disney World Resort Hotels

Here are some of the pros for staying in a hotel inside Disney World:

  • Mickey Mouse wake-up calls
  • Disney 24 hours per day
  • Free Disney Transportation
  • Beautifully themed resorts
  • Disney labeled soap and shampoo
  • Short commutes to the parks
  • Package delivery to your room
  • Charging privileges to your room
  • Extra Magic Hour
  • Entry to the parks

Cons of Walt Disney World Resort Hotels

Not everything is perfect staying in a Disney resort. Here are some of the “cons” for staying at a hotel inside Disney World:

  • Disney 24 hours a day – All Disney all the time can get annoying
  • Food cost – Disney’s food is a little pricey
  • Lack of restaurant choice – There are some great restaurants just outside of The World.
  • Price – Disney Resorts cost more than comparable hotels
  • Limited availability – sometimes choices have to be made
  • Lack of discounts – Disney offers discounts only at certain times of the year
  • Room – The rooms in the Disney Resorts are sometime a little smaller than comparable rooms at other hotels.

Staying Offsite at a Hotel Near Disney World

I did a search for a hotel close to Disney World today and came up with 438 choices. That’s incredible. That doesn’t even count rental houses, small mom-and-pop hotels, and non-participating hotels like Motel 6. It’s absolutely amazing how many accommodation choices you have in the Orlando area.

There are some real advantages to staying offsite. You have greater access to restaurant choices, entertainment options (other than Disney), and you a wider variety of hotels to choose from. But with those advantages come some disadvantages. The commute from your hotel to the parks can be annoying. However, there are some non-Disney hotels located within Walt Disney World’s borders to make them more convenient.

Pros of Staying Offsite

Here are some of the reasons to stay at a hotel not inside Disney World:

  • More choices/options – 23 vs. 438
  • Easier access to more restaurants and more affordable restaurants – McDonalds on every corner
  • Closer to shopping
  • Not overwhelmed by all Disney all the time
  • Better TV options (Disney hotels tend to put a lot of Disney owned channels on)
  • Can be cheaper
  • More discounts available
  • Frequent flyer mileage

There are other reasons, but these are a good start.

Cons of Staying Offsite

  • I-4 (traffic)
  • You don’t have access to Disney’s amenities (Extra Magic Hour, free parking, etc.)
  • Not real sure of the quality of the hotel
  • Long commute to and from the parks, not easy to slip out for a nap or emergency
  • On very busy days, Disney closes the parks to outside guests

The Bottom Line

Given a choice, stay in Disney hotels. The ambience, the cleanliness, the convenience, and everything else Disney does so well, makes us want to come back. (We’ve even stayed in the Pop Century twice.)