Hotels Near Disney World vs. Disney Hotels

Choosing a hotel for your Disney World vacation is the most important choice you’ll make. Your hotel is the place where you’ll spend the most time during your vacation. As the old knight in Indiana Jones said, “Choose wisely.” Right off the bat, I’ve got to admit that I’m pretty biased on this subject. I’m a Disney Hotel lover, but the prices have gotten a bit high lately. So with that in mind …

Non-Disney Hotels on Disney World Property

There are some really nice hotels near Disney World that are actually located inside Disney World that aren’t owned by Disney. You can make reservations for these hotels through Disney’s Travel Company, but you won’t get all of the “extras” Disney hotels guests are eligible for; you’ll get some of them, but not all.

Non-Disney hotels on the Disney World property include the Swan and Dolphin hotels at the Boardwalk. Also, all of the Disney Springs hotels are considered to be inside of Disney property. Some of the Disney Springs hotels are not really convenient to Disney Springs, but they are still technically within the boundaries.

hotels near Disney World
Photo Courtesy of Disney

There are even some hotels on the Walt Disney World resort that don’t have a direct affiliation with Disney. A few years ago, someone got a hold of a piece of property inside of the WDW boundaries that Disney didn’t own. After several years of negotiations on roads and utilities, a group of hotels were built. These hotels include a timeshare resort and a Waldorf property.


Here are the good things about staying in the non-Disney hotels on Disney World property –

  • Good prices for good rooms – These hotels are typically cheaper than their Disney counterparts. The rooms are bigger and better equipped.
  • Rewards – If you are a member you can earn and use rewards points at some of these hotels. For frequent travelers this is a big plus. (With HIlton Honors, you can even get park tickets with points. Lots of points. Yep, Mrs. Mom, just another 75 nights and we’ll have a free vacation.)
  • Get away for a while – these hotels don’t have hidden Mickey’s in the carpets. They don’t have Mickey Mouse wake up calls, it’s not all Disney all the time.
  • Specials – these hotels tend to run more specials than Disney. You won’t get Free Dining, but you might get a much better room at a cheaper price.


There are some drawbacks to staying in non-Disney hotels.

Drawbacks include –

  • Quality – Some of the hotels close to WDW need a facelift. While they are usally pretty reliable, some need help in the quality department.
  • A couple of the hotels have some of the Disney Hotel perks available, but some of them don’t have any. Be sure you know what you’re giving up. (Free Dining is worth a lot of money.)
  • Transportation – Bus service from some of these hotels is somewhat limited compared with Disney Resort counterparts.
  • Disney Magic – these hotels don’t have hidden Mickey’s in the carpets. They don’t have Mickey Mouse wake up calls, it’s not all Disney all the time.

Staying at non-Disney hotels near Disney World can be a money saving experience. There are some other hotels on Disney property to check out.

Staying at a Hotel Near Disney World

If you do a search for hotels in Lake Buena Vista (the city nearest Disney World) you’ll come 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 outside “The World.” 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.


Here are some of the pros of staying at one of the hotels near Disney World –

  • More choices/options – with hundreds to choose from you can find something that fits any family. Hotels range from cheap to houses that will sleep 20.
  • Easier access to more restaurants and more affordable restaurants – being outside “The World” you can go to any of the hundreds of restaurants around Orlando.
  • Closer to shopping – there is lots of shopping outside “The World” including a nice outlet mall just down the road.
  • Not overwhelmed by all Disney all the time – all Disney all the time can, for some, get on your nerves after a while (sorry Uncle Walt).
  • Better TV options – the Disney Hotels mainly show Disney affiliated channels.
  • Can be cheaper – more affordable accommodations can be found than Disney’s overpriced hotels. But make sure you figure in the price of commuting and parking.
  • More discounts available – most hotel chains have some kind of promotion going almost all the time.
  • Frequent flyer/guest points – Disney Hotels don’t qualify for any frequent guest programs.


Some of the cons of staying offsite –

  • I-4 (traffic) – getting into Disney World can sometimes be a little nerve wracking.
  • You don’t have access to Disney’s amenities – things like Extra Magic Hour and free parking, Disney Dining Plans are only available to Disney Hotel guests.
  • Not real sure of the quality of the hotel – unless you’ve stayed there recently, the quality of your hotel can be questionable. Even some of the name chains have problems.
  • 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 – and guests staying at hotels near Disney World are excluded from entrance.

Destinations to Travel

My friends over at Destinations to Travel are experts in Orlando and the Disney area. They will be able to help you choose your hotel room “wisley”. Whether you decide to stay in a Disney Hotel or just one of the hotels near Disney World they can help. Get in touch with them today and get started on your Perfect Vacation.