Onsite Hotels at Disney World, Why Stay Anywhere Else?

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With over 25 onsite hotels at Disney World, it’s common for travelers to the Florida parks to choose one of Disney’s eleaborately themed resorts for their magical vacation. To help you decide whether you should stay at a Disney hotel on property or select nearby accommodations, such as a good neighbor hotel, we’re providing some information to help you make the right choice for you.

Take this quick quiz to help you decide if an onsite hotel at Disney World is right for your vacation

Deciding Where to Stay on a Disney World Vacation

Map of Disney World Hotels on property
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Map of Disney World Hotels on Property

One of the best things about a Disney World vacation, is the number of options you have for making your trip special and unique. However, the sheer number of variables means, you’ll need to make a fair number of decisions early on.

The first step in your Disney World vacation planning process is deciding where you will stay.

Disney owns and operates more than 25 resorts across the property, each elaborately-themed to extend the magic beyond the walls of the four theme parks. If budgets or tastes don’t align, however, there are numerous offsite accommodations that could easily suit your fancy.

Deciding whether to book Disney World accommodations onsite or offsite can easily make your head spin, so we’ve put together the pros and cons below, as well as a few options you may not have considered.

Understanding Disney World Resort Hotel Options

Exterior view of the Yacht Club, one of the Disney World hotels on property.
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There are some very compelling reasons to book a Disney World hotel on property instead of offsite accommodations. For one thing, Disney resorts come in three tiers, improving the odds that you will find one that appeals to your tastes and your budget:

Disney Value resorts: Basic motel-style rooms are elevated through elaborate theming and magical experiences only realized at a Disney resort. Family suites are available at select Disney World resort hotels, accommodating up to 5 guests in a room.

•Average room size: ~260 square feet
•Bed configuration: 2 full size or one king
•Food court with multiple dining options
•Maximum occupancy: 4 plus one child in a crib (except select suites that can accommodate up to 5 guests plus one infant in a crib)

Disney Moderate resorts: Bigger rooms and lush grounds differentiate the moderates from value resorts, giving you a little more space to spread out and stretch your legs.

•Average room size: ~314 square feet
•Multiple themed pools, one with elaborate waterslide
•Bed configuration: 2 queen size or one king bed – some rooms at Port Orleans offer an additional twin size trundle or murphy bed
•Food court with multiple dining options
•Maximum occupancy: 4 plus one child in a crib (except select rooms at Port Orleans which offer an additional twin bed)

Disney Deluxe resorts: Spacious rooms and elegant accommodations are the hallmarks of Disney’s flagship resorts.

•Average room size: ~356+ square feet
•Bed configuration: 2 queen size with an additional day bed or one king bed
•One themed pool with elaborate waterslide-multiple quiet pools (except Beach/Yacht Club which offers an outdoor water park)
•Maximum occupancy: up to 5 plus one child in a crib (except select rooms at Port Orleans which offer an additional twin bed)

Disney Deluxe villas: Villas are part of Disney’s Vacation Club (DVC) and reserved for owners. However, leftover rooms are offered for booking by the general public. Since most DVC resorts, with the exception of the new Riviera resort, are located on the grounds of an existing deluxe resort, they share amenities and public spaces.

•Average room size: ~356+ square feet
•Bed configuration: 2 queen size with an additional day bed or one queen size bed and one sleeper sofa
•One themed pool with elaborate waterslide-multiple quiet pools (except Beach/Yacht Club which offers an outdoor water park)
•Maximum occupancy: 4-5 plus one child in a crib (except select rooms at Port Orleans which offer an additional twin bed)

Whether you book a value, moderate, deluxe or villa Disney World resort hotel, you’ll find that some very compelling perks are associated with staying at a Disney World hotel on property.

Onsite Hotels at Disney World Versus Offsite Accommodations – It’s a Battle of Convenience

Magic is a big part of a trip to Disney World, and when it comes to keeping the magic alive, it’s hard to beat a stay a one of Disney World’s hotels on property. If you’re wondering how this works, consider this.

When staying onsite, you’ll travel to and from the parks via the Disney World complimentary transportation system. This network of boats, buses, monorail and Skyliner are part of the Disney World experience. Routes are carefully crafted to keep you in within the “Disney Bubble” and to provide you with little extras to extend the magic outside the theme parks.

Compare that to staying at an offsite resort. While many resorts located near Disney World offer complimentary shuttles, others charge a fee. Most run only every 30 minutes, meaning you’ll need to schedule your travel carefully if you wish to arrive at the theme parks for opening or any special events. Disney World’s onsite transportation runs continuously, with multiple vehicles on schedule to accommodate guests.

If you’re thinking about driving to the parks from an offsite resort, it’s important to consider the cost. Parking a car at one of Disney’s theme parks is free to guests staying at one of the onsite hotels at Disney, but those staying at offsite accommodations will be charged a $25.00 per day fee, for each and every day you visit.

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Of course, if magical experiences are your ultimate goal, there is no underestimating the impact of Early Theme Park Entry, only available to guests of Disney World resorts and some Disney Approved accommodations (see below). Early Theme Park Entry allows guests to enter a given park a half an hour early each and every day. With an extra half an hour in the parks, guests are able to experience a few attractions with far shorter line queues, saving time and energy for the busy day ahead.

A stay at a Disney World resort hotel also offers another big perk: earlier access to Genie+ Lightning Lane reservations and Individual Lightning Lane reservations. Genie+ allows guests to pre-book a spot in an expedited queue known as a Lightning Lane. Since access during any given time is limited, guests enjoy a short queue and spend less time waiting in line.

Genie+ is available to all guests whether they are staying onsite or off, but guests of onsite hotels at Disney World can make their first reservations of the day beginning at 7:00 am. Guests staying at offsite resorts will need to wait until 9:00 to make their first reservations. When the parks are crowded, this gives a significant advantage to guests who stay at Disney World hotels on property.

When staying at Disney World resort hotel, you also have the option of turning your hotel booking into a Disney World vacation package, allowing you to book your room and theme park tickets into an all inclusive booking. Booking a Disney vacation package is also the only way to take advantage of one of the last convenience perks associated with a Disney resort hotel stay: the Disney Dining plan.

With the Disney dining plan, you’ll roll the cost of two meals and two snacks into you resort accommodation package. There is no denying the convenience and surety of knowing ahead of time how much you’ll pay for meals.

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The Disadvantages of a Disney World Resort Hotel Stay

Interior shot of Sana Restaurant located  at the Animal Kingdom onsite hotel at Disney World.
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When selecting your travel accommodations, it is possible that some elements associated with staying at an onsite hotel at Disney might not fit your traveling style. For one thing, quick service food options are limited for guests of Disney World deluxe resorts.

Most deluxe resorts offer a single quick service location. Here you’ll find pretty standard fare, including made to order sandwiches and refrigerator items, such as pre-packaged peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, yogurt, milk and the like. However, unless you’re a big fan of Micky waffles and sandwiches, you might find the fare limiting. However, you can easily avoid this small complication by selecting a moderate or value resort, if quick serice dining options at the hotel are important for your stay.

If you opt to stay at a Disney World resort hotel, you’ll likely pay more for the food you eat as well, since you’ll be limited to eating at your hotel or within the parks. If you opt for offsite accommodations, you’ll find a number of less costly food options near your Orlando-area hotel. And since you’re more likely to have a car when staying at an offsite location, you’ll find it easier to stretch outside the confines of Disney World for your meals.

Once again, this is another downside that you can easily work around. Renting a car or calling for a rideshare allows you to travel offsite for cheaper meals if your budget dictates.

Sometimes, guests are looking to use or earn hotel loyalty points when booking their Disney World accommodations. Unless you stay at the Disney World Dolphin hotel, the Disney World Swan hotel or the Swan Reserve, you cannot earn loyalty points from a nationally recognized hotel brand while staying at an onsite hotel at Disney World.

On the other hand, you’ll find a large number of offsite accommodations associated with major brands. Most will allow you to either earn points or use points to book your stay. The same is true with miles or points earned through credit cards. These will also need to be used at offsite resorts.

Guests traveling with pets will find only a few choices to accomodate their furry family members. While pet-friendly accommodations at Disney World include some of the best onsite hotels and a welcoming atmosphere for 4-legged travelers, the number of rooms and resorts is limited. You’ll find greater choice and availability by looking at offsite resorts. All guests, whether staying at a hotel on Disney World property or in the surrounding area, can take advantage of the Disney World Kennel day care for their pet while they are in the parks.

Last, Disney World hotels on property are now charging guests to park a vehicle overnight. Costs range from $15 a night at a value resort up to $25 a night for a deluxe stay.

Is It More Expensive to Stay at a Disney World Resort?

Waterwheel at Port Orleans Riverside Disney World hotel on property.
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When considering where to stay on a Disney World vacation, many people opt for offsite accommodations to save money. Depending on the type of accommodations you select, this may not be necessary.

For example, a standard room rate at Disney’s All-Star Music resort will average around $200 a night. However, Disney does often offer discounts on onsite hotel stays.

Disney World hotel deals have frequently delivered 15-20 percent, or more, off the cost of a Disney World resort reservation. That reduces the rack rate to well below $200 a night.

In the past, Disneyhas also offered a free Disney Dining Plan to guests of Disney onsite hotels as an incentive to encourage more bookings. So, when selecting your Disney World accommodations, it’s important to be informed of all available discounts. If you’re able to book a free dining promotion, that same rack rate at Disney All Stars now includes meals for four, making it a far better value than the offsite hotel.

Still have questions about where to stay at Disney World?

We can help you find the perfect accommodations. We’ve teamed up with Mickey World Travel to offer Disney travel planning and booking services to our readers. With decades of experience in hand, we provide customized guidance, cutting through the confusion with clear explanations and actionable tips. We’ll help you create the best experience, with recommendations and travel planning advice based on the trip you want to have and the memories you want to make.

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Consider a Disney Approved Hotel for Your OFFSITE Disney World Accommodations

When thinking about Disney World accommodations, many people don’t realize that there is some middle ground between booking completely offsite and staying at onsite hotels at Disney World. While onsite resorts are owned and operated by Disney, there are a number of Disney approved hotels that put you close to or in the heart of the magic. Best of all, most are owned by common hotel brands, allowing you to use points you may have accrued from loyalty or rewards programs.

Disney Swan and Dolphin hotels, for example, are located near EPCOT, right next to the Beach Club and Yacht Club, two of the most popular Disney World hotels. The two establishments are operated by Marriott International, allowing you to earn Marriott Bonvoy points when booking stays. As an added perk, you can take advantage of Early Theme Park Entry and the Disney World complimentary transportation system. You will also be able to book FastPass+ reservations 60 days before you arrive, just like guests of Disney World resort hotels.

Additional Disney approved hotels can be found in the Disney Springs area. These include popular chains such as Hilton, Holiday Inn, Best Western and Doubletree. At these Disney approved hotels, you’ll have the added benefit of being close to the nighttime action of Disney Springs, as well as the regular amenities associated with these brands.

As a Disney approved hotel, these accommodations must meet minimum standards set by Disney, including a guest services desk to support activities such as making reservations or purchasing tickets. Hotels are also periodically reviewed by Disney to ensure they maintain compliance.

To book a stay at a Disney Approved hotel, you can visit the Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels website, the Disney Swan and Dolphin hotel website, or through Disney’s website. If you choose the latter, look for the More Great Accommodations tab. Here you will find a list of hotels that are approved and recommended by Disney. Each offers many of the same benefits of a Disney World resort hotel, such as the ability to book dining reservations and Genie+ reservations earlier than offsite accommodations, transportation to and from the theme parks, and access to Early Theme Park Entry.

Last, Disney has partnered with a number of properties known as Good Neighbor Hotels. Good Neighbor Hotels must meet minimum Disney Standards such as a offering a guests services desk to assist with things like purchasing park tickets and a shuttle to provide transportation to and from the parks. Hotel packages with a Good neighbor hotel can be booked through a travel agent specializing in Disney World vacations.

When comparing the cost of a Disney Approved hotel against that of a Disney World resort hotel, be careful to look up any additional fees. Some charge a “resort fee” or additional charge for parking.

Where Should I Stay During My Disney World Vacation

With so many options, determining where to stay during your Disney World vacation isn’t easy. So, we’ve developed the following quiz to help you decide which is best for you—Disney World hotels on property or offsite accommodations. Give it a try!


More Information on Planning a Trip to Disney World

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Kathleen Hesketh and Ali Patton, mother daughter travel bloggers

We're Kat and Ali, a pair of mother daughter travel bloggers sharing our knowledge and experience from multiple years of Disney travel with other Disney lovers and first-time visitors, hoping to simplify your vacation experience and help you enjoy all of the magic of a visit to Disney World. As Disney vacation planners, we can now book vacations through Mickey World travel, at no additional charge, and help you realize all of the magic of a trip to Disney.

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Kathleen Hesketh

Kathleen is a travel agent with Mickey World Travel, a platinum level Authorized Disney vacation planner, where she helps people discover the magic of a Disney vacation and other travel destinations. She is also the chief author and editor for Seconds to Go - a travel blog where she shares experiences from traveling the U.S. with her daughter, Ali.

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