Why Your Family Shouldn’t Stay On-Property at Walt Disney World Resort

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Why your family shouldn’t stay at a Walt Disney World Resort Property.

I love Disney. ALL things Disney.

However, today I’m writing a blog post discouraging people from staying on Disney World Resort property.

Gasp! How dare I!

pinable image reasons not to stay at a Disney Resort

Let me begin by saying I have four kids. Four. It’s a lot of kids.

I also do NOT have personal experience with staying on Disney World property with all four children.

However, I have stayed on-property several times. With my husband, with friends, completely alone, and on individual trips with my children.

I don’t dislike Disney World Resorts. Actually, let’s go ahead and start with the positive!

Reasons You May Want to Stay on Disney World Property:

  • The theming at many of the resorts is fabulous (NOT all of them…but many).
  • There are lots of fun activities and events for on property guests at the resorts.
  • You truly have an immersive experience when you NEVER leave the “Disney bubble” during your stay.
  • Disney Cast Members are phenominal. Disney takes care of their guests. Period. I’ve never had a negative experience at a Disney Resort.
  • If you’re only visiting Disney World one time in your entire life and have unlimited funds then it may be worth it.
man at disney yacht club resort

Yes, it’s a short list! But honestly? For a LOT of people being in the “Disney bubble” is worth it.

It outweighs every other reason to stay off property and is THE reason that there are hardcore people who only stay on property when they visit Walt Disney World.

I am not a data collection person. I don’t have tons of scientific proof to back up my strong opinions regarding Disney Resorts…but that’s just it: they are my opinions.

So read on if you’re ready to have your Disney World rocked!

Starting to Plan Your Disney Trip? Here are Some Posts You’ll Find Helpful:

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Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Stay On-Property at Walt Disney World Resort:

Disney World Hotels are Expensive

Staying on-site at WDW is costly.

Visiting Disney World, in general, isn’t cheap. The tickets to the parks, the food, the cute outfits…it all adds up.

When you add staying on-property to that list, the cost of your Disney vacation can easily double.

The cheapest room starts at over $100 per night. And for that room? You are getting the bare minimum. An outdated hotel with a Mickey picture slapped on the wall.

Orlando just so happens to be the timeshare capitol of the world.

The options for places to stay are truly endless.

With so many options…comes competitive pricing.

We OWN a home within 3 miles from Disney and it has SIX bedrooms and our rate per night is less than the moderate hotel room rate on Disney property and is often just about the same as their cheapest hotel room rate. FOR literally 10 TIMES the amount of space.

girl at disney port Orleans riverside resort

Walt Disney World Resort Rooms are SMALL

Aside from cost, space is the main reason we avoid staying on property as a family.

The rooms are tiny.

As I said, I have stayed at many of the Disney World Resorts and every time I do I always wonder how in the world families stay there for a week or 10 days even as a family.

Our family recently had the opportunity to stay on-property at a Universal Hotel. We left the youngest child at home. So it was only the five of us.

And the room was a FAMILY SUITE so it was MUCH larger than the majority of the Disney standard rooms…and we only stayed TWO nights.

children at cabana bay beach resort at universal

We did not sleep well. We did not function as well as the parks as we do when we stay at our Disney rental house and have the SPACE to spread out a SLEEP.

We kept saying we just couldn’t imagine doing that every time we visited the Disney World area. No. Way.

Having space is HUGE when traveling to a theme park. Sleep is CRUCIAL for everyone.

Time off from the parks means you’re able to get rest and recover from all the walking, the heat, the exhaustion so you’re able to get up the next day and do it all over again.

Us moms know, we will be in a good mood no matter what.

We’re always running on fumes anyway and we just put our best face forward and push through to make sure everyone has fun.

But kids? And husbands? Not the same as mama.

A lack of sleep can wreck havoc on a well-planned, well-organized, and well-thought out trip.

I had a friend who visited one of the moderate Disney Resorts and stayed in the family suite size room…and her husband still spent their entire trip sleeping in their car.

No amount of Disney details can override the misery that comes when people don’t get the sleep they need.

Having the space to spread out also allows my husband and I to have kid-free time.

A break from being parents 24/7. They go to bed and we can hang out uninterrupted!

This is important for my husband, he needs the quality adult time away from the kids and it allows our Disney trips to be a time for US to reconnect too!

couple at disney world's Epcot

Walt Disney World Resort is Spread Out

Walt Disney was a smart man when he purchased land in Orlando, Florida.

Disney owns TONS of property. And their resorts? They are spread out.

Not just from each other. But also from the theme parks. And even within the individual resorts too.

Walking to the pool can take a hot minute depending on where your room is located! And to get to your car or to the Disney transportation? Even longer.

I recently stayed at one of the Value Resorts on Disney Property for a solo trip.

Walking from my room to the front of the hotel in order to catch the bus took me 8 minutes.

Riding the bus from the Disney hotel to the Magic Kingdom took another 33 minutes.

A little over 40 minutes worth of travel time from an on-property resort to the theme park.

We have also driven from one of the Deluxe Resorts on Disney Property to the theme parks.

The walk from the room (which was located much closer to the lobby) to our car (pretty far in the parking lot) was around 8 minutes

The drive from the parking lot to the theme park took another 25 minutes.

Again, I will compare to the rental house we own. We get in the car in our driveway. We drive to the Magic Kingdom. It takes us under 20 minutes total.

I know people love staying in that “Disney bubble” but what they so often don’t realize is that the bubble is pretty dang massive!

pinable image: disney planning secrets, money saving tips for your stay

WDW Resort Food is Lacking and Expensive

Everyone loves a good “yolo” experience when on vacation.

But the reality is that theme parks and hotels can only do so much and go so far with offering a variety of food options.

Eating at Disney can become very expensive and can also get pretty boring after a few days of the same type of thing (I love a Mickey waffle but after a couple of mornings I’m ready for some variety!).

By staying on Disney Property you are very limited in your meal options.

I know there are some Disney Resort rooms that have a kitchen but the cost for those are sky high and the vast majority of on-property rooms offer a bare minimum of options when it comes to food storage or preparation.

children at cape may with goofy

Staying off property allows you endless options.

Renting a home allows you the ability to utilize a full kitchen. Save money and cook meals at the house.

It also allows for meal prep and food storage to take food with you into the parks (yes, all Disney theme parks allow outside food and drink to be brought in!).

Plus staying off-site allows you to leave that beloved “Disney bubble” and see a variety of food choices that will be more cost effective, quicker, and taste just as good (after a long day at the park I’m all about some good ‘ole Taco Bell on the way back to our rental house!).

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE eating at Disney World. I love the snacks. I love the character meals. I love themed dining within the parks and at the on-property resorts.

And staying off property? Allows our family to afford and better enjoy those experiences!

girl eating mickey bar ice cream

The Benefits of Staying On Disney World Property Aren’t Worth It

The benefits for staying on property at Disney World:

  • Free parking at the theme parks.
  • Early magic hours at certain theme parks on certain days that allow you to enter the parks before the general public.
  • The ability to schedule fast passes 60 days in advance rather than 30.
  • Free Magicbands
  • Complimentary theme park transportation.
  • The ability to book the Disney dining plan.

Needing to Book Your Fastpasses for the Parks? Be Sure to Read All of My Recommendations for the Ones You Need...and the Ones You Don’t:

the must have fastpasses at magic kingdom
fastpass at Epcot
pinable image must have Fastpasses at animal kingdom
pinable image: must have fast passes at Hollywood Studios

Why These Benefits Aren’t Worth The Sacrfice of Staying On-Site:

  • Add up the “cost savings” and then compare the cost of staying in the Disney hotel to a nearby off-property hotel…or heck even an off-property rental condo or private home. The “savings” you receive by staying on-property aren’t actually savings at all!
  • We never book fastpasses 60 days in advance and never have had any issues riding every single ride we’ve ever wanted to ride (you can read my fastpass tips here!)
  • The Disney transportation system struggles. When we do stay on the property we almost always use our own vehicle anyway. It’s faster!
  • The Disney dining plan is basically NEVER worth the cost. Yes, even when they offer “Free Dining.” The dining plan is a TON of food and a TON of money.
pinable image: advantages for staying off property at Walt Disney World

Staying Off-Disney Property Doesn’t Hinder the Magic

Yes, I’m brining up that “Disney bubble” again. But y’all clearly it’s a soapbox I can’t get off of.

Disney World is magical. I am the biggest believer in that magic. Mickey Mouse IS Mickey Mouse. I cry EVERY time I watch “Happily Ever After.” There is NO better feeling in your heart than the moment you step foot on Main Street.

I love the magic of Disney. It’s what makes Disney, Disney.

And you don’t have to be within Disney Property to be able to enjoy, appreciate, or experience that magic.

The magic happens at the parks. It happens at the meals when your daughter dances with her favorite princess. It happens at Disney Springs where you pick out that perfect Disney Spirit Jersey.

mom and daughter with mickey and Minnie

The reality is? The magic does not happen at the resort.

You use the resort to sleep. To eat. To rest. To recover. To maybe kill some time at the pool.

You don’t NEED to stay on property to experience any of the Disney magic. And staying off property? It doesn’t rob you of any of that magic either.

In fact, in my opinion, staying off property enhances the magic.

Sometimes we need a little detachment to breathe and rejuvenate a bit. Get our bearings about us before diving in for more!

Planning a Trip to Disney? Here are some of my Top Planning Posts:

Everything You Need to Know Before Booking Disney Fastpasses
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is the disney dining plan worth it?

Our Favorite Places to Stay Off-Property:

We have been visiting Disney World pretty religiously for over 8 years now. We have stayed at many hotels, condos, resorts, and rental homes throughout those years.

In fact, we love staying off-site so much that we decided to invest in our own rental home. .

Having so much knowledge about the surrounding Disney area I felt very confident in the location where we purchased our home and I feel confident in recommending it as a great place to stay when others visit the area.

But I don’t want to be bias. So before I share about our personal home, I do want to recommend some of our favorite spots we’ve stayed over the years:

  • Springhill Suites at Flamingo Crossing: This is my #1 hotel recommendation. It’s off-property but closer to the actual theme parks than most of the on-property resorts, has large spacious rooms, a great breakfast (even Mickey waffles!), is very safe, and I’ve had nothing but great experiences with the staff each time we’ve stayed there!
woman with mickey waffle
  • Summer Bay Orlando: Back in the day we did a LOT of timeshare tour type trips. Where you get your stay super cheap but have to do a tour of the resorts. If you do these type of offers, HAGGLE. We always were able to stay at the actual resort property rather than a typical hotel they stick you in! Also make sure you practice SAYING NO. Those timeshare deals are really tempting! We often stayed at Summer Bay and still recommend it!
  • Caribe Cove Resort by Wyndham: We have stayed at this resort a few times and I actually stayed by myself with our one week old baby during our adoption process. I felt VERY safe and the drive to the parks wasn’t too far either.
  • Emerald Island or Windsor Hills Subdivisions: These are both located within a few miles of the Disney property. They are gated communities. Very safe. With homes and grounds that are well maintained. These are THE two most highly recommend off-property rental home neighborhoods.

A Warning about Staying Off-Property:

Do. Your. Homework.

Find someone who knows the area that you trust and get their opinion (or just follow my advice ha!).

Orlando has a TON of options when it comes to places to stay.

And some? Are SHADY.

We once got a hotel room deal for $35 a night. Epic right? Um. Wrong. It was a horrifying experience.

Places also tend to go downhill that aren’t located in well-maintained areas.

We used to LOVE staying at a certain condo and actually considered purchasing in a certain neighborhood. I’m so, so thankful we didn’t. As now? That community is no longer nice and is worn down, run down, and not worth the money it costs to stay there.

You also need to be aware that everyone says they are “close to the parks!” But what is their definition of close? Our rental home is 3 miles from the parks. Sometimes it takes us 8 minutes to get from our driveaway to the parking lot of the theme park (less for Animal Kingdom). But typically there is traffic so it’s more of a 15-20 min ride time.

And that’s only 3 miles away.

Many of the places that boost they are “close to the parks” can easily take a solid HOUR of drive time when you factor in the heavy traffic and the nightmare that is 1-92.

pinable image the best places to stay for your family disney vacation

A Great Option for Off-Property Stay For Your Disney Vacation: Our Rental Property

We have had a LOT of experience with staying a LOT of places in the Disney World area.

Over the years we put a lot of thought into the idea of purchasing our own home near Disney.

family at disney rental house

It was an investment that made sense for our family and allowed us to fulfill a dream of being able to visit our family favorite place on a regular basis!

When we decided to make the purchase we did our homework and knew up front we’d only consider a home in one of two neighborhoods.

We ended up finding the perfect home for our family in Emerald Island which is not only super close to the parks (and to a SUPER Target and nice Walmart!) but also a very well established subdivision with beautiful landscaping, gated entry with security, tons of community activities and even patrolling security guards.

Info About Our Disney Rental Home:

  • 2500 square feet. 6 bedrooms. 4.5 bathrooms
  • Private heated pool and spa
  • Corner lot with large yard
  • Disney theming throughout (including Moana and Star Wars!)
  • Game room with pool, table tennis, basketball, air hockey, and more
  • Upstairs entertainment area with multiple gaming systems including Nintendo DS, Classic Playstation, and Wii
  • Well stocked kitchen with all the tools you’d need to feed your family
  • Two pack and plays, two high chairs – we have kids so we try to make traveling with kids as easy as possible!

How to Book Our Disney Rental Home:

Interested in booking our rental property for your Disney stay? We offer a discount to blog readers as we LOVE Disney and want to help families enjoy the magic too!

Additional Help for Planning Your Family Disney Vacation:


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journeyofphood

Hey Y’all, I’m Emily! I’m a stay at home mom and consider parenting to be my passion. Disney is my happiest place and I love making memories as a family together. I’m a big believer in transparency and share all of my real-life moments as a mother of four.

My work has been featured on Today Parenting and Babywise.Life. I’m also honored to be a member of the Babywise Friendly Blog Network.

You can read more about our family on my About Me page. Also be sure to follow along with me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest!

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