A big part of vacation planning is deciding where to stay. It’s also a big part of the cost in any vacation so it takes careful consideration to weigh the options when deciding whether to stay at a Disney resort or at a hotel in the surrounding area.
I’ll admit – I’m cheap. I hate spending a lot of money on anything that has a cheaper option. But I also believe that you get what you pay for – and it’s also the case with Disney. Of course the biggest con to staying on the Disney property can be the price. There are several levels of accommodations ranging from affordable at the Value Resorts to a mid-range option at the Moderate Resorts and a major splurge for most peoples’ budgets at the Deluxe Resorts. There are also options at the campground if you’re the outdoorsy type and deluxe villas for larger parties. I’ll talk about my thoughts on the different resorts in another post, but if you can’t wait there’s plenty of info about the resort options on Disney’s website.
We recently stayed off the property for the first time ever. We went to Disney for a long weekend and we were trying to make the trip as cheaply as possible. We have annual passes so we didn’t need to buy tickets, found a cheap flight and a hotel for $50/night in Orlando! So even though we didn’t love the idea of staying outside of the bubble we thought we’d give it a shot.
We packed all of our stuff in carry-on bags so we didn’t have to pay baggage fees. But this was the first inkling that something was different from our usual Disney vacations. Normally we just bring a backpack on the plane since you don’t have to worry about your bags when you’re staying on the property – you check them at the airport when you leave home and the next time you see them is in your Disney resort room later that day!
First stop after arriving at the airport was the car rental counter. My husband does most of the driving on trips so he had to put up with the bulk of the driving, parking and traffic aggravation (which he is very prone to) – already a sign that some of the relaxation would be plucked away from our normally care-free vacation.
Next we were off to the hotel. As we got close to our hotel, we passed the typical tourist-area stores with 99 cent t-shirts and gaudy signs luring people in to buy junk. To be fair, the hotel was fine. It was clean, quiet, and for the price it was exactly what we were looking for. But it wasn’t Disney!
In the morning when we got up, instead of jumping the bus to Magic Kingdom, our travel went as follows:
- Got in the car
- Drove 15 minutes to Magic Kingdom parking lot
- Parked in ginormous lot
- Walked to the tram
- Waited for tram to fill up with passengers
- Rode tram to transportation center
- Got off tram and walked to boarding area for ferry or monorail
- Waited for ferry/monorail to arrive (we took the ferry)
- Sailed across the lake to Magic Kingdom
A little inconvenient, huh?
Once in the park we all breathed a sigh of relief – whew! The sight of Cinderella’s Castle can make everything better, right!? For the day we forgot that we had to venture back outside the bubble in the evening. But when it came time to leave, we repeated the morning procedure…a little more slowly after walking all day in the park. And instead of closing our eyes in the darkness and listening the bus engine roaring to get us back to our resort, we had to navigate the signs to point us onto the right highway back to our hotel. Not fun. Why did we decide to stay off property again?
From that trip, I really realized how much I love staying on the Disney property. At the value resorts, we’ve always been able to find an affordable place to stay and while it may not be a luxury room, it’s in the bubble and that’s what matters to us.
STAYING IN THE BUBBLE: PROS AND CONS
- You don’t have to leave the property! All Disney, all the time! Completely engrossed in the atmosphere – forget about the outside world!
- No driving – buses can take you to the parks & Downtown Disney, dropoff at the front gates, dedicated buses by resort
- Magical Express – no lugging suitcases (especially nice for those with strollers, car seats, etc.) and your vacation starts the minute you arrive at the airport
- Send packages from the park shops to your hotel – no carrying around bags or waiting until the end of the day to buy souvenirs
- Charge to the room – key, ticket, credit card all in one
- My Magic+ – booking fast passes, shows (I don’t know all the details on the MagicBand yet but I’m sure it’s going to be awesome!)
- Extra magic hours – early entry or late access to the parks
- Activities at resorts like fire side stories, flamingo feedings at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, story time in just about every lobby, movies at the pool, etc.
- Character wake up calls & birthday calls
- Value Resorts are crowded and Deluxe Resorts are unaffordable
- You can’t run out for supplies if you want to (unless you rent a car)
- If you have to leave you must take a pricy taxi – we took a taxi to church on Sunday ($50!)
- Have to dine on the property all the time which can get costly
From my analysis, the pros definitely outweigh the cons for staying on the Disney property. A big part of what I love most about Disneyworld is getting away from the outside world and living in a fantasy world for a few days where ‘a dream is a wish your heart makes.’ I’m dreaming of going back to the bubble soon!