One of the big questions when planning a Disney World vacation is where to stay. There are the “on property” resorts which Disney owns, and then there are tons of off-property options outside the Disney World gates. Most of the time people that stay off property do so in order to save some money – and sometimes this works out really well! But if you’re planning a trip for the first time or don’t go very often, there are some hidden/extra costs that come along with staying off-property that you might not have considered.
Renting a Car
This is only an issue if you are flying down rather than driving. If you’re off-property you pretty much have to rent a car. Some of the hotels outside of Disney offer shuttles, but they usually only run once or twice a day. If you want any flexibility in when you go to and from the parks (and you probably do), then you’ll need to have a car. Depending on how long you’re staying and what type of car you want, this can add anywhere from an extra $75-500 to your budget. If you’re at a Disney hotel you can use Magical Express to get to and from their airport, and free Disney transportation to get to and from the parks.
Here’s another big one that you won’t avoid even if you do have your own car and don’t have to rent. Parking at Disney parks is up to $18 per day, so if you’re going to be in the parks for 4 days that’s an extra $72. The only way you’ll really get out of this parking fee is if you have an annual pass – in that case parking is included.
If the convenience of having your park ticket and fastpasses right on your wrist sounds good to you, keep in mind that you don’t get a magic band if you stay off property. You still get an RFID card with your ticket, but you lose the convenience of the band. On property guests get these bands for free. You can buy them if you wish on property for $12.95 for the basic colors, or more for specialty bands. So for a family of four, you’d be looking at an extra $52 for magic bands.
Aside from the actual dollars spent, there are also some less tangible prices you might pay when you stay off property. This will obviously differ based on what is important to you, but a couple of things to consider.
- Extra magic hours: available only to Disney resort guests, you can get into parks early on certain days or stay after they close on others.
- Fastpass Plus: Disney resort guests can make FP+ reservations at 60 days out, while others have to wait until 30 days before. So if you have kids eager to meet Anna and Elsa, chances are very slim on getting a FP+ for it if you aren’t on property.
- The themeing: Disney hotels just have that extra magic to them.
- Extra time to drive to the parks: depending on where the off-site hotel is, it might take an extra 20 minutes just to get to the Disney gates (before you even reach the parks). Orlando is big and Disney is not right next door to everything.
- Charging to your room and package delivery: you can put a credit card on file when you’re at a Disney resort and just charge things to your magic band. If you make purchases in the park, you can also have them sent directly to your resort instead of carrying them around all day.
This is not to argue that you should always stay on property – rather, it is to make sure you know all of the extras that can come up when planning a Disney vacation off-property. There are lots of things that are a benefit to staying off property (lower rates, sometimes a kitchen to make your own meals, more space), so make sure to keep everything in mind when making your decision! On property is usually more expensive but also more convenient, so it really comes down to what is important to you!