Where to Stay at Disney - On-Site vs Off-Site

Where to stay at Disney. A question which has no doubt been asked millions of times since October 1st, 1971, but for which there is not a straight answer. I have stayed both on and off-site countless times, and there are numerous pros and cons to both. Here are a few of the most important things to consider when making this life changing decision. Yeah...it's that important.

On-Site Pros

  • Disney Transportation. From arrival to the airport to getting around the resort, it is possible to spend the entire vacation using solely Disney's transportation. Perfect if you're like me and hate driving on vacation.
  • Disney Dining Plan. Guests staying on property can take advantage of Disney's Dining Plan, which if you snag the right promotion may actually be free with your stay. 
Disney Wilderness Lodge
Disney's Wilderness Lodge
On-Site Cons
  • Price. Disney's resorts are considerably more expensive than equal quality hotels off property.
  • Value. The folks at Disney tend to stretch the definition of "deluxe." The amenities offered at Disney's highest tier resorts fall short of what the rest of the industry offers at high end properties.
Pros and Cons to staying onsite at Disney
Storm-a-long Bay at Disney's Beach Club Resort
Off-Site Pros
  • Flexibility. This may come as a shock to many of you, but there is a lot more to Orlando than Disney. Staying off-site gives one the opportunity to see what else the City Beautiful has to offer outside the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
  • More bang for the buck. There are many fantastic resorts in Orlando, most of which offer a better experience than Disney's "deluxe" hotels, at a fraction of the price. 
Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort
Technically off-site...The Walt Disney World Dolphin

Off-Site Cons
  • Location. Disney is huge. Being off property will add quite a bit of time to your daily theme park commute. The best solution here is to stay at the Hilton or Waldorf Astoria Bonnet Creek...right smack in the middle of Disney property.
  • The Disney Experience. Staying at one of Disney's resorts fully immerses guests into the Mouse's "world." This was the original intent of Walt Disney World in the first place...a total escape from reality and the outside world. If you stay off-site, this experience is lost...
Waldorf Astoria Orlando
The grounds of the beautiful Waldorf Astoria Orlando
The short answer to the question of where to stay at Disney is, well....it depends. As someone who stays both on and off-site, I enjoy the benefits of both. For me it depends on the trip, and my hope is this can serve as a guide for those losing sleep over the great debate of where to stay at Disney.

Enjoy Your Stay