Disney on a Budget, Part 3: Lodging Pros and Cons

Two weeks ago I gave some highlights about the multiple ways we have lodged while visiting Disney in the past. Today I will go into a little more detail into the benefits and issues with each style of lodging.

buzz lightyear

VRBO off-site

One of the best reasons to stay in a vacation rental home is privacy. You can choose the location, size, amenities, and the type of rental. Don’t want any loud neighbors? Pick a single family house in a quieter community. Want more noise? Choose an condo in a trendy neighborhood. With small kids in tow, quiet was important for us.

For a large group or family, the cost per person of a rental house cannot be beat. The cost versus space ratio is much better than any reasonably priced hotel. For instance, the house we stayed in not only had six bedrooms and five and a half baths, it also had a pool and game room. And they were not full of other people’s children.

Food is both a pro and a con. It is much more economical to shop for and prepare traditional meals to be eaten at a VRBO. Restaurants are expensive. However, your food is at your house, which is not always convenient. Unless you pack a picnic. Which is also not always convenient.

The largest disadvantage to an off site rental is the need for a car. There is no public or Disney transportation to get you to and from the parks. Parking at Disney is expensive, too. So that is a cost that should be considered. On the flip side, a car does allow you to go wherever you need. The grocery store. A big box store. Even the medical clinic if needed. Also, if any of your plans include non-Disney destinations, you probably would need a car for those anyway.

Travel distance can cause issues. Staying off-site anywhere can pose some challenges for planning. It is not as easy to “run back home” if you forget something. Or if you want a break from the crowds or heat.


Off-site Hotel

Many of the same pluses and minuses exist for a hotel off-site as for a VRBO. The disadvantages are pretty much the same. The distance issue can be tempered some, as some hotels offer shuttles to and from the parks. You may be able to avoid the need for a car, but then you are left trying to figure out how to get food. Delivery is an option, but not all hotels have a place to store your food if it arrives before you do.

The pure lodging cost savings is probably the biggest advantage to an off-site hotel. For smaller groups, a hotel room can be found for a very reasonable rate. There are an abundance of choices, so there is sure to be one in your desired price range and location. The locations may not all be perfect, but there is a wide variety to choose from. While the pool and game areas are not empty and private, they are nowhere near as busy as those on-site. With some clever planning we were ale to have a nearly private pool every afternoon for an hour or so.

Once again, off-site tends to provide more privacy. It may not be as quiet as a house, but there seems to be less foot traffic all than on the Disney complex. However, some areas have several hotels in close proximity to the resort, which may increase the vehicle noise.

disney hotel

On-site Hotel

The biggest advantage to staying onsite? Location. Location. Location. All Disney has to offer is readily available. Some by train. Some by bus. And some by boat. It is easy to return to your hotel whenever you need during the day. It may be a 15-20 minute bus ride, but it would take you that long to get to your car if you drove. On-site guests are also treated to extended “magic hours” at the parks. This allows a little extra time, with a few less people. It is one of the many small perks Disney includes to make your stay more magical.

A large cost saving advantage is the lack of need for a car. You can order food and have it delivered to the resorts and they will hold it until you arrive. There are shuttles to and from the Orlando airport that run every hour or so. There are shuttles to and from all the parks.

Food seems to always be an item that is in the middle. Most of the Disney hotels have at least a fridge and maybe a microwave. Some have complete kitchenettes. There are restaurants on the premises of each resort to eat at if you do not want to prepare your own food. If you do want to make your own, it will cost you a little extra. The cost of the grocery delivery eats into the savings a little, but it is still an affordable option. There is also a meal plan option for on-site guests. No cooking required at all with that choice.

One disadvantage to staying on-site is the noise and congestion. There are crowds everywhere. That doesn’t end at the parks. The shuttle buses are crowded. The pools are often crowded. The restaurants are crowded. There are people walking and talking nearly all night. The rooms are relatively well insulated for noise, but some areas are still loud. For someone who likes quiet and solitude, these items are a challenge.

The largest disadvantage of on-site lodging is probably the cost. The rooms are definitely more expensive than comparably furnished rooms off-site. The cost difference is mostly due to the convenience of staying in a Disney hotel. Disney does offer a variety of rooms at a variety of rates, so one may work for you. There are often travel packages available if you stay on-site that include reduced price admission tickets, meal discounts, or other items. These help reduce the cost of the room as well.

The last note about staying on-site? All the staff are friendly. I don’t think I saw an unfriendly employee the entire week we were there. Tough to say that about any other hotel.


What has been your favorite way to stay when visiting Disneyworld?