One of the most important factors in planning your Disney vacation is choosing your resort.  You don’t want to end up in Barbie’s Dream Projects, like we did when I traveled with my high school choir for Magic Music Days back in the late 90s, but you may not want to get over-Disneyfied, either.  So while you may be ready to wing it in the parks, it definitely pays to do a little research and find out what works for you when looking for your home away from home.


I lived my early years near Camp Pendleton in Southern California, so I grew up with Disneyland day trips.  Being locals, we never “stayed the night at Disney.”  Now that I’m on the planning side of things, I knew I wanted to stay on-site for the kids’ first trip to the Happiest Place on Earth.  We chose the historic Disneyland Hotel.  We really enjoyed our stay, and we plan to stay at the Grand Californian this summer.  However, staying on or off Disney property won’t make or break your trip to Disneyland.

Why You Should Stay On-Site at Disneyland

1. Disneyland Resort Guest Benefits
Early park entrance allows Disney resort guests to get a jump on the crowd.  We got quite a few attractions done when we took advantage of this offering.  I’m also a shopper, and the ability to send our treasures back to the room is a perk I love!  Plus, we always know we’ll be taken care of when we stay at a Disney property.


2. Disney Magic
Call me cheesy, but there’s just something about being surrounded by the magic during your entire vacation.  Our room at the Disneyland Hotel was exactly what I imagined a Disney hotel to be like as a child from the swirls on the carpet to the musical headboard.

Why You Should Stay Off-Site at Disneyland

1. Cost
If you’re traveling on a budget, you can save a bundle by looking at non-Disney hotels.  If you’re a member of a hotel loyalty club, you may be able to snag discounted or even free nights depending on your program.

2. Location, Location, Location
Believe it or not, some off-site hotels may be a little closer to the park entrances than some of Disney’s own.  For those that aren’t, the locations are very comparable to the on-site hotels.

Get Resort Wise: If you decide to stay off-site, consider staying at a Good Neighbor Hotel.  These are typically in very close proximity to the parks and have the Disney stamp of approval.  Both Disneyland and Walt Disney World offer a list of Good Neighbor Hotels.


Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World is a whole different ball game when it comes to where to stay. Disneyland Resort is about 510 acres. Contrast this to Disney World, which has  43 square miles (over 30000 acres), which makes an off-site hotel not such an easy alternative.  Additionally, Walt Disney World offers a much larger selection of resorts from which guests can choose.

Why You Should Stay On-Site at Walt Disney World


1. Disney World Resort Guest Benefits
Disney World also offers extra magic hours to their resort guests, allowing them to enter a Disney park an hour early or stay up to two hours late on select days.  Disney World continues to keep my shopper side happy by delivering purchases to the resorts.  Disney World guests also have the option to add one of the Disney dining plans to their package, which can save up to 25% on your meals throughout your stay.


2. Convenience
Before you even arrive at Walt Disney World, you’re enjoying the convenience of being a resort guest.  If you’re flying into Orlando International Airport, Disney’s Magical Express will not only transport you to and from the airport, but they will also retrieve your bags from baggage claim and deliver them to your room.  Once on-site, Disney transportation will get you pretty much wherever you need to go from your Disney resort hotel.  Disney vehicles run continuously throughout the day, as opposed to some off-site options that may only run a few shuttles to and from the Ticket and Transportation Center or parks.  The complimentary buses, monorails and water crafts are available to all guests once on property.  Some resorts are even within walking distance of the theme parks.

ŸGet Resort Wise: If you plan to rent a car or will be driving to the Most Magical Place on Earth, remember to obtain a parking pass, as your reservation includes complimentary parking at the theme parks.

3. Again, the Disney Magic
Like I said, there’s just something about being surrounded by the magic 24/7 during your vacation.  Even more so at Walt Disney World, as the property is so large. You could easily go an entire week without seeing the “real world.”  With typically fantastic customer service and cast members ready and willing to help make your stay more magical, we always feel our choice to stay at a Disney resort hotel is the right one.


Why You Should Stay Off-Site

1. Cost
Again, cost is the number one factor here.  Even value resorts at Walt Disney World can bust your budget once you start adding tickets and dining.  This is especially true if traveling with a large party.  Renting and splitting the cost of a vacation home will usually end up being a much more economical choice than paying for several rooms on property or staying in a Disney Vacation Club Villa.

2. Proximity to Other Orlando Attractions
Believe it or not, there are actually other things to do outside those pixie-dusted gates of Walt Disney World.  If you plan to spread your vacation among other attractions in the area, you may prefer to choose a location equidistant to your favorite stops.

Want to be closer to the magic at a lower rate and a more mellow atmosphere?  Consider the Swan, Dolphin or other non-Disney owned and operated hotels on property.
Want to be closer to the magic at a lower rate and a more mellow atmosphere? Consider the Swan, Dolphin or other non-Disney owned and operated hotels on property.

3. Rest and Relaxation
Like I said, I totally get geeked out by all Disney all the time, but I understand how that can definitely be overkill for some vacationers.  Staying off-site can allow you to get away from all of the wonderful over-stimulation Walt Disney World has to offer.

You can probably tell that I’m an on-site gal, but what about you?  Do you prefer to stay on or off property and why?