Disney: To Stay On-Resort or Not

Like many of you, I am plagued by the decision of whether to stay on property at Disney or to save some cash that can be spent on merchandise (or churros, your choice). When my husband and I visited in August 2016, we were fortunately enough to be gifted some times points that covered our…

Like many of you, I am plagued by the decision of whether to stay on property at Disney or to save some cash that can be spent on merchandise (or churros, your choice).

When my husband and I visited in August 2016, we were fortunately enough to be gifted some times points that covered our stay. For our coming trip in May, we had to make a decision: on-resort or not?

On-Resort:

-You are right on the grounds, with quick access to the parks. You would have no need for a rental vehicle if you wanted to avoid the cost (Disney has also recently added nightly parking to their resorts, so this is another consideration).
-You will get a complimentary ride to your hotel right from the airport and return.
-You have access to Extra Magic Hours! This is essentially time you can visit the parks when other guests do not have access. You can pay for merchandise with your MagicBand.
-The merchandise you buy can be delivered straight to your room – no need to carry it in a sweaty backpack all day!
-You can book all your Fastpass + once you are 60 days out from your trip.
-You can book all dining reservations 180 days out (Hello, Be Our Guest!)

On the downside, on-resort stays are typically more expensive than being off-resort.

Buses can be slow if they are shared among multiple resorts.

So, what are your options for staying on resort?

Value Resorts and Campgrounds (starting from $ 55- $ 110 USD *):
The Campsites at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort (Magic Kingdom area)
Disney Pop Century Resort (Wide World of Sports area)
Disney's All-Star Music Resort (Animal Kingdom area)
Disney's All-Star Movie Resort (Animal Kingdom area)
Disney's All-Star Sports Resort (Animal Kingdom area)
Disney's Art of Animation Resort (Wide World of Sports area)

One thing to note is that these resorts will often share buses and will not have their own restaurants (they will have a food court though for those Disney munchies).

Moderate Resorts (starting from $ 203 USD *):
Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort (Epcot area)
Disney's Port Orleans Resort – Riverside (Disney Springs area)
Disney's Port Orleans – French Quarter (Disney Springs area) – Note that this resort does not have its own restaurant, but you can hop over to Riverside for this experience. Plus, beignets!
Disney's Coronado Springs Resort (Animal Kingdom area) – This resort has the price of a Moderate with the feel of a Deluxe.
The Cabins at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort (Magic Kingdom area)

Deluxe Resorts (starting from $ 332 USD *):
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (Animal Kingdom area)
Disney's Polynesian Village Resort (Magic Kingdom area)
Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (Magic Kingdom area)
Disney's Wilderness Lodge (Magic Kingdom area)
Disney's Beach Club Resort (Epcot area)
Disney's Contemporary Resort (Magic Kingdom area) – This resort has a monorail running right through it to the Magic Kingdom. Cool!
Disney's Yacht Club Resort (Epcot area)
Disney's BoardWalk Inn (Epcot area)
Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel (Epcot area) – May only be available as a vacation package.
Walk Disney World Swan Hotel (Epcot area) – May only be available as a vacation package.

Deluxe Villas (starting from $ 346 USD *):
Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa (Disney Springs area)
Disney's Old Key West Resort (Disney Springs area)
Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows (Magic Kingdom area)
Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort (Magic Kingdom area)
The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (Magic Kingdom area)
Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village (Animal Kingdom area)
Disney's BoardWalk Villas (Epcot area)
Disney's Beach Club Villas (Epcot area)
Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge (Magic Kingdom area)
Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House (Animal Kingdom area)
Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney's Wilderness Lodge (Magic Kingdom area)

If you choose to stay on resort, ask yourself:

What kind of vacation is this? Theming or a great pool for rest days could play into your decision if you have kids. Adults only parties may or may not care as much about these aspects.
What am I looking to get out of this experience?
Will I be visiting certain areas of Disney World more frequently than others? This could play into what area you wish to stay in.
What is my budget?
How much time do I plan to spend in my resort? If you will be frequenting the parks almost exclusively and view the resort as a place to sleep, a Value or Moderate may be for you.

Off-Resort:
-This is typically a much less expensive option than staying on-resort.
-This option allows you to potentially be more centralized to other parks, such as SeaWorld and Universal Studios (Hello Butterbeer, my old friend.)
-You will need to pay for parking at the Disney parks, which will set you back around $ 22 / day or so. Yowza.
-You have no option to participate in extra magic hours.
-Fastpass + and dining reservations will not be able to be booked as far in advance.

There are a number of hotels around the area which may be close to the parks and offer great rates. If you are okay with the cons of staying off-resort, this could be for you.

Another option is the Disney Vacation Club. For an opt-in fee and monthly amount, you will get points towards timeshares within Disney's parks. If you do not happen to have a cool $ 18,000 + USD to opt-in to this service, there is another option. David's Vacation Club rentals is the official Disney vacation club rental site that will allow you to rent a timeshare by filling out the application form and paying a deposit. Once secured, you would sign the agreement and pay the vacation balance owed. You can even do online check-in with the MyDisneyExperience App! This is a great option for staying on-resort for less!

Hopefully this helps you to make your decision on where to stay. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to staying on or off-resort at Disney – it all depends on what your preference is. We will be staying at Port Orleans – French Quarter to get that resort experience without the cost of staying at a Deluxe resort. However, who knows what the future will bring!

Happy vacationing!

How do you plan to do your vacation? On-resort or off-resort?

Note: * This is an estimate based on my research. Actual prices may vary based on room availability, season, or discretionary price changes made by Disney.