We do a lot of research on the hotels on the Walt Disney World property and we generally consider them to be great places to spend a Disney vacation. But Disney-owned hotels aren’t your only accommodation options when you visit theme parks, not by a long shot. There are tens of thousands of hotel rooms, shared apartments, Airbnb apartments, non-Disney apartments and houses available for rent at a wide variety of prices.
For some guests, these off-site places are a better option than staying at a Disney hotel. Here are some reasons why:
- Save money: This is the classic reason why people quote to choose to stay out of place. And it’s often true, especially during the holidays and other peak times. When comparing apples to apples, a standard off-site hotel room is probably cheaper than one of the facilities. Comparing apples to sleek caramel-coated apples, chocolates and macadamia inlays, you can sometimes find whole Airbnb house rentals at the price of a moderate Disney-owned resort.
- To access the kitchen: Many guests with food allergies, religious considerations, or health issues prefer to cook most of their own meals. There are rooms on the Disney property that have a kitchen or kitchen, but tend to be expensive. And while rooms with kitchens include basic amenities, they may not be equipped with special appliances, plenty of freezer space, or other niche items you may need.
- To expand the restaurant’s dining options: The variety of Disney restaurants on site is varied and generally high quality (there is everything from food carts to gourmet food), but they are finite. Some guests may have food needs from the point of view of price or preference, which can be best served by eating often away from home. These people could opt for something like the well-known fast food chain (at one end of the spectrum) for farm-to-table places (at the other), which Disney cannot provide. It may be easier to eat out of place if you stay out of place.
- Want to escape the Disney bubble: Not everyone, puffed up, wants all of Disney all the time. Particularly, if you’re traveling with a Disney friend, staying off-site can be a great way to unwind from all the theme park fun.
- Want bigger rooms: All rooms at the WDW Hotel are functional, but some (especially those in the resorts) are small. If you travel with a lot of baby items, for example, having a room where you are not bumping into the crib at night can provide you with a better vacation.
- Want more separate sleeping surfaces: Guests traveling with a combined family, for example, may be fine traveling together, but may not want to share a bed. There is a wider variety of bed settings in some off-site locations than in Disney hotels.
- Want more bathrooms: Again, a mixed family or a large group may want the privacy of separate bathrooms. This can be easier to find in an economical off-site way.
- You want different amenities: Most Disney hotel rooms are hotel rooms. Some off-site accommodation has facilities such as private pools or spa facilities, private tennis courts, games rooms, movie projectors, swing games, and more. If you want these things, it may be out of place a better option.
- To access the private outdoor space: The only Disney World resorts with real outdoor space are the Fort Wilderness huts and Saratoga Springs tree houses. Although they have a bit of outdoor area, it is not extensive. If you want a place to, for example, play touch football on a turf with your college classmates, you could do it off-site.
- Travel with a large group: Most Disney hotel rooms have a maximum capacity of four or five people, and some of the larger villas at the Disney Vacation Club can accommodate 8 to 12 people. But sometimes you travel with an even larger group, such as a family reunion, and you all want to stay together (especially at a lower price than Disney). Renting a home out of place could be your answer.
- You have already stayed at the property: If you like theme parks and you’ve already scratched the itch on site, you may not feel the need to repeat this part of the experience.
- Disney is just one part of your Florida vacation: If you visit other places of interest in the area (Universal Orlando, Sea World, Legoland, NASA, the beach, etc.) during a larger part of your trip than at Disney World, it may be more convenient to be in near the focus of some other part of your journey.
- You have a relationship of the loyalty program with a specific hotel chain: If you are a bounty warrior and want to accumulate as many Hilton or Bonvoy points (for example) as possible, you may only want to stay in hotels associated with these brands. Similarly, if you have enough points with any of these programs to exchange them for a free stay, it is your best option.
- Enjoy the themes in a non-Disney site: If you like retro American, for example, you may be more inclined to stay at Universal’s Cabana Bay Hotel, even if you visit Disney parks during some of your trips.
- Need medical accommodation: There are rooms that comply with the ADA at all Disney Resort hotels, but some guests have specialized medical needs, such as a hospital bed, which may be available at a specialized off-site location. Similarly, if you need medical treatment during your trip (dialysis, for example), we recommend that you stay close to this facility.
- Do you have an electric car: Some, but not all, Disney hotels have charging stations for electric vehicles. Existing ones are available in order of arrival and classification. If you want easy access to your own recharging point, you’ll need to look out of place.
- Prefer bedding from another chain: Some hotel chains have a type of pillow, a firmness of the mattress or a number of sheets of sheets (Westin’s paradisiacal beds, for example) that you know will provide you with a good night’s sleep. If this is important to you, we recommend that you stay with this location.
What have I forgotten? Why did you choose to stay out of place than at a Disney World hotel? Let us know your experiences.