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Staying on Disney Property vs. Staying off Property

When you start to think about planning a trip to Disney World, undoubtedly one of the first thoughts that pops in to your head is, \”This is going to cost a fortune.\” I think people automatically think that staying on Disney Property is so much more expensive than staying off. When you really look at the numbers, you can see that the cost is really not that different at all and staying on property might be worth your while!

I\’m going to plan an imaginary vacation for a family of 4: 2 adults, and 2 children between the ages of 3-9. One option for the family will be to stay on property at the newest Value resort, Art of Animation. The other will be to stay at Holiday Inn Resort, 4.3 miles away from the Walt Disney World property.  (Note: not Magic Kingdom, but the Walt Disney World property in general.) Both properties have similar amenities and room sizes. This is also assuming that the family will be driving their own car, not renting one. One more thing to note; this is a rack rate Disney room. There are no discounts applied. You can often find a discount on a Disney Resort room.

Both vacations are for March 28, 2015-April 4, 2015, and will have 5 days of base park tickets with no meal plans. 

Art of Animation:

Total Package with room and tickets – $2,605.82

Holiday Inn Resorts

Hotel- $1,141.04

Park Tickets- $1,252.44

Total- $2,393.48

Photo Courtesy of IHG/Holiday Inn Resorts

At first glance you see a difference of $212.34. \”Let\’s stay off property,\” you think. Before you book that room, think about this also:

Transportation & Ticket Center Parking Lot; Courtesy of Mr. Soskil\’s Class

You\’ll have to pay for parking everyday you want to visit the park. Parking is $17 a day. At 5 trips to the park, that would cost a total of $85. Not only that, but those parking lots are huge!  When you stay on property, you can use the Disney Transportation (Monorail, Bus, or Ferryboat) which is free, and you get dropped off really close to the main gate.  If you really must drive to the parks, parking at every park is free to on property guests as well. 

You will also have to pay to park at the resort.  $15 (plus tax) flat to self park or $15 per day valet.  Parking is free to resort guests at all Disney Resorts.

MagicBands! We have to have MagicBands! Those are $12.95 a pop. Times a family of four that comes to $51.80. They are also free to on property guests. 

So parking and Magic Bands add $151.80 to the cost of staying off property. I could stop here and argue that the $60.54 difference is well worth staying on property, but I will continue on.

Time is money, right? Like I said before, at Holiday Inn Express, you will be 5 miles away from Walt Disney World Property–not the theme park you are visiting that day. You can easily add 45 minutes to an hour of travel time to your day. Yikes! If you want to make it to rope drop at Magic Kingdom at 9:00 am (and maybe get a good spot to see the show) that could put you leaving your hotel at 7:15. That makes for a very early start to wake up, get a family of 4 ready to leave for a day at Disney World, and eat breakfast in order to leave by that time.

Next there are numerous discounts and credits for attractions and restaurants all over Walt Disney World property that come with a Magic Your Way package. If you used every coupon and credit you receive with your package, you would easily make up the $60.54 difference.

Then there are things that are hard to quantify–like being able to buy a dining plan, or, better yet, get it free! Every family is different, and it may be best for you to do the math when thinking of buying the dining plan, but for my family, we will save  money buying it. Without question. My husband and boys are eaters, and we would go broke paying for food out of pocket in Disney World. This is a HUGE perk to us!

Another thing you can\’t really put a price tag on is Extra Magic Hours. Guests staying on property are able to take advantage of extra time in the parks–literally extra hours in a specific park before they open and/or after they close to the general public.

Saving the best for last, the  main reason I like to stay on property is because you stay immersed in the magic and story of Walt Disney World. Imagineers are world famous for a reason. Every detail is perfect, even ones you don\’t realize. When you leave the property you are taken back to the real world, which can be a jolt to your system. Staying on property keeps you on cloud 9, in an almost euphoric state. To me, this is priceless. Without all the other stuff, this is worth the small price difference alone. 

Of course you should make your own decision, but to me there is no question. Sure you can have a wonderful vacation if staying off property. But to really get the full experience, there is no question. Stay on property.

Lauren Tanner is a Disney travel planner with Wishdrawals Travel. After planning her own family\’s magical vacations, she now plans magic for her own clients!  Contact her

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