Disney Hotel v Offsite Villa

So, whether you are planning your first trip to the Mouse and need advice or just fancy a change, you’ve come to the right place.

Pre Covid-19 staying in a Disney Hotel had many perks, some of which are not currently available, although we are all hoping many of them come back once occupancy rises.

Some of the perks we have currently lost are:

  • Fast Passes
    • With a 60-day booking window for onsite guests
  • Free Magic Band
  • Free Magical Express
  • AM and PM Extra Magic Hours.
  • Disney Dining Plan
  • Free Disney Dining Plan

But that’s not to say there aren’t good reasons for staying at a Disney Hotel.

The main reasons being LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! You are staying right in the middle of the magic.

All the Disney Hotels are themed, whether it be the Caribbean, African Savana or the New Orleans French Quarter.

You can buy a refillable mug, that lasts the duration of your stay and can be refilled at any of the other Walt Disney World Hotels with hot or cold non-alcoholic drinks.

With some of the Hotels you can even walk to the parks which is amazing. For example, from the Yacht and Beach Club to Epcot and Hollywood Studios or using the recently opened walkway from the Grand Floridian to the Magic Kingdom.

If you choose to bring or hire a car, you must pay to park at the hotel during your stay, but you don’t have to pay again when parking at the parks.

But, if you are not keen on driving you can organise an Uber, or bus from the airport and completely immerse yourselves in Disney for the duration of your holiday, utilising Disney Transport, be it the Disney buses, boats, monorail or the newly introduced Skyliner.

Each method of transport can be a potential experience in itself, even the buses! For example, one July 4th, when stuck in traffic leaving Magic Kingdom on the bus, the fab driver started doing Disney trivia, he was magical and made a slow journey another Disney memory!!

While we don’t currently have Extra Magic Hours, Disney are introducing Early Theme Park Entry later this year, so Disney Hotel guests can get in any park, any day, 30 minutes early.

Sometimes the lovely maids create amazing things out of the towels and flannels. They may also get your cuddly toys to do things like sit on the bed pointing the remote at the TV.

Another fun thing for the family can be searching for the many hidden Mickeys around the Hotel complex, ending maybe with a visit to the onsite Disney Store.

However, there are a number of downsides when staying in a Disney Hotel.

The Disney Hotels are really expensive, compared with many off-site hotels of a similar standard.

Hotel rooms are generally just one bedroom and a bathroom, so can be a bit squishy! One year we were staying in Disney during a tropical storm and had to stay in our room for a whole day, the room felt very small for the 3 of us. This helped me make some of my future accommodation choices.

The buses between the Disney Hotels and the Parks, can be slow, it is recommended that you leave an hour to get between the two if you have a dinner reservation. Plus, there can be long queues for the transportation, which after a long day isn’t always what your feet need.

If you do have a car, you will have to pay for parking at the Hotel. However, this can help with the timings of getting between the parks and your Hotel,

As with all hotels, you have to share the swimming pools with other people and the pools may also have restricted opening hours, although many of the main pools have a theme, often including a slide.

It is the common practise in the US that you tip the maid, so this needs to be factored into the cost of staying in a hotel.

You also need to be aware that the snacks and drinks in the Hotels shop can be expensive. An option is you can go to an offsite Supermarket either in your car or an Uber.

But remember some of the above could apply to any hotel, not just Disney!

An alternative to staying in a Disney Hotel is staying in an Offsite Villa.

You get an amazing amount of space in a Villa, normally at least 3 bedrooms, at least one living room, a dining area and multiple bathrooms. Then the piece de resistance the PRIVATE SWIMMING POOL!

In the swimming pool you can use inflatables without anyone moaning and there are no time restrictions, except for the weekly pool guy sorting the chemical levels and cleaning the pool.

You can use your car to get cheap shopping and eat at restaurants for a relatively low cost.

Depending on the Villa location, it can be quicker door to door to get to the Disney Parks.

You can cook in the Villa, saving even more money (not on my agenda when I’m on holiday though! 😊)

The Villas are generally really good value in comparison to Onsite and Offsite Hotels in the area.

The Villas can have negatives too.

You absolutely need a car; any other option would be a real pain. Having a car does mean you will have to pay to park at the Parks, which over a week or two can add up! This needs to be considered when budgeting.

Some villas can be quite a distance from the parks.

So, what have I chosen in the past?

When our daughter was younger, we stayed mainly in Disney Hotels, Coronado Springs, Caribbean Beach and Port Orleans Riverside.

Then as mentioned above we were there for a tropical storm one year, Disney really looked after us and kept us informed, but the room felt tiny. Especially as we have relatives in a Villa at the time who we visited, it felt so much more comfortable and spacious.

For our next few visits, we stayed in Villas which was amazing.

Our last trip was perfect, we stayed in Animal Kingdom Lodge, in a room with a savannah view for our first week, making the most of all the Disney Hotel benefits, then a Villa for our second week, with our own pool. BEST OF BOTH WORLDS!!


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