One of my favorite parts about planning a vacation is researching hotels. Of course, this can be a real crap-shoot, especially if you’re visiting a place that you are not familiar with. Sometimes, no matter how carefully you select a hotel, the fantasy just doesn’t match up with the reality, which can certainly put a damper on any vacation.
This is why I will always choose to stay at a Disney hotel when I go to Walt Disney World.
Disclaimer: I do not work for Disney and I am not being paid to plug their hotels. That would be pretty sweet though…can I have that job? Pretty please?
I know that most families are looking for the most economical way to do Disney World and one of the questions that always pops up is the question of whether to stay on Disney property or elsewhere. To me, the answer 100% of the time is always to stay on Disney property, hands down, no two ways about it.
I say this having stayed at a non-Disney property for a vacation a few years ago. Of course, we were doing more of a “Taste of Orlando” type trip where we visited several theme parks and not just Disney. Our hotel was more in the Universal/Sea World vicinity, and while this was probably the best option for what we were doing, I can easily say that the biggest issue that we had was getting to Disney World.
The good news is that there are several transportation options available, the first of course being a rental vehicle. However, this can get a little pricey once you add up the hotel parking costs (our hotel charged $15 per day), the park’s parking costs which are between $20 and $35, plus the daily cost of renting the car which can fluctuate between $20 and $150, depending on who you rent from and what you rent. Plus, you get the joy of driving in Orlando traffic while trying to find your way to Disney. If that doesn’t say rest and relaxation, I don’t know what does!
You also have the option of taking a Lynx bus, which is Orlando’s public transportation system . This is probably the cheapest way to go if you are staying outside of Disney, as you can purchase an all-day pass for $2.25 per day and with some research and planning, you can find a stop in the general area of most hotels. But please remember, this system was designed for Orlando residents and not visitors, so their top priority is not getting you to Disney World as quickly as possible. In fact, it took about 45 minutes for us to get to the Disney Ticket and Transportation Center from where we were staying – about 7 miles away. That was precious time that could have been spent riding Splash Mountain, dammit!
Then there is the taxi option, but I would use this one sparingly as this can get pretty expensive, depending on where your hotel is located. Our one-way fare was around $30, not including tip. Hey, weren’t you trying to save money on this vacation? If you do have to take a taxi, choose Mears; they are professional and friendly and come highly recommended by locals.
So, now you’ve gotten your transportation taken care of, what about food? The good news is that there are a LOT of great restaurants in Orlando that are very reasonably priced. If you plan on dining in the parks however, be prepared to shell out some serious cash.
One thing you should know is that if you plan on staying outside of Disney World, you can NOT get a Disney dining plan. This might not be too devastating if you only plan on having one counter-service meal in the parks per day, but if you want to eat all of your meals in the parks, the Disney dining plan offers a better value, especially if you plan on getting in on some character dining. And trust me. If you have little ones, you do want to do at least a few character dining experiences. These meals are typically buffets and cost between $35 (breakfast) and $60 (dinner) per adult, if not more.
Ugh. So much to consider. Aren’t you supposed to be relaxing and having fun with your family?
Staying at a Disney resort truly lets you enjoy your vacation by making everything as seamless and convenient as possible, and that’s why I like it so much.
Transportation is included with any Disney vacation package- for free! They offer the Magical Express that takes care of getting you to and from the airport; all you have to do is check off a box when you make your vacation reservation. Disney also offers free transportation for getting from your hotel to the theme parks, as well as other hotels (this requires a bit of strategy though, but that deserves a separate post unto itself!).
I also never worry about whether I’m making a bad choice when I’m going with a Disney hotel, because there ARE no bad Disney hotels. I’ve tried both the Value level resorts and the Moderate level resorts, and they are all maintained as impeccably as their highest level Deluxe resorts.
Then there’s the dining plan. I LOVE the dining plan, because it gives us the chance to experience some of the Disney restaurants that we might not otherwise be able to if we were paying for it out of pocket. Plus, I appreciate the convenience of not having to budget for dining; it’s already taken care of and all I have to worry about is tipping for our table service meals. I usually choose the basic dining plan, which includes 1 quick service meal, 1 table service meal and 2 snacks per day, per person. For two people, it usually adds about $1,000 to the final cost of the vacation, which might sound like a lot but when you break it down, it comes out to roughly $84 per person per day for food.
Finally, Disney also offers a lot of extras at each of their resorts such nightly screenings of Disney movies “under the stars”, child care, free parking and recreational activities not offered elsewhere.
To me, choosing a Disney package is a no-brainer; I literally do not have to think about anything from the moment we check in to the moment we check out. Sure, I might save a few bucks staying outside of Disney World, but at the cost of enjoying my vacation. That is why I will ALWAYS choose to go with a Disney vacation package for my Disney World vacation; I get to focus on what really matters, and that is spending quality time with my daughter while forgetting the stresses of life for a little while, and that is priceless.