Staying off property when vacationing at Walt Disney World can be a great financial decision but is it the best logistical decision? Here are the advantages, and disadvantages, of staying off-property.
Advantages of Staying Off-Property
The number one advantage of staying off-property is that off-property resorts are typically cheaper than those on-property. Some are as low at $50 per night without sacrificing quality. Most off-property resorts even include fantastic pool complexes, full kitchens and laundry facilities.
There are many resorts around the US 192 (West Irlo Bronson Drive) corridor which is only a few miles from Disney property. Some of the more highly rated ones include Windsor Palms, Windsor Hills and Westgate.
An advantage of staying in the US 192 area is there are several places close by to grocery shop to not only eat meals in your condo but get snacks to take into the parks. Some of the local grocery stores near Disney are Publix and Target and for some extra savings, if you are willing to drive about 10 minutes east on US 192, there is even an Aldi in Celebration that can help you maximize your savings. Last year, we bought groceries at the Aldi in Celebration for $75 for our whole 10-day stay!
The cost savings of eating just one meal at your resort or condo can be staggering. Let’s compare the cost of eating breakfast in your condo as opposed to eating breakfast at the World Premiere Food Court at Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort.
Remember, the price of breakfast on Disney property is PER PERSON. That means a family of 4 would total $54.96 while nearly that same meal would total $11.52 for a family eating in their resort and surely there will be leftovers for another morning. For example, the gallon of orange juice will likely last the entire trip.
If you total this up for the length of your stay it’s a pretty hefty savings.
Word to the wise: while it might be very appealing to grab a granola bar or a muffin to save time and money, please don’t. These foods do not contain the proper nutrients to get your day started right, especially when you will be walking up to 20,000 steps a day. Always remember… breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that is definitely the case at Disney where it’s a marathon not a sprint.
Disadvantages of Staying-Off Property
Now that we have looked at the rosy part of staying off-property, it’s time to look at the disadvantages. This biggest disadvantage is that you will need to rent a car mean you must also pay for parking with visiting Walt Disney World.
Car rentals from Orlando International (MCO) are typically $120ish a week depending on the type of car you rent. (They are a little more expensive when renting from Sanford.) While it does give you an added sense of freedom that you can come and go as you wish, there is also the cost of at least one gas fill-up or at the very least a top-off before you turn the car back into the rental agency.
Another disadvantage you will experience is paying to park at Disney which is currently $20 per day. Don’t worry if you plan to park hop, you will not have to pay for parking again as long as you keep your receipt for that day.
Another thing to consider when staying off-property is most rentals require a cleaning fee. It is typically around $150. However, check with your owner to see if they have a cleaning fee waiver policy. Some property owners will waive their cleaning fees for stays over seven days. Depending of the cleaning fee, sometimes it makes better fiscal sense to stay another night at a rate of $85/night (plus the rental car for another day) then to only stay six nights and pay the cleaning fee… something to consider.
There is one intangible thing about staying off property which needs to be considered. That is the feeling of staying inside the “Disney bubble”. There really is something to this. The Disney bubble is a surprisingly magical feeling that stays with you from the parks to the restaurants to the resorts.
Total Financial Impact of Staying Off-Property
For the fans at home let’s tally all the potential cost savings using the following assumptions:
In all honesty, we are not really comparing apples-to-apples here. This condo quote is for a three-bedroom/two-bath property with a full kitchen and laundry while the Disney quote is for a standard two queen room at a value resort. If we were really to compare a similar room on-property, the difference would be a staggering.
As you can see, even though there are some added costs, this is still better than any of the on-property resorts.
How to Stay Off-Property
While you could book one of the area hotels, which can be cheaper than staying on-property, you will lose the advantage of being able to make meals in your own room which as we saw before can save you over $250 for breakfast alone.
So how do you book one of these area resort? The easiest way is via VRBO.com.
VRBO, or Vacation Resorts by Owner, is a world-wide database of condos and vacation rentals.
- Go to VRBO.com
- Type in Kissimmee, FL as the location
- Enter your travel dates
- Enter the number in your traveling party
- Click search
- From here you can look through the list of condo and resorts with availability
- If you find one that meets your needs
- On the right side of the screen you can get an instant quote which typically includes deposit, cleaning fee and taxes.
- Contact the owner to inquire
A couple of words to the wise: As with all purchases, a little due diligence goes a long way.
- Make sure to read the comments from past renters. If someone is willing to take their time to leave a comment it typically means they have something of substance to say whether it be good or bad.
- Ask the owner pertinent questions such as: location (make sure if you are looking for Windsor Palms it is actually located in Windsor Palms – you never know how things can get mislabeled)
- Ask their deposit costs as well as their terms for payment
- How much is their damage deposit?
- Check in/check out time (this is important because you have flight arrival and departure times to consider)
- What is their cleaning deposit (most waive if staying over seven days)
- If you have stayed in that particular resort before and would like to stay in the same condo next year, check to see if they have a returning customer discount.
As you can see the decision to stay off-property isn’t always easy. May the pixie-dust be with you as you embark on this decision for you and your family.
Sue Nowicki is an alumna of the 2014/15 Disney Parks Moms Panel. She splits her time between planning her next Walt Disney World vacation and being team mom to ten high-energy volleyball players where she fills the roles of secretary, navigator, head cheerleader, treasurer, athletic trainer and team psychologist. You can follow her on Twitter @MQPodcast.