The first question many people ask when they begin planning a Disney vacation is “Should we stay on property or off?
So on a recent trip to Walt Disney World, we split our stay between two hotels.
We stayed four nights at Disney’s Pop Century Resort, which is on Disney property, and for the last two nights we moved over to the Springhill Suites in Marriott Village, an off site hotel that is a few miles away.
It was so helpful to compare the experience of staying at an on-property Disney resort with staying off property for the same price on this trip!
In this post, I’ll share our experiences at both hotels, what to expect, and my recommendation for where to stay!
This post isn’t sponsored or underwritten and just contains my honest opinions based on MANY trips to Disney World.
On Property: Disney’s Value Resorts
Disney resorts are split into three main categories: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe.
Here’s what to expect when you stay at a Disney Value resort:
A clean, functional room with two queen beds.
Most rooms at Disney’s Value resorts have two queen beds, though accessible rooms have one king bed.
I find the rooms to be very functional, with a small table and two chairs, a mini-fridge, flat screen TV, plenty of storage, and a curtain that separates the bathroom area from the rest of the room.
The rooms are on the small side (about 260 square feet). I personally think the rooms are comfortable for up to two adults and two kids under 10.
I wouldn’t suggest trying to fit more than two adult-sized people into these rooms, however!
I think the Value resorts are the most fun out of all resorts at Disney World.
Around the grounds of the resorts, you’ll find huge “icons” of characters and items associated with the resort’s theme.
There are Disney touches everywhere you look, including hidden Mickeys in the rooms and around the resort.
Staying at Disney resorts definitely keeps you inside the “Disney bubble”, meaning that you will have little to no contact with the outside world.
This may be a good or bad thing, depending on how you feel about Disney!
Transportation is a huge perk of staying on Disney property.
You can rely on Disney bus transportation to take you to and from the theme parks without worrying about parking, traffic, directions, and remembering where your car is parked.
The pools at the Value resorts are large and well-themed, and some even have features like bubblers or water sprayers.
But you won’t find any features such as water slides or hot tubs at the Value resorts.
These amenities are available at all of the Disney Moderate and Deluxe resorts, but not at the Values.
Every Disney Value resort has a food court that serves quality food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
In my experience, the snacks and convenience items at the food courts are WAY overpriced, but the entrees represent a very good value.
So if you bring your own snacks and breakfast items, you’ll get great value and quality at the food courts.
When you stay at a Disney World resort you can use Magic Bands during your stay.
I have fully embraced the ease and simplicity of the Magic Band. I love not having to worry if I have my wallet and room key when I leave my room since the bracelet functions as both.
A Parking Fee But No Resort Fee
Disney recently began charging a fee for parking a car at their resort hotels. You can read all about the parking fees in this post plus get ideas on how to avoid them entirely.
You won’t be charged a “resort fee” at Disney resorts.
Resort fees are a common way that Orlando area hotels charge more while still appearing to be a lower-cost option in searches.
Disney’s legendary hospitality
Disney “cast members” (as the employees are known as there) regularly go above and beyond to ensure guest satisfaction.
I have experienced excellent customer service at all of the Disney resorts, and the Values are no exception.
I’m never worried about running into a disgruntled employee out to ruin my day.
And if anything ever goes wrong (which of course it sometimes does), cast members will bend over backward to make it right for you.
Other Disney resort perks
There are a few more perks of staying at any Disney resort that are worth mentioning.
First is the ability to book Individual Lightning Lane reservations at 7 am. This is often the ONLY way to buy a reservation for these rides.
SO if you want to avoid long waits at the hot ticket attractions, it really helps to have the advance booking window.
You’ll also get access to Early Theme Park entry which allows you to enter each theme park 30 minutes early every day.
As you probably have figured out by now, I think the Disney Value resorts overall provide an excellent vacation experience.
If you want to know what to expect at the Disney Value resorts in more detail check out this post.
They are not all created the same, however… learn about the best and worst of the Value Resorts in this post!
Next, I’ll show you what to expect at an off site hotel near Disney.
Off Property: Springhill Suites in Marriott Village
Disney resorts were completely booked for the last two nights of our trip (it was the weekend before Thanksgiving) so I looked at off-property hotels.
When we arrived and checked in, there were no rooms ready, so we were offered a room at the Springhill Suites next door.
This was an upgrade to a larger room and we were still permitted to use the pool at the Courtyard, so we took it.
Earn 100,000 Marriott points that you can use for a FREE five-night stay at the Springhill Suites when you open a new Marriot Bonvoy Boundless Visa and meet the minimum spending requirement – click here for all of the details!
Here’s what to expect when you stay off-property:
More space in the rooms
Expect to get more space for your dollar at off-property hotels compared to Disney hotels. We stayed in a stylish “studio suite” with two queen beds and a pull-out couch.
This room was 420 square feet with a living room area that was separated from the bedroom area by a half wall.
This room could accommodate a larger group, though I would warn against trying to have an adult sleep on the pull-out couch as it was VERY uncomfortable! We were very pleased with this room.
More amenities, such as fancier pools and hot tubs
Many off-property hotels in this price range will feature pool areas with more bells and whistles than the Disney Value resorts.
You might find waterslides, zero-entry pools, indoor/outdoor pools, and hot tubs.
We really enjoyed the indoor part of the pool at the Courtyard Marriot because it got too cold to swim outside the last two days of our trip.
I also LOVE hot tubs so this feature was a big plus!
Many hotels around Disney World offer free breakfast as a perk. We ate the free breakfast at the Springhill Suites and it left much to be desired.
There were waffles (including a Mickey-shaped waffle maker), cold cereals, yogurt, eggs, sausage, toast, bananas, and oranges.
The food was lackluster, especially compared to what we had just had at Pop Century.
I personally would rather pay for my food and get better quality instead of icky powdered eggs and sad sausages, but that’s just me.
Resort and parking fees
Most off-property hotels charge either a daily parking fee or a daily resort fee, and many have both.
It isn’t uncommon to find resort fees over $20 per night. You’ll definitely need to do some research on the additional fees a resort charges before you book it.
Hospitality That Is Spotty At Best
The first room we were assigned at the Springhill Suites was in total disarray when we tried to enter our room.
I had to leave our luggage and head back down to the lobby to be assigned a new room, then go fetch our luggage and haul it across the hotel to our new room.
When we tried to go to the pool the new morning, we found it locked. It took the front desk staff about 10 minutes to locate a janitor to unlock the pool.
Needless to say, they didn’t really have their act together at the Marriot properties. Avoiding issues like these are one motivation for staying on-property.
More time & hassle getting to and from the parks
And here is the biggest difference between staying on- and off-property to me. You will spend significantly more time and money getting to and from the parks when you stay off-property.
First of all, many resorts within a few miles from Disney will advertise that they have a shuttle service that runs to and from the parks.
It turns out that the shuttle service from Springhill Suites consisted of one bus that made three trips each morning to the Transportation & Ticket Center (where one parks to visit Magic Kingdom).
From there you had to take Disney transportation to all of the other theme parks.
There were three different times you could be picked up in the evening, and you had to make a reservation to ride this bus at least a day in advance. This “shuttle” would only be feasible for a small number of guests.
If you drive yourself, you will have to navigate the roadways around Disney, wait in line to get into the parking lot, pay $25 per day to park (read all about parking at Disney World in this post), and have a 10+ minute walk just to get to the ticket counters.
We opted to take Uber and Lyft to and from the parks, which added additional cost and hassle. I was missing Disney transportation within a few hours of moving resorts!
So there is my summary of what you can expect from similarly priced hotels on Disney property and off.
Though we had a larger room and more amenities at Springhill Suites, staying at a Disney Value resort offered a far superior vacation experience for my family.
We can stay at a hotel with a nice pool anywhere, but when we visit Disney we want to get around easily, have extra time in the parks, and soak up all of the Disney magic possible.
I don’t think we will be staying off-property anytime again soon.
And if you are driving your own car and staying at an off-property hotel with hefty resort and parking fees, you also could end up paying more than at a Disney Value resort.
What do you think?
Do the benefits of staying at a Disney resort outweigh the added space and amenities you’ll find at off-property resorts for you?
Please leave a comment below!