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On our recent trip to Walt Disney World, we split our stay between two hotels that both cost about $100 per night.
We stayed four nights at Disney’s Pop Century Resort, which is on Disney property. For the last two nights of our trip, we moved over to the Springhill Suites in Marriott Village, an off property hotel that is a few miles away.
The first question many people ask when they begin planning a Disney vacation is “Should we stay on property or off?
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 you can expect to get for $100/night on and off property, 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 for $100/Night: Disney’s Value Resorts
Disney resorts are split into three main categories: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. The rack rates (i.e. nightly rates without any discounts) at Disney’s Value resorts start at $100.
During most times of the year, you will pay more than that, but you can easily get rooms for around $100 when you combine discounts and book through Orbitz (read all about this money-saving trick in this post!)
For comparison, Moderate resorts start around $185 per night and Deluxe resorts start at $350 per night.
Here’s what to expect when you stay at a Disney Value resort:
A clean, functional room with two beds
Most rooms at Disney’s Value resorts have two double beds, though accessible rooms have one king bed. Rooms at Pop Century now all have two queen beds (check out the remodeled rooms here), as do many rooms at All-Star Movies. The rest of the value resorts still have two doubles, but all will be remodeled by 2020.
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!
Fun theming and remaining within the “Disney bubble”
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 to and from the theme parks and airport
This 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.
You’ll also get complimentary transfers to and from Orlando International Airport on the Magical Express coach buses. We almost always take advantage of this service and don’t rent a car. You can read more about the value of Disney transportation in this post.
Fun pools – but no slides or hot tubs
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.
Food courts that are open from 6 am to midnight every day
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.
Everyone on a Disney resort reservation gets one of these free wristbands which functions as your room key, park ticket, charge card, and more.
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. Get the basics of MagicBands in this post or some tips and tricks for getting the most from them in this post.
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 FastPass+ 60 days before you arrive, as opposed to 30 days if you aren’t staying on property.
On this past trip, I found that folks have caught on to the convenience of the new system and that there were many attractions that had no FastPass availability at the 30-day window!
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 Extra Magic Hours and the ability to take advantage of the Disney Dining Plan, which can be a great deal during a free dining promotion.
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 a 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 we got for $100/night at an off-property hotel near Disney.
Off-Property for $100/Night: 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.
I was actually able to use some lingering Delta SkyMiles to book two nights at the Courtyard Marriott Lake Buena Vista in Marriot Village. When I checked Orbitz, the room rate was right around $100 per night after tax for this resort.
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. I think if you shopped around, you could easily find a similar room for $100 per night during most seasons within a few miles of Disney World.
Here’s what to expect when you stay off-property for $100 per night:
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 double 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 the $100/night range will feature pool areas with more bells and whistles that 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, the 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 the 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 a $100/night hotel 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 well beyond $100 per night.
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!