FIrst timers -- onsite or offsite with points

HI there,
just wanted advice for a family of four - first time trip to Disney - boys ages 10 and 9 - should i pay to stay onsite at say Port Orlans french quarter or art of animation or should i use my hotel points to stay at a marriott nearby… seems like the transportation system will take a long time to get around the parks, even if we are staying onsite – and my son has a mild neuromuscular disorder, so we may rent a car to do the transportation or do lyft/etc. to get there/back - not sure what do to - want them to have the full experience but would like to be in a relatively nice hotel, too – and the nice hotels seem to be WAY out of my price range onsite – but offsite seem doable! thoughts?

There are a lot of advantages to staying onsite but you are right, your resort space could be much larger off site.

Will fast passes be important to you?

If you have enough points you could book Swan or Dolphin? Although I don’t know how big those rooms are.

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Have you looked at renting DVC? You can stay at a Deluxe for less than Art of Animation and many moderate hotels. That’s what we plan on doing next trip. (See for example).

Swan & Dolphin is Marriott owned now I believe. If you have points that might be a great option. You’d get a lot of benefits of the Disney-owned resorts, but be able to use your points.


I stayed swan and dolphin my last two trips. If you can stay there on points, there’s not a much better deal anywhere.

You have to arrange your own airport transportation and pay the daily resort fee. Other than that, you get a deluxe property for points.


I’d second what the others say. If you can use points to Swan or Dolphin, stay there. You are getting the on-site experience with all the perks - the hotels simply aren’t as themed.

Also, if price in general is a concern, you could also look at one of the Disney Springs properties, particularly if you are traveling before the end of 2020. They have extended the 60 day Fastpass booking and the extra magic hour benefits for those properties through the end of next year. You just aren’t getting all the transportation perks. You also aren’t getting the dining 180 day perk where you get to book 10 days at 180 days (instead you book one day at a time each at 180).

Otherwise, for a first trip, I’d stay onsite.

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We’re going for the first time and since I don’t know if my kids will get into all things Disney (they are 9 and 12), we’re staying on-site in case this is the ‘one and only’ trip we make. Just sharing.

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I’ve done both on-site at Disney resorts and off-site at various Marriotts with points in the last several years.

I agree that the Swan/Dolphin is the ideal solution for your situation, BUT I have tried several times to book there with points and it’s often blocked out for reward stays. Also, it’s a category 6, which takes 50,000 pts/night on a standard night!

I’ve used points to stay offsite at the Grande Lakes JW, Marriott Grande Vista, and the Marriott World Center, which are really nice. But, the times we did that, I felt like we were on the outside looking in. Even without considering the onsite advantages of using MDE and earlier FPP and ADR access, there’s nothing like staying in the World, especially if it’s your first time!

I did just help a friend plan a trip and they booked off site. They have severe allergies and wanted a kitchen. When looking at the options an off site stay was the only option for them. Of course, they did not want to book any coasters!

Stay at the swan or dolphin on points. If you don’t have enough just pay the difference. It is worth it vs having to take a bus everywhere.

I booked at the Sheraton Vistana Villages (now a Marriott property) for our upcoming trip in January. For $160/night, we get two rooms (one Bedroom, one Living Room with pull out) with full laundry and kitchen. It’s less than 15 minute drive to all of the parks. Paying the $25/day to park my car still kept the overall cost way below anything I could get onsite. My kids are young, so they’re too small for FOP, EE, SM, etc. and there was one day of EEMH at MK so we don’t need a FP for 7DMT. The only ride we’d need a FP for is SDD and I just didn’t think the added costs were worth it for the one ride. If you want a lot of FPPs or intend to have your family split up during the day, I agree the onsite convenience is huge. But if you’re all going to travel together and don’t mind forgoing the FPs, I personally think staying offsite is way better.

I stayed offsite last January on a trip for my 2yo niece for many of the same reasons. We stayed at a very cute, very disney decorated AirBNB. Just checking, do you mean extra morning magic here (paid event)? Or are you just saying that there is only one day of EMH at MK while you are there - so you’ll rope drop on another day.

Just for clarification for OP, if you do stay off site, you’ll want to avoid any parks with extra magic hours since you will not be able to participate. However, extra morning magic can be a fun way to get some low crowd time if it is offered while you are there and fits in the budget.

Yes! You’re right! I meant EMM!

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Except for the double beds. That was the deal breaker at Swan & Dolphin for our family.

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Swan has queens


I’ve stayed at 2 of the Marriott Vacation Club properties in the last 5 years, both the Grande Vista and Harbour Lake. They are both super nice, and have great 2 Bedroom suites. If you’ve never stayed on property, then you won’t know the difference of not staying on property. It is about a 20 minute drive parking lot to parking lot from either resort to the parks. It is so much cheaper to stay off site for sure, and the perks you lose are not that much. If you are planning on driving anyway, it might be better to stay offsite. I had very positive experiences staying offsite and only have stayed onsite once with the family because of the extra cost.

You are correct. I misspoke- we never looked at the Swan. Only the Dolphin, which has the doubles, because we wanted Club Level Fastpasses and (at the time) the Swan didn’t have that, rumor had it that the Dolphin did. I don’t know if either one of them actually have CLFP, since we didn’t stay there. So we decided to just save our points instead, and ended up at the BWI.

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I’ve wondered this myself. They don’t have club level, but my understanding is that the suites qualify. Not sure if that includes family suites.

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