Never stayed onsite. What am I missing really?

Hey folks. We have been to the theme parks semi-regularly since 2005. Everytime, we have rented a condo off site.

I have always heard about the “experience” of staying onsite when visiting WDW. I might buy into that if my boys were little guys, but my wife and I have two grown disabled sons that travel with us and I don’t see any benefit to staying onsite.

Want to hear from anyone that has experience with onsite and offsite or anyone who really thinks that onsite is worth the extra expense.


For me, the benefit to staying onsite is being immersed in the Disney experience. I don’t have to worry about transportation: it’s all taken care of, from the airport to the hotel to the parks and back again. The only road signs I see all week are those beautiful Disney ones, not the standard green of the real world. If I stay at a deluxe or moderate resort, the pool is going to be awesome. There are benefits to having a private pool at your condo, certainly, but it probably doesn’t come with a water slide! If I want a Mickey premium bar at 7 AM, I can pop into the food court as soon at it opens. With my MagicBand, I don’t have to worry about carrying, well…much of anything! It’s my key, my room charge card, etc. I can make my FP+ reservations at 60 days out instead of 30, my ADRs at 180+10 (so helpful if you’re trying for Be Our Guest or 'Ohana).

But it might not be worth it for you. I don’t think staying on site is worth it for everyone. I’m a non-driver traveling solo. For me, it makes the most sense. When I go in a couple of years with my friends and their kids? It might make a lot more sense to stay off-site. Having more room to spread out is a definite plus. I’ve traveled with my parents and sister and oh man, four adults (and a scooter) in one room at Pop Century is the kind of bonding experience I never need to have again with anyone. To have enough space for four adults to be comfortable, I think you need a room at a moderate or a deluxe resort. That’s a whole lot of money. It might be better to stay off site and pay less, then have the opportunity to use the money you’ve saved in the parks - or on your next trip.

There’s really no one-size-fits-all for this, as I’m sure you know. It’s about your personal vacation style. Whatever you choose to do, you’re going to Disney World! For me, I’d be happy to go and stay in a tent at Fort Wilderness in the middle of August. But I’m 26 and a little insane, even my most die-hard friends wouldn’t be interested in a trip like that.

Maybe you could try a split stay. Do the first two-thirds of your trip in the condo, and then give a Disney resort a try at the end.


At this point in my Disney vacation career, the “bubble” doesn’t make much of a difference for me. For many, people immersed in the Disney created world is important. For me, I’m venturing off-site for part of my stay more often, have some local friends I try to make time to visit, and usually buy groceries and sometimes souvenirs at off-site locations, so there are other reasons that lead me to be more likely to stay on property.

You’re a little closer to the parks. Granted, some off-site resorts aren’t much farther away (and those at Bonnet Creek are in the middle of the property), so this doesn’t make a huge difference, but it’s something.

A head start on off-site guests. I don’t always use these benefits, but Extra Magic Hours, a ten day head start for making dining reservations, and an extra 30 days to make FastPass+ reservations are tangible benefits that are important to many. If you want a pre-rope drop breakfast reservation or a visit with Anna & Elsa using FastPass, then the extra time is almost essential.

In some cases, transportation. With Magical Express and Disney buses, boats, and monorails you potentially don’t need to rent a car. In my case, I generally prefer to drive, but some of my friends don’t like to do so when they’re away from home. If you’re staying in one of the Deluxe resorts near one of the parks, then being able to walk to Epcot or the Studios from the Boardwalk resorts saves hassle and usually time as well. If you’re at the Contemporary, then walking to the Magic Kingdom is a plus. Even when renting a car, I’ll still usually take the bus to the Magic Kingdom, since I can’t drive directly to that park, so access to Disney transportation saves time. It’s also helpful to have access to the Disney buses if you’ve had a few too many drinks in Epcot (though I can’t really afford to do this, it may matter to some).

Charging purchases to the hotel room and having items delivered to your hotel is also a useful benefit for many. I haven’t used the delivery option, as if something is too large for me to carry around the park it will probably be too large to carry home on the plane, but that can be helpful if you see something you really want to have, but don’t want to lug around with you all day. The room charges are more of a convenience for me, as I’ve started paying for my Disney meals and souvenirs with gift cards. I could certainly carry those cards around with me in the parks, but charging to my room and then settling the account later is easier than carrying around a couple hundred dollars in gift cards during my trip.

Whether all that is worth paying extra for is completely up to each individual.

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Not having to drive in the traffic in the area is worth it to us. Plus with the buses we get dropped off near front of park so that’s much better for us than having to park, then tram then walk to the entrance. Plus we’ve never had a bad experience at the Disney hotels, both mods and values.

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“Being in the bubble” is not all that important for me either. I frequently stay at SoG, and the only things that make it “Disney” are it’s location on the property and the 6-foot Mickey in the lobby…

For me, it’s about convenience and perks. I spend most of an hour and a half driving in traffic every day commuting to and from work, plus more in the evenings and weekends for various church and civic events. I drive to WDW, but the ability to just park the car for a week and not HAVE to drive is a major plus for vacation. And even a little bit of driving IN WDW beats the nightmare that I-4 and I-Drive can be. And if I flew, MDE would be a deal-maker… Additionally, if I want to enjoy “adult bevereges”, I don’t have to worry about driving; I can just hop on a bus and be delivered to my hotel.

I also like the benefit of EMH, being able to book FPPs at 60 days, and being able to make ADRs for “length of stay” when my first day hits 180.

I find the cleanliness and quality of service, even at the Value resorts, to be significantly better than most other motels/hotels that I have stayed in (including some “luxury” non-Disney hotels) just about anywhere. I paid $500/night for a concierge room at a high end NOLA hotel - and except for a few free drinks, my overall experience at POP for $98/night was much better.

When I go it’s either solo or just with DW, so concern about room size is not that great. We DO NOT cook while on vacation, so a kitchen is of no interest to us. We rarely swim, so a private pool is of no value to us. If I was traveling with a larger group, I WOULD consider renting a condo; hanging out together after a day in that parks would be fun, driving duties could be split up, and even if there was no cooking, having snacks and drinks on hand for a “wind down” would be cool. And it’s hard to argue the fact that as far sq/$, a condo will beat a WDW hotel room every time…

I guess it just comes down to what your priorities and trade-offs are to make the vacation the best for you own likes/dislikes.

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Thanks taking the time to reply everyone! We are coming in November 2015, and will probably stay at the Hapimag Lake Berkley Resort again. (BTW, Swiss owned resort. Very nice, gated and very very clean.) But, if I still have it in my Disney Bucket List to stay onsite some day.

Oh, and one thing that we always laugh about when we visit the Hapimag is the statue of Atlas that this guy has in his yard on the way to the resort. All I can do is laugh and feel sorry for his neighbors!




Have you considered a split stay?

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Actually yes! I’ve been researching that today. Going to try to swing 3 days onsite, possibly with the dining plan.

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Yeah. Abs.

It is a great way to try something at a reduced cost! Where are you thinking about staying onsite?

Probably Pop Century if I am going budget.

If I can afford it, Fort Wilderness or Caribbean Beach.

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POP is a value, CBR is a moderate. Short of a FW campsite, you will not find anything cheaper than POP… :smile:

I love Pop. I hope you do, too!!

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