On-site or Off-site: A Philosophical Debate

I’ve been having an internal debate about on-site vs off-site that I want to share. Cause I’m a caring, sharing, guy…

To start things off, I think that we can all agree that a WDW resort room in and of itself is not a particularly good value for money - it is the on-site benefits that may tip the scales. However, I started thinking about whether those benefits were really worth it, with Disney Me on one side and Logical Me on the other. (Despicable Me, being a Universal guy, is the arbiter.)

DM: Free transportation from the resort to the parks and back!
LM: Standing in line to get on a bus packed with sweaty, exhausted people who reek of Dole Whips and turkey legs? No, thank you. Hi-diddle-dee-dee, a rental car for me!

DM: Ok, but then you have to pay for parking.
LM: With all the money I’m saving on accommodation, I think that I can pony up for parking. Besides, if I have an AP I get free parking anyway.

DM: 180+10 day ADRs.
LM: We tend to go for short stays, so we really don’t get the full benefit of the +10. Plus, with the Reservation Finder we have never had problems getting what we wanted. Finally, if I REALLY want to get the +10 benefit, there is always The Trick That Must Not Be Named.

DM: 60 day FPP?
LM: I can make some pretty good TPs that don’t use FPP if I can’t get what I want at 30 days. And again, there is always The Trick That Must Not Be Named.

DM: But what about the resort theming? We’ll miss out on the theming…
LM: We are power tourers, and don’t spend much time at the resorts – they all look the same when you are sleeping. If we really want to experience the theming, we can always tour a resort, but having either stayed at or toured the major Deluxe resorts this isn’t high on the priority list.

DM: Magic bands!
LM: Geegaws of limited utility. We can use ones from a past trip, or buy them if we really, really want it.

DM: But even if you have an MB, you won’t be able to charge to the room with it.
LM: I have credit cards, and I know how to use them.

DM: I’m pulling out the trump card here. EMH! Ha!
LM: OK, I don’t have a way of getting EMH. However, in our last trip we did not use any EMH days, but with the magic combination of RD and Personalized TPs we did everything we wanted to with minimal waits.

DM: (sulks)

Anything that I missed out on here, or any thoughts that may tip the scales back to on-site?


You make very logical arguments. I don’t think any one of them alone would make me want to stay on site, but the collective benefits tip the scales for me every time (I have stayed off site, so I have a basis for comparison). To me, the worst part of staying off site is at the end of the day, exhausted, knowing that you have to get in the car and battle traffic - on and off property - to get back to your hotel; there have been nights when I have spent 45 min just trying to get off site. Also, I enjoy “adult beverages” while on vacation, and it’s nice to not have to keep driving in the back of your mind when having fun.


For me I usually start with the base numbers and then add all the additional costs of off site: transportation to/from airport, either a rental or longer Uber rides, resort fees, parking fees. I then usually find the final cost is to close to justify all the benefits I feel in my heart and not in my wallet by being in the bubble. The bubble (my heart) always wins.

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Very good point - if I were planning a trip that was going to focus on the food and beverages, then on-site would definitely be preferable.


Having young-ish children changes the value of many of those things for people with kids, but I can see where your arguments make sense for some people.

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I am always offsite. I like a kitchen and we make breakfast because it is the easiest meal. We save the money for the $8 ice cream bars. :grin:

As DVC owners we never stay offsite (although we have done before we became owners). While I understand the arguments from a financial point of view, for us it’s all about convenience.

We like using the Disney buses so that neither of us have to be the designated driver - we both like the occasional glass of wine, and with the buses this requires no planning at all. We like the Magic Bands since they keep everything in the same place - room key, room charging, Fastpass entitlements. Our daughter especially loves hers, and for our upcoming trip we have customized one from last trip with a special Halloween skin for her to use while trick or treating.

We also like being able to make our dining and Fastpass reservations as soon as the earliest possible window opens. With a little one character dining can be important, and being able to book this without stress is very nice. Same with the Fastpasses - DD wants to go on Frozen multiple times each trip and without the 60 day window this would be much more difficult (we have four different sets of Frozen Fastpasses booked for our upcoming Halloween trip). DH and I also want to do Flight of Passage, and managed to get Fastpasses for two separate AK days. Without them I doubt we’d bother, since we wouldn’t want to rope drop and stand in line for ages when that time could be used to enjoy the park with our DD.

I will also add that staying in 1BR DVC villas really adds to the onsite value for us, since it also gives us a full kitchen, washer/dryer and a separate lounge space where us parents can enjoy a glass of wine after DD has gone to bed.

So, while I certainly understand why lots of people choose offsite over onsite for us it’s an easy choice, and one of the reasons why we became DVC members. :slight_smile:


I have been going to WDW since it opened in 1971. Back then the only two hotels open were the Contemporary and the Polynesian Villages Resort (as it used to be called). I think the price was ridiculous in today’s dollars - something like $28. Which was a lot back then.

Over the years it has been exciting to to see all the new resorts etc. emerge.

A childhood dream was to stay at one of the monorail resorts (still hasn’t come true)

We used to stay in Kissimmee or somewhere else. Usually a Sheraton or similar hotel. They were always nice - but nothing special. A typical room, a pool and that was it. No theming, no monorail and in most cases - no internal corridor as that was how most hotels were built back then.

Oh to stay onsite - those lucky bastards!!

Senior trip. Most would go to Wildwood NJ - but I would go to WDW - and we did. As we wouldn’t have a car - we would need to stay close - so we stayed at an OFFICIAL Hotel at Downtown Disney. OH SO CLOSE - but still so far away. As WDW still had so few hotels in 1988 - the hotels near Downtown DIsney (Disney Springs) were Official hotels and had transportation and other perks. The “FLYING DUTCHMAN” (I think it what it was called) - Now the Whyndham was our home. We were on sacred soil - aren’t we special!!

After 9/11 domestic tourism took a nosedive. We stayed at Wilderness Lodge as the promotion was crazy good. We loved it. The room as OK but the resort is one of my favorite.

Over the years we have stayed almost exclusively on site - and enjoyed the convenience of it.

So is it worth it? Quite the subjective question. Yes and No.

I feel that WDW has unfortunately - rested on its laurels. The monorail resorts have experienced downtimes where you had to take the bus. The prices are out of pace with the rest of the world though.

I make a comfortable living - and have a very hard time justifying the prices - especially when I can fully justify staying at a solid 4/5 star hotel that is not WDW owned. Stay at Grand Floridian for $700 a night or the Waldorf Astoria for $400 - no brainer.

The bus transportation is not nearly as efficient as it could be from the resorts to the park. Heaven forbid you have to get from Resort to Resort - you basically have to take a bus from here to there to over there and back. So I find the bus / transportation argument a little weak.

Quality. The last few times - the housekeeping has been awful at best. No new towels, coming back after a day at the park and the room still not made up, coffee machine not attended to. These things should NEVER happen at a resort that you are spending several hundred dollars a night for

Is it worth it - used to be a solid YES YES YES. Now - not so sure.


I don’t think you missed anything. It’s just that all the points carry slightly different weight depending on your personal preferences. I’ve done both on- and off-site also.

For us, DH and I agree 100% about Disney transport but I gather the buses are a major perk for others. As I usually visit WDW with my parents and my in-laws and my own party of 6, the 180+10 and the FP at 60 are a bigger plus (party of 10!) Also, as you point out, EMH super worth it but ONLY if you can use them!

I think it’s valuable to try both and see what works for your group.

And potentially, allow DM to sulk to vent feelings, and maybe every-third trip give DM a night or two on-site? :wink:

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I have had many of the same comparisons in my own head while planning my upcoming trip for 10 people! When I was around 12, my parents took my sister & I to Disney and we stayed at the Contemporary. It was certainly pretty neat, and in my 20s, I went back to Disney with my sister and stayed off-site and rented a car. That gave us a lot of flexibility and was also neat. Now that I am doing a 3 generations trip with 10 people, the logistics of car seats & who fits in what car certainly played a part in our decision, although on the flip side, I can tell you that I’ve had a lot of angst that our rooms just don’t compare to the amazing all-inclusive hotel that my husband & I stayed at during our honeymoon - but that the not-as-nice Disney rooms cost more and include far less!

I think that logically, it’s hard for me to say that staying on-site at Disney definitely wins out. But, emotionally, it does have a pull that staying offsite just doesn’t. When my kids (currently 6 & 4) are bigger and we don’t have strollers or lots of princess clothes to change into, or if we’re not in a big group doing a once-in-a-lifetime sort of splurge stay, then staying offsite will probably be the way to go for us.

I am really enjoying this post. Fascinating to see how every one makes their decisions based on the same information, but comes up with different choices. Also comforting to know that every one recognizes that it is an agonizing choice, with no clear winner. The opportunity costs are high on both sides.

I’ll add my two cents. I have been to Disney World roughly every 10 years since it opened. I stayed off-site until my third visit in the 90’s. We had a horrible experience at an off-site property (a hotel with a good name and mid-range price tag) and wound up switching mid-vacation to Coronado Springs. Compared to the first part of our vacation, it was as if the sky had opened and angels were singing. The next vacation, we didn’t even question it - we stayed on site (but at a value resort).

When we decided to make this trip, I was hoping to rent DVC points. That didn’t work out so I had no choice but to consider off-site because I knew my husband wouldn’t be comfortable at a value resort. Turns out we are doing a split stay between a moderate and a deluxe. If we were to stay off-site there are really only a handful of hotels we (I, due to my previous experience) would consider. Those would be B Resort, Hilton Bonnet Creek, or Waldorf Astoria. The Bonnet Creek properties were same price or more expensive than the on-property options. B was the same price as a value resort, but since we had budged for a deluxe at DVC rental costs anyway, we went ahead and spent the full budget to stay on-site.

For me, because this will likely be my final Disney adventure, I was will to pay the extra money to be on-site. Also hoping it will make my DH’s experience comfortable enough he may, just MAY agree to come back some day!


To me, the time savings and convenience factor are priceless. We have rented points and stayed Deluxe for our past 3 trips. I could never pass up being able to walk to/from Magic Kingdom or being a quick monorail ride away from our resort. Time is money and I want my time to be spent touring WDW (not just the parks) and not traveling to/from my off-site accommodations. My kids are still young so mid-day breaks are key. Perhaps my opinion will change once they are older but I’m doubtful. Since being spoiled by Deluxe accommodations, I can’t see myself accepting anything less. :wink:

I agree this is a fascinating thread. It is also interesting to me to see how people’s choices change over time and with varying family ages and sizes!

Just to weigh in on this, we used to stay onsite all the time. We first stayed off site about 5 trips ago… I don’t think we’ll ever stay on site again.

First off, I TOTALLY disagree with those who say it’s faster to get home at the end of the night on the buses. I would bet you ANYTHING that I could get from anywhere, back to a resort faster than any bus, and I’ll probably already be showered and in bed before you even get there. Not to mention, everyone had a seat on the way, and we could set the temperature wherever we want, instead of FREEZING COLD!

Another important point… Everyone here seems to be comparing Disney Hotel vs off site Hotel. We always use AirBNB, and for a fraction of the price of staying onsite, we have a 3 bedroom condo, 2+ bathrooms, full kitchen, living room, laundry, etc. Everyone has their own bed, and a comfy place to lounge after a long day at the parks.

Further, we used to only go with a free dining deal. Those deals are shrinking every year, and now you can only get quick service dining with a moderate Hotel, so the advantages for us are even less than they used to be.

My wife and I, on a childless trip, MIGHT do DVC point rental and stay at a boardwalk Hotel some day, but that’s it.

To anyone on the fence, we were worried the first time we stayed off site, and now we’ll never go back to onsite.


DM : When I arrive at MCO I can go straight to a coach and get on it, knowing that Disney will take care of collecting my luggage and get it to my room.
LM: Yeah but when I arrive direct to MCO from the UK I have to collect my luggage anyway for Customs.
DM True, but I can still get on a coach and sit back and answer silly trivia questions and look out for the Welcome arch without having to be a second pair of eyes for a tired DH in a car that he’s never driven before and on the wrong side of the road.
LM Uber is quicker
DM Yeah but if I stay offsite, no one says “Welcome Home” like they do at Disney!

This is all moot for me, since we are DVC members anyway. But Magical Express is another factor in the argument.

DM: I’ve scrimped and saved all my life. If I want to splurge and pamper myself in old age, its worth it. Besides, you can’t take it with you.
LM: You can’t take it with you.

finally DE (i.e.: my DW, the ultimate arbiter in my life) : In case your forgot HD, I’m worth it. :slight_smile:


For me it’s all about the 60 day FPP right now. We used to stay at Shades of Green, which is an excellent resort, but even though you get EMH there, you don’t get the 60 day FPP. Last time it was the FPP for the Elsa and Anna M&G. This time it’s FOP and FEA. I can’t see myself giving up that privilege.

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I too like how this thread has all sorts of shades of grey to it.

I too love to splurge and have. I am also the cheapest bastard you may ever meet. I call it “balance” my wife calls it “neurosis” - potato tomato.

I do like staying in nice resorts. Traveling, a Hampton is perfectly fine - however final destination needs to be nice. I had NO problem plunking down $$$ to stay at Portofino during our first (but not last trip to US). I felt it was expensive, but I got a lot of value from it. It was about $375 a night.

I just don’t see the value (for me) at WDW. It is still a dream for me - in MANY years that we take a multigenerational trip to WDW and we stay on site in a big villa etc.

I do have to say though - that we have been fortunate to be able to travel abroad. We stay in nice accomodations, travel nicely and see a lot. The prices to do so are less than a trip to WDW. To me that is just crazy. Go to Epcot or go to the real country for less? Stay in an over water bungalow in WDW or go to FIJI and stay over water for less. I just can’t reconcile that.


On site for us. And we also prefer the shuttles to driving.

It’s a good time to check plans and go for fast passes in the evenings whilst being shuttled around

Im the driver and the planner in our family so I wouldn’t be able to do both

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Can’t agree with this more! There is so much to see in this world, and going to Epcot is no substitute…

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