Pandora: The World of Avatad
Rafiki’s Planet Watch
After you decide when you’re going to Disney, your next question is likely to be “Where do I Stay?” The main choice here is going to be whether to stay on property at one of the Walt Disney World hotels or off property at one of the many non-Disney hotels. This comes down to weighing the convenience and benefits that come with staying on property with the value of the off-property hotels. This is a personal decision for everyone. Sure it would be great if we could all stay in the Presidential Suite at the Grand Floridian resort every time we went visited, but that’s not realistic. Below I’ll try to lay out everything you’ll need to make an informed decision that’s best for you and your family.
You’ll probably find yourself staying outside of Walt Disney World if you’re looking for the cheapest possible room. However, you should also take into consideration that staying on property has some money-saving perks. If you’re planning on renting a car, you can save $20 a day by staying at Disney because Disney Resort guests receive free parking at the theme parks. That being said one of the benefits of staying on property is that you can save some money by not renting a car. While having a car is a convenience and a time-saver, it’s not necessary to have one because of Disney’s transportation system. Disney’s Magical Express will also pick you up at Orlando International Airport and bring you Walt Disney World and return you to the airport at the end of your vacation free of charge. All of that being said, it will probably still be cheaper to stay off property since the difference in the room rate is probably going to be greater than the monetary benefits that Disney offers. The real benefit of staying on property is in some of the conveniences laid out below.
Staying on property at Disney means you are only a bus, monorail, boat ride, or even a walk away from the Disney Parks. Relying on Disney’s transportation can get you to or from the parks in anywhere from 10 – 30 minutes. If you have a car getting to the parks is even faster cutting it down to 5 – 15 minutes.
Another convenience to staying at Disney is that if your family plans to split up in the parks, it’s easy for everyone to make their way back to the resort on their own time. This gives a sense of independence to everyone in your family.
Having a car can ease the burden of staying off property, but it can be difficult relying on the shuttle service of off-property resorts. While most resorts do offer shuttle service to Disney parks, they might not run as frequently as Disney Transportation and shuttle pick up and drop off will not be as conveniently located as Disney’s buses.
Conversely, off-property hotels could be more convenient if you are planning to visit Universal Studios, Sea World, or any other attractions outside of Walt Disney World.
Another convenience of staying at Disney is room charging. Guests staying at Walt Disney World resorts can charge everything they purchase to their room via their MagicBands.
There are a few other benefits to staying on property at Walt Disney World, such as Extra Magic Hours. Extra Magic Hours are extended park hours, either one before park opening or two hours after park close, when the Disney Parks are open exclusively to Walt Disney World Resort guests. The reduced number of guests in the park coupled with the fact that Fastpasses are not offered during Extra Magic Hours means attraction wait times drop dramatically.
We mentioned Disney’s Magical Express above in the cost section as a way to save money while staying at Disney. However, it’s also worth noting that Disney’s Magical Express offers all guests the ability to check their luggage at the resort for participating airlines: AirTran, Alaska, American, Delta, Jetblue, Southwest, United, and US Airways. Disney’s Magical Express will take your luggage to the airport for you, so you don’t have to worry about handling until you are back at your home airport. Guests can take advantage of this whether or not they plan on using the bus service back to the airport.
Disney resort guests also have the benefit of making Fastpasses up to 60 days in advance of their vacation while those staying off property can only get Fastpasses 30 days ahead of time. This is a huge benefit for booking popular Fastpasses such Frozen Ever After which generally are completely gone by the time the 30-day window opens.
Finally, the Walt Disney World Resorts offer a theme experience like no other and keep you in that “Disney Bubble” for your entire vacation. While there are some high-quality off-property resorts, they lack the thematic immersion that many visit Disney to experience.
I would highly suggest staying at a Walt Disney World resort if it can fit into your budget because of all of these added benefits.
If you’ve decided on staying at a Disney Resort, you might now be wondering which one is right for you. With over 20 different Resorts, Disney offers a pretty diverse lineup of options.
The first choice is going to be between the different classes of Resorts that Disney offers: Deluxe, Deluxe Villa, Moderate, and Value. The Deluxe Resorts and Deluxe Villas are going to provide the largest rooms, most immersive theming, higher-end restaurants, better amenities. This all comes with the highest price tag, ranging from daily rates of $339 at Wilderness Lodge during value season to $2,127 a night the Grand Floridian during peak season. Deluxe Villas can cost as much as over $3,000 per night for a Bungalow at the Polynesian Village or a Villa at the Grand Floridian.
Moderate Resorts are the next step down in the Disney Resort hierarchy. They offer appealing themes (while not as immersive), slightly smaller rooms than the Deluxe Resorts, and less on-site dining. Moderate Resort rooms range from $165 per night during value season to $350 per night during peak season. Moderate Resorts are a great option for those expecting to spend most of their time at the parks. The compromise in Resort Dining and room size is less of a factor if you’re only going to be using the Resort as a place to sleep.
The Value Resorts offer the cheapest accommodations at Walt Disney World. However, this is because the Value Resorts also offer the smallest rooms, least amenities, only food courts as dining options. These rooms will start at $93 during value season and top out at around $200 during peak season. The Art of Animation Resort and All-Star Music Resort also offer family suites that sleep six for between $225 and $505 per night. These resorts are perfect for those on a budget, but still wanting to experience a Disney Resort.
You can read more about the resorts that make up these categories and their amenities in the Resort section of WDW Details.