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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The "On Property" or "Off Property" Choices Uncovered

Just after making the decision to go to Walt Disney World, when you are going, and how you are getting there, comes the inevitable decision about where to stay.  Typically this question is the simple “on or off property” question, but there is more to it than that.  Let’s explore. . .

If off property is your answer, there are many options to choose from—vacation homes, condos, resorts, and hotels in various price ranges.  Some offer shuttles to/from parks at predetermined times throughout the day.  Others include suite accommodations, free breakfasts, and on-site water parks.  The list of amenities is as long as the list of hotels and is only limited by your wallet.

Speaking of paying, at an off site hotel, payment is handled like any other hotel.  Use your credit card to hold your reservation, then pay when you arrive. Your entire stay could be added to your credit card when you check-out.  Usually it is charged each day or every other day.  Some offer room charging for purchases made in shops and restaurants at the hotel.  Not having to pay until you arrive allows for budgeting the cost of your travel right up until the moment you leave for vacation.

Also, guests staying off site can collect or redeem points or rewards from various frequent stayer programs that match the hotel of choice. 

Depending on the location of your off-property accommodations, shops, restaurants, and other entertainment venues abound.  And, of course, there’s the option of visiting those “other” parks.  You just have to determine your transportation options and ticket needs.

We have stayed off-property and went to those “other” parks before and yet to have to rent a car in Orlando.  A town car service was needed to get us from the airport to our off-site hotel which was a block off of International Drive and access to the I-ride Trolley.  So between walking, taking the hotel shuttle to/from the parks, and using the I-ride Trolley system, we were able to get anywhere we wanted/needed to go and didn’t have to pay for a car or parking.

Staying on Disney property at Walt Disney World also has a variety of options, too.  There are “room only” stays where guests reserve a room at a Disney resort by paying the deposit of the cost of a one night stay with the balance due upon arrival.  Guests using this option may or may not want theme park tickets.  They may have an Annual Pass and not need to purchase tickets or want to purchase tickets from an outside source or purchase tickets upon arrival.  Any of the ticket options can be added to a “room only” reservation upon arrival, including any of the Disney Dining Plans, Park Hopper, or Water Parks and More.  Use of Disney’s Magical Express is available for guests with a “room only” reservation.  This type of reservation may be best for anyone who still isn’t quite sure of their vacation dates but wants to have a room reserved.  Double check cancellation policies prior to making a “room only” reservation.

Another option is the “Package” option.  This includes a room reservation at a Disney Resort, tickets, and use of Disney’s Magical Express from the airport to the resort.  Packages usually offer some type of discount, have a $200 deposit, and are required to be paid in full 45 days prior to your trip.  The “Magic Your Way” tickets can have as many options added to them as you like. . . Park Hopper, Water Parks and More, Disney Dining, etc.  Guests using this type of reservation can still add on to their park tickets once they arrive.  For example, let’s say you have a package that includes park tickets for 4 days with the Park Hopper option and you are staying 5 days.  You decide you want to add an extra day to your ticket—no problem, or maybe you want to go to a water park, so you figure out if it would be more cost effective to add the Water Parks and More option to your ticket or just pay for a day’s admission to the water park.  There’s still flexibility to ADD options to your package after you arrive. 

A Package reservation is best for those whose plans are most likely not going to change and for folks who enjoy the discount a package purchase provides along with the convenience of knowing your vacation is paid in full prior to your arrival.

Then there’s the Disney Vacation Club stay at a Disney Resort.  Points are used to pay for a stay.  Park tickets and Annual Passes can be purchased at a discount either prior or during your stay.  It is my understanding that if the Dining Plan is added to a ticket for a Disney Vacation Club stay that the cost of the Dining Plan is due in full at the time of the resort reservation.  If this is not accurate, please let me know with a comment.  Use of Disney’s Magical Express is available for transportation to/from the airport to your resort.

Even as a Disney Vacation Club member, the other options are still available.  It just depends on whether or not you are using points for your stay.

The simple “on or off property” question can be a bit more complex than it seems.  It’s great that there are so many options available to meet people’s needs.  We have friends who are Disney Vacation Club members and regularly use their points for stays.  They have Annual Passes and enjoy the deluxe accommodations that DVC provides.  We also have friends who enjoy stays off-property and use a year’s worth of points earned through credit card purchases to pay for their stay in a resort chain associated with their credit card company.  We also have friends whose travel dates are likely to change and a “room only” reservation with park tickets added on when they arrive would be the best option as they won’t know for sure they are going until their bottoms are on the seats of the plane.

For us, the Package reservation works well.  We budget for our vacation to be paid in full 45 days prior to our trip, and once we purchase plane tickets our plans are pretty firm.  We enjoy the discounts and convenience of knowing that even our dining is paid for ahead of time.  And, we have discovered that if there is a discount that becomes available even after we had made our reservation, our reservation can be adjusted to reflect the discount. . . even if we are paid in full the difference would be refunded to us!  Just more reasons that keep us coming back!


  1. Your blog is awesome. Very informative! We have a package ( its my children's and husbands first time to Disney). I've been stressing out about ADR and character meals. Your blog is extremely comprehensive and helped us finalize everything tonight! Can you give any information about the Disney resorts? I've heard good and bad, about waiting on buses forever, being out at the back of the resort etc. any info you can give would be so appreciated!

  2. Lee,
    Thank you. We are honored by your compliments and hope you have a wonderful and magical trip. Info about resorts? Will do--stay tuned! There is already some info about Port Orleans Riverside, French Quarter, and Coronado Springs on the blog--just do a search. But, I will happily provide what info we have gathered on our experiences. I can also recommend the PassPorter Guide to Walt Disney World book as it has extensive info on each resort including resort maps and room layouts.
    Thank you for reading the Williams Family Blog!