Disney Infant Travel Toddler Travel Trip Reports

Daring to Disney: Saving money by staying off site

When I had originally booked this trip, we originally had booked two rooms at Port Orleans: Riverside for seven nights at a rate of about $200/night. After much thought, however, I ultimately cancelled that reservation and booked a vacation home rental. So we would experience Disney staying off site. The question is, how much money did we end up saving and was it worth it?

The rental property

So we ended up renting from Sweet Home Vacation. They have a bunch of properties located all over the place, though many of them, like ours, are fairly close to Disney World.

We rented a three bedroom apartment complete with kitchen and two living rooms (Sun Lake Condo 2). It was a great location; it never really took us longer than 15-20 minutes to reach any of the parks.


Having three bedrooms was super useful. My parents stayed in one room, M stayed in a second with one parent while Baby H stayed in the master with parent #2 (we rotated).

Sweet Home Vacation did a good job of taking care of us. They provided a pack and play and stroller on request, although they didn’t include a sheet for the pack and play so we didn’t use it. We brought our own strollers as well but it was nice to have a stroller at our property to give us options.

I think having a ton of space, especially with a toddler and infant, was invaluable and singlehandedly justified our decision to switch. The kitchen was useful for heating up things and would have been more useful if we had stocked up on groceries on day one and cooked. Having two living rooms meant adults could find space away from the kids when necessary, and a laundry machine completed the useful appliances available to us.


The condo wasn’t perfect – the A/C was kind of uneven, although that didn’t totally matter since the weather was kind of cool.

Ultimately, not looking at cost, moving from Port Orleans Riverside was the right move. We missed out on some of the Disney magic and it would have been nice to have access to multiple pools (we never checked out ours as it was a bit chilly), but when you have little kids space is the real key. However, staying with Sweet Home Vacation did add some costs in terms of convenience.

Renting a car 

We were probably going to rent a car anyway, but when we decided to move off site we were locked in to renting a car. As I mentioned in my planning post, I used Autoslash. We ended up with a rate of $100 for the week for a standard car from EZ Rental (same as Advantage). If I have one beef with Autoslash, it’s the inability to eliminate certain car companies from their price slashing.

If we didn’t have kids, EZ would have been great. But we have two kids, and I had to wait in line for over 30 minutes to get our car (at least we didn’t have to take a shuttle). Luckily the kids kept it together but it could have been a real disaster. My parents got a rental from budget for $180, in retrospect I would have paid the extra $80 for the quick car service (or even just a shorter line).

Money saved meant more money for dessert
Money saved meant more money for dessert

Another thing we lost moving off site was Disney’s Magical Express. If you’re not familiar with the service, basically they tag your checked bags with special Disney tags at your origin and they show up at your hotel sometime the night you arrive. Then you just take a bus directly to the hotel and skip baggage claim and all that.

We really ended up needing something like that, since I had to use some space from my dad’s car for luggage. If not for that, I would have had to upgrade the car which would have added to cost.

Another added cost was parking at the theme parks, which cost us $20 today. I could have saved money on that, but that’s for a later post.

Final Cost Analysis 

So here is how much things ended up costing us.. I used $175/night as the rate for Port Orleans: Riverside since that’s the lowest price I found with various discounts after we had already switched (yes I kept an eye on it).

Item Port Orleans: Riverside Off-site condo
Total Room Costs $2450 $840
Rental Car Costs $100 $100
Parking Fees $0 $240
Miscellaneous Purchases $0 $100
Total Overall Cost $2550 $1280

So we saved about $1200 overall for the cost of some convenience (the Magical Express). So we ended up with a lot more room and some freedom and saved a bunch of money. All in all I think it was the right decision – maybe when our kids are older it’ll be worth the extra premium. I’m sure on site hotels have the Disney magic but…well, maybe next time. If you want to read more about deciding about on and off site, I found these posts by Dia invaluable.

Suddenly M has started asking for a twin bed
Suddenly M has started asking for a twin bed

Final Thoughts

I’m super happy we took my friend’s recommendation and checked out Sweet Home Vacation. While we may have lost out on some of the Disney magic and lost the convenience of the Magical Express, we saved a bunch of money and ended up in a condo that was a lot better suited for our needs with a three year old and an infant. I should have saved even more money – that’s tomorrow’s post.

Vacation homes in the future
Vacation homes in the future

Other Posts in this Series

Flights, Hotel, and Car

Making Disney Dining Reservations

Saving Money on Disney Tickets

Using Touring Plans (the non-touring plan parts)

Optimizing a visit using Touring Plans’ touring plans

Saving money by staying off site

When a Disney annual pass makes sense

Touring Epcot attractions with a toddler

Touring Animal Kingdom with a toddler

One perfect day at the Magic Kingdom

Dining Reviews

Tips for parents of toddlers and infants

Things I wished I knew before I went to Disney



Just an average joe trying to fly his family for less

9 thoughts on “Daring to Disney: Saving money by staying off site

  1. I appreciate the cost analysis. How do you insure the rental car? CC w/ primary insurance?
    Regarding parking at WDW, how much extra time does that add?

    1. Yup, decline everything paid with Ink Plus. I doubt parking adds much more time than waiting for buses (if staying on property), except possibly at Magic Kingdom, where you have to take ferry or monorail across Seven Seas lagoon (about a 15-20 min proposition in and of itself). But I’ve read during busy times there are huge lines for buses anyway. Other three parks, it’s just a walk from your car to the entrance

  2. I felt like parking adds more like ten to fifteen minutes total. The trams are frequent and so are the monorails. We took the bus one day and decided it wasn’t worth it. You do skip the tram and the monorail if you take the bus, but the frustration and stress of waiting in line for the bus cancels it out for me. I was very pleasantly surprised at how easy driving and parking in all of the parks was.

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