The Deal Mommy

Disney World Hotels: On or Off Site? (Revisited)

Fun at All Star Movies, Disney World,  Jan 2015

Fun at All Star Movies, Disney World, Jan 2015


After one stay at Disney World’s Saratoga Springs, I firmly advised folks to skip expensive Disney World hotels in favor of off-site options. However, after 2 more stays on property, I need to amend and clarify my recommendations. Now that I’ve discovered fully what Disney properties have to offer I realize the answer isn’t black or white. With that in mind, I’ve create an on or off-site checklist to help you figure out which is best for you:

  • If you have more five or more in your family, Off Site is probably still the way to go. Few standard rooms on Disney property sleep 5 so you’re in for at least a family suite or possibly even 2 rooms.  Offsite, you are tripping over options to use points or can get a large condo or house affordably. For instance, reader Dan let me know that the Holiday Inn Club Vacations Orlando points rooms are 2 bedroom suites sleeping 8.
  • After staying in all three categories I can’t recommend a Deluxe Resort if you’re also visiting the parks.  The room sizes between Deluxe and Moderate are negligible and the price is double or more.  I know some, like Animal Kingdom, have truly unique settings.  However, you can easily access those settings with a restaurant reservation or even by just visiting the public areas.  After spending all day in the parks, are you really going to use those amenities SO much a moderate won’t do?  I can MAYBE see booking a deluxe hotel just for the experience and treating it like its own little island…but still wouldn’t book it myself.
  • I also can’t recommend a Value Resort. This one surprises me.  I booked All-Star Movies at a rock bottom $70/night after using my Orbitz coupon codes.  At that rate, I didn’t expect much and was pleasantly surprised by the all-in All-Star theming.  The Deal Kids and I had fun there, but the rooms are SMALL for even our family of 3.  The pool also is “just a pool”…albeit with a Fantasia Statue.  The other issue with our stay was the incessant noise of tour groups (think…teenagers).  I’ve taken a look at other reviews and the noise and crowds seem a constant issue.  If your budget is limited, that $70/night will get you SO much more off-site.
  • The Sweet Spot is the middle.  We LOVED our stay at Port Orleans Riverside and it was only $40 more than All-Star using a “bounce back deal” (more on those later).  The resort is fully themed including an island of a main pool featuring a waterslide and many other “quiet pools” near each building to get your swim on.  Our room in Alligator Bayou was a good 30% larger than the All-Stars and featured a pull-down bed that doubled as a bench during the day.  Lots of on-site activities kept us entertained: we especially enjoyed the Surrey Bike Rental. We also got great use out of the ferry system, which leads me to my next bullet…
  • Don’t book on site because you want Disney Transportation. Rent a car. Using AutoSlash our full sized rental came to $111 a week. You get free parking as a Disney Resort Guest. Use it instead of waiting in the sun for a bus…you’ll thank me later.
  • Don’t delete emails from Disney!  If you’re lucky, you’ll get targeted for a deal.  The “bounce back” rate of $116/night at Port Orleans showed up an hour after we checked out of All-Star and was an impulse purchase. Disney targets past guests, Florida residents and other groups for special deals unlocked by a name-specific PIN.   If you aren’t targeted, then you may be best using a 3rd party like I did with Orbitz. Then you can use a coupon code and get cash back.

What are your thoughts on Disney World lodging options?  Please share in the comments.

The Deal Mommy is a proud member of the Saverocity network. 


13 thoughts on “Disney World Hotels: On or Off Site? (Revisited)

  1. perryplatypus

    At some point you should reevaluate the value resort and try a stay instead at the newest one Disney’s Art of Animation since they have themed family suites. Never stayed at All-Stars or Crap Century and don’t plan on it but would definitely stay Art of Animation. I always recommend the deluxe resorts if your are staying on the timeshare side where the rooms tend to be bigger. I agree that they can be expensive rooms but sometimes you can rent DVC points and pay much less then a moderate and even sometimes a value resort. I think out of all the Disney resorts my favorite is Animal Kingdom Lodge but the bummer is that is the furtherest away from MK, Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Thanks for your well researched advice. I know they consider AOA a value but he week I was there it was $109 vs $116 for Port Orleans. The family suites were over $200, and you can get a house for that. DVC is also an option with points rental depending if you can find availability.

  2. brian

    We have stayed the last couple trips at Reunion Resort-about 10 minutes from Disney. You can get a 3 bedroom condo/apartment for around $200 a night during the high season. It’s very nice and great to have a kitchen and plenty of space after a long day at the park.

  3. Steven

    We have been annual passholders 3 years when the children were young and just became AP holders again last month! I’ve done Disney every way possible. Value/Moderate/Deluxe. I’ve stayed off property in really nice rented houses, condos and rented times shares. Each has it’s advantages and disadvantages. The luxury resorts are wonderful and staying on property you get extra magic hours. If you are an AP holder, you get hotel stay discounts at every level, as much as 30 or so percent.

    The moderates are good and the value hotels have the Disney touch, but are a glorified motel room. They are themed, clean and comfortable, but once you’ve stayed at deluxe places like the Polynesian, you’re spoiled.

    Anyhoo, I did want to say that there is an exception to the “don’t stay at a value” idea to be considered. There is a relatively new suites hotel called the Art of Animation. We are a family of 4. We are all adults, now, as the children have grown up. We loved it. The beds were comfortable and the service was Disney. It is billed as a value resort but it is a suite. You get to fit a family in a suite AND stay on property for a reasonable price.

    All-in-all, I’d have to say that I’d rather stay ON property, if I had the choice, because you can drive between 15-35 minutes just to commute to your hotel or rented house off property, down there and it kind of takes away the Disney fun-feel.

    That said, I know the inside story of why you can get good deals on outside stays. A lot of foreign investors (Brits mainly) invested in rental property near Disney, to have an income. It failed them because of the glut of building for investment. I got houses for a week as low as between 350-550 for a full week. I’m talking new, heated pool, game room, separate bedrooms for the family, etc. They are itching to recoup some of their money down there. There are sites out there that you can query for last minute villas (dot) net (hint, hint). I got my best deals there.

    Conclusion for me: When we were annual passholders and went down many times in a year, we’d want to save on hotel, so we did the villa/condo thing. If we don’t go often, we’ll do the hotel thing. Then again, our circumstances have changed and we have more money, nowadays.

    Conclusion for you? What feels right is what you do.

  4. Kirsten

    We have also been to Disney tons of times (and had annual passes one year, even living in PA!). We have stayed in Deluxe/Mod (but never Value) and offsite at several locations. For me, it always ends up being about the deal along with what you actually get. So, I would rather pay, for example, $100 and get a condo with a full kitchen than a small room on-property. For our upcoming trip, we got an amazing deal on Sheraton Vistana Villages resort – we have stayed there before and it’s awesome. I like having a kitchen and separate bedrooms for a longer trip. I also like to be able to use points when possible.

    I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. Disney is special, and I think there are countless ways to enjoy a trip (or destroy a trip…lol).

    I also agree about having a car. We once did not & ended up taking a taxi instead of the bus because the lines were so long at the end of a long park day!

  5. DaninMCI

    I know this is aimed at USA Disney but we just returned from Disneyland Paris. Unless you just have money to burn and little kids that are crazy about Disney stay at the Val ‘d Europe location like 2 miles down the train track. It’s about $1.80 euro 2 minute train ride away with much more shopping and restaurants. Less tourist crowds and the hotels are just as good and cheaper. FYI. Also if you are flying to Paris to go there book the TVR high speed train to the Disney station. It’s 9 minutes from the airport and does cost a bit but time is money in this case. Couldn’t be easier. Then change trains to the RER train for a 2 minute ride to the next local Val ‘d Europe station.

      1. DaninMCI

        It was good. We hit it on a day when the temperature was about 35 degrees and cloudy so a bit cold by Disney standards but we really liked both the Studio park and the regular park. The cold weather didn’t stop the crowds but it was fairly light. I would say it was on par with Disneyland California as far as size, etc. Our favorite ride was the Startour Star Wars ride and that Twilight Zone Hotel of Terror. We only waited maybe 10 minutes for each. Most everything was in French, English, German and Spanish so no language problems in the parks.

  6. Pingback: Daring to Disney: Saving money by staying off site - asthejoeflies

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