Once you’ve decided when to go to Disney World the next question is: Where should we stay?
This dilemma tends to be resolved, in part, by budget restrictions but also by the type of holiday you want and the number of people and ages within your party.
There are so many options of where to stay in Orlando but they basically breakdown into three main options;
1. Disney resorts
2. Staying outside Disney resorts
3. Universal Studios area.
I would always recommend deciding first where you will spend most of your time. If you plan to spend the majority of your stay in the Disney World parks and you have the budget then I would absolutely recommend staying at one of the Disney Resort hotels.
So let’s start with staying on Disney property.
Disney hotels are more expensive than offsite options but you get a lot of additional amenities at the resorts which often prove to be better value when weighed up against offsite options.
Guests staying at Disney Resorts get the following included with their accommodation;
*Transfers to and from the airport on Disney’s Magical Express.
*Free transportation to all the Disney parks and resort hotels and free car parking.
*Fast pass planning enabling guests to select reservations up to 60 days in advance.
*Extra magic hours
*Advanced dining reservations up to 180 days.
*Themed rooms in some resorts.
*Movies under the stars.
*Purchases made at the parks shipped directly to your resort hotel.
For UK travellers there are some additional advantages in staying at a Disney resort hotel.
Firstly, in booking a package from the UK, standard packages are available from a number of different travel operators this means you can check prices and book the best value quote. Flight, hotel and park ticket packages are also available through Disney, booked online via Disney World’s official website, again an opportunity to check prices and book the best value.
Booking a Disney resort from the UK, if booked in advance, also usually includes free the Disney Dining Plan (DDP), Memory Maker (Disney’s photo package) and the opportunity to purchase the great value 14 day for the price of 7 ticket offer. Some packages also include a $200 or $100 gift card for early bird bookings.
At this point let’s clear up some points about the ‘free dining’ included with packages. Firstly there is no such thing as ‘free’ at Disney, although the dining plan is included, the room rates will be at the premium price, so in effect you are paying for the dining plan but within the room price. This means for a family of four or more who stay in one room the dining plan can represent great value. Reduce the room occupancy down to three or two and the dining plan starts to provide less value.
There are hundreds, and I mean hundreds, of online articles about the value of the dining plan. If you want to have a really good research into the subject my go to site would be the Disney Food Blog, this has comprehensive articles about the dining plan and how to get best value from it.
For me the dining plan is definitely worth having. I find, because it’s an expensive holiday, it’s great not having to worry about the cost of meals or what you are ordering. You can certainly get great value out of the snack credits included in the plan but there will be more food than you can probably eat. For more information on the dining plan specifically check out my DDP section.
The biggest value saver when booking a resort hotel is time-saving. The parks are big, which means there is a lot of walking and it can be very tiring especially for small children. Being able to leave the park, jump on a bus, boat or monorail and have a rest, sleep or swim then pop back to the parks refreshed is worth its weight in gold. It’s also easier to make the best use of extra early or late magic hours when you are based in the resort, a big perk.
I would always recommend staying ‘on property’ if you can afford it. The advantages far out way the premium price you pay, making it better value than it would first seem. At a Disney hotel you are immersed in the Disney magic from the moment you check into your hotel. You are surrounded by cast members, the name for the Disney staff, who are all focused on making your stay magical and with great theming and special attention to detail at all the Disney hotels they are special places to stay. Though the caveat to that is you are paying premium prices for accommodation which may be below the standard that the price would suggest.
There are three grades of hotel at Disney
Choose a resort that fits your budget and the size of your family. You may also want to consider what your families preference will be. It’s no good choosing a resort where you will get a Little Mermaid themed room if your family is made up of two teenage boys. Or, if there are 5 of you, it may be preferable to choose a resort that features family rooms accommodating up to six. If you have a budget which would suit a deluxe resort but have young children in your family it might not make sense to choose the more formal Grand Floridian, but Animal Kingdom Lodge would be perfect.