Part of planning a Disney trip includes figuring out where you should sleep at night and take breaks in the afternoon.
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When looking for hotels, you have 2 options, onsite or offsite. What you choose here will play a big role in how you plan the rest of your vacation.
Onsite hotels mean they are Disney owned properties and are typically located closer to the parks than any other hotel. Disney typically offers guests of their hotels various perks and discounts for staying with them
Offsite hotel is essentially any other hotel property you might want to stay in near the parks. At Disneyland, there are numerous offsite hotels located right across the street, easy to walk to and easy to get back to. At Walt Disney World, the onsite property is massive, so offsite hotels are typically further away and more inconvenient.
Disneyland had 3 onsite properties, the Disneyland Hotel, the Pixar Pier Hotel and the Grand California Hotel. The onsite hotels start at around $400/night and go up from there. Currently, the only real perk for staying onsite is if you stay at the Grand California Hotel, there’s an entrance to the Disney California Adventure park, so you don’t have to wait in the main line.
At Walt Disney World, there are nearly 30 Disney owned hotels and cover a range of experiences. The three primary categories are value, moderate and deluxe Resorts. The value resorts are going to resemble Super 8, Motel 6 and the like. These are usually priced between$100-$200/night. The moderate hotels are a little bit nicer with better amenities and are priced between $200-$400/night. The deluxe resorts are top of the line and start at $400 and up per night. The Deluxe Resort hotels also include the Disney Vacation Club, which is Disney’s version of a timeshare.
Staying onsite at Walt Disney World includes several perks including early access to dining reservations, early entry to parks, access to your resort pool and free transportation to and from the them parks and other resorts, once you’re onsite. If you remember the Disney Magical Express from MCO, Disney’s free shuttle to and from the airport, that option is no longer available.
Offsite guests are able to use the free transportation as well once on property, but you do need to arrange your own transportation to and from your hotel.
So which option is right for me? It really depends. Some guests look at the hotel room as a place to crash, so why spend money on it, opting for the value resort. Others see it as they’re on vacation and want to go all out, so they book a deluxe resort. We’ve stayed in one hotel in each category as well as offsite. I can’t say any is better than another, but our deluxe stay was at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, which has African wildlife roaming around and we had a balcony and had 1 full bedroom, making it larger than a normal hotel room. Every resort hotel is different and offers something unique.
Kids really enjoy the value resorts because of the larger than life decorations. Teens would really enjoy the moderate or deluxe resorts for the pools and other activities. Adults on a couples trip would enjoy the extra amenities at the deluxe resorts. But, where you stay really depends mainly on your budget and interests.
So should I avoid offsite stays? No, not necessarily. But there is some different planning that goes into an offsite stay. For example, you may need to rent a car and plan for those expenses, including parking costs at the parks, tolls, gas, etc.
So does Disney offer housekeeping services? Typically yes, however since the pandemic shutdown and reopening, the service has been a light cleaning every couple of days as necessary. However, they probably won’t do much in your room during your stay. If you need trash removal or more towels, it’s best to catch housekeeping as they’re moving about the resort, or better yet, leave the used items on the floor and a note on your door if you need something done. The majority of the cleaning is now done between stays.
If you’re ready to start exploring a Walt Disney World or Disneyland family vacation, I recommend checking out Undercover Tourist for your ticket options. I’ve already used them twice, once at Disneyland and once at Disney World and will plan to continue comparing their prices with other sites, however I usually come back to UT because they have the best deals and their instructions make it easy to add your tickets to the Disney apps.