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Should I stay on Disney property or off-property?


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#1 Dianna

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 09:57 PM

We do not require you to stay at a Disney Resort in order to join our group. You may stay wherever you want. Here are pros and cons of staying on- or off-property.

 

Staying at a Disney Resort
 

• Buses, monorail, ferries will transport you around Disney property relatively frequently throughout the day
 

• No $14 parking fee per day at the parks
 

• Theming is uniquely Disney, customer service is usually outstanding
 

• You're right in the middle of the magic, and Disney does "magic" very well

 

• You'll be able to participate in the extra magic hours available only to Disney resort guests (and a few partner hotels). They appear to be phasing this out, though (and we've already noticed fewer extra magic days, and fewer hours on the days they do have them).

 

Staying off-property
 

• Depending on hotel, probably less expensive for what you get
 

• Depending on hotel, most likely bigger rooms and bigger beds, usually can accommodate more than four
 

• Hotels often offer free breakfast (of varying quality)
 

• Not usually themed as well as Disney's resorts, may not feel you're part of the "magic"
 

• May not have the same level of customer service as Disney (Disney is hard to match in that respect)
 

• Most likely won't be able to participate in Disney's Extra Magic Hours - a wonderful, low-crowd time at night when the parks are only open to resort guests. They look completely different, and feel different, at night. (If you're not a night owl, this may not matter to you.)
 

• May feel disconnected from the group
 

• If driving to the parks, parking will be an extra $14 per day (except for the day of your child(ren)'s educational program, you'll have a pass for that day).
 

• If you'll have a car at Disney, don't buy into the myth that you'll spend all your time on the road if you stay off-property. The various Disney venues are spread over miles, and even Disney resort guests have to drive to get to the different areas (or use Disney transportation). You probably won't have to drive much farther than Disney resort guests will.
 

• If you don't have a car, transportation off-property won't be as convenient. Even if your hotel offers a shuttle, it may be only to the parks (not to the water parks, miniature golf courses, or Downtown Disney). And it'll almost certainly be less frequent, with longer wait times than Disney transportation. To make it worse, hotels often share shuttles, making many stops along the way. Many travelers end up unexpectedly renting a car due to the inconvenience and hassle.

 

My recommendations...


• For travelers who don't have their own transportation and don't want to rent a car, I'd recommend staying at a Disney resort. The extra you'll spend each night will be offset by no parking fees at the parks and much better transportation options (more frequent and convenient, less time-consuming).

 

• For travelers with transportation - if you want to be in the middle of the magic, choose a Disney Resort. If you want to be in the magic, but are on a budget, stay at one of Disney's value resorts. Pop Century is my favorite, or you might want to try their new Art of Animation resort across the lake from Pop Century.

 

• If you're on a tight budget, have a car, and don't mind being more removed from it all, choose an off-site hotel, timeshare, rental house, condo, etc. that's near Disney property. If you choose a hotel, make sure it offers a good free breakfast (saves money and time). Also, if you have a camper, consider staying at a campground (either Disney's - more expensive - or somewhere nearby).

 

• Choose what's best for your family and budget - you'll have a great time with us no matter where you choose to stay.

 

Please feel free to add your own pros and cons, or to ask questions about mine. :)

 

Warmly,

Dianna



#2 Tracie Johnson McGinniss

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 02:48 PM

I have been meaning to ask you which you recommend. You have stayed on and off? We usually stay in the cabins and do free dining. There are 7 of us but the baby doesn't count yet. We like being on property but the cabins are going to cost like $4500 for 2 weeks. We will be doing universal and sea world so that is 3 days away. I would like to save money but at the same time I am not sure I want to give up the Disney convenience! We will rent a car bt we were thinking of renting two so that we could split up if needed and two economy cars are often cheaper than a mini van!

#3 Dianna

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 03:02 PM

Tracy, if you want to save money, but still stay on Disney property, I'd recommend two value rooms, connecting. Ask them to guarantee connecting rooms. Two rooms at a value resort is cheaper than the family suites at the values, and much cheaper than the cabins (which are considered a deluxe property).

 

If you want something quieter, consider the moderates, especially if you want the free dining, so you won't have the pay the extra cost of upgrading. (But make sure two rooms there aren't more expensive than one cabin.) If you choose Port Orleans, I think all of their rooms are queens now, so that'll help.

 

If you want to save even more money, then skip the free dining and go with my group. If you figure out the cost of the "free" dining. I think you'll find you can save a lot of money (and eat much better) without it now. I used to do it every year, but it's no longer a good value for me, even for my family (or 5, 6, or more... depending on how many we have going with us). And we don't spend hours every day centered around getting to, waiting for, eating at, and then leaving the restaurants. I didn't realize how much of our trip was consumed by free dining until I was away from it. (It's hard to explain to those who've never been there how time-consuming it is just to get to one of the Disney table service restaurants.)

 

I hope this has helped. Let me know if you have any other questions.

 

Warmly,

Dianna



#4 bless9ings

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 11:52 AM

Great review Dianna!

 

You didn't mention the early magic hours.  We found that those were the best and least busy.  The night ones were too busy for us!  The early hours also work for younger kids, at least in our family.

 

The other thing I wanted to share was why my husband likes Disney family vacations.  He relaxes more because he is not always packing and unpacking the car of suitcases or children!  We stayed at his parents winter house quite a few times and the last time we did (they were always one or two day packed lunches and a big race to see how much you could stuff in type of time, from open to close)  They announced that the Magic Kingdom was closed I think a second time.  I am still standing there taking in all the beauty, not moving in the flow of crowd.  My husband looked at me and said, "You always have to be the last one out."  I said, "I love it here and my favorite is main street uncrowded."  As he patiently waited and looked around he said, "It is pretty, next time we come I am going to stay on site, it would would be worth the extra money!"  I say to all my friends who think it is overpriced and secular, "Think what you may, but it it the only place I have ever been for a family vacation and my husband is more the like the guy I fell in love with before we were married."  I call him, "Mr. Responsibility", he is always thinking about what he has to do next.  At Disney, they have taken all that away, he can just relax and enjoy!!!  He knows everyone is having fun!!!

 

Here is a summary of what he has said in a nutshell:

 

staying at the resort and it is all inclusive

atmosphere

variety of different parks

good for all ages, something for everyone

the best bang for your buck

variety of food
 



#5 Dianna

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 12:50 PM

You didn't mention the early magic hours.  We found that those were the best and least busy.  The night ones were too busy for us!  The early hours also work for younger kids, at least in our family.

 

The early-magic-hours park is usually the park that will be the most crowded that day after that one hour of early opening. When we utilize our early morning strategy (will share that later, but basically, we're there when the park opens), we have the park (not the early magic hour park) mostly to ourselves up until around 11 or noon that day (when the main bulk of the crowds start pouring in). Because we usually go during the low-crowded time of year, late magic hours are not crowded, and are a great way to see the parks in a different light. They're so different at night.

 

Again, that's just our experience, and why I usually don't factor early magic hours into our plans each day. All the early hours at the parks are "magic" up until 11:00 or noon (except for the early magic hours park, which is usually the most crowded that day because a lot of people got an early start due to the early magic hours... if that makes sense), unless you're going at a high crowd time of year, then it's still better, but not as good.

 

Warmly,

Dianna



#6 Jennifer Berry

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 04:17 PM

C&P from another thread:

I'm very curious to hear more details about staying off-site.
Specifically, here is my concern: IF we go to Disney this year, it will
be with my (active 60s) parents, my husband, and our three kids (11, 9,
and 6 at time of trip), and with a group that large we definitely plan
to do some serious splitting up. We could have three separate
adult/child groups going to three different parks, because with the
personalities we have that really is the best way to be sure everyone's
going to be happy. So for us it seems like the Disney transportation is
the way to go to allow maximum independence, would you agree? Or is
there a way to do that from off-property that I haven't thought of, that
doesn't involve driving three cars and eliminating any savings we would
have gotten on the accommodations? I promise not to argue :-), and I
think it would be different if it were just me and dh and the kids and
we were going to be sticking together, but I'm interested in anyone has
any thoughts. Thanks!



#7 Dianna

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 04:39 PM

Jennifer, I remember reading this in another thread and forgot to reply. In your situation, I would recommend staying on property and getting two rooms (less expensive than a family suite) at a value resort (Pop Century or the new Animation resort). You'll have full access to transportation that way, and it'll be easier to split up. I don't know of any off-site transportation that is as good as Disney's (from my own experience and comments from my travelers).

 

Warmly,

Dianna



#8 Jennifer Berry

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 05:38 PM

Thanks for weighing in.  I think that if we do it, it's best to do ahead and do it Disney all the way. ;-)



#9 bless9ings

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 01:15 PM

The early-magic-hours park is usually the park that will be the most crowded that day after that one hour of early opening. When we utilize our early morning strategy (will share that later, but basically, we're there when the park opens), we have the park (not the early magic hour park) mostly to ourselves up until around 11 or noon that day (when the main bulk of the crowds start pouring in). Because we usually go during the low-crowded time of year, late magic hours are not crowded, and are a great way to see the parks in a different light. They're so different at night.

 

Again, that's just our experience, and why I usually don't factor early magic hours into our plans each day. All the early hours at the parks are "magic" up until 11:00 or noon (except for the early magic hours park, which is usually the most crowded that day because a lot of people got an early start due to the early magic hours... if that makes sense), unless you're going at a high crowd time of year, then it's still better, but not as good.

 

Warmly,

Dianna

I am a bit confused by what you are or are not saying. 

 

I have read that and tried it both ways: avoiding the park and using the early morning hours for that park, here is what I have experienced.  Yes the other parks are empty or some, I do look at what the crowd indicators say and when people usually go to which parks on what days etc.  It does work to go that way.  But, I have also found that utilizing the extra magic early hours works too if you do this:  You are there just before the park opens.(actually there is sometimes entertainment while you wait if you get there earlier-this is obviously for those who like to get up early which would be us)  You can enjoy just bee booping around, because there are not many people there for the park.  Till 10 am the park is "awesome!"  From 10 to 11 it slowly but steadily gets busier, but still nice and doable.  About the time the sun starts getting hotter and your hungry that is the perfect time to leave because everybody is just pouring in! (that would be 11:30-12:00)  We sometimes eat in the park, but usually go back to the resort to eat, pool and naps.  Especially at Magic Kingdom, we would go back to our resorts.  Epcot doesn't seem to make much difference because the showcase is just opening up(11:00 I think) and it is not at full power yet.  And it just seems like there are tons more places to eat! (we almost always do counter service for lunch, so it is quick)  We then go to another park for the rest of the afternoon or evening.  Actually we usually go back to the resort as I said, during the heat of the day for rest, pool and naps.  We find this refreshes everyone and keeps meltdowns away! :P  (plus you are actually enjoying the Disney resort you paid alot of money for) This was the major reason we wanted to try on property.  My husband was tired of the all day excursions and being exhuasted, he liked the idea of being able to use Disney transportation to go back and relax and back out again.  We also had the free, fun transportation to split too if thats what worked best) It works perfert for us.  When we stayed locally, we only had one car and I wanted to go, go, go and he wanted to relax, relax relax.  I hated having to drive with the kids by myself! :( In Disney, it doesn't bother me to go back to the room by myself to put little ones down.  Why, because it is so magical there!  I love a resort that is fun and themed and so pretty!  I love the boats and monorail for transportation.  I just enjoy the sites while riding or meet new people.  I don't mind this mode of doing things, but going back to his parents place was not what I called fun.  It was boring.

 

I have found hitting the early morning magic hours in the morning to get the most mileage of for rides and emptier parks as long as you leave sometime around lunch time 11:30 - 12:00.  When we did the late hours I found the parks were very busy and you didn't get many rides in.  It also took a bit more time to have to find out where the bracelets were to stay late.  No need for that in the morning.  I think one time with fast passes for early morning we were able to get in 14 rides moving a family of 9 around with two in a double wide stroller.  That would have been in 3 1/2 or 4 hours.  I thought that was pretty good.  My husband wasn't so happy he likes meandering a bit more. ^_^


Edited by bless9ings, 23 February 2013 - 01:39 PM.


#10 Dianna

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 01:26 PM

Blessings, I'm not sure how often you go to Disney (I think you said, but I can't remember), but they haven't been using bracelets during extra magic hours for several years now, so things may have changed since you've been. Also, the crowds work different during different times of the year (low-crowd periods vs higher crowd periods), so that may account for the differences in our experiences. During the time we go, mornings at any park (until 11:00 or noon, as I said in my previous post), are very low crowds, so planning your schedule for the extra hour we'd get for the early magic hour park isn't needed. I bet it would be a good thing to do during more crowded times, though.

 

Edited to add: I hope that clears up your confusion, but if you have any questions, let me know. So much depends on when you go and what your tour style is that advice will be different depending on the different factors.



#11 Lisa Schroeder

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 01:33 PM

Extra Magic Hours have been reduced. With the new Next gen coming in, they are looking to phase out emh completely. They have cut down the number of days, and the amount of hours at the night emh.



#12 Dianna

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 01:55 PM

Lisa, they were starting to reduce when we were in there in December, and we heard a lot of grumblings - we noticed fewer days and shorter hours than in 2011. I've heard that they're phasing other things out, too. But I can't remember what. (My brain is mush because I'm at deadline for several trips.)



#13 Dianna

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 01:56 PM

Oh, I remembered one thing... the "no expiration option" on regular tickets. We haven't ever been able to do that for our tickets, but they're phasing that out for regular tickets.



#14 Dianna

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 01:58 PM

The other thing that's rumored to be eventually phased out is the fast-pass system that requires the machines. Speculation is that after a few years of the new system of reserving fast passes in advance (I'll post more about that on my website as soon as Disney confirms our classes), they'll phase the other system out completely. Have you heard that?



#15 bless9ings

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 02:13 PM

Yes, when I reread it a few times I understood what you were saying.

 

Yes, I do agree that all the parks are not busy till around 11 or noon!  I didn't really see much difference in going to the early hour park versus one of the others.  In the early park or the other parks before 11 or noon you don't usually wait in any lines anyway when we have gone. (2005 and 2008 in off season of September.  Yes, September of 2008 was busier, but still not bad.  Sept 2005 there were very rarely ever any lines before that time.  In 2008 you had to plan a bit better and know the strategies to get around the lines, but we never stood long.  If it said 10, 15  or more min wait we usually skipped and came back and it would be empty.)  So, now I see what you are saying that that park will be busier then the others because the onsite Disney people are using that park.  But, I guess I have found it is great anyways and I love the extra hour in the morning because we are early morning people.  After it sinking in bit more about what you are saying I hope they haven't changed that much since 2008 in off season.



#16 Dianna

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 02:24 PM

It's changed each year in that it's more and more crowded during the low crowd periods (like September). The secret is out and now the crowd levels don't compare to those in 2005 or even 2008. In September 2005, any park before 11 am was walk-on. In September 2008, any park before 11 am was walk-on, or 5 to 10 minute wait. Now, there are a few walk-ons, but more likely 5-10 waits, depending on how early in the morning you get to the ride, and how popular it is.

 

We used to go every year in September, but as the crowd levels crept upward, we decided they didn't justify the melting temperatures and shifted to later in the year. (The heat gets to me more and more the older I get... but I'm still cold-natured. Yes, I'm weird.)

 

If you go with us this year, expect longer wait times (due to the secret of value season not being a secret anymore), but it's still manageable due to the time of year. And definitely plan to still do your morning strategy for possible walk-ons (on some rides) and low wait times for others, depending on the time you get to them. It won't be the same as 2008, but it'll still be fun! :)



#17 Dianna

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 02:27 PM

Oh, also, you most likely won't need to factor weather into the equation. When we went in September, we'd take a break during the middle of the day when the tempature and humidity were the most sweltering. November is much, much better, weather-wise. (Unless they have freakish warm front or cold front come through.)



#18 bless9ings

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 02:34 PM

Thanks for your reply.  I believe it is very accurate and well put! 

 

I have been hearing that on Disboards, but with so many posting and everyone posting from different times of the year etc it was hard to tell what was what.  That was what I had to decide in 2008.  You accurately described 2005 to 2008 and put into perspective the years after.  But in 2008 we did go around August 23rd and it was busier and way too hot!  My husband likes hot, I like 80's, but I don't mind the 90's in Sept because you are walking in and out of air conditioning and we are out of the mid day heat or in the pool.



#19 bless9ings

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 02:38 PM

Oh, we factor in the middle day because of little ones still who need naps.  It avoids the meltdowns and keeps them on schedule.  But I will keep that in mind for when they out grow it.  My husband also loves to go back to the resort and use the pool.  We have also found it gives everyone time away from so much busyness.  I could not believe that I liked the down time!   :o  I am very visual and find that it is rather nice to take a break from "visual overload" in the Disney parks.


Edited by bless9ings, 23 February 2013 - 02:40 PM.