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).
• 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.
• 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.