There are 24 official Disney hotels for you to choose from for your Walt Disney World holiday. Having stayed both on and off-property I would absolutely only ever stay in a Disney hotel again, for all the various reasons that I’m about to go into. However, for many UK visitors, I can see there are advantages to staying elsewhere, so here’s the pros and cons:
Staying in the World
- Never having to leave the Magic
- Being so close to the parks. This is especially beneficial when getting up early for magic hours/character breakfasts/tours, or staying late to see shows or fireworks. I’ve also been told this is priceless with small children who need naps mid-day, allowing you to easily return for the afternoon or evening.
- Extra magic hours – time either before a park opens or after it closes where it is only open to Disney World Resort guests
- Transport – free parking/ free airport to hotel transfer/transport to parks (see Transport for more info)
- Themed hotels – Disney’s attention to detail continues in each and every hotel. Each has a back story and it is carried on throughout the hotel. They’re not generally character based, i.e. there’s no Mickey Hotel – the themes tend to be based on areas, such as the Caribbean, or a subject such as sport. If a particularly character or film fits with this theme though, you will see them implemented into it.
- Disney customer service – without a doubt the best service you’ll get anywhere
- Access to the Disney dining plan (sometimes offered ‘free’) – fantastic plans that enable you to eat in amazing restaurants at a discount, having pre-paid before you go.
- Charging and delivery – anything in Walt Disney World can be charged to your room key saving you carrying much cash and other cards with you. Plus, any purchases can be sent back to resort, so there’s no taking that glass Cinderella Palace you just bought onto the Tower of Terror with you.
- Cost – while I think Disney can compete using its Value resorts and its extra offers (and if you have the means is worth the extra cash) for a big family I know staying off property will be the solution.
- Access to other attractions – other hotels in the area will run transfers to Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World etc. If you’re planning to split your time between these attractions and not hire a car, you may want to choose an alternative as Disney will only transport around Disney. The other attractions really aren’t that close – staying mid way on International Drive will be easier if you’re going to split your time. If you plan to visit the other parks only once or twice and maybe hit the shops one day, a cab is an option.
- While I can never see this as being an issue myself, if the shiney-happy-Disneyness starts to clash with your natural British cynicism (and making sarky comments doesn’t appease this) staying off property might give you a break.
When I would definitely stay at a Disney World Resort hotel:
- If you’re a Disney fanatic (obviously)
- If you have young children – Disney is geared towards them in a way no other theme park is – you WILL spend all your time there
- If your plan is to spend mornings and evenings at the parks with naps/pool time in afternoon – the proximity makes this so easy
- If you’re splitting your time between Orlando and a beach resort – again – Disney can easily fill your Orlando time
- If you plan to split your time between Disney and the other theme parks, but have a car – then you might as well make the most of the Dsiney benefits, while still being able to get around Orlando.
Types of hotel
Disney have split their hotels into three budget types:
- Value – prices start at £49 per room per night. The Value resorts are large, bright and fun-filled and the cheapest way to stay in a hotel at Disney World
- Moderate – prices start from £84 per room per night. The moderate resorts are slightly more luxurious with bigger rooms and extra amenities
- Deluxe – the ultimate in Disney hotels, starting at £156 per room per night. Each of the Deluxe hotels offers something special with an extra option for transport to one of the parks (monorail, boat etc).
- Deluxe Villas – there are also villas on Disney property accomodating bigger groups.
On top of all that, theres also a campground at Disney’s Fort Wilderness! I’m not going into details about it as it is not a standard booking in the UK.
In addition to the Disney hotels discussed on this site there are 9 other hotels located within the Walt Disney Resort, which are not owned or operated by Disney. These hotels have the advantage of location, but do not come with the rest of the Disney ‘bonuses’.