The latest inquiry I received was: “We are contemplating a trip to Disney World, but are clueless as to the best place to stay (at a Disney hotel or outside the park).”
This was my reply:
I have to tell you, there are advantages and disadvantages to staying at the Disney World Hotels. The biggest disadvantage is the cost. The second biggest disadvantage is getting a reservation. The biggest advantage is convenience. The second biggest advantage is also convenience.
Staying at Walt Disney World Resort
When you choose to stay at Disney World, your vacation really starts as soon as you board your plane. Disney sends you luggage tags for your bags before you leave home. These tags will get your bags from Luggage check in at your home airport all the to your resort room at Walt Disney World. When you arrive at the Orlando Airport, there is no need to pick up any bags, so you just follow the airport signs straight to the Disney motorcoach. They also send your park passes to your home so when the motorcoach gets to your resort you can chose to go to your resort room or hop on a park shuttle head straight to MagicKingdom, AnimalKingdom, HollywoodStudios, or Epcot. They even have the option of purchasing a DisneyDining Plan so that you don't have to worry about food.
Not Staying at the Walt Disney World Resort
You can find cheaper hotels not far from the parks that offer shuttles to and from Disney. Just make sure you do your research before you book. Sometimes they hit you with a resort fee that will make the cost comparable to staying at the Disney Resorts. When you stay at resorts/hotels outside the park, you also have to take into consideration renting a car or arranging for transportation to and from the airport. If you choose to rent a car, add $15 per day to the cost for parking at Disney World.
A couple great things about staying outside Disney:
*Cheaper dining options
*Opportunities to visit other theme parks (Sea World, Aquatica, Universal, Legoland, Busch Gardens, etc) and the beach (if you are up for a little drive)
If you decide you want to fit in more Orlando excitement, I suggest you also look at staying at Vacation Homes. Sometimes you can find an awesome deal on a home with a pool. This also gives you a kitchen to make your own meals and yes you can take food into the Disney Parks. Some places to check: HomeAway, VRBO, and All Star Vacation Homes.