Where to Stay – WDW On The Cheap

There are two main options when it comes to deciding where to stay during your Disney World vacation, Off Site (resorts, hotels, condominiums not on Disney Property and/or not owned by Disney) or On Site (Resorts owned by Disney and on Disney World Property). Most people think off site will be cheaper than on site, but that isn’t necessarily true.  If you’re going during peak times, or if you have a family of 5 or more, then off site is most likely cheaper.  However, with discounts, a family of 4 can stay at a Disney resort for under $100 a night a night during value season.

On Site Resorts

Disney offers 5 value resorts, 5 moderate resorts, 8 deluxe resorts and 8 Deluxe Villa (home away from home) resorts. There are also options to rent “points” and stay at Disney Vacation Club locations. Disney loves to give you options!

In between On Site and Off Site are those resorts which are located on Disney property, but are not owned by Disney. These utilize their own transportation system (some do offer in-park bus service through Disney). These include the Swan and Dolphin resorts, Shades of Green (for active military and their families), and the resorts at Disney Springs.

Off Site options run the gamut from fleabag dives to beautiful large condo-style homes in gated communities.

Least Expensive On Site Options

On Site (Value): If you have a family of 4 or less, are flying to Disney World, and can live mainly on food that doesn’t have to be heated.

Off Site (condo or suite): If you have a family of 5 or more, are driving to Disney World, and plan on eating in your room or preparing food to bring into the parks.

If you have a family of 5, these are your least expensive options on-site:  One room at Port Orleans Resort Riverside Alligator Bayou with a pull-out trundle, followed by two rooms at a value resort, a family suite at All Star Music, cabin at Wilderness Campground. Also, several of the deluxe hotels’ standard rooms sleep five with the Contemporary Garden Wing usually being the cheapest.

On Site Advantages

  • No rental car needed. Disney’s free Magical Express will pick you up at the airport, drop you off at your hotel, then Disney free transportation will take you anywhere on property.  Magical Express will take you back to the airport when your vacation is over.
  • That special Disney ‘feel’.  You’re part of the Magic all the time.
  • Room and service quality are guaranteed.
  • Even if you do get a rental car, you won’t pay for parking on Disney property.
  • Your room key or Magic Band (see Tickets section) can be your park ticket and credit card all in one. If you do choose to use your key/band as a charge card, still bring your driver’s licence with you into the parks, as some stores will ask to see extra identification.

On Site Disadvantages

  • Small rooms with very basic amenities for the price.
  • Families of 5 or more are required to rent a suite or two rooms.
  • You are stuck at Disney unless you choose to rent a car or get a Taxi.

Money Savers – On Site

AAA members may be eligible for discounts on packages that include room and tickets.  If you are a member, check there first (call your AAA office and ask for their Disney World Specialist, or check the list at the bottom of this page).

Check the deals at disney World.disney.go.com/specialoffers

Use a Disney Specialist travel agent (see the list at the end of this booklet). These people are trained in all things Disney, and will be sure you get the best price possible, and will update you on any new discounts that become available.

Hints – Disney Value Resorts

There are five Value hotels at Disney World, Pop Century, All Star Music, All Star Sports, All Star Movies, and Art of Animation.  General room layout of all these resorts is the same, they average 260 square feet, are available with one queen or two double beds, have a shower and toilet separate from the sink, include flat screen TV and wifi.

There is no microwave or coffee maker in your room, they do have a “beverage cooler” refrigerator (no freezer portion).

There are small microwaves in the food court area of each resort that you are free to use for your own cooking – popcorn, soup, water.

Value resorts are very spread out (Pop Century has 2,880 rooms in multiple 3-story buildings).  Try to request a room close to the food court and bus stops, you’ll be walking enough anyway.

Preferred rooms are more expensive, and are typically located closer to the main building and pool, but aren’t different enough to justify the additional cost, in my opinion.

Off Site Resorts

It is difficult to generalize about the various benefits and disadvantages of off site options around the Disney World area, simply because there is such a wide variety of options.

Generally though, if you are traveling to Orlando by air, have a family of 4 or less, and are willing to share one room, even the cheapest hotel off site during the Value season will end up costing more than a Value room on site.

Off Site Advantages

  • Cheaper for larger families, or if you want to cook your own food.
  • More flexibility if you want to do something besides Disney.
  • Condos and homes in gated communities can be relatively inexpensive for large groups.
  • Many include private pools and are very nice.

Off Site Disadvantages

  • You’ll need to rent a car, and you will pay $20 a day for parking at the parks (don’t forget to factor this in to your room costs when figuring what will be cheaper).
  • Off site park shuttle services are a major hassle, and don’t provide service often enough. Never count on them, no matter what the hotel tells you!
  • Transportation time can cut into your park experience (although some off-site resorts are just as close as on-site options).
  • Quality can be anything from wonderful to cockroach central – and with condos especially it’s tough to be sure what you’re getting unless you spend a bunch of time researching your choices – or have a good travel agent.
  • Some neighborhoods are not very ‘nice’.  Be sure you’re in a safe area.

Money Savers – Off Site Resorts

For the cheapest price on off-site hotels, and if you only need one bed (nothing else is guaranteed) use Priceline name your own price, or try Hotwire for a slightly higher price but more control. We’ve used Priceline and Hotwire on numerous occasions and we’ve nearly always been happy with the quality of the hotel.

Private Homes and Condos can be rented through places like Homeaway.com. The only problem with dealing direct is that as a buyer you have little protection if there are problems.


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