I often get the question “Is it affordable to stay at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel with a large family, or is it better to rent a house nearby”?
There a lot of things to consider when making this decision, and the answer isn’t as easy as some people think. Traveling with a large group does not mean you should rent a house. In fact, often times the house ends up costing you more!
Here are my Top 10 reasons for choosing to stay at a Disney Resort rather than rent a house or stay at a time-share condo:
#10: You don’t have to rent a car, or in this case multiple cars!
If you’re flying to Walt Disney World and decide to rent a house, then you’ll need transportation! If you have more than 6 people (often the limit for a minivan rental), then you’ll need to rent more than one vehicle. The average length of stay for large families is 6 nights and 7 days, that’s a full week of car rental. Just a quick search on Google for rental cars revealed an average price during the summer in Orlando for “Full-Size” (5 passenger) cars for the week is $325 +tax +gas +insurance = nearly $400 for the week! Of course you’re a large family so you’ll need two of those cars. That’s $800 dollars you wouldn’t need to spend if you stayed at a Disney Resort.
Disney has complimentary transportation! Disney’s Magical Express Motorcoach will transport you between the Orlando airport and your Disney Resort for FREE. When you’re at Walt Disney World you can travel around the resorts, parks, Disney Springs and water parks using Disney Buses, Water-Taxi’s, Ferry, and Monorail. Transportation is complimentary.
#9: FREE Parking for Disney Resort Guests, or Expensive Parking if you rent a house!
We’ve already established that If you rent a house or condo you’ll need transportation. Whether you rent cars or you drive your own cars to central Florida, then you’ll also have to pay for parking each day. Disney Resort guests receive FREE parking at all the resorts and parks. Currently (2016) daily parking for a passenger vehicle is $20 per day! However, you have a large family or group which means you’ll need to park two or more vehicles each day costing you $40 or more per day! Over the course of a week that’s a minimum of $280 ($40 x 7 days, more if you have three cars).
#8: The Dining Plan is only available to Disney Resort Guests!
Many people choose to save money with the Disney Dining Plan. It’s hard to calculate how much money you can save with the Dining Plan, but the fact that it’s not available to you if you rent a house is a big deal. If you’re visiting Disney then you’ll be eating at their restaurants, and you’ll want to save money doing it. Once in a while Disney will offer a Free Dining vacation package. You lose this opportunity when you stay off site. My family loves the Dining Plan and on our last trip I calculated that we personally saved over 25% off our food using it. That’s a lot of money to lose by renting a house.
#7: Complimentary MagicBands for Disney Resort Guests!
When you stay at a Walt Disney World Resort each guest receives a complimentary MagicBand. MagicBands are amazing and everyone will want one. You can use your MagicBand or card to unlock the door of your Disney Resort hotel room, enter theme and water parks (with valid admission), check in at FastPass+ entrances, connect Disney PhotoPass images to your account, charge food and merchandise purchases to your Disney Resort hotel room, and more!
Retail MagicBands are available to purchase starting at $12.99. Check out the available options at the online store. If you have a large family of 10 people you save $129.99 by receiving complimentary MagicBands when you stay at a Disney Resort!
#6: Advance Dining Reservations!
Ever wonder why the most popular dining experiences are completely booked and no longer available when you call to make reservations? Is dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table inside Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom on your bucket list?
Advance Dining Reservations (ADR’s) are different for Disney Resort guests compared to the general public. ADR’s for resort guests begin 180 days prior to check-in for the entire length of stay! (up to 10 days – Disney refers to this as 180+10)
This means that you can make ALL your reservations for your entire stay at once. This is a huge advantage because non-resort guests can only make ADR’s for the exact day that is 180 days out. That means non-resort guests have to call 180 days prior to each day of their trip, for a week you’d have to call in on 7 different days to schedule your ADR’s. No Thank You!
As a Disney Resort guest it’s not just the convenience of making one call for all your ADR’s, but the advantage of booking before it’s available to non-resort guests. If you’re staying Monday thru Saturday for instance, you could call in 180 days prior to that Monday but make your reservations for Tuesday thru Saturday as well. Think about it, that means you can make ADR’s for Tuesday 181 days prior to arrival, Wednesday 182 days, Thursday 183 days, Friday 184 days and Saturday 185 days prior to arrival. You’re making ADR’s before they’re available to non-resort guests! By the time 180 days prior to that Saturday occurs all the reservations for the popular dining experiences are most likely completely booked.
#5: Early Fast Pass+ Selection!
Disney Resort guests may begin selecting their Fast Pass+ reservations 60 days prior to arrival. All other guests, like those renting a house or staying in a time-share condo nearby, may only begin making their Fast Pass+ reservations 30 days prior to arrival. To put it bluntly, all the best rides and times are often taken by the time non resort guests get to make their selections.
#4: Shopping is easier for Disney Resort guests!
As a Disney Resort guest you can charge your shopping to your room just by using your MagicBand. No need to carry your purse or billfold with you!
You can also have the merchandise you purchase sent back to your resort for you so you don’t have to carry it around the parks with you all day. We’ve all been there, right at the beginning of the day your son or daughter just has to have that toy and now you’re stuck carrying it around all day and it’s annoying holding it on rides and more. Disney Resort guests can buy what they want and have it sent back to their resort. Problem solved. It’s not just good for the kids, what if you find a souvenir you want, or a gift for a friend? You don’t have to carry your new coffee mug on Space Mountain!
#3: Immerse yourself in Disney, stay in the magic, and enjoy Extra Magic Hours!
This is one of my favorite reasons to stay at a Disney Resort. The resorts are beautiful, the theming is fun, the pools feel like a Disney oasis, the cast members are amazing, dining options are available at each resort and more.
At the end of the day no one wants to leave, so don’t! Stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and wake up with Giraffes outside your window. Stay at the Contemporary Resort and board the monorail that stops inside your resort. Stay at the Boardwalk Inn and enjoy the ambience of a beautiful walk along the boardwalk. Stay in rooms themed for the Little Mermaid, Cars, Pirates and more. Enjoy resort activities like smores around the campfire at Fort Wilderness, or a Spa experience at the Grand Floridian.
Also, Disney Resort guests experience Extra Magic Hours! Resort guests enjoy extra time in the parks before they open and after they close. Imagine an hour before the park opens to the public with short or sometimes no lines. Imagine taking beautiful pictures without crowds of people. Experience a late night riding Thunder Mountain after nearly everyone else has gone home. If you don’t like crowds, you need to experience Extra Magic Hours as a resort guest! Make sure you check with a Cast Member at the Front Desk of your resort to discover the available Extra Magic Hours during your stay.
#2: Affordable options are available at Disney Resorts!
Many people consider renting a house or using a time-share condo for large groups because they are unaware of the opportunities at Walt Disney World to accommodate large families or groups traveling together. Disney has a wide range of options from 3 bedroom villas, to family suites. There’s even the option of booking multiple hotel rooms in the same resort. If you group is large enough you might even qualify for a group discount! I highly recommend considering all the available options before making a decision, you’d be surprised what’s available.
#1: Do the math!
It’s important to remember when comparing prices to factor in all the savings shared in this blog article. For instance, if you can save $100 a night renting a house, but then you spend $40 a day to park two vehicles, $100 a day to rent two cars, plus pay more for food without the dining plan, plus buy everyone a MagicBand, plus miss out on the best dining reservations, plus miss out on the best Fast Passes, etc … Did you really save money renting that house? In the end you have to make the best choice that meets the needs of your family and budget. I hope this article helps you make an informed decision!