Should you stay onsite or offsite? We weigh the options:
If cost is a primary concern, lodging is much less expensive outside of Disney World.
Ease Of Access
Even if you stay in Disney World, you're dependent on some mode of transportation. It may be less stressful to use the Disney transportation system, but with the single exception of commuting to the Magic Kingdom, the fastest, most efficient, and most flexible way to get around is usually a car. If you're at Epcot, for example, and want to take the kids back to Disney's Contemporary Resort for a nap, forget the monorail. You'll get back much faster by car.
A reader from Raynham, Massachusetts, who stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort, writes:
Even though the resort is on the Disney bus line, I recommend renting a car if it fits one's budget. The buses do not go directly to many destinations, and often you have to switch [buses]. Getting a [bus] seat in the morning is no problem [because] they allow standing. Getting a bus back to the hotel after a hard day can mean a long wait in line.
The Disney transportation system, particularly the bus system, is about as efficient as humanly possible. No matter where you're going, you rarely wait more than 15 to 30 minutes for a bus, monorail, or boat. Although it's only for the use and benefit of Disney guests, it is nonetheless public transportation, and users must expect inconveniences: conveyances that arrive and depart on their schedule, not yours; the occasional need to transfer; multiple stops; time lost loading and unloading passengers; and, generally, the challenge of understanding and using a large, complex transportation network.
If you plan to have a car, consider this: Disney World is so large that some destinations within the World can be reached more quickly from off-property hotels than from Disney hotels. For example, guests at lodgings on US 192 (near the so-called Walt Disney World main entrance) are closer to Disney's Hollywood Studios, the Animal Kingdom, and Blizzard Beach water park than guests at many hotels inside Disney World.
A Kentucky dad overruled his family about staying at a Disney resort and was glad he did:
My wife read in another guidebook that it can take two hours to commute to the parks if you stay outside Walt Disney World. What nonsense! I guess it could take two hours if you stayed in Tampa, but from our hotel on [US] 192 we could commute to any of the parks except the Magic Kingdom and have at least one ride under our belt in about an hour. We found out later that the writer of the other guidebook is a writer for Disney Magazine.
Although the hassle of commuting to most non-World hotels is only slightly (if at all) greater than that of commuting to Disney hotels, a definite peace of mind results from staying in the World. Regardless of where you stay, make sure you get your young children back to the hotel for a nap each day.
If you're in a party that will probably split up to tour (as frequently happens in families with teens or children of widely varying ages), staying in the World offers more transportation options and, thus, more independence. Mom and Dad can take the car and return to the hotel for a relaxed dinner and early bedtime while the teens remain in the park for evening parades and fireworks.
Feeding The Army Of The Potomac
If you have a large crew that chows down like cattle on a finishing lot, you may do better staying outside the World, where food is far less expensive.
Visiting Other Orlando-Area Attractions
If you will visit SeaWorld, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Universal Orlando, or other area attractions, it may be more convenient to stay outside the World.