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    Disney World: Staying Onsite or Offsite?

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Should you stay onsite or offsite at Walt Disney World? There are six things to keep in mind when deciding:

1. Cost

If cost is a primary concern, lodging is much less expensive outside of Disney World.

2. 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 don’t go directly to many destinations, and often you have to switch buses. Getting a bus back to the hotel after a hard day can mean a long wait in line.

Our readers complain about problems with the Disney transportation system more than most topics. These comments from a Havertown, Pennsylvania, dad are typical:

WDW bus transportation is quite inefficient. When traveling from the BoardWalk to anywhere else, we had to pick up other passengers at the Swan, Dolphin, and Yacht & Beach Clubs before heading off to the parks. Same story upon return.

Although it’s only for the use and benefit of Disney guests, the Disney transportation system is nonetheless public, 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 Maingate) are closer to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, 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 is glad he did:

My wife read in another guidebook that it can take 2 hours to commute to the parks if you stay outside Walt Disney World. I guess it could take 2 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.

3. Young Children

Although the hassle of commuting to most non-Disney 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.

4. Splitting Up

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 Disney 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.

5. 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 Disney World, where food is far less expensive.

6. Visiting Universal Orlando and Other Orlando-Area Attractions

If you’ll be visiting SeaWorld, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Universal Orlando, or other area attractions, it may be more convenient to stay outside the World.