written by Colette Gill, specialist in Disney Destinations from St. Louis, MO
So your family has decided to take a group trip to Walt Disney World – what a wonderful idea! Many people feel as if renting a house off Disney property offers the perfect solution to the question, ‘Where do we stay with a large group?’ The family can all stay together, usually have their own bedroom and bath, and have a common living room and kitchen to relax and eat in. They can enjoy the Disney parks during the day and then drive back to the house at night to escape the hustle and bustle at the parks. They would be able to eat their evening meal, relax in the pool and maybe watch some t.v. together. Then in the morning, have breakfast and set out for the parks again, refreshed and ready for another day at Disney. Sounds like the perfect way to save time and money on your vacation, doesn’t it?
But let’s examine this more closely. How will the family get to the rental property? A pay-per-person shuttle would be one option, but then… How will the family get to the parks? You’ll probably end up having to rent one, or possibly several, vehicles – depending on the size of the group. How will the family get the food to cook at the rental property? Finding a grocery store on the way and buying all the food needed – including any extras needed like spices, cooking oil, and condiments – can take considerable time, especially with children. How do you know the rental property is well taken care of? Is it clean?
What about driving to the Disney parks in the morning? Unless you want to run into rush hour traffic as well as all the tourist traffic in the area (which is considerable) – an early start will be a must. Disney Resort Guests will have early Extra Magic Hours available to them, so you will have to avoid that particular park because if you show up there, you will be denied entry. So which park will you go to each day? Is that a good choice based on the crowd predictions? And if two of the families want to visit Animal Kingdom and the other family wants to visit Epcot one day, how do you work that out? What about fees for parking? Each vehicle will have to pay a minimum$15.00 daily parking fee at Disney World when they’re staying at an off property location.
What about food? There’s an endless choice of restaurants at Disney, both counter service and full service types. There are character meals that the kids would love. But with the house rental, you’ve decided to eat a quick breakfast before you leave for the parks and then come back to the house for lunch in the afternoon with a quick nap, back to the parks, and then back to your rental to have dinner. This scenario can save you money, but consumes so much time that you don’t have much time in the parks to get your money’s worth out of your tickets. Consider this: If you want to be back to eat lunch at noon, you will need to start walking out of the park by 11am, take the tram to your car and get through traffic to your rental property. Arriving back around noon, you eat and grab an hour nap. By this time it will most likely be 2pm and then it will take you approximately 1 hour to get everyone loaded back up, back down the highway, parked and back through the ticket turnstiles. Since the parade starts at 3pm you will be vying for a spot to see at this point. After you ride a couple of rides it will be close to 5pm, and needing to get dinner started you head back to the car to get back to the rental house. It will take too long to stay for the nighttime parade, fireworks, Illuminations or any other evening show.
Your other option is to stay on Disney property. At first glance, it seems like that would be the more expensive way to go. But when you factor in the cost of the rental vehicle, the cost of parking, the cost of the food you’ll probably end up leaving behind (extra ketchup, extra butter…..), and the cost in time; both of driving back and forth to the park, and of time lost in the parks because you have to commute – staying on property is usually a much better option for families. As a Disney World resort guest, once you arrive at the airport; the Disney cast members take care of everything for you. Your luggage will be taken from the plane to your resort room. You’ll be taken to your resort by the Disney Magical Express motor coach at no cost. You’ll have the Disney World transportation network at your disposal – which is very extensive. As for recreation; you can go in the pool, rent a bicycle, rent a canoe or a water sprite, go play miniature golf, even go para-sailing! All within the confines of the Disney resort. The dining possibilities are endless, from a quick muffin and coffee at the food court at your resort, to a Polynesian style luau dinner show. And at certain times of year, Disney throws in the dining plan for free! Once you’re there – if one family wants to take the little ones to Magic Kingdom again, but you want to go to Epcot; no problem! You just take different transportation (which Disney provides free to all resort guests) to the park of your choice and meet back later. You won’t miss any of the spectacular parades, evening shows, or fireworks displays that are offered at the parks because it’s time to get back – Disney transportation runs well into the night. They’ll always get you ‘home.’
As far as escaping from the hustle and bustle – you’ll find the Disney resort hotels very laid back and relaxing. The real confusion comes when you leave Disney property and try to maneuver through the traffic and congestion outside the resort.
So why not let a Disney expert help you make your decision? We can help you weigh the options, compare the prices, watch for specials that Disney offers on their vacation package, and help you choose restaurants and even make dining reservations for you! Think of it this way; if you heard of a wonderful resort in the Caribbean with beautiful hotels, wonderful activities for people of all ages, and an endless variety of places to eat – would you stay at a hotel down the street and visit? Or would you want to immerse yourself in an atmosphere of being treated like ‘Prince and Princess for a day’?
Guests pay one fee per day to receive a parking pass good for all theme park parking lots.
- Car/Motorcycle/Taxi/Shuttle/Limo: $15/day
- Camper/Trailer/RV: $16/day
- Bus/Tractor Trailer: $19/day