Staying Off Property: A Personal Perspective

This past September, my husband and I had a chance to take a long weekend getaway to celebrate our 15th Wedding Anniversary. Since we honeymooned in Walt Disney World, we decided to head back as a couple sans kids. Since we had already taken a family vacation this year, we needed to be economical. We knew we were going to Night of Joy (look for that blog post soon) so the decision was made to stay off property.

I found a King Suite room “5 minutes from Disney” for under $100. I thought that was great! The hotel also had a Disney Shuttle that went “regularly” to the parks. When I looked at what the shuttle hours where I was a bit surprised. Epcot and Magic Kingdom did 2 round trips a day; to the parks at 9am and 2pm, back to hotel at 1pm and park close. Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom had one round-trip per day; to the parks at 9 am and back to the hotel at park close. So if you wanted to come back to wash up for dinner you had to grab a taxi. I have since learned that this is the norm, not the exception. Hotel shuttles to WDW are not a constant, throughout the day mode of transportation.

I researched the drive time to the areas we knew we would be visiting, Disney Springs, Epcot, and the ESPN Sports Complex. Each location was 15-20 minutes away by car so we decided to rent a car. Chris is tall so the smallest car we could get was a mid-size (which was still tight). When we got to MCO we were happy our car rental pickup location was in the terminal. The couple that flew with us found out their car rental was not and had to be shuttled to their pick up location. It only took us a little over 20 minutes to reach out hotel, although we did drive by it once because it had two separate entrances, one for deliveries and one for guests.

When we finally got to the hotel to check in and found out there is a resort fee on top of hotel room and a parking fee. I was so annoyed but what could I say – I didn’t read the fine print. I really wish they would just say, this is the price. That is what I’m accustomed to. I was a bit surprised at the size of our king suite. The pictured made the room appear larger. It did have a kitchenette, a seating area and a bedroom. They were just all in one room, not a separate bedroom. I still haven’t decided if the couch was a loveseat or an oversized chair. I made the most out of it because we wouldn’t be there a lot- we’d be in the parks.

Did you know it cost a minimum of $20 a day to park at Disney Parks? For $35 a day you can park close to the main entrance and get a bottle of water. You can use your receipt to park hop during the day. While I knew we would have to pay to park but I didn’t realize it would be so much. Thankfully parking at Disney Springs and ESPN was free.

I had originally planned to eat off property a couple times during our trip. This didn’t happen. I really don’t know what I was thinking. Walt Disney World has some wonderful

restaurants. I decided to skip lunch at Chili’s and got a late lunch at The Hollywood Brown Derby instead. We’re on vacation, why eat someplace we could go to at home?

Walt Disney World is constantly refurbishing their resorts, rides, grounds and infrastructure. This was very evident by the orange cones whenever we enter Disney property. There was also construction on the way to and from Orlando International Airport. We changed our initial plans a couple of times because of the length of time it would take us to get from place to place. I seemed like it took us and extra 15-20 minutes to get wherever we were headed. Add to that hundreds of people driving around that have no idea where they are going (like us) and it’s a bit daunting.

We had a wonderful weekend filled with fun character meets and attractions. We ate great food and drank some yummy cocktails. We loved everything about our weekend; except being off property. At the end of a long day it’s so nice to sit on the bus and have you taken back to your resort. The convenience of a mid-day break (especially in 103 degree September heat) would have been a welcome relief and something we would have done if we could have just hopped on the bus back to our resort. We also missed the immersive experience. The “feel” you get by staying at a Disney Resort. The smells, sights, sounds and Cast Members seem to make it extra special.

Once all the receipts were tallied, it was hard for me to admit that we could have taken advantage of a room discount that was available earlier in the year. That discount would have put us in a king room at one of the moderate resorts with little difference to our final total.

I know that you can shop for souvenirs at the outlets to save money. You can eat close to your hotel and save money. There are many, many ways to stay off property and save money. It just depends on how you want to travel. When going to Walt Disney World, we want to go to enjoy all that Disney has to offer. By staying off property we felt more like we were visiting Orlando and going to the park for the day, like a Six Flags or Kennywood, instead of being in Walt Disney World, Where Dreams Come True.

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