I have to admit that I’m sorta’ a Disney snob when it comes to my accommodations. I love staying on property. To me, it’s just not a real Disney World vacation otherwise. And since I don’t have a penchant for staying at the Deluxe Resorts, I can typically afford the <$100/night room rate of the Value properties. But there are some people who swear by staying just off property at any of the nearby hotels that have popped up in the last 30 years.
Interestingly enough, the first hotel that’s technically off property is actually on land owned by Disney but operated by someone else: The Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort. Price-wise, it’s a Moderate, but Disney advertises it as a Deluxe. It is operated by the folks at Sheraton and it’s basically like any other standard Sheraton you’d ever visit. But it sits on the watertaxi route that traverses the path from Epcot’s International Gateway to Disney’s Hollywood Studios (and passes by the BoardWalk and Beach Club Resorts). And, if you’re a conventioneer at the Swan and Dolphin, you can even buy discounted half-day tickets from a little office near the restaurants.
But there are dozens of other hotels that are nearby. Look for resorts on Apopka-Vineland Road or International Drive. They’ll be closest. Some folks like staying as far away as Kissimmee (a suburb of Orlando), but I’ve never met them. All of these resorts have free shuttles to the Transportation and Ticket Center. And while technically, Disney Transportation is for on-property guests only – they never check. So from the TTC, you can go anywhere. Be aware, however, that off-property hotel shuttles have random (and sometimes inconvenient) schedules. Many run shuttles ONLY in the early morning and late evening, which means you’d be stranded at the Parks unless you paid for a taxi. Just make sure to ask before booking your reservation.
The best value about being off property is that you have ready access to off property restaurants from your hotel. And those same hotels also offer shuttles to Universal Studios, Sea World and other local attractions. Being on property you won’t find Disney so accommodating. 😉
Conversely, the biggest downside about being off property is giving up the immersive Disney experience. Walt bought more than 30,000 acres to make sure that people staying at Disney World couldn’t see the outside while they were there (one of his biggest regrets about Disneyland was that you could see traffic driving by as you rode some of the rides at DL) The immersion really does help create the “Disney Magic” effect. For whatever reason, my stress level drops substantially when I’m on property. Leaving the Magic to go to an off-property hotel at least once a day has an impact to me that I simply don’t enjoy.