Background Information... Here are the things I think it's important to note before you read my take on planning a trip to Disney. This will help you gain perspective on why we made the decisions we did.
- Kids Ages: Henry 5, Eleanor "Nellie" 2.5
- Previous Disney Trips: James 0, Me 8, Henry 1, Nellie 0
- Things that were important to us... character encounters, children's rides and FOOD.
- Time of the Year of our Visit: Jan 11-20
This is a tough post to write, as I know not all will agree with me. I am not a Disney planning expert, but I am an expert on what's right for my family! And, what's right for my family, may not be right for yours, please keep that in mind while reading this post...
Before I highlight why we stayed off property, I need to tell you what things we found important about our accommodations, because our priorities may not align with yours...
- Keeping a Schedule... My children, and their parents, do best on a schedule. I am at my best and most patient with them when I've gotten quiet time in the evenings and solid sleep overnight. I NEED that time in the evenings with my husband to talk, spend time together and just unwind from the day.
- Good Food! My husband is a fantastic cook, I've been spoiled with amazing food at home and vacations planned on the basis of food. "All You Can Enjoy" Disney food aka buffets are not my jam. I enjoy checking out local restaurants, with our children, and eating my husbands home cooked meals.
- NonDisney Time... This was my husbands first trip, and for veteran Disney park goers, you know that there is a LOT to take in. Knowing him as well as I do, I knew that he would need some non Disney time to unwind... I've stayed on property 3 times and non Disney time can be difficult to achieve on Disney property... it's part of what makes them fun for those that love that sort of thing!
So now that I broke down our priorities, I can tell you why we decided to stay off property. To find accommodations that would allow for separate sleeping quarters for the kids vs adults, we would be spending >$2500 and that doesn't even allow for an option for the kids to sleep separate from each other. Add onto that a resort that offered quick park access (aka the monorail or a boat) we are talking about >$4000. It's important to add another file from my memory where we once stayed at the POP! Disney resort, a cost friendly resort on property, and in order to get to the parks you could be talking about a 30-45 minute bus ride... PASS!
So right away I started my search on Air BnB... ideally I wanted a place with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a full kitchen, that was close to Disney. The airbnb market for the Disney area, specifically Kissimmee, is HUGE! **For $40 off any AirBnB booking, you can use my referral code, HERE.**
I found a small community of town houses called "Storey Lake" - the neighborhood includes a small water park (lazy river, pool and water slides), a full service gym, a bar, putt putt golf and more.
I can't say we used these services to their max potential since we spent most of our time at the parks, but it's a great way to break up your vacation. Our townhouse had 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and had a small private (heated) pool. Completely exceeded my expectations. Total cost for our 9 day stay? $1,900
The kids loved utilizing the pool in the evenings and the owners of the Air BnB had a pool safety fence and an alert set for anytime the door was opened to the back porch... the pediatric nurse in me appreciated that.
Each kid had their own bedroom allowing them to keep a schedule that worked best for them... Henry is our early riser while Nellie enjoys sleeping in.
Plus each bedroom had two beds, allowing for more people if your family is larger than ours.
Having the independence to eat dinner around town, go to the grocery store for park snacks and play putt putt golf in the evenings made our rental car price tag totally worth it!
- Extra Magic Hours... Disney offers extra park time, both before the public open and after the public close times, for people staying on resort property. This isn't daily, but definitely check it out if you're staying on property. Here's an article on EMH.
- Dining Plans... Disney offers a bulk price on your dining experience while in the park. I'm not a fan - I save money by packing park snacks, I enjoy eating food outside of Disney and I just don't feel like it was right for us. BUT if you want a vacation where your food costs are already paid for, then the Disney Dining Plan may be right for you, and can only be purchased if you're staying on site.
- Atmosphere... as I discussed earlier, the hotels are extensions of the park, they are Disney, Disney everywhere. The decor is thematic, the landscaping is phenomenal and the employees of the resort are the same amazing personalities you find in the park. It's a wonderful thing to someone who is die hard Disney, it can be overwhelming for those who are not.
If you're considering staying on site, be sure to read this article that offers reviews of Disney hotels and accommodations.
I'll continue to offer edits to this blog post as new questions and concerns arise... or as I remember things I forgot to mention!
Thanks for reading!