On-Site Versus Off-Site Walt Disney World Resorts

With 2022 bookings at all Disney Destinations in full force, we thought this would be a great opportunity to give you our take on on-site versus off-site Walt Disney World resorts.

We love the off-site resorts that are technically located on Disney property in the Disney Springs area, Boardwalk or Bonnet Creek. We like to book these through Disney (or for your agent to book these through Disney) which guarantees many of the same perks given to Walt Disney World Resort guests. HOWEVER, all of these options, when booking through Disney, must be booked as a package with tickets. So if you are using your hotel chain rewards points to book, you must book directly with the hotel and purchase your tickets separately. Whatever way you book them, let’s take a look at some of our favorites. But first….

The MousekeCocktail

EPCOT Violet Sake

I can’t believe we haven’t discussed this one yet. The violet sake is a fabulous drink you can find year round in EPCOT which is always a bonus. Grab this refreshing cocktail in the Garden House in the Japan Pavilion. Let us know what you think!

The Disney Springs Area Resorts

These are some of our favorite off-site resorts in the Disney Springs area. They are “off-site” because they are not owned by Disney, but they may as well be on-site because of their unusually close proximity to Disney Springs.

First is The B Resort and Spa Lake Buena Vista. This is a very modern looking high rise hotel located in the Disney Springs area. It features a zero entry pool and kids zone, free Wi-fi, and a shuttle to the theme parks.

Located nearby, also in the Disney Springs area is the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista. This is a family friendly hotel located directly across the street from Disney Springs. This hotel has two sections: the Wyndham and the Wyndham Garden. The Garden tends to be cheaper, but it feels more like a motel, whereas the Wyndham is a tower. There is a nice pool and an aquatic playground area. It backs up to a lake so it is quiet. There is a shuttle to the theme parks.

Finally, the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista is also located across the street from Disney Springs, but this one is GREAT because it has direct access to the pedestrian bridge for easy access to the area. This one also has different room types and suites to accommodate various family sizes. The pool area is like an oasis with a lazy river, a lagoon, games and cabanas.

Disney Gateway Hotels

The next category of resorts are often referred to as the “gateway” resorts. They are located close to the theme parks- not Disney owned, but on the property, in the Bonnet Creek area. 

The first off-site resort is Wyndham Bonnet Creek.  This is a great option because it’s location is basically nestled among other Disney resorts so you know this is a prime location for the theme parks, etc. This resort has two parts- one side is a timeshare- so beware of agents trying to rope you into a timeshare presentation. However, as such, it is a larger property and has multiple pools- one of which is themed as a pirate ship. This one offers multi-room villa accommodations so it is great for larger families.  

The next group we recommend in this area are the multitude of all-suites style accommodations which, for the price point, are fabulous options for those larger families or families who need access to full kitchens or multiple rooms for comfort. Among the off-site resort list are the Fairfield Inn and Suites, Residence Inn, Homewood Suites.

Luxury Off-Site Splurges

Four Seasons Disney

Looking for some luxury outside of the parks? Still located in prime areas in close proximity to the Disney parks, these off-site resorts are worth the splurge.

Option one is the Waldorf Astoria.  This one is in an excellent location in Bonnet Creek close to the theme parks. It has a kids club, golf course, upscale pool and recreation options such as bicycle rentals. Some rooms even have views of the distant fireworks from multiple Disney theme parks.

Hands down, though, our first choice for off-site resort (and bucket list stay) would be in The Four Seasons. This resort is actually located within the gated high end Golden Oaks community on Disney property, just behind the Magic Kingdom. There are many room categories offered including a large number of connecting rooms to form multi room suites. Many rooms have great views of the fireworks and theme parks. There are a lot of activities offered for kids, tweens and teens. There’s an adult pool as well as a family pool with a lazy river and a slide.

Boardwalk Area Resorts

Disney Swan

The MousekeMoms consensus is that the winner of the off-site resort  competition has to be the hotels located on Disney’s Boardwalk: the Swan, the Dolphin and the soon-to-open Swan Reserve. These resorts are the best of both worlds- location within walking distance to Epcot, Hollywood Studios and the Boardwalk with the price point of. a high moderate or low deluxe resort (depending on the season and room type). These hotels have comfortable rooms, great pool areas and some of the best dining on property! 

Pros and Cons

So what’s the bottom line? Let’s start with the benefits of booking one of these off-site resort options.

  1. Location- these hotels are basically on Disney property (walk to Disney Springs, or basically backing up to the theme parks, or even on the Boardwalk)
  2. Price point (with the exception of some of the luxury options we talked about). Most of these options are priced similarly to an on-site moderate resort, often giving guests more space or prime locations.
  3. Many of these choices offer guests the ability to use reward points and/or earn rewards points to book (i.e. Marriott or Hilton affiliations)
  4. For larger families, the off-site resorts hat offer suites will be a much cheaper option than the villas on site.
  5. For many of these options (when booked via Disney directly), you can add a Quick Service dining card to your package. These are basically gift cards redeemable in quick service and snack locations on Disney property and allow guests to basically pre-pay for meals.
  6. When booked via Disney, these off-site resorts include many perks that staying on-site offers such as early park entry.

Now for the cons. 

  1. Transportation. Even with free theme park shuttle service, keep in mind that they operate on routes that make multiple stops before your destination. They also do not run as frequently or regularly as on site transportation options.
  2. While still technically on property, these hotels are not Disney owned and you can tell. There is no magic. They are NOT (as we MousekeMoms like to say) in the Disney bubble. The magic does not follow you home.
  3. When you book with rewards points, you do not get the benefits of staying in a “Other Great accommodations” hotel.
  4. Although you may book dining at 60 days ahead of time, you may not do so for your entire length of stay. This means that each day, you will be waking early to try to get reservations for your stay. This is difficult, especially if you are trying to get those coveted, hard to get dining venues.
  5. Most notably now concerns the new Disney Genie + system. Guests not staying in a Disney resort have to wait until park opening to purchase their individual Lightning Lane attraction selections. On-site guests may purchase these beginning at 7am.  This means that off-site resort guests may miss those popular ones (notably Flight of Passage and Rise of the Resistance).

The bottom line? So many off-site resort options allow guests to really customize and tailor their vacation to their budget, needs and style. Working with a travel agent helps you stop the overwhelm and narrow it down to the best fit. 


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