Disney World Off Site Hotels
When deciding where to stay in Orlando, there seem to be never-ending options. Should you stay on Disney property at a Disney Resort to get those extra Disney perks? Or should you rent an Airbnb to save money and spread out? What some people may not know is that there is a category of Orlando hotels that offers a sweet spot in the middle. I like to call these “Disney-affiliated hotels.” These Disney World off site hotels offer the unique ability to both enjoy some of the Disney on property perks and earn or redeem hotel points.
First, we will go through the “on property” and “off property” options, and then see how they compare to “Disney-affiliated hotels.”
On Property: Official Disney World Resort Hotels
Also referred to as staying “on property,” these are hotels owned and operated by Disney. There are 3 levels of official Disney World Resort hotels (Value, Moderate, and Deluxe/Deluxe Villas). These are categorized mostly by price range. The list of all official Disney World Resort hotels can be found here.
Staying on property has certain benefits, including a seamless guest experience between resort and parks. You also have the ability to enter the parks earlier or stay later on certain days for no extra cost (called “Extra Magic Hours”). Free transportation to/from the airport and to/from the theme parks is included as well. Plus you have the ability to book FastPass+ selections 60 days in advance of your resort check-in date, instead of the usual 30 days.
Disney resorts generally cost more than off property, but there are strategies to save money here too. For example, if you have the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, you can book an available Disney resort and later wipe off the charge with points. Or you may be able to find rooms at official Disney World Resort hotels for cheaper rates on sites like Hotels.com or Priceline. Sign up and book Hotels.com through the ibotta app, and you can earn an additional 6% back. Be sure to use a card that gives you points for travel, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x earning).
The Sweet Spot: Affiliated Disney World Off Site Hotels
This group of “Disney-affiliated hotels” are “off property,” but have an affiliation with Disney to offer some of the same benefits as official Disney Resorts. This includes the same Extra Magic Hours and 60 day FastPass+ perks. There are several large hotel brands that have Disney-affiliated hotels. This offers the rare opportunity to earn or redeem points on a Disney vacation. However, these options usually don’t have that true “Disney” feel and do not provide as many transportation options to and from the hotel. Also, many Orlando hotels tack on high resort fees for the Disney benefits, so keep these in mind. The resort fees may be waived on award stays depending on the brand.
Some brands with Disney-affiliated hotels include:
Hilton has the most “Disney-affiliated hotels,” they include:
- Waldorf Astoria Orlando
- Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
- DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando
- Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista
- Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace
The Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista, the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista Palace, and the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando are all located within walking distance to Disney Springs, an entertainment destination filled with shops and restaurants. Buses also run between Disney Springs and the Disney parks, making this is a convenient (and free) additional transportation option for these hotels.
Both the Lake Buena Vista Palace and the Lake Buena Vista have Sunday Disney Character breakfasts. However, the Lake Buena Vista Palace has more of a “kid-friendly” vibe and a lazy river.
The DoubleTree Suites can be a great option for larger families or families who want slightly more space.
The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and the Waldorf Astoria Orlando are neighbor properties, and guests are able to use the other property’s pools and facilities. The Bonnet Creek has a lazy river, while the Waldorf offers a quiet escape from the usual kid-filled Orlando pools.
Since Hilton has dynamic reward pricing, the reward costs can vary greatly. The prices start from 40,000 Hilton Honors points per night for a standard room. Pricing will depend on the resort and the night. Remember that eligible Hilton Honors members can get the fifth night free if booking with points. Hilton Gold and Diamond members also receive complimentary breakfast, saving you money on park food. You can get Hilton Gold status with the American Express Ascend card. It has a $95 annual fee but will get you free breakfast whenever you stay at a Hilton property.
Marriott’s Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels are adjacent properties that are centrally located near Epcot and Hollywood Studios. They are close enough that you can walk or take a free boat to either park. These properties are Marriott Category 6, so award nights will cost 40,000 – 60,000 points per night. You can cut down your costs by staying more than five nights, since you receive the fifth night free on award stays. Marriott Platinum members may receive complimentary breakfast, and with a Disney character breakfast buffet on property, this can be a great savings.
Wyndham’s Disney-affiliated hotels include the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista and the Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista. Both are located within walking distance to Disney Springs. That means guests can walk over to take the free buses to and from the Disney parks. Disney character breakfast is also offered on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings. The Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista will cost 15,000 Wyndham points a night and the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista will cost 30,000 Wyndham points a night. The Wyndham Garden shares the property and pools with the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista so it is a good way to extend your points.
IHG’s Holiday Inn Orlando (Disney Springs area) provides shuttles to and from the park. The hotel will cost you 40,000 IHG points per night. Tip: there are several Holiday Inn’s in Orlando, so make sure you book the Disney Springs area one for the Disney perks. The IHG Rewards Club Premier credit card’s anniversary night will work at this hotel. That is like getting the room for only $89 a night every year (the cost of the annual fee).
Other “Disney-affiliated hotels” include:
- The B Resort and Spa Lake Buena Vista
- The Best Western Lake Buena Vista
- The Four Seasons Resort Orlando
Don’t forget to use a credit card that earns additional points on hotels. Great options are the Chase Sapphire Reserve card (3x earning), the Chase Sapphire Preferred card (2x), or the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (2x).
The list of all Disney-affiliated hotels can be found here.
Staying at an official Disney World Resort is not the only way to enjoy special Disney park benefits. Disney World off site hotels can be a great option too when they are Disney-affiliated hotels. This way you can use and earn points on your stay to reduce your costs on your next Disney World vacation.
Have a favorite Orlando hotel? Tell us why you love it in the comments.