It matters less than it used toFeb 14, 2000 Write an essay on this topic.
There was a time, maybe five years ago, that I would have argued strenuously that there is no point in going to Disney World if you don't stay on site.
I'm no longer so sure.
On the plus side, the roads just outside Disney World are a nightmare at any time, and terrifying in a heavy rainstorm. Staying on site means not having to venture out onto these roads, including the notoriously trafficy International Drive, very much. Another thing to be said for staying on site is that every single one of the Disney resorts, with the possible exception of the All-Star complex, is just beautifully landscaped. There are long, flower-lined drives, tall palms and meticulous grounds. Amenities are first rate, too, with pools, tennis courts, game rooms and lawns a cut above those most anywhere else. Personnel, too, tend to be unusually well-trained in making guests feel at home.
Then there is convenience.
This is where the on-site resorts once had a huge edge. And this is where they are now losing that edge.
Once upon a time, Disney was the only game in the Orlando area, or nearly so. At that time, too, the complex was much smaller. There were only four resorts in Disney World for a long time and they were linked to each other and to the theme parks via monorail or boat.
Those days are long gone. Traveling around within Disney World itself can be as challenging as navigating International Drive, as those who have tried to get into the Pleasure Island/Shopping Village complex after dark can attest. Traffic backs up here as far as the eye can see every night and fender benders are common.
And many of Disney's growing family of resorts is nowhere near a boat or monorail. All are on a bus system, but the rides can be long and circuitous, and not much fun.
In addition, with Universal Studios recent expansion, as well as Sea World, Wet and Wild and numerous other attractions, many families do not want to spend their entire Orlando area vacation in Disney World.
Put it all together and you can make a case for staying off grounds, especially since that option can be much less expensive.
One popular off-site alternative is a house rental. The Internet is full of ads for three and four-bedroom houses with caged swimming pools within 10 miles of Disney World that rent for about $500 a week. I have spoken with people who rent these houses and they rave about the space, private pool and huge savings.
There are also scores of attractive motels close to Disney World that have swimming pools, game rooms, restaurants and much lower price tags than most Disney resorts.
For families who know they also will be visiting Universal Studios and Sea World in addition to Disney World, and who would just as soon trim trip expenses, staying off site makes more sense than it did just a few years ago.
One more word: Staying off-site doesn't mean you can't experience Disney resorts. All are open to visitors, who can come for a meal, stroll the grounds and yes, even swim. That last, the swimming, is not officially allowed, but it goes on all the time. One day not long ago, we saw an SUV with Orlando plates, decidedly not a rental car, pull up to valet parking at the Grand Floridian, the most posh Disney resort. Two women wearing bathing suit cover-ups and carrying beach bags got out and headed straight for the pool.
Resort guests? I doubt it.
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