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Old 11-13-2012, 01:33 PM   #1
dcibrando
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Looking for advice - staying off property & driving to the parks for the first time?

Please help me out fellow Disney fans – I am a frequent visitor to WDW (2-3 trips per year), a DVC member… we stay a lot of Saratoga Springs and have some at Pop, Art of Animation, All-Stars, and Coronado Springs. We have NEVER driven to a park (occasionally have to Downtown Disney though) and always taken Disney busses. Every trip we get on the Disney busses and then start wondering if driving to/from the parks is easier/less hectic to do and this past trip we ever wondered if staying off-site (if we drive to the parks) would be something to consider since there are some nicer places for around the same price.

So here are my questions:

1- What are the pros and cons to drive to/from the theme parks and not take Disney busses (especially when you are used to doing it in the past)

2- What are the pros and cons to staying off property? Will it still feel like we’re in Disney? We tend to go back to the room in the afternoon to nap sometimes so would this be harder to do? Etc. etc. We've been looking at Bonnet Creek, Buena Vista Suites, etc.

Help me and my family decide!
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Old 11-13-2012, 01:55 PM   #2
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We have stayed at lots of Disney resorts in the past. We would MUCH rather drive than take the bus. When our kids were small we hated buses because of having a stroller but even after they outgrew them we still like driving over the bus. I like being able to leave when I am ready and not having to go wait on a bus.

As far as staying off property goes. We have stayed in various Disney Resorts everything from Pop to Saratoga. We then tried Bonnet Creek and fell in love!! That is the only place we stay at now. I love having all that extra space and being able to do meals in the room if we want to.

We recently got back from Disney and were able to get a fireworks view room at Bonnet Creek. We could see both Epcot and MK fireworks from our room. Bonnet Creek is on Disney property so getting to the parks is super easy!
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Old 11-13-2012, 02:08 PM   #3
married2mm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dcibrando View Post
Please help me out fellow Disney fans – I am a frequent visitor to WDW (2-3 trips per year), a DVC member… we stay a lot of Saratoga Springs and have some at Pop, Art of Animation, All-Stars, and Coronado Springs. We have NEVER driven to a park (occasionally have to Downtown Disney though) and always taken Disney busses. Every trip we get on the Disney busses and then start wondering if driving to/from the parks is easier/less hectic to do and this past trip we ever wondered if staying off-site (if we drive to the parks) would be something to consider since there are some nicer places for around the same price.

So here are my questions:

1- What are the pros and cons to drive to/from the theme parks and not take Disney busses (especially when you are used to doing it in the past)

pro-driving gives you more freedom. no waiting around.
con-having to pay for parking.

2- What are the pros and cons to staying off property? Will it still feel like we’re in Disney?

yes, still feel the magic- it's in your heart.
We tend to go back to the room in the afternoon to nap sometimes so would this be harder to do?

this is still doable quite easily, especially at your suggested resorts.

Etc. etc. We've been looking at Bonnet Creek, Buena Vista Suites, etc.

Help me and my family decide!
hope you make your decision soon.
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Old 11-13-2012, 02:14 PM   #4
dcibrando
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Originally Posted by kalc12345 View Post
We have stayed at lots of Disney resorts in the past. We would MUCH rather drive than take the bus. When our kids were small we hated buses because of having a stroller but even after they outgrew them we still like driving over the bus. I like being able to leave when I am ready and not having to go wait on a bus.

As far as staying off property goes. We have stayed in various Disney Resorts everything from Pop to Saratoga. We then tried Bonnet Creek and fell in love!! That is the only place we stay at now. I love having all that extra space and being able to do meals in the room if we want to.

We recently got back from Disney and were able to get a fireworks view room at Bonnet Creek. We could see both Epcot and MK fireworks from our room. Bonnet Creek is on Disney property so getting to the parks is super easy!
GREAT info thanks... that's exactly what I needed to hear. Now question, where/how did you book Bonnet Creek? Looking for the best deal in early June 2013 for 8 nights. Right now I have a quote for a 1br $1098
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Old 11-13-2012, 02:34 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by dcibrando View Post
GREAT info thanks... that's exactly what I needed to hear. Now question, where/how did you book Bonnet Creek? Looking for the best deal in early June 2013 for 8 nights. Right now I have a quote for a 1br $1098
I book through a lady I found on VRBO. I have used her a couple of times. She is WONDERFUL to work with and I highly recommend her. She has really good rates too! I will PM you her VRBO listing (not sure if I am allowed to post that info on the board).

I know June would be considered "peak season" as far as rates go. We were just at Disney and I paid around $400ish for 5 nights for a 2 bedroom condo.
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Old 11-13-2012, 02:40 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dcibrando View Post
1- What are the pros and cons to drive to/from the theme parks and not take Disney busses (especially when you are used to doing it in the past)
Pros:
Don't have to wait for the bus
Often get "home" faster driving (at the MK buses are more likely to do better)
Always get a seat!

Cons:
Paying for parking (if you're staying offsite)
Takes longer from the MK (although cars still sometimes beat the bus system)

Quote:
Originally Posted by dcibrando View Post
2- What are the pros and cons to staying off property?
Pros:
In terms of space, you just about always get more for your money offsite
If you stay moderate or deluxe, you can often get a 2BR condo for the price of a room onsite (we can always get a 2 BR condo for considerably less than one room onsite would cost us, however as TS owners we have access to deals not everyone does)

Cons:
Theming rarely up to Disney standards -- very few offsite options get anywhere near Disney on that front
I would not want to be offsite without a car/no Disney transportation from your hotel (this isn't really a con for us, but it is for many)
No dining plan (also not a con for us)
Harder to research if you're used to hanging out on the Dis (there's a lot of info on offsite resorts here, but it doesn't really compare to the depth you can get with the onsite ones)
Most of the other cons I can think of, there are as many offsite options that are as good as, or better than, the Disney average as there are those worse. For instance, although there are no offsite resorts (except the Swan and Dolphin) where you can walk to a park, there are a fair number of offsite choices as close to the parks at OKW or Saratoga Sprongs or the values.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dcibrando View Post
Will it still feel like we’re in Disney?
This is the toughest one to answer, because it depends on what makes it feel like Disney to you. For a lot of people, especially those who generally stay DVC, the theming at Wyndham Bonnet Creek compares pretty well to Disney. Add in the fact that you pass through the WDW gates to get there, and it feels like they're at Disney.

People who prefer the more over-the-top theming of the Values, it just doesn't feel the same. I know, for myself and my eldest, walking from the Disney Epcot resorts into the Swan, we were instantly aware of a different "vibe." Hubby, OTOH, is totally oblivious to Disney magic, at least so far as the hotels and villas are concerned, and has no idea what we are talking about.

In terms of sheer energy level, offsite resorts vary considerable. For me, The Fountains "felt" much closer to the onsite resorts than the Orlando Sunshine -- part of it is the the Sunshine was much smaller and quieter, I am sure, but it's also further from the parks and skews older. I suspect a lot of people staying at the Sunshine never even get to WDW.

If theming and happy-vacationing-families energy and being able to see the parks or other Disney Resorts is what makes it feel like you're in Disney, then Wyndham Bonnet Creek will probably work great for you. If it's something considerably more subtle, or just the fact that Disney's the one taking in your dollars, it probably won't. Some people who thought they'd never stay offsite, hit an offsite place that fits them right off, and end up switching offsite entirely. Others have one bad experience offsite, and never give it another try. Many, and I would guess most, who try offsite find they prefer offsite for some trips, onsite for others. You can't know whether offsite will work for you until you try, I'm afraid.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dcibrando View Post
We tend to go back to the room in the afternoon to nap sometimes so would this be harder to do?
Should not be an issue with the ones you listed.

Hope you have a great trip whatever you decide.
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Old 11-13-2012, 03:45 PM   #7
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We've stayed at Windsor Hills and Buena Vista Suites.

The main perk for me is space! So much more space.

Last trip, my cousin and her family were in a value. We compared travel times a few times. Called to say we were leaving and would meet at the park. Left to go back to the room at the same time. Etc. Every single time we beat them. We've never taken the buses, so I can't compare, but my kids fell asleep in the car back to the room almost every night. I was happy to have them in the car, and not have to hold them on a bus. We never experienced any traffic. I realize that some people do not ever want to drive on their vacation and some don't have cars, but we always drive down and have a car already. And, we don't mind driving to and from the parks. It's not a big deal to us. We've always saved more than enough to cover the parking costs plus more.

My best friend and DH's best friend (separate families) both stayed onsite for their first trips (around the same time as our first trip) because they read online that they "had" to. They both hated the buses and rented offsite for their next trips based on the fact that we had a positive experience. They both preferred offsite and said that they don't plan to stay onsite again.

I may be tempted to stay onsite in the future if we can get free dining and the price works out compared to offsite and paying for food. I've kept our receipts and we've always spent far less than what the dining plan would have cost. I used the dining plan price as a guess for my food budget and we've always come out WAY under. But, my kids eat way more now than they used to. And, if we start splitting up a bit more as the kids get older, the buses may be nice. Right now we travel as a pack. I'd have a hard time giving up the space though.

Last trip we had a 3 bedroom/2 bath condo (shared with my parents) for barely more than the price of a value. First trip, we had a 1 (very large) bedroom plus separate living room at Buena Vista Suites (plus full breakfast included which was another money saver. We'd fill up on a huge breakfast and not be hungry for lunch until mid-afternoon. Then we'd just snack for dinner.)

I like being able to go under the arches everyday. That's always exciting for us. I know some people like to never leave them, but we like seeing them daily.

Our condo was decorated with Disney items. The kids loved this. I was once told on this board that they could slap a mickey shower curtain on their bathroom and that doesn't mean they're at DisneyWorld. Well, my house doesn't have Disney decorations, and we don't go the parks everyday at home, so my kids loved it. They went around the house and made me take pics of every detail.

I know some people love the magic of onsite. I love the space of offsite, and our trips still feel incredibly magical to us. It really depends on what's important to you. I'd try it out once and then you'll know.
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Old 11-13-2012, 04:16 PM   #8
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I found WBC not up to Disney standards.

my opinion - it is a cheaper version.
that say for the money it is pretty good.

to the parks - take a right turn out of the resort - at the traffic light for Studios and AK take a left turn - for MK and Epcot a right turn.

studios is about 3 lights down (you turn left at the traffic light)

AK - is 2 lights down - you turn left at the traffic light - you go by Pop and AOA - at the traffic light you turn right - AK is located at the end of this road. (oceola parkway)

after you have turn right out of the resort and at the traffic light a right turn.
Epcot and MK turn left at the next traffic light - then go 2 lights - (at traffic light turn left) - you are on World Drive - first right turn is Epcot - next right turn is MK (it is a bit further)

okay during this from memory - so will check tonight the maps and be sure that I am right.

for groceries - follow the instructions for AK - but at the last traffic light turn left instead of right )osceola parkway - go pass I4 and Gaylord (big resort can't miss it) turn right when pass it - Publix is a left turn under the overpass.
(international drive south)

if you want walmart instead just ask

driving around WDW is not hard - if you don't follow their signs....

stayed onsite and offsite for years - so know the area pretty well. have a great trip.
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Old 11-13-2012, 07:17 PM   #9
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As PPs have mentioned, driving is nearly always faster than taking the buses. A lot of people don't believe me when I tell them this, but it's true - often, driving takes half the time the buses do! This is because the buses make multiple stops, have to take the time to load/unload passengers (often with strollers or wheelchairs/ECVs), and tend to drive more slowly than cars. The only time it might be faster to take a bus is when going to MK, as it drops you off right at the gates instead of the TTC. However, riding the monorail is a big part of the Disney magic for me so I'd rather do that anyway

It is pretty easy to navigate around the World; with a few exceptions, signage is clear and abundant. I never use GPS or directions, just follow signs to get where I need to go. If you do get lost or turned around, you can pull into any resort and the guard will tell you where to go. (I once missed my turn for MK and somehow wound up at the All-Stars - the guard there knew exactly how many lights I needed to go to get there! Clearly it was not the first time she'd had to give those directions )

Also, correct me if I am wrong on this, but the non-Disney resorts that are on property should get free parking and EMH at the parks just like the resorts owned by Disney. For these reasons, I nearly always recommend that vacationers have a car if it is within their budget, whether staying onsite or off.
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Old 11-13-2012, 10:10 PM   #10
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We have stayed both on and off-site many times. In recent years we have stayed off site at Bahama Bay Resort. It's a few miles SW of DW. The condos are huge, with living room, 2-3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, full kitchen, and laundry. Big enough to live in! The price is quite low, at around $80-$100/night, plus taxes and other fees. The grounds and pools are very nice at Bahama Bay, about 80% as nice as Disney. Returning to Bahama Bay for a few hours mid-day is not practical as the commute is too far.

Our next trip in January is our first on-site stay in awhile. The total cost using S/P/D at POR will be about the same as Bahama Bay would be. S/P/D saves a lot! And we don't need to rent a car, buy gas, or pay for parking.
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Old 11-14-2012, 12:18 AM   #11
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Also, correct me if I am wrong on this, but the non-Disney resorts that are on property should get free parking and EMH at the parks just like the resorts owned by Disney. For these reasons, I nearly always recommend that vacationers have a car if it is within their budget, whether staying onsite or off.
no only WDW hotels get the free parking. DD use to but they stop using WDW transportation several years ago.

the dolphin and swan actually charge for THEIR parking lot.

free parking is only for annual passholders and Disney (WDW) hotel guests - everyone else pays.

dolphin and swan plus the hilton at DD get EMH at the parks - the rest do not.

even the hilton over at bc does not get EMH - despite hilton trying.
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