Planning a Disney Trip with a Special Diet: Off-site or On-site?

Last Friday we talked about our travel planning and group rates available through our travel partner, but we also wanted to provide you with a few more details on staying off-site versus on-site for the weekend of the convention (or your trip surrounding it!)

Here are our top pros and cons to consider when you’re choosing where to stay.

On-Site: Pros and Cons

Transportation throughout the resorts and parks

Convention aside, it’s convenient and easy to stay on-site because you don’t have to worry about coming into the WDW Resort (and dealing with Orlando traffic, especially with the holiday the week after!) each day. In some cases, depending where you are staying, you can walk to the parks, take a boat or monorail, or a bus ride is a short distance. Not only that, all of these forms of transportation are free, and it allows you to move more freely throughout your day, too.

With the convention in mind, getting to the convention will be easier, too. You’ll just have to get on a bus at Downtown Disney or a park and head over to Coronado Springs Resort–unless you’re staying there, of course!

Con: If you want to venture away from the parks or your resort for a day, and explore Orlando, it’s not really accessible by foot. You’ll want to rent a car or need to get a cab.

Transportation from the airport

If you’re flying into the Orlando airport and staying onsite, you can take advantage of Disney’s Magical Express to get you straight to your resort hotel. It’ll save you time, costs, and navigation of renting a car–not to mention liability–and saves you the cost of a cab, too. That’s because it’s free! Not only that, it takes care of your luggage… so you can go straight from the plane to the Magical Express, and your luggage will magically appear in your room a few hours later.


Con: Though the Magical Express itself is wonderful, you might want to still opt to get your luggage and take it with you (you can load it on the bus) if you need it sooner than later. Sometimes the deliveries to your resort can take upwards of 6 hours.

The food… in all its glory

Because you’ll be dining at Disney, you’re guaranteed to have available options for your Special Diet. Be sure to fill out the Special Diets forms before you go to alert the chefs at your resort that you’re coming in. The Special Diets Department recommends that you email them about 2 weeks before your trip, that way, your reservation is fresh in the mind of the chefs and they can help make your meal just that much more magical. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t make reservations now! Plan those Advance Dining Reservations, too, if you plan on a table service meal.


Con: There are no cons to Disney dining!

Visiting the parks

Not only is it more convenient to get to the parks, thanks to the transformation, different parks at Walt Disney World have Extra Magic Hours, where they open early or stay open late only for folks staying at a Walt Disney World resort hotel. Because your convention weekend might be busy, you might want to take advantage of this free time if you’re hitting up the parks.

Con: Depending on the park and where you are staying, it might be a bit of a bus ride to get there, and you’ll have to get up a lot earlier than expected. And you can definitely expect the ones that are open later to be busier than usual in the evening.

You’re staying in Disney

Um… you’re staying in Disney. Enough said?


Con: Enough said!

Off-Site: Pros and Cons

You might save some money

Off-site hotels are often a better value because you aren’t paying a Disney “premium”, so folks who are on a budget and have easy access to transportation (like their own car) might appreciate the cheaper rate. Similarly, some hotel chains offer discounts if you’re a member of an organization, senior, et cetera, which might further up the ante. In some cases, this might be a benefit to you.

Con: Some benefits and perks that come with off-site hotels might be of no use to those with a Special Diet, such as free breakfast buffets. You might also end up having to pay for shuttles to the airport and a cab to get you to the parks.

Fitting your larger family

Family of 5 or more? You’re often limited to a suite or two (or more) rooms at the Walt Disney World resort. However, if you stay off-site in a rented condo, suite in a hotel, or vacation home, you will be better apt for larger groups in your accommodations–with more to choose from (in a variety of prices). Often in this case, too, you might have a fully equipped kitchen to take care of your Special Diets needs.

Con: Just because you can make food for your Special Diet, doesn’t mean you want to — especially with Disney around the corner! What might look like a perk might not be at all.

The perks? You could take ‘em or leave ‘em

Not into Extra Magic Hours? Prefer a car rental to explore the local outlet mall? Have plans with a friend who lives down the road? Not planning on hitting the parks? Prefer to have a gym on-site? The perks that are included with staying at a Walt Disney World resort hotel then maybe aren’t for you. Weigh what you’ll use and what you won’t, and see where the benefits are.

Con: In this case, if the hotels meet your needs and you’ll get enough of a Disney dose with the convention and a trip or two to Downtown Disney, then off-site might be the best option.


Tell us: have you stayed on-site and off-site? Do you always choose one over the other? What helps you decide? We want to hear about it!

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One thought on “Planning a Disney Trip with a Special Diet: Off-site or On-site?

  1. Pingback: The Double Whammy Experience: Dining with Celiac and Food Allergies | Food Allergy & Celiac Convention

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