Disneyland Resort: On-site Versus Off-site Accommodations

At vacation destinations such as Walt Disney World, the decision of whether to stay on-site or off-site can make a huge difference in other vacation decisions that you have to make. One consideration is the distance you need to travel to reach the parks, and what transportation you will use to get there. At Disneyland this is not such an issue, as there are accommodations for budgets of all sizes within walking distance of the parks.

In fact, that is one of the advantages of a Disneyland vacation: the entire resort, and many of the off-site accommodations, are all walking distance. No parking lot trams or buses needed. Several of the off-site locations are actually closer to the park entrances than some of the Disney hotels.

Disneyland has only three on-site hotels, and all of them are deluxe three- and four-star accommodations, with prices to match. The Disneyland Hotel, the Paradise Pier Hotel, and the Grand Californian Resort and Spa all have the themed rooms, pools, public areas, etc. that you expect from Disney.

Since Disney does not offer any "Moderate" or "Value" hotel accommodations, they rely on their Good Neighbor partner hotels to fill this niche. To receive the Good Neighbor designation these hotels have been rated on amenities, service, decor, guest satsifaction, price, and location. Like the Disney hotels, they can be booked as part of a Disney travel package.

There are many hotels in the Disneyland area that are not Good Neighbor hotels. This does not mean that they do not offer fine accommodations, and you should consider location, amenities, and on-line reviews in making your decision.

Some Advantages and Disadvantages of Each Choice

On-site Advantages:

  • Extra Magic Hour is available every day of your stay at either Disneyland or Disney California Adventure. Extra Magic Hour at DCA is exclusively available to resort guests.
  • Immersed in Disney Magic 24 hours a day.
  • Properties are always clean and well-maintained.
  • Friendly and knowledgeable cast members.
  • Room charge and merchandise delivery. In addition to using your Room Key to purchase food and merchandise, you can also choose to have merchandise delivered to your hotel.
  • Character wake-up calls. You can schedule a special wake-up call from a Disney character.
  • Resort guest exclusive activities such as tours and exercise classes.

On-site Disadvantages:

  • Rooms are more expensive. No moderate or budget-priced rooms are available.
  • Availability is limited, since there are only three resorts.
  • Dining is generally more expensive.
  • Parking Fees. Unless you are a Disney Vacation Club Member staying on points, self-parking is at least $20 day.

Off-site Advantages:

  • Lower price. Most of the nearby hotels fall into the "Moderate" or "Value" categories for room rates and amenities.
  • More likely to have availability at the last minute.
  • Access to non-Disney restaurants and shopping. Many are close to a fast food or inexpensive chain restaurant, e.g. McDonald's, Denny's, IHOP.
  • Some hotels offer scheduled shuttle service to the parks.
  • Walk to the parks. Several of the off-site hotels on Harbor Blvd are even closer to Disneyland's entrance than the Disneyland and Paradise Pier Hotels. And a number of hotels are less than a 20-minute walk. It's easy to go back to your hotel for an afternoon break.
  • Free breakfast is offered at many nearby hotels. Most feature a continental breakfast, but a few offer a hot breakfast.
  • Parking. Disney charges $20/day to park at their hotels. Most of the off-site locations offer either free parking or parking at a much lower rate.

Off-site Disadvantages:

  • Quality of the rooms varies; as does service and amenities.
  • The hotels do not have the theming you would see in a comparable Disney resort.
  • Magic Morning, where you can enter Disneyland Park one hour before regular park opening, is only available on select mornings if you have a qualified ticket. Even then it's only available to you once and only at Disneyland Park.
  • Hotel staff may be less familiar with Disneyland and what is happening there.
  • Many are near busy roads and freeways, and can be noisy.