Six Must-Have Tools When Staying Off Disney Property

There are arguably some significant advantages of staying off-site including lower-cost and larger rooms and enhanced luxury. However, staying off property increases the risk of external forces wreaking havoc on your vacation. Some of these forces are out of our control, like Orlando traffic, but you can make provisions for other things.

1. Car

Many local hotels provide complimentary shuttle service to Disney Parks, but they may not be as convenient as one would hope. The schedules are often fairly reliable but inflexible. If you miss the shuttle or you need to be somewhere at a certain time, relying on the hotel shuttle as your primary source of transportation may prove disastrous. You’ll likely never make rope-drop at any of the parks, and it will be almost impossible to travel off property to save money on food or take breaks.

Before deciding to stay off-site, carefully consider your transportation options.
Before deciding to stay off-site, carefully consider your transportation options.

2. Navigation System

Navigating Orlando roads can be difficult for even the most seasoned drivers. If you are a first-time or only occasional Florida visitor, it will be nearly impossible to get around without a navigation system especially if there is an accident or construction detour. Instead of investing money in a fancy navigation system, just use your smartphone’s Google Maps app, which is free for iOS and Android.

3. Sunpass Transponder

Your hotel will likely be able to provide you with basic directions, but sometimes the routes that seem most direct aren’t the fastest. Sometimes the alternate routes that are the best require you to take toll-roads. Traveling Florida toll-roads will cost money and time if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Getting a Sunpass Transponder may cost you some money initially, but it will save you money and time in the long run. Some toll-plazas require non-Sunpass-users to exit the highway and provide exact change. If you have a Sunpass, you can usually go right past the toll-plaza at full speed.

If you’re renting a car, some will come with the Sunpass. You will likely pay a hefty extra fee to use the transponder, but it will save you in convenience. If you are using your own car, you can buy a Sunpass at various locations on the Florida Turnpike, some Florida stores, or directly from When buying your own, be aware that hard case transponders are transferrable while sticker passes are not.

If you’d like to get a one for all kind of transponder, look at the NC Quick Pass, which allows users to access the Florida Sunpass system and the East Coast’s E-Z Pass system.

4. Extra Smartphone Power

With increasing dependence on our technological devices including smartphones, it seems like everyone is carrying their charger with them. It’s no different at Disney where the MyDisneyExperience app is becoming more and more necessary. If you’re also using your smartphone as your GPS, you’ll definitely need extra power. Battery cases are fine, but if you have multiple devices, an external battery pack is the way to go. even sells battery packs that can charge multiple devices at a time whether it’s the whole family’s phones or your phone, camera, and tablet. This prevents you from being stuck to a wall while you get a quick charge on your phone.

Keeping your phone charged is critical on a Disney vacation.
Keeping your phone charged is critical on a Disney vacation.

You also might want to get a multi-port USB charger for the hotel. Plug it in and charge multiple devices at once right from the outlet.

Here’s a tip: putting your device in airplane mode will charge your device much faster.

5. Parking Strategy

Parking at Walt Disney World Parks is expensive- $17 per day to be exact as of mid-2015, and the price typically goes up every year. You’ve likely already calculated this cost into your decision to stay off-site, but you might want to take extra provisions. If you are staying for an extended period of time, or making two visits with 365 days, consider having one person in your party purchase an annual pass since passholders get free parking.

6. Knowledge of local stores

One of the main benefits of staying off-site is taking advantage of real-world prices and saving money on dining. Become acquainted with the area around your hotel, and find the closest Publix or Walgreens. Purchase some food, snacks, and drinks, and pack a cooler. If you can make even one meal a day rather than eating all meals and snacks in the parks, you can save some significant money.

Do you prefer to stay off Disney property?
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