There are several questions to answer before deciding where to stay when you visit Walt Disney World:
1. Do you want to stay on or off property?
2. How much do you want to spend?
3. How many are in your party?
Disney has hotels, studios, villas, cabins and campsites. If you are going to spend your entire vacation at Disney World, I would recommend staying on property. There are plenty of different styles of lodging as well as price levels. There is something for everyone on property. If you are planning on doing other things in Orlando and will not be traveling by car, you will need to rent a car or call a taxi. If you choose to stay off property you will need to have a car, whether it's your own or rented, to get to and from the parks.
The perks to staying on property are numerous! When you are a resort guest, you are guaranteed admission to the parks with a ticket even when they are filled and closed to the general public. You can also use the Magical Express, mentioned in an earlier post, and the WDW transportation services around the resort. These services include buses, the monorail, and boats. Resort guests also get to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours and can have purchases charged to their hotel bill and packages delivered to their room. Extra Magic Hours allow extra time in the morning or evening in select parks on select days. The selected park will open an hour earlier for resort guests or stay open 3 hours later. Another perk is that if you have a car, you can drive anywhere on property and park for free. When staying on property, you will receive a Resort ID Card that serves as your room key, admission to the parks, dining packages and charging privileges.
There are many options of rooms on property: Deluxe, Moderate and Value. The Deluxe resorts range from $225 (to sleep 4) to $3,500 (to sleep up to 10 in a suite) a night. The general rates for a room to sleep 4 would be $225-$670 depending on the season (value, regular or peak). The Moderate resorts range from $149-$215 a night to sleep 4. The Value resorts will start at $82 a night and go up to $121 a night during peak times. The campground at Fort Wilderness will range between $42-$98 a night depending on the site and season.
There are many options for a family larger than 4. You can always rent 2 or more rooms, and sometimes they can have an adjoining interior door. Or you can look into a family suite at the All Star Resorts, or a suite or villa at one of the deluxe or vacation club resorts. There are also the Fort Wilderness Cabins that will sleep up to 6. Disney has something for everyone... have I said that yet??
Of course there is always the option to stay off property. I have done this a few times and hopefully will not have to do it again. It takes away from the magic for me! My very first trip to Disney World in 1982 was at some camp ground off property. All I remember was that it rained the whole time and the camper leaked. I stayed off property again on International Blvd in 1986, 1991 and to ring in 2000. The only reason we stayed off property in 2000 was because the resort had no available rooms! Even though the hotels off property claim to be only 3 miles from WDW, it will still take forever to get to the parks. It takes quite a while to travel through the Disney property once you enter- remember it's 47 square miles!!! Larger than Manhattan! Then you'll have to park (and pay for it) and travel to the park by monorail, ferry, foot or tram. Not fun.
In the 19 trips I've made to the World, I've stayed in:
All Star Music
All Star Movies
All Star Sports
Animal Kingdom Lodge
Port Orleans French Quarter
I'll talk more about each later!