In all our past trips to Disney parks, including the international parks, and in our upcoming trip to Tokyo Disney Resort, we've always stayed at Disney hotels. I (Ken) grew up visiting Walt Disney World from Disney hotels, and thus am a firm believer in the sanctity of the Disney bubble. We did stay at the Walt Disney World Swan once, for what that's worth. Otherwise, the closest we came to staying at a non-Disney hotel was in planning Tokyo, where we intended to stay at the Hilton Tokyo Bay for most of our stay until its rates went up for our intended dates.
Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland are both located conveniently off of metro train stations not too far from city center, so we could have done either of those from a city hotel or Airbnb, but the hotel prices weren't that high, and we got to stay at the two newest Disney hotels.
But the bubble is about to burst. For the first time, we'll be visiting a Disney park without staying at a Disney hotel. In March, we're taking a budget trip to Disneyland (Anaheim) from London. We'll be flying on Norwegian, and we just couldn't bring ourselves to pay $400 per night for Disney hotels. We considered pushing the trip until after our worldwide travels, but we couldn't pass up the chance to get all the parks done in a single year, and more importantly we didn't think we'd want to spend the money any time on the next few years anyways. So we booked an Airbnb.
We've stayed at a variety of Airbnb's while traveling, and we're quite comfortable with the setup. We found one about two miles from Disneyland for less than $100 per night for an entire unit. We plan to either walk (we usually walk distance less than 2 miles when it's an option) or Uber/Lyft to the parks. This will add about $10-$20 per day, but it beats the rates at the Disney hotels.
By the way, we're still going to explore the heck out of the Disney hotels. The trip will be four days, and we fully intend to spend a few hours at Trader Sam's. We'll also explore Disneyland Hotel and The Grand Californian. We might not make it to Paradise Pier, though.
Are we a bit nervous? Definitely! But are we also excited to have saved $1200? Definitely! If you haven't tried Airbnb, use our referral link to sign up for FREE and get $40 toward your first stay!