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The Travel Tipster: Helpful Hints for Choosing Your Home Away from Home in Orlando

The Travel Tipster: Helpful Hints for Choosing Your Home Away from Home in Orlando

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What's the best way to go when vacationing in Orlando? Staying onsite at Disney, offsite along I-Drive & 192 or by renting a vacation home?

42 years ago this week, Walt Disney World opened with just two hotels and a campground near the Magic Kingdom. Nowadays there are over 15 Disney-owned hotels scattered around this 43 square mile property that are quite popular with visitors to Central Florida. Largely because of several advantages that people who stay at these WDW resorts have over those who stay off-site.

The advantages / disadvantages of staying onsite at Walt Disney World

Chief among these is convenience. Depending on which hotel you choose, buses and other types of transportation, like boats and monorails, run continuously to shuttle you to the theme parks. Some of the hotels are even within walking distance of certain parks. For example, you can walk to the Magic Kingdom from the Contemporary or to Epcot from Boardwalk and Yacht and Beach Clubs.

Copyright Walt Disney Enterprises. All rights reserved.

Disney is also famous for its theming, and each of its hotels reflects this beautifully. For example, the Polynesian has a South Seas flair, while Port Orleans recreates the elegance of the French Quarter & the rustic charm of the bayou to Florida, and Art of Animation has larger-than-life depictions of characters from famous Disney movies scattered about this 87-acre property. There are theme pools at these resorts, and many of the hotels have free and extra-cost activities like boating, fishing, nightly campfires, and horse drawn carriage rides.

Copyright Walt Disney Enterprises. All rights reserved.

An added perk to staying at an onsite WDW hotel is that you can see the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian. There's also a night-time water pageant that travels from Seven Seas Lagoon to Bay Lake and back again. And this floating festival of lights can be seen from the three hotels that I mentioned above as well as from Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort and the Fort Wilderness campground.

Copyright Walt Disney Enterprises. All rights reserved.

That said, all this convenience and heavily themed ambiance does come at a price. Disney charges people a premium to stay at on property, although they do occasionally run specials. There are also several  different hotel categories (i.e., deluxe, moderate, and value) to provide some options for families on a budget.

And mind you, but not all of the hotels on Disney property are actually owned & operated by The Walt Disney Company. There's a cluster of hotels near Downtown Disney that are owned and operated by other outside corporations, like the Lake Buena Vista Resort and the Best Western Lake Buena Vista. And these resorts offer a nice mix of on-site convenience and lower rack rates.

The advantages / disadvantages of staying offsite along I-Drive and 192

The areas around Walt Disney World have a wide variety of hotels, from value properties to luxury resorts. And while it's generally cheaper to stay off-site, you do typically get more amenities for your money when you're staying out along I-Drive and/or 192.

That said, there are other things that you should factor in besides cost savings. These include if you're planning to visit some other Central Florida tourist attractions besides the four Disney theme parks. If your travel plans include stops at SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Studios Florida, or Islands of Adventure, you should maybe consider booking a room at some off-site hotel which will then put you close to both Disney World and those other theme parks. Many are near I-4, and some, like the Hawthorn Suites Resort, are near the bustling International Drive area, which has a nice mix of attractions and restaurants.

Other off-site hotels will offer you the chance to experience the attractions offered in the Orlando/Kissimmee area along 192. Many -- like the Royal Parc Suites Celebration, the Celebration Suites, and the Holiday Inn Maingate East -- are within walking distance of places like Old Town and Fun Spot, which have their own amusement rides and are close to Celebration, which is the Disney-designed town that's a quaint place to visit.

Now I know that some visitors -- given the limited amount of vacation time that they have to spent in the Orlando area -- are going to fret about the amount of time that they're now going to need to spend inside their rentals cars, driving back and forth between theme parks. Not to worry, though. Many of the off-site hotels that I've already mentioned in this article are located right outside of Walt Disney World. State Road 535 is a popular area that's near both I-4 and the Downtown Disney side of the Resort. Properties in that area include Grand Beach Resort of Lake Buena Vista and Grande Villas of Lake Buena Vista.

But as I mentioned above, one potential drawback to staying in an off-site hotel is that you're now probably going to want to rent a car. Most of the hotels do offer shuttle service to the theme parks, but it's on a limited schedule. So a rental car would then give you the freedom to come & go as you please. Just be prepared to pay for parking at the attractions. Which currently costs between $15 - $16 depending on which theme park you're spending the day at.

Of course, if you want even more space for your family, there are plenty of off-site hotel choices with suites, town homes, and condos. Disney has on-site Disney Vacation Club properties. But owners have the first shot at booking rooms at these WDW Resorts. So you can't be surethat  they'll be available on the dates of your vacation. Places like Windsor Palms, Emerald Island, Regal Palms, Mystic Dunes, and Polynesian Isles all offer large accommodations and resort amenities like game rooms, water parks, and playgrounds.  And OrlandoVacationHotels.com offers a wide variety of off-site hotels to suite any family's needs and budget.

If you are planning on  staying off-site, then we recommend you check out Orlandovacation.com. They have been in business since 1993 and they have helped literally tens of thousands of families with their Central Florida vacation plans. Click here to see their hotel properties or you might want to call them at 1-800-641-4008.

The advantages / disadvantages of renting a vacation home

Vacation homes are literally what the name implies. They provide you with a full-sized private house in the Central Florida area instead of a hotel room. And all of the homes that you book through OrlandoVacationHotels.com have their very own swimming pools, which means you have some built-in entertainment for the kids. That makes them great for trips that include time away from the theme parks.

Vacation homes are a nice change from the busy atmosphere that you typically find at Orlando-area hotels. With a vacation rental property, you now have your own private space. So if you have a special needs child who sometimes gets overstimulated while on vacation, a house is often a better choice because it then provides you with more room to spread out and a quieter atmosphere.

Plus it's nice to have access to a full kitchen while you're vacationing in Central Florida. If only because you can then save a few bucks by first buying food and then cooking a few meals at home.  And since most vacation homes already come equipped with appliances, silverware and dishware, prepping a healthy breakfast to start your day or throwing a midnight snack for your family once you all get back from the theme parks is now a snap? And did I mention that most of these places also have washers and dryers, and that some of the executive models have family-friendly perks like game rooms?

Vacation homes are great for large families and groups of people traveling together, too. Hotel rooms are sometimes limited in the number of people that they can accommodate. And if you need multiple rooms, you can't always guarantee that these hotel rooms will even be close to each other. Whereas when you rent a house, everyone gets to stay together. Just be sure to choose a home with enough bedrooms for the whole group to spread out. That way, you can enjoy the living areas, kitchen, and pool together but still have some privacy at night.

All of those are great advantages, but perhaps the most important one for families on a budget is the price. Vacation homes don't cost much more than a typical hotel, and when you split the cost among several people, the price get more attractive.

For the best deals on vacation homes, we suggest taking a look at http://www.orlandovacation.com/home-rentals/ or call them at 1-800-641-4008.


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