I love Walt Disney World. I know, I’m a grown woman and should probably be more mature about it all. But honestly, it’s a magical place and I absolutely LOVE it. I was lucky to go a few times when I was younger, then as an adult and you know what – the magic doesn’t stop as you get older. (Ok, ask me again when I take a child who might have a tantrum or whatever…. ). Over the last couple of years I’ve been to Walt Disney World and the Orlando/Kissimmee area a few times and had the chance to try out three Disney accommodation options. So I thought it might be helpful to share these three ways to do Walt Disney World to help with pros/cons of the different options you might be planning. Plus I’m already plotting when might be good for our next visit with Baby Thorne… how old do you think a baby needs to be to be able to go to Disney and enjoy it?!
The three Disney accommodation options I’ve outlined in this post are essentially the three main Disney accommodation options available. What suits you and your trip will be totally up to your own circumstances but I’ve tried to cover each option below in terms of my experience plus some of the up and downsides of each one.
Stay On Site at a Walt Disney World resort
If Walt Disney World is your primary focus of your trip then this can be a brilliant option. This is what we did most recently in January 2017 when we went for a week around the Disney Marathon Weekend. It meant we could buy a package deal of flights, meals, accommodation and park tickets. It meant the whole week worked out as really good value when you factored in how much was included. There’s a huge range of hotels on site with over 25 different options to choose from depending on your interests or your budget.
We stayed at the Port Orleans Riverside which is one of the mid level price options. There are regular bus services that take you to each of the parks and other attractions. There’s also a river boat service direct from the hotel to Disney Springs which is great if you want to try out some different dining options. Plus I do love a boat trip.
- You can get packages that include meal plans so you know the vast majority of costs are covered
- Travel to and from parks is pretty simple from all resort options
- Customer service at the hotel is Disney-level great and can help with any questions or issues you have
- Get that all-immersive Disney experience at all stages of your holiday
- Less likely to explore outside of the Walt Disney bubble
- Naturally, there are lots of children around – if you’re going as adults you might want something of a break from the children.
Stay off-site at a hotel
When we visited in April 2016 we chose to stay in a hotel that was close to the parks but off site. We chose the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress and honestly couldn’t recommend it enough. Location wise, it was a short drive or Uber from the hotel to the parks. We had hired a car only for a few days of the holiday as we had tied it in with Ollie doing a Ironman 70.3 race that was in Haines City, about a 30-40 minute drive from where we stayed. But we decided to just use either hotel transport (the majority of hotels in the Disney area will offer some sort of shuttle transport options).
The hotel for us was a great option to take a bit of a breather from Disney days, as much as I love it, it was great to take a few days of just enjoying the Florida sunshine and relaxing by the pool. There were a few food options nearby (an iHop just a stones throw away, which is basically a requirement for me when in America…) plus the hotel itself that had a couple of restaurants and a pool bar with food (the best nacho bowl I’ve ever had – a trio of nacho colours and dips: living.the.dream.)
The Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress is a resort hotel, so it does offer a bit ‘more’ than a standard hotel with a number of on-site activity options and an INSANELY good pool. There’s a small golf course that we did a couple of times, plus you can hire bikes, take out canoes/boats on the hotel lake plus play tennis and much more. So if you do want one of those non-park days, you won’t be stuck twiddling your thumbs.
One of my favourite things about it was also the view – we could see right across the resort towards all the parks. We could see the tops of Disney landmarks like the Epcot golf ball, the top of the castle and the hot air balloon that rises up and down at Disney Springs. Best part? We could watch the fireworks from multiple parks from our room. Yes, the big kid in me was VERY excited by this.
On a slight side note, one of the reasons this particular hotel left such an impression on me personally was how helpful they were when after leaving we realised we had left something in the room. Not of money value, but sentimental value – they really went over and above to help us find it and get it back. Something we never thought would happen (because frankly, why would anyone but us care?!) but they did and it really impressed me. Of course this is very much a personal experience and specific to one visit to one hotel, but good service is good service and always worth noting.
- Great way to get a balance between park days and more ‘grown up’ time away from the parks
- More likely to explore areas around Orlando/Kissimmee or other non-Disney parks when staying off site
- Lots of non-Disney activities to keep you entertained (if you choose a resort hotel)
- Often provides some transportation to and from parks
- Requires a little more planning to organise your own transport to and from airports plus day to day when wanting to get out and about
- Can be quite expensive as you will be paying hotel prices for things like food and drink on top of your room rate
- Don’t forget resort hotels tend to add on a resort tax per day as a fee to cover the ‘extras’ of that style of hotel – even if you don’t use them, this charge will still apply.
Renting a villa or apartment
In Orlando, Kissimmee and the surrounding areas there are TONNES of villa or apartment rental options. Back when I was going as a child with my parents, this was almost always the option we went for. It can be ideal for families in particular as you have space and privacy of your own. Often the villas come with a private, screened pool (you don’t want to wake up one day and find a gator taking a bath in yours… ) which means kids can run wild and parents can at least relax knowing they’re not driving guests at the next sun bed bonkers. Plus you can have a nice bit of breathing space away from the hype of the parks.
The range of private accommodation options in the areas of Disney are huge and you really can find anything that suits both your budgets, plans and personal taste. My most recent villa experience was a pretty epic one. I’d describe the one we stayed in as ‘of Kardashian proportions’ and I don’t mean it had a large behind… When on a group press trip in April 2017 we stayed in an amazing Jeeves Florida Rentals property and it was BEAUTIFUL. As we were on a group trip it was a large villa to accommodate us all (it had 8 bedrooms and would sleep up to 20). Every room either had huge king size beds plus en-suite (some of which resembled something from a music video or photo shoot), plus there’s an incredible huge kitchen and living space. Plus this villa even had amazing extras like a cinema room. Plus of course a large outdoor pool with waterslide and seating plus BBQ areas.
If you either have a large family, or are perhaps travelling as a group then a villa like this would be an amazing options. Whilst it might look pricey up front, when split multiple ways it could be really cost effective. Plus you get the added bonus of pretending you’re a star of MTV cribs for the duration of your stay. However, it’s also worth noting there are a tonne of other villa or apartment options around the area so you can always find something that’s the perfect fit for what you individually want – be that budget or party size, or whatever else it is you’re looking for. There are many apartment complexes that offer smaller, but private accommodation with shared pool options if you’re a couple or small family this might be ideal for you.
- Privacy and home-from-home feel (albeit amazing-home-from-home)
- Breathing space away from the theme park bubbles
- Options to add on support of chefs or babysitters through many of the management companies
- Most villas come with lots of advice and tips for the local area, so you might discover more hidden local gems than when staying at larger resorts or on-site for Disney
- Potentially a way to keep some costs down by making your own food rather than dining out for every meal.
- Great for families who want some space. Especially if with slightly older children who maybe want a bit of their own space (i.e. own rooms)
- Many options means you can get all the perks of a private villa or apartment to suit your budget
- You will most likely need to hire a car so need to factor in this cost for the duration of your stay (both of hire cost, petrol plus any additional parking fee for parks and attractions).
- Food shopping – you will likely want to stock your huge American fridge with lots of food. So need to check out where to shop and consider the cost and practicalities of this.
- Requires a bit more planning overall in terms of travel, the local area for amenities as you won’t have on-site help as you would in hotels
- Check the location details specifically – some will list travel time to Walt Disney World but this can be just to the entrance gates and the travel time within the overall Disney space can add some time. Same for other parks and attractions you plan to visit.
If you would like to have a little peek at the specific villa I stayed at on the group press trip take a look here: Jeeves Florida Rentals
Disney Accommodation Options
I really hope the above gives you a bit of an overview of three of the main ways to ‘do Disney’. Whatever the best Disney Accommodation Options are for you will very much come down to your own personal circumstances. Having travelled as an adult couple and in a group in the last couple of years three times and tried out each of the above options I can really see the pros and cons of each. Considering how this might change adding a child or larger family into the mix will of course change things. All options have their perks and their own drawbacks so it will be down to working out what is the best fit for the trip you’re planning.
As a general guide: For the full-on Disney experience, go for the on-site Disney hotel. For the most freedom and privacy go for a private villa or apartment. For something in between choose an off-site Disney hotel!
* I was a guest on a press trip for the Jeeves Holiday Rental in 2017.
All other accommodation options included organised and paid for by myself.