Where To Stay In Orlando - Villa vs Disney Hotel
Staying In A Villa vs Staying At A Disney Hotel
There is an abundance of accommodation options in Orlando - villas, apartments, hotels that are off-site of the main theme parks and hotels that are on-site. We have stayed at an off-site hotel, a villa and at some of the Disney hotels. Our two favourite options are the Disney hotels and villas.
Booking a holiday to Orlando can be a bit of a minefield - especially if it is your first time - as there's so many options for each part of your holiday. The accommodation, the car hire, which parks to visit, what type of ticket to buy, which restaurants to book, it's nothing like booking two weeks in an all-inclusive resort in Europe! So we thought we would share our thoughts on villas and Disney hotels, in the hope that it would help you with making your choice.
Our favourite thing about a villa is the space. There is tons of it! It's so nice to be able to spread out and everyone have their own rooms (and often their own bathrooms!). Most villas tend to offer two seating areas, as well as a dining area, which means if there's a group of you you can have your own space if you need it.
Another favourite thing about villas is the cost, they are usually really well priced and can make a trip to Orlando a lot more affordable if you are on a budget. Villas are also great if you are travelling as part of a group as there are larger villas that sleep 10 or 12, plus you can split the cost between you which is always a bonus.
The big advantage to a villa is that most of them have a private pool, this is great if you want to have a chill-out day away from the parks. You can cool off if you get too hot and the kids are entertained for hours as they can splash about to their heart's content.
The only aspect of staying in a villa that we don't like is having to drive to and from the main hub of Orlando. Most villa communities are no more than a 20 minute drive from Disney or International Drive and Universal, but we always feel a bit like we're leaving everything behind when we drive back at the end of a day in the parks. The villa areas are very quiet of an evening, there's not much in the way of evening entertainment especially when compared to I-Drive, Disney Springs or City Walk.
Things To Consider When Booking A Villa
There are lots of villa communities so make sure you know roughly how far from the parks your one is. Use Google Maps to find the villa and you'll be able to see where the nearest parks are.
Book through a reputable source only. Be wary about booking directly with an owner that doesn't come with references or recommendations from previous guests as you don't know what condition the villa will be in when you arrive. Similarly, be careful when booking 'allocation on arrival' villas through travel companies. We have seen so many people get to their villa exhausted with jet lag only to find that it hasn't been cleaned and is in an unacceptable condition - nobody wants to start their holiday that way.
Consider booking a villa that is part of a gated community as these tend to have communal facilities too, such as a pool, a clubhouse, children's play area and sports areas. It's nice to have the option of using these facilities if you're having a rest day.
We have been fortunate to stay at several Disney hotels and just like villas, they have their pros and cons.
Our favourite thing about the Disney hotels is the theming. Disney make this such an important part of their hotels - whether it's the breathtaking lobbies and Animal Kingdom Lodge or Wilderness Lodge, or the pure decadence of The Grand Floridian - they are all stunning. This theming extends along the corridors, for example at Animal Kingdom Lodge you will find examples of African art on display. Of course the rooms are themed to be in keeping with the hotel, although this is done in more subtle ways for example the style of furniture used. The theming isn't just limited to inside the hotel - the Art of Animation hotel is a great example of this with it's enormous figures from beloved Disney films such as The Lion King and The Little Mermaid.
We've got to mention the pools next because they are uh-mazing! Stormalong Bay at Disney's Beach Club is an onsite waterpark only for guests staying at that resort. Old Key West boasts four pools. The Art of Animation is home to Nemo's The Big Blue pool (the biggest pool at Walt Disney World) and The Cosy Cone pool themed like the movie Cars. Animal Kingdom Lodge has a huge pool at Jambo House and a pool with fantastic splash zone at Kidani Village. All of the main pools have a water slide to add to the enjoyment.
We love the convenience of staying on-site at Disney. From the buses and other Disney transportation options to being able to send your shopping straight from the parks to your room, to extra-magic hours, these things all help to make our stay a bit easier.
Things To Consider When Booking A Disney Hotel
The size of the room. If you don't enjoy everyone sharing the same room then a hotel probably isn't the right option for you. You could try and book one of the Disney Vacation Club resorts as they have much bigger rooms (some sleep 8-10) however they are not as readily available as the regular hotels.
The cost. It's not cheap to stay at a Disney hotel. To get the best price it's usually best to as soon as prices are released and it can often be cost effective to combine it with a free Disney Dining offer. There are different levels of accommodation - value, moderate and deluxe - to suit most budgets.
Whatever your choice of accommodation is, you will have a holiday like no other in Orlando!
Do you have a preference when it comes to accommodation? Leave a comment and let us know or if you want to recommend a villa community or hotel please do!