I’ve talked here at Disney Over 50 about the benefits of staying on property for your Walt Disney World vacation. For many people, there is no other place to stay. Some travelers, though, decide that they want to stay off property instead. There are many reasons why, including price, size of the rooms, locations, traveling with pets, availability, and a desire to be able to leave the Disney Bubble for part of your vacation. If you are planning a Walt Disney World vacation and you aren’t staying at a Walt Disney World owned resort, here are a few things for you to consider.
Wherever you decide to stay, you will want to make sure that you won’t be far from the different places that you plan to visit during your vacation. You don’t want to spend half of your vacation in the car, driving to various destinations. Before booking you might want to use your favorite navigating website or app to check distances, as well as to see potential routes. Just so you know, traffic on I-4 in the Orlando area can be a nightmare, and not just during rush hour.
Theme park parking is expensive, and many area hotels have transportation to and from the parks so that you will not have to worry about traffic or pay for parking. Find out ahead of time what is included. How many shuttles or buses run each day? Where do they drop you off and pick you up? Is there an added fee? Knowing ahead of time will help you to be prepared.
Many area resorts sound like they offer great deals, but that is before the extra fees are thrown in. You might find a resort fee, a parking fee, a fee for Wi-Fi, and more. If your pet is traveling with you, ask if there is a pet fee. You don’t want to be blindsided by extras when you’re checking in.
One of the fun parts of staying on property is that all of the Walt Disney World resorts have incredible pools for the guests to use. Most hotels in the Orlando area, even the deeply discounted ones, also have pools. Some of these pools are spectacular, and you might even find a small water park. If spending a day or even a couple of hours by the pool is important to you, check out the pictures and information on the hotel’s website before you book.
It is not hard to find ticket deals in Central Florida. Just remember that these deals often come with strings. If the hotel where you’re staying is an Authorized Walt Disney World Ticket Seller, then go ahead and buy your tickets there. Sometimes, though, the counter that looks like it is selling tickets is really a timeshare booth. There’s nothing wrong with taking a timeshare tour, just remember that it’s high pressure and is going to take precious time out of your vacation.
A Quick Word of Warning
Be careful when booking through a website where you will not know the hotel until you’ve paid. There are some sketchy areas that aren’t too far from Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, and sites such as Hotwire will not have a problem with putting you into one of those hotels. I had a horrible experience with Hotwire when booking in a different part of the country, the hotel that they chose had 611 crimes in the vicinity in the previous two weeks. Most of the crimes were drug related, and some were violent. When I called to try to get them to change hotels (I was willing to pay the difference) they refused to help me. I informed the Hotwire manager that I am a travel writer and I would tell everyone about their customer service, either good or bad. He told me to go right ahead. I ended up booking a room in a different hotel and losing the money, but I intend to keep my word and let people know that Hotwire was willing to put customers into a potentially dangerous situation.
I’d like to end this on a positive note. There are many great hotels that are near the Orlando attractions. There are also some older places that are a bit rundown, but are still clean and safe. Whatever your reason for staying off property, do a little bit of research ahead of time, and you’ll end up having a great stay in The City Beautiful!