Best Places to Stay in Orlando
There are tens of thousands of lodging opportunities in Orlando, from TENTS to DELUXE RESORTS. In other words, there is no lack of variety in Orlando, and based on our visits to “the theme park capital of the world” and research, we have put together a list of the best places to stay in Orlando based on your budget concerns and “theme” requirements, along with the pros and cons of staying on Disney property.
Finding Lodging in Orlando
While the hotel competition in Orlando is fierce, it doesn’t appear to provide any cost benefits. In other words, staying in Orlando isn’t cheap, and “inexpensive” in Central Florida means that you pay $100 a night with few exceptions. Prices fluctuate with the seasons, and typically, hotel prices increase when kids are out of school and are lowest in January, September, October, and early December, sometimes as much as 50%, because of thinner crowds that result in less occupancy.
Regardless of the price, many places in Orlando are not quality spots, so if you venture outside of our recommendations, you run the chance of finding a dreadful place to sleep. Every option on our lists has at least one pool, Wi-Fi, and shuttles that take you and your crew to the popular theme parks, as a courtesy, or at a price of $5-$10.
More than 90% of the hotels in Orlando are kid-friendly, and you will find frolicking children who scamper and shout about the lobbies and halls. Therefore, if you require peace and quiet, find a rental home or a resort that caters to business professionals and convention-goers, and not families.
Many places come equipped with a kitchen, but they are usually timeshares rented to tourists when the normal occupants are not using it. They are normally good deals, but you might have to take a few calls disguised as a “welcome” from salespeople who pry you to make a permanent purchase of the unit. These can be uncomfortable and showing weakness means they are more likely to apply pressure sales. If being firm with people is not your thing it is probably best to avoid these properties completely.
The Benefits and Pitfalls of Staying on Disney Property
Disney “magic” comes at a price, often as much as twice the cost of comparable places minus the fantasy. Resorts on Disney property are functional and fantastical, which is the expectation for most tourists. Characters perform for kids, pools are themed as pirate caves and lagoons with waterfalls, and a surprise lies around every corner. There are playgrounds, coin laundries, and places to eat. Deluxe Disney resorts have fine dining establishments with well-known chefs, while moderate and value resorts have food courts with Decent to Basic food options.
The pricing at Disney hotels is broken down by season, and the list below begins with the cheapest options and ends with the most expensive:
- Value season: January to mid-February, and mid-August to September
- Fall season: Mid-September to mid-December
- Regular season: Late-February to early-March, and late-April to May
- Summer season: June to July
- Peak season: Mid-February, mid-March to mid-April, and mid-December
- Holiday season: Late-December, and New Year’s
Take a look at our Weather page before deciding when is best to visit as there is a reason Mid-Aug and September are so cheap!
Why Stay at Disney:
There are plenty of benefits to staying on Disney property and they include the following:
- If you have a car, there is free parking at the theme parks. The cost for everyone else is $22! This is now a Double-edged sword though as Overnight Parking at Disney world is now Chargeable. Yep just to park at the hotel you paid for now costs! See Below.
- If you don’t have a car, there are free buses, monorails, and ferries to get you throughout the resort.
- The resorts provide free luggage transfer from the Orlando International Airport to your room as well as a bus to get YOU there as well.
- During “Extra Magic Hours,” parks open an hour early and close up to three hours past closing for Disney hotel guests only, meaning the parks are much quieter. This is especially useful for beating the queues on busy rides such as Avatar: Flight of Passage or the Seven Dwarfs Mine trian
- 60 Days FastPass+ Bookings. Book your Fastpass+ rides up to 60 Days out. This is often the only way to snag a popular Fastpass!
- The resorts offer wake-up calls from Disney characters!
- Disney hotel guests receive guaranteed admission to a park even if it reaches capacity. Everyone else is turned away.
- In-park purchases can be delivered to your room and the cost of the item can be charged to your room key card.
- Dining plan – You can purchase a Dining plan that allows you to have all your meals at Disney’s restaurants and food outlets.
The following are the pitfalls to staying on Disney property:
- Rates are 40%-70% higher than similar off-Disney hotels, which makes one wonder if any of the “free” services on the above list are actually “free.”
- The “free” Disney transportation is slow and frustrating, from the long lines to the circuitous bus routes and required bus transfers, as well as standing-room-only bus spaces at peak times.
- Families or groups larger than four people, two units are often required, and families may be split apart to opposite ends of the hotel during peak times. Not to mention the Expense.
- Resorts have up to 2,000 rooms, and every line is long, from the lobby desk to the line to get coffee.
- Value properties are so far from the parks that they might as well be considered of-property, about a 15-minute drive. Of Course, they do still have all the perks of a Dinsey Hotel.
- Many rooms do not have microwaves and coffee machines, and none of them have full kitchens.
- You are very much at the Mercy of the Disney Corp. This can get a bit much. While Disney weaves its magic it also tries to extract money at every opportunity. Stay off Site gives you the chance to get away from it
- Dining plan – You can purchase a Dining plan that allows you to have all your meals at Disney’s restaurants and food outlets…this is not always a good thing!
Overall the Convenience and advantages of Staying at Disney make it our preferred choice, especially for families. Disney parks are HUGE. and seeing a park in a day is massively challenging. Take Magic Kingdom as an example. To get on the Seven Dwarfs mine train you need to hit the park at opening if you want to avoid the 2-hour queues. So that means getting at the park for 8 AM to realistically have a shot at getting to the gates for 9 AM. The Park will be Quiet and you will get lots done early doors. The problem lies in the fact the Unmissable Firework Display, Happily Ever After is not until 9 PM! 12 hours is an awfully long time to be out in the blistering sun at a theme park. Your day could easily be 15+hours That’s tough. With kids it’s unworkable.
Being at a Disney resort means you can come and go as you please, so one day you can go early doors to hit the busy rides, another day go for dinner and see the fireworks. Of course, this requires you have an unlimited entry ticket. But again with kids, this is recommended.
Of course, this is based on how much Disney you want on your trip. The above Applies to a Disney-based trip. If you are here mainly for other attractions and just want a day or two at Disney parks then there is very little reason to choose a Disney hotel. Disney wants to own your holiday and it makes staying in their hotels very attractive for those types of trips
The Best Disney-Themed Hotels Inside Walt Disney World
Disney’s luxury hotels would not qualify as TRUE LUXURY outside of Disney itself. Though they are stacked with table-service restaurants, lounges, spas, and giant pools, the rooms and service are average. Don’t get us wrong, Disney’s luxury hotels are super fun and the mood all around is uplifting, but they are 3-star hotels with a touch of magic to give them a bit more polish. Like Most things Disney It’s mainly about Style over Substance!
Disney World’s Luxury Resorts
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort
- Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
The Contemporary Resort, which is the most iconic spot, the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, which is the fanciest, and the Polynesian Village Resort, which is the most private, are all right near Magic Kingdom on the monorail line that circles the Seven Seas Lagoon. Wilderness Lodge links to Magic Kingdom by ferry, and the Beach Club and Yacht Club are within walking distance of Epcot’s side door, while Animal Kingdom Lodge requires roads to get you to the parks.
The best hotels are Animal Kingdom, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Polynesian Village Resort, and Contemporary Resort, which is our pick for the best deluxe resort inside Disney World.
Built in 1971, the Contemporary is a treasure to behold with a monorail that theatrically enters through the glass Grand Canyon concourse that rises up to modular rooms that reach 422-square feet in size. From the coveted rooms in the A-framed tower to stylish lower-level Garden Rooms along Bay Lake, you will either get a view of Magic Kingdom or a view of the water. If money is no option, stay here at rates ranging from $400-$833 a night, depending on the season…Ouch
Our other Pick is the Polynesian. Simply as we adore anything Polynesian. Hawaii is our Spiritual Homeland (and we mean spiritual, We hail from Manchester England!) And anything themed around this Culture fills us with joy. So While at the Polynesian we can try and forget we are in Disney and dream of the Hawaiian Isles…
Disney World’s Moderate Resorts
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
- The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
The grounds of the moderate resorts at Disney World have more of a “resort feel” than the value resort options, but they are still more like glorified motels with exterior corridors, bathrooms without windows, and overpriced food courts. The main differences between the moderate and value resorts are the room size. The moderate resorts average 314 square feet, while the value resort rooms measure 260 square feet. In addition, the moderate pools have a more elaborate theme with slides and other features.
Our Favourite is the Caribbean Beach Resort. What could be better than an exact recreation of a perfect Caribean Beach Resort, Well apart from a real one, not a lot? Unfortunately, this is a long way off. But it is still a great place to base your trip. Pirate-themed rooms and a fantastic pool mean this Lakeside resort complete with beaches and Caribbean island-themed zones is great for kids and adults. Where better to get a cocktail than the home of rum!
Disney World’s Value Resorts
- Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
- The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
The value resorts combined at Disney World have 9,504 rooms, which is more rooms than many mid-sized cities have in total. The value “resorts” have a cinderblock construction and exterior entryways with noisy plumbing, and kids aplenty, who you can hear through the resort’s thin walls.
The best value resort of the five available is Disney’s Art and Animation Resort, which was built in 2012. It is an attractive addition with more lavish themes than the other value hotels. From the Radiator Springs (from the animated movie Cars) pool to Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, and Lion King-themed rooms, guests receive a whimsical bang for their buck. Family suites have two bathrooms, convertible couches, and kitchens without stoves. The price is higher than you will find in the moderate resorts, though, which is difficult to justify; standard rooms are $160-$230 a night, and a six-person family suite runs $310-$525, depending on the season.
Disney Wildcard “Resort”
The cheapest place to stay at Disney World is Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. The 780-acre wooded area has campsites, mobile-home style cabins with decks, grills, and a hodgepodge of bunks, beds, and pullouts that sleep up to six people. You can also set up a tent or bring your RV. The nightly Fort Wilderness marshmallow roasts and Disney film screenings are all the rage for this wildcard resort pick that costs $56-$145 for a campsite and $336-$562 a night for a cabin.
Alternate Theme Hotels
Disney is not the only theme park to realize the benefits of having a hotel on-site as well. Universal and Legoland all have resort at least one resort hotel. And these like Disney come with certain Perks relating to the Theme Parks such as free transport and Early/LAte Priority entry.
Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal is a popular and affordable resort. It has a massive pool area and is pretty keenly priced. The Universal Hotels need to be a pretty decent offering to take business away from the Disney Magic Lure.
The Legoland Hotel has to try even harder to prize customers away. It does this by being ultra Lego Themed and by giving you free entry with stays (offers do vary). Really it is a one or two-night destination tops while the kids enjoy Legoland. Legoland isn’t really that close to Orlando so if you want to fully experience it then saying over is worthwhile.
The Best Hotels in the Orlando Area
The U.S. 192 area, which technically, runs from the city of Celebration to Kissimmee just south of Orlando, is where you will find the cheapest and most exhausted hotels in Central Florida with some exceptions. Most of these hotels were built in the 1970s and drifted into the budget category over the years because of overuse and limited upkeep.
There is truly nothing great in the U.S. 192 area, but the Bohemian Hotel Celebration is interesting with a lakeside setting and a cool martini-style bar at $120-$200 a night. Another good hotel at about the same price is the Melia Orlando Suite Hotel at Celebration, which boasts fully-equipped kitchens, and a lavish pool. For a decent hotel at a bargain check out Clarion Suites Maingate that has prices from $83-$109 and a quiet, pseudo-resort feel.
Lake Buena Vista is on the east side of Disney World near Downtown Disney. The area is more visible and sports a higher class of hotel than you will find clustered around U.S. 192. Lake Buena Vista has the highest occupancy rate in the Orlando area, which means you will pay higher prices, see more traffic, and find staff with limited charisma because apparently, YOU need THEM, and not vice-versa.
Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Resort in Lake Buena Vista is the most complete resort package near Disney. On a lush campus with 1,500 acres, the resort is packed with amenities, including 45 holes of golf, a lagoon pool that is the best of any Orlando resort, a trail system around a pond, horses, a lake with kayaks and paddle boats, a spa, a restaurant that specializes in Florida ingredients, and views of Disney’s firework show at Epcot and Magic Kingdom. The rooms are sleek with rain showers, chaise lounges, and 37-inch HDTVs. Prices drop to as low as $85 during super slow seasons but normally range from $135-$369.
Another professionally run, consistently solid, and inexpensive spot in this cluster is the Radisson Hotel Lake Buena Vista. The Radisson is close to the Crossroads shopping center, is packed with modern conveniences, and has sizable rooms with rates from $84-$165.
International Drive has a cluster of hotels surrounded by alternate attractions to Disney, which includes midway rides, family-friendly activities, and great restaurants. The I-Ride Trolley is an inexpensive way to get up and down the strip, and hotel shuttles, though inconsistent, get you to Universal and Disney.
Within the International Drive area, we suggest Hyatt Place Orlando Universal for $90-$180 a night and Drury Inn Suites for $100-$150. For a decent cheap spot check out the Rosen Inn, which was once the largest Rodeway Inn in the United States, and is now a dated, but clean revamp on a lively bend of International Drive. It has two restaurants, a pub, and tight security, with shuttle service, and microwaves and refrigerators in every room, starting at $80 a night.
Finally, Downtown Orlando is a 30-minute drive south to Disney, so it isn’t the first choice for folks heading to the popular theme parks. And while the quality is great downtown, the prices tend to be high. Like a lot of Downtown areas, it’s a high business area with a thriving tech scene so a lot of the hotels cater to Business type guests. As their Businesses are likely paying for the room competition relax’s and prices soar.
For the adventurous at heart, grab a room at the Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando. It’s expensive at $179-$349 a night, but it has an L.A.-style pool terrace that sits high above city traffic, an eccentric collection of artwork, including six originals by Gustav Klimt, which makes you think of New York, and a stylish martini club, Bosendorfer Lounge, where you can grab a few cocktails and rub shoulders with local artists.
Home Rentals in Orlando
Finding a home or villa in Orlando is a great option for those who want to escape the Disney rat race during the evenings, or you have a big family or group that would save more by finding a house that fits everyone, instead of multiple hotel rooms. Check out house-sharing platforms like Airbnb.com, FabVillas.com, FlipKey.com, HomeAway.com, Housetrip.com, and vrbo.com for homes rentals in the area.
For a more personal touch with accredited companies that take the risk out of renting a home through actual inspections and support at every stage, with satisfactory rating with the Better Business Bureau of Central Florida, call one of the local vacation home and villa businesses. The downside to using their services is that you typically have to pay a deposit of $200-$300 ahead of time and a fee that goes towards insurance or cleaning that is $50-$80, which makes short stays really expensive. In addition, while clean bath towels are typically supplied, maid service is not, and you need to call ahead and ask if you will need to bring any supplies with you. If you are still interested, try All Star Vacation Homes, Florida Sun Vacation Homes, IPG Florida Vacation Homes, Lowery’s Vacation Homes, Alexander Holiday Homes, and VillaDirect.
The Final Word on Staying in Orlando
Needless to say, the lodging offerings in Orlando seem limitless and overwhelming. Remember, do the required research months in advance of your trip, and make your reservations ASAP. The best spots fill up quickly, and if you don’t show some urgency during the planning process, you might find yourself in a hotel that is way over your budget, or a place that doesn’t meet your standards for quality.
It is worth remembering that it is only a room. And often on very focused trips to Disneyworld, you pretty much do only Sleep in the Room! As long as you have a good bed to fall face-first into each night that can be enough. While a good pool is useful there are so many options for waterparks in the area that are often included with your Tickets even this is not essential.
We all want to Stay in the Lap of Luxury but the reality is in Orlando the Hotel is really of secondary importance sometimes.
Have Your Say?
What is Your Favourite Disney Hotel? Or do You avoid the Disney trappings like the plage? If so where do you Stay and how do you get about the area? Are you a Villa Type of person? Let us know below in the comments if you have anything to say about where to stay in the Orlando area! Or if you have any questions just let us know below!