Hopping to Orlando for a family vacation is toadally exciting! Whether you're heading to Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando or any number of the other awesome attractions in the area, you're in for a fun time! Aside from tickets to your parks of choice, the next big question becomes where to stay.
Staying at a hotel on-site at either Walt Disney World Resort or Universal Orlando Resort definitely comes with its perks. But it's not always possible for every trip, and we understand that. Whether a particular off-site hotel comes with a more affordable price tag, a more central location from all of your destinations or even lodging fit to accommodate a large group, there are times when staying off-site just makes more sense. And with a wide range of fabulous off-site hotels available, there's no shortage of options to consider!
Our Top Tips for Staying Off-Site at Disney World
If you’re planning to stay at any one of the hundreds of off-site hotels in Orlando, there are some things to consider before you make your reservation. Here are our best tips for staying off-site at Disney World.
You'll need to consider two things when it comes to transportation: How are you getting to your hotel from the airport? And, how are you getting to the parks from your hotel? If the hotel offers transportation to and from the airport and has complimentary shuttle service to and from the parks, awesome! If not, you'll want to consider renting a car or utilizing a ride share service like Uber or Lyft. Be sure to do a cost comparison, keeping things like hotel and theme park parking fees in mind. If you have tadpoles, a rental car may make things more convenient simply from a carseat perspective, as not all ride share services will have one available for use (though Minnie Vans will if you're hopping around Disney property).
Location, Location, Location
How far away is your hotel from the theme parks you're planning to visit? The address may say “Orlando,” but it’s a large city. Long drives with sleepy tadpoles aren't fun for anyone! If you'll be visiting more than one theme park or attraction, make sure you consider where you're staying in relation to all of your destinations. And don't froget to factor in traffic!
What's more, pay attention to what's around the hotel (restaurants within walking distance are always a Frog Family perk!). If you're looking for a room with a kitchen, see where the nearest grocery store is to be able to stock up.
On-Site Accommodations and Amenities
For larger families especially, staying off-site at Disney World may offer more flexibility in keeping the whole fam together. While Disney World offers suites and villas, you may find that staying off-site is a little nicer on the wallet. Take a look at the room configurations and types available to see what best meets your needs. For families with teenagers, maybe you'd prefer a family suite with some additional room to stretch. For multi-generational families, maybe it's adjoining rooms. Expanding your search to include off-site hotels also expands the options available to you.
When Lily was little, one of my biggest tips for staying off-site at Disney World was thinking about that crib or pack 'n' play. Does the hotel offer it? Where will it fit? One of the best off-site trips we ever took included a patio perfect for reading a book while Lily got her afternoon nap in undisturbed. (Tad got to see his first live alligator walking around during one of those naps that trip, so it was memorable for everyone!)
If you're traveling with a large group and aren't rope-drop-til-you-drop frogs, maybe you'd like lodging with a kitchen to make whipping up group meals a breeze. No matter the trip, we try to bring sandwich items, snacks and drinks with us. Make sure you’ll have somewhere to store your food in the room, even if it's just a minifridge! This is especially true if you'll need someplace to store breastmilk, milk or formula for littles. That refrigerator has even proven handy for leftovers in the past (and maybe a caramel apple or two!). When Lily doesn't eat her sliced apples from a Mickey Check Meal in the parks, she often asks to save them, and they go straight into the fridge when we get home. It's a helpful addition that often gets overlooked.
Even if you're planning on spending most of your time in the parks (and thus, eating at park restaurants), be sure to check out your on-site dining options. Some off-site hotels may offer character dining or a free breakfast. Hitting the parks with a full belly makes for hoppy frogs. And knowing that you have options at the hotel cuts out the guesswork later if you need a Plan B for dining.
What else does the hotel have to offer guests? A 24-hour concierge has saved us on multiple trips (who else can help with those late night questions, directions or restaurant recs as hopfully and kindly as a concierge?). Other amenities, such as on-site ATMs, laundry or childcare services may also come in handy.
It might be a theme park vacation, but believe it or not, your kids still want to hang out at the hotel sometimes. (When else can they ride up and down elevators and take late night dips in the pool?) Make sure the hotel has recreation options for those afternoons when everyone needs a break from the park crowds. Arcades, sports courts, golf or a rad waterslide can make a stay all the more enjoyable.
Pay Attention to Extras
Some hotels have additional fees, not only their nightly resort fee, but parking, crib rental, cleaning fees and internet access. These extra fees can really add up, and if you don’t know about them in advance, they can really bust your budget. Head into your trip prepared to keep surprises to a minimum.
Pssst ... One of our most valuable tips for staying off-site at Disney World is checking out hotels that offer Disney World Resort hotel benefits ... yes, really! Certain off-site hotels at Disney World offer on-site perks, such as Extra Magic Hours or early FastPass booking windows.