So you’ve decided that you are going to take a family vacation to Disney World. Congratulations! You just have about 8,000 decisions to make! Ok, maybe not that many, but there are a lot of decisions surrounding a Walt Disney World vacation and where to stay is a number of decisions in itself.
In order to help you determine where to stay in Orlando I am going to assume that you know your travel dates and the make up of your group.
On-Site or Off-Site?
The first, and most significant decision, is whether to stay on Disney property (on site) or nearby (off site). There are pros and cons to both on site and off site stays. Off site can be substantially cheaper, especially if you have a larger party, and give you much more space. However, staying off property does burst the “Disney Bubble”. There are pros and cons to each option. Many people have a strong opinion either way. However, I believe it is possible to have a wonderful, magical vacation if you make a good choice for your family, either on-site or off-site.
If you can afford it, there are options that suit your party size, and your trip is Disney-focused (as opposed to visiting a number of the Orlando area attractions), I would recommend staying on-site. If your group is not primarily focused on Disney World, is very large, or it just isn’t’ in your budget, off-site is a great option.
Disney operates 25 resorts on property with range from the Fort Wilderness Campground to Deluxe Villa Resorts. Of those 25 resorts, 10 are Deluxe Villa properties which are part of the Disney Vacation Club (DVC), a timeshare program. Most of these DVC resorts are for all practical purposes part of the Deluxe Resorts. In order to maximize your budget, I strongly recommend considering renting DVC points as this will cost far less than If you rent DVC points and use someone else’s timeshare allotment you can save up to 40% compared to what you would be charged if you booked these rooms from Disney directly. WDW Prep School has a very informative post on how to rent points. While you can save additional money by renting directly from owners, I would recommend paying slightly more to get the ease and peace of mind by using one of the well established DVC point rental agencies such as David’s DVC Rental.
For the most part, there are 4 types of villas to rent; studios, 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom, and grand villas. The studios usually have a kitchenette, washer/dryer, bathroom, and sleep up to 5 adults. One bedroom units have a full kitchen and usually 2 bathrooms and usually sleep up to 5 adults as well. The 2 bedroom villas have a full kitchen, 2 or 3 bathrooms and can sleep up to 9 people. The grand villas are 3 bedroom units and can accommodate 12 people. Renting a villa is a great way to get most of the advantages of a villa or rental home but still have the convenience and theming of a Disney resort.
The 10 Deluxe villa properties that Disney operates have different pros and cons. The resort that might be great for your group when you have very young kids would likely be different if you have older children.
There are endless options for staying off property and this is certainly not an exhaustive list. If you are looking for accommodations for larger groups you may consider:
–A Suite at the Dolphin or Swan These two hotels are run by Sheraton/Marriott, so are not official “Disney” hotels. However, they are located within the Walt Disney World on Crescent Lake, so within easy walking distance of Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and the Boardwalk area attractions. Additionally, you get some on-site benefits such as access to Extra Magic Hours and booking your FastPasses 60 days in advance. The larger suites with adjoining bedrooms could sleep up to 12.
-All Star Vacation Homes This is a well-established agency that offers a large number of houses for rent close to Disney World. Some of their rentals can accommodate over 35 people and have Disney themed bedrooms. If you are looking to maximize the space and privacy for your family this could be the route to go.
-Sheraton Vistana Resort Villas The Sheraton Vistana Resort is an all-villa resort that offers 1 and 2 bedroom villas, but also the convenience and reassurance of a hotel. Plus, if you are a member of the hotel loyalty programs for Marriott/Starwood you can utilize your points here.
-Villas at Grand Cypress This villa resort is also gives you the convenience and amenities of a hotel, but the space of villa rentals. They offer a wide range of villas, from 1 to 4 bedrooms which could accommodate groups of up to 20.