Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hotels Around Walt Disney World Part 1: Staying Off Property

This is a hotel in Orlando.
So you're going to Disney World. You've saved your money, you've mortgaged your second child, and you've sold your soul to some guy named Stan. Now the big question remains: Do you want to stay in a Disney hotel on the Walt Disney World property, or do you want to stay at one of the many off-property hotels? I'm here to help you out! Or at least make it sounds less confusing... Okay, worst-case scenario, I write all this up and you say "Oh, pretty pictures!" and move on.

So is this.
Let's start Part 1 with staying at a hotel off of Disney property. There are countless hotels to choose from, all with varying degrees of distance from the parks, prices, levels of quality, amenities, services, speakeasies, drug cartels, etc. Rather than telling you what's available, I'll tell you some of the things to look for in your query so you can make your own decisions.

No no no. Not THIS kind of shuttle!
Some hotels have scheduled shuttles to the parks so you don't have to drive your own car. Other hotels don't. Those that do also have different drop-off areas. For example, some hotels will have a shuttle to each park, while others will only have a shuttle to the Ticket & Transportation Center (AKA Magic Kingdom's parking lot.) One hotel has a shuttle to a gator pit where the alligators eat you, but I'm not going to tell you which one. It's like Hotel Russian Roulette. The best way to figure out what sort of shuttle service is available, simply ask the hotel you're inquiring about.

Rental cars come in a variety of shapes, colors, and prices.
Don't want to depend on shuttles? That's great. Then I recommend renting a car. Renting a car frees you up from shuttle schedules. You're free to come and go as you please. Need some groceries for your room? Take your rental car to the grocery store! Want to visit other parks like Universal Studios or Sea World? Or even the world famous Gator Land?! Go nuts! Because you can! The biggest downsides of rental cars are cost. It costs to rent, and if you're not staying on Disney property, it costs to park at the theme parks. Speaking of theme parks, at the end of the day when hoards of cranky, sweaty, smelly tourists are clumped together waiting for hotel shuttles, just remember that your rental car is a short walk away and you're set to go! If you can afford it, rent a car, but don't forget to visit Stan first for extra cash for parking.

Then there are the hotel amenities. Most of the Orlando area hotels will have the same things, just in varying degrees of quality. Take swimming pools, for example. The Motel 6 has a pool. So does the Ritz-Carlton Orlando. They're both water. But one is going to supply a little more satisfaction than the other. It all just depends on what you're willing to pay for. And that goes for everything else. Continental breakfasts, room service, etc. The best way to find out? Again, just ask.

Well that pretty much wraps up Part 1. I'm not one for recommending particular hotels. I'm just one for showing you how to hone in your own tastes in what you're looking for. Did I forgot anything that you want to know? Let me know in the comments and I'll add it in! Stay tuned for Part 2, where I tackle the Disney-owned hotels on Disney World property.

You must choose...wisely.
A note from our Josh: I stayed at this nice little place off-property once, had its own micro-brewery and a German brew master that looked a lot like Max von Sydow.  Beer was delicious, although, I didn't seem to sleep so well.  Kept hearing weird electronic organs playing and felt restless, woke up with hockey gear on...  Anyways, as Jake said, research your off-property pick.