If you’ve never visited Orlando, planning your stay can be trickier than using Ron Weasley’s broken wand. Besides considering the best deals on hotels, you have to think about park tickets, access, transportation and dining. One of the most difficult decisions many face when planning an Orlando vacation is whether or not to stay on theme park property or not. There are pros and cons for each decision.
STAYING IN PARK: PROS
Choosing a park resort will give you quick and easy access to the particular theme park(s) of choice via shuttle bus, monorail or boat. Children have been known to enjoy the boat rides as much or more than the park itself.
On property resorts have food courts opening by 7 and closing between 10 and midnight, depending on resort and time of year.
Rooms will often have access to beautifully landscaped views and nightly fireworks shows.
Special activities specific to the theme of the resort are offered making the visit especially fun for kids. For example, Walt Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge offers conservation-related activities, while Pop Century runs a trivia contest for kids of all ages.
STAYING IN PARK: CONS
The word “resort” is a little grand for some of the hotels on property. While several are actual resorts with every amenity imaginable, many are, besides the theming, basic hotel rooms and a bath. Some rooms are actually very small and border on inadequate. If more spacious accommodations and amenities at reasonable prices are what you seek, a good neighbor hotel will be your best option.
Dining, though convenient, is significantly more expensive than staying off property, especially if you’re not visiting the parks every day.
Your room may have a view to the parking lot, but be close to the same price as the preferred rooms.
The dedicated transportation stays within resort property making visits to other theme parks, shopping and nightlife difficult. Also, during peak seasons, transportation can be excessively crowded with long wait times.
STAYING OUTSIDE PARK PROPERTY: PROS
Off-site hotels are less expensive and frequently offer better last minute deals than typical resort hotels. Sometimes, a 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo with a dining area off property will be less expensive than a basic room on property. Deals are definitely out there and some of the hotels are as lovely and well landscaped as any you’ll see in theme park land.
Dining is less expensive outside themed resorts and parks with a multitude of chain and unique-to-Orlando restaurants.
Centrally located hotels offer easy access to multiple parks throughout Orlando. Many hotels offer shuttle service to theme parks that is as efficient, and sometimes more so, than the resort hotels.
Staying off property allows participation in your preferred rewards programs.
STAYING OUTSIDE PARK PROPERTY: CONS
Unless using the hotel shuttle, if offered, you’ll be paying for public transportation and parking.
Orlando traffic can sometimes be problematic, and trying to navigate from place to place isn’t conducive to a relaxing vacation.
You will miss out on the specific theming as it relates to characters and movies. Some people really want to be immersed in the story of the parks and resorts, and don’t feel that they get that off the property.
All theme park related hotels have well-themed, fun swimming pools. The same is not always true for off-property hotels.
Make sure you check out photos of the pool and amenities before booking to make sure that you won’t be disappointed – some hotels have awesome, themed features for kids even outside the parks.
As you can see, either way has its pros and cons. Do your research and decide for yourself what is best for your situation. Have fun!