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Walt Disney World Vacation Homes vs. Disney Hotels

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Trying to decide between booking a hotel or a vacation home at Walt Disney World? When planning a Disney trip, it’s easy to go overboard. But you won’t have a good time if you break the bank or your accommodations don’t meet your needs. Take a look at the the pros and cons of Disney World vacation homes and Disney hotels to help you make the right choice for your family!

Magic Village Vacation Homes in Kissimmee, FL

Magic Village Vacation Homes in Kissimmee (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

1. Theming

Disney goes over the top with theming, both at its amusement parks and its hotels. For non-stop Disney action, an on-site resort is where to stay. From the African savannah with roaming giraffes at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge to the playfulness of Disney*Pixar cartoons at the Art of Animation Resort, there’s a theme to suit every everyone.

Giraffes wandering the grounds at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

Giraffes wandering the grounds at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (Photo credit: Preston Mack, Disney)

Some vacationers, though, like a reprieve from Mickey and friends. Spending the night away from the hubbub of the parks may be a more relaxing option for some families. Additionally, many vacation rental properties in Orlando and Kissimmee offer themed kids rooms with Mickey Mouse, Disney Princesses, Star Wars or Harry Potter touches. The vacation rental shown in the photo below can be found on VRBO here.

Do you want a retreat from the excitement of theme parks, or do you prefer an immersive Disney experience?

Mickey-themed bedroom at a Kissimmee vacation rental home

Mickey-themed bedroom at a Kissimmee vacation rental home (Photo from VRBO.com)

2. Location and Transportation

If being as close to the parks as possible is super important to your family, it may be worth the extra expense and potentially limited space to book a hotel or resort near the theme parks. Additionally, staying on property means free transportation to and from the airport via Disney’s Magical Express buses. Disney hotel guests also receive complimentary delivery to and from Disney World via monorail, boat, bus, or Skyliner gondola lift system. Although Disney claims that transportation departs every 20 minutes from the resort hotels to the theme parks, there are often delays so you should always plan for it to take longer.

Disney's Magical Express bus

Disney’s Magical Express bus (Photo credit: Disney)

Many Disney World vacation rental homes and off-site hotels offer complimentary shuttles to the parks, too. Pick-up and drop-off times, however, will likely be more limited than when staying at a Disney property. Although a theme park shuttle was available at the Magic Village Vacation Homes where my family recently stayed in Kissimmee, we happily paid for ride shares to Disney World theme parks so we could come and go according to our own schedule. If renting a car, be sure to budget for daily rental prices and parking fees. You should also consider the time it will take to park your rental car and take Disney transportation from lot to theme park.

Do you mind staying off-property at a vacation rental, or do want to be as close to the action as possible?

Disney Skyliner transportation

Disney Skyliner transports guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot to four resort hotels (Photo credit: David Roark, Disney)

3. Good Night’s Sleep

One of the most important, and most overlooked, aspects of a successful trip is a good night’s sleep. Sure, it’s not the most exciting thing to plan for, but restful sleep is essential for a happy vacation. A vacation home tends to provide the most bedrooms and beds at the best price.

Master bedroom at Magic Village Vacation Homes in Kissimmee

Master bedroom at Magic Village Vacation Homes in Kissimmee (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

As a light sleeper who sometimes suffers from insomnia, I learned long ago that a hotel suite, connecting rooms, or rental home with separate bedrooms is necessary for my family. Sometimes I forget those painfully long vacation days with bleary eyes and cranky kids, and opt to book a single hotel room for all of us. Then I always regret it. Since we sleep in separate rooms at home, we fare better when we stay in separate rooms when traveling, too. If, however, your family co-sleeps at home, then a single hotel room may make the most sense for you.

Do you prefer separate sleeping spaces at a vacation rental property, or does your family not mind sleeping together in one hotel room?

Twin beds at Magic Village Vacation Homes in Kissimmee, FL

My kids appreciated the separate beds in the bedroom they shared at Magic Village Vacation Homes (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

4. Value

On-property hotel room pricing at Disney World comes at a premium, even when choosing one of their Value Resorts. Non-Disney hotels close to the theme parks typically come with a hefty price tag, too. If budget is a big factor for your family, you can get a lot more bang for your buck the further you go from the amusement parks. The nearby city of Kissimmee has tons of hotels and vacation rentals to choose from, often at affordable prices.

Exterior of the "Finding Nemo" wings at Disney's Art of Animation Resort

Exterior of the “Finding Nemo” wings at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort (Photo credit: Matt Stroshane, Disney)

Typically, you’ll get better value if you forego the hotels and resorts in favor of a vacation rental home, condominium or apartment. Of course, if price is of no concern, you could always spring for a Disney Deluxe Villa — a vacation rental option on property at Disney World.

Does a vacation rental home make more sense for your budget, or is money of no concern when it comes to your Disney vacation?

Magic Village Vacation Rental Home

View from the second floor at our Magic Village vacation rental home (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

5. Space for the Whole Family

When traveling with babies and young children, you probably don’t want to go to bed at the same time as your offspring. That’s when having a separate living area at a vacation rental comes in handy. It’s so nice to have a space away from the kids after bedtime to chat and maybe have a nightcap with your honey. Extra space means room for privacy, as well. After all, what vacation is complete without a little romance?!

My husband relaxing on the balcony at our Magic Village vacation home

My husband relaxing on the balcony at our Magic Village vacation home (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

If vacationing with older kids or teens, they will want their privacy, too. When my kids were wee, they were happy to share a pull-out sofa bed. Now that my son is a tween and my daughter is a teen, though, this makes them uncomfortable in more ways than one. First, they are growing kids who don’t fit so well in a cramped bed. Second, they don’t want to sleep in the same bed now that they are older. Even if you don’t want to book a separate bedroom for each child, many vacation homes offer rooms with twin beds or even bunk beds. (Always a treat for kids!)

Do you want privacy and space at a vacation rental, or do you like family togetherness all the time at a Disney hotel?

Lion King-themed bathroom at Disney's Art of Animation Resort

Lion King-themed bathroom at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort (Photo credit: Kent Phillips, photographer)

6. Extra Bathrooms

Time is valuable, especially while on vacation. If the whole family needs to use one bathroom to get ready in the morning before a big Disney day, it’s going to be harder to get out the door. Two or more bathrooms make morning and evening routines easier for all. This is especially true when traveling with teens who may need more time to primp. Extra bathrooms mean more privacy for every family member, too.

Do you want extra bathrooms at a vacation home, or do you not mind sharing a bathroom in a hotel?

Zero-entry pool at Magic Village Vacation Homes

Zero-entry pool with fountains at Magic Village Vacation Homes (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

7. Swimming Pools

All Disney properties offer swimming pools and some of them are elaborately themed. Many offer waterslides, fountains, or waterfalls. Similarly, many vacation rental properties in Kissimmee and Orlando offer pools with splash pads, zero-entry, slides and lazy rivers.

How important is a themed swimming pool in choosing your Orlando/Kissimmee accommodations?

Swimming pool with waterslide at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort

Swimming pool with waterslide at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

8. Meals

A full-sized kitchen is one of the best things about booking vacation homes. Having a refrigerator to store breakfast foods, travel snacks and drinks makes life easier. Most rental homes and condos come with a microwave, stove, oven, dishes, silverware, cookware, a dishwasher and maybe even a barbecue and blender. After a long day at the parks, it’s nice to come back to a peaceful place where you can pop some popcorn or order a pizza and sip a tasty beverage.

Modern kitchen at Magic Village Vacation Homes in Kissimmee, FL

Modern kitchen at our Magic Village vacation rental (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Dining-in for breakfast saves tons of time and money during your Disney World vacation, too. Plus, when most kids wake up in the morning, they want to eat NOW. You can also pack meals to bring into the parks, for even more savings.

Villagio Restaurant at Magic Village Vacation Homes

Villagio Restaurant at Magic Village (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Some Orlando and Kissimmee vacation rental properties, like Magic Village, offer one or more on-site restaurants. But if you prefer to dine out for every meal during your Disney vacation, you may enjoy Disney’s on-site dining options including multiple restaurants at many of their hotels as well as room service.

Boma Flavors of Africa buffet at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

Boma Flavors of Africa buffet at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Do you want to eat some meals and snacks at a vacation rental home, or do you plan to dine out for every meal?

9. Laundry Options

When visiting Disney World for a week or more, you’ll likely need to do some vacation laundry at some point. Even during shorter stays, you may want to pop in a load of laundry after a rainy day, messy meal, or wet water ride. Thankfully, a lot of vacation homes in Kissimmee and Orlando offer the convenience of an in-unit washing machine and dryer. I thought we’d packed enough clothing to avoid doing laundry during our recent Disney World vacation home stay. But, I was wrong and I sure was happy when I could easily throw in a load before heading to the parks and find it nice and clean upon our return.

Full-sized washer and dryer at Magic Village Vacation Homes

Full-sized washer and dryer at Magic Village Vacation Homes (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Meanwhile, Disney offers a variety of laundry options. Most Disney hotels have self-service laundry facilities, with some operated by coin and others by credit/debit cards. Meanwhile, Disney Deluxe Villas come equipped with an in-room washer and dryer. All Disney properties offer dry cleaning and valet laundry service, but this option can be quite expensive.

Do you prefer an in-unit washer and dryer, self-service laundry facility, or valet laundry service?

Disney's Contemporary Resort hotel room

A family in a Disney’s Contemporary Resort hotel room (Photo credit: Preston Mack, Disney)

How to Choose Between a Florida Vacation Home or Hotel

Answer the questions under each section above. Then rank each of these nine factors from most to least important for your family. This should help you determine the best lodging option for your Disney World vacation!

Family room and living room at Magic Village Vacation Homes in Kissimmee, Florida

Family room and living room at our Magic Village Vacation Home (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Magic Village Vacation Homes

My family absolutely loved our vacation home at Magic Village in Kissimmee! We had plenty of space to spread out and relax, including an upstairs balcony and a downstairs patio (with hot tub!). Both of these overlooked a picturesque pond. Making breakfast in the well-equipped, modern kitchen was so much easier, healthier and more affordable than eating out every morning, too. The three-bedroom townhouse was incredibly clean when we arrived and we chose to pay to have the place cleaned once during our nine-night stay. We have stayed in a lot of vacation homes over the years, and this was definitely one of our favorites. This home was so nice, in fact, I could really envision living there comfortably long-term. Book your stay at Magic Village Vacation Homes or read reviews on TripAdvisor and Expedia now.

If hotels are more your style, take a look at hotels in Kissimmee and Orlando via Hotels.com.

To make the most of your trip to Florida, be sure to take a look at our essential tips for planning a Disney World vacation and learn how to maximize your time in the parks with DisneyWorld’s FastPass+.

Disney World Vacation Home Rentals Vs. Disney Hotels

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Planning a Disney World trip? Be sure to save this comparison of Disney World vacation homes and hotels. Just save the image above to Pinterest. Go ahead and follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Which do you think would work best for your family — vacation homes near Disney World or Disney hotels?

Experience Kissimmee and Magic Village Vacation Rental Homes hosted my family during our recent Walt Disney World vacation. I will not receive any monetary compensation from either entity related to this blog post. All opinions are mine, as always.

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. Interesting and useful analysis! I’m more of a hotel gal, myself. The more structures and people in place to help with food, amenities, and cleaning, the better! 🙂

  2. My family and I plan to visit Disney next year and I am the person who is constantly craving my personal space. As hotels in Disney can be super expensive, vacation rental cannot be a greater idea.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Julie – I hear you. Kids and adults can get over-stimulated by non-stop theme park action. I really do better with some space for myself and some time away from the parks. I hope you’ll schedule some downtime for yourself during your trip, too!

  3. It seems like you really can’t go wrong here. If you have the scratch, the resorts are perfect for a super immersive experience. However, the homes are very comfortable and save some money. Either way, it’s going to be great.

  4. Those are all great things to consider. We’ve done both and I like the more affordable hotels situation but once in a while enjoy the resort too.

  5. Bill Sweeney says

    I think researching the pros and cons is a great idea. You have to see which is a best fit for your family, location and other factors.

  6. You bring up so many important points here. Since we’re a family of five with older children, I think a rental home is the best way to go. We need the space!

  7. I am loving all of the information you wrote about. I can see where the Disney vacation home would be a better bang for your buck versus staying in a hotel. They have so many nice amenities in the vacation rentals and I love the themed bedroom.

  8. Surekha-dreamingloud.com says

    I love having a separate bed whenever we stay at hotels. It’s kinda big issue for me. Lol.

  9. Ntensibe Edgar Michael says

    “Disney Hotels”, it is, for me. I wanna try out the entire week of Christmas with them.

  10. Kristine Nicole Alessandra says

    I prefer vacation rental homes. Hotels make me feel cramped and l really don’t like waiting for an elevator (I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Haha) Anyway, I like the privacy, and the space a vacation rental home provides.

  11. Wendy @ One Exceptional Life says

    This is a really great comparison. You’ve covered everything. Saving pin to share with others.

  12. We love staying at Disney resorts. The convenience and staying in the Disney bubble is just worth it to me. Plus, the prices are always bad! We are staying at all star music resort for $84 a night in feb! We are only 4 people though. I can imagine it would be more comfy to stay at a home off site if you have more people.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Even 4 is a lot for me in a hotel room! 😆 Disney really does such a great job of spreading the magic throughout their hotel properties, though.

  13. We tend to stay in hotels when we go to Disney. I’m not even sure I knew about these vacation rentals!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      You’ll have to give the vacation homes in Kissimmee & Orlando a try one of these times and see what you think! 🙂

  14. Emman Damian says

    I think dining and amenities really entice me to apply or go for a hotel. It’s fun that Disney World has all of it!

  15. The Joyous Living says

    i love wdw hotels and resorts. and frankly i don’t think i’d want to cook my own meals when visiting disney. part of the fun is trying all the fabulous restaurants. and i love the magical express option! and what about the wristbands?

    joy

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Good points! We stayed at a vacation home during our recent Disney World vacation and we at ate breakfast at our rental nearly every day but ate every lunch and dinner out. It doesn’t need to be all or nothing. 😄

  16. Terri Steffes says

    I think if you’re planning to visit Disney for more than a few days, a vacation home would be perfect and more comfortable for everyone. Love these advantages, they just make your family’s vacation even better!

  17. I have stayed on Disney resorts and hotels but not a vacation home. I would love to explore staying on a vacation home property.

  18. So many cool options! We might be heading to Disney World soon. Magic Village look seems awesome. I love the Village Restaurant interior design!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Isn’t Villagio a pretty restaurant?! We never did get a chance to dine there but it sure is nice to have an on-site option.

  19. Villagio, my phone has corrected it before I even noticed 😀

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