Should we stay in a Villa or a Hotel in Orlando?
I think Orlando is and will always be our favourite family holiday. It’s going to take something very special to out do how amazing it felt to explore Orlando. It was incredible. There’s so much to see and do. There’s so much for us still to explore. I guess that means we need to book another break. Today, as I write this post I am dreaming of our next family holiday to Florida. It was a whole year ago today that we flew to the sunshine state.
One of the questions I am always asked is whether I would recommend staying in a Villa or a Hotel. It was a decision we pondered over for months. As a family of 3 we found it difficult to find reasonably priced options for both. Should we stay on site and gain the benefits of early entry to the parks, should we stay in a Villa and explore with a hire car. Or should we stay in a hotel near to the parks and use local transport. So many options.
To give you a little bit of background, we visited Orlando for the first time in April 2019. We stayed in an Apartment on a Resort for 13 days and on site at one of the Universal Hotels for 5 days. Our Apartment was located at the Tuscana Resort, Champions Gate, Kissimmee. We were 15 minutes drive from the Disney Parks, a 1 hour drive from Tampa Bay where you’ll find the Seaworld Parks, Kennedy Space Centre and Clearwater Beach. When we stayed at a Universal Resort we were walking distance to all 3 parks. And so I thought I would answer the big question…
Should we stay in a Villa or a Hotel in Orlando?
Staying in a Villa or Apartment
There are so many benefits to having your own space, more space if you are lucky. As well as the freedom to explore local restaurants. To make your own food and take packed lunches to the theme parks. Saving money on food can often be a priority. Most Villa or Apartment complexes are located on resorts and therefore have pools, balconies, BBQ’s, restaurants and shops on site. You are surrounded by home comforts. There is the added cost of hiring a car although we loved having the freedom that it gave us. It meant we explored further afield visiting attractions that we might not have done so had we stayed in a hotel.
As a family of 3 the problem we found when researching villa’s was that we found them to be very expensive. They catered for much larger families and therefore we were penalised for being under occupancy. After month’s of research we started to look at Apartments and stumbled across the Cozy Retreat at Tuscana Resort. Perfect for a family of 3. Great price. Amazing location and unlike most accommodation very high spec. It was a fantastic find, a stunning apartment in a really pretty area that was oh so peaceful. It was modern, spacious with everything we needed and more. The beds were super comfy which after spending 12 hours in the parks were very much appreciated. Everything about this apartment was luxurious. An added benefit of the Tuscana Resort was that it was a gated community.
Staying at a Resort Hotel
For the last 5 days of our holiday in Orlando we treated George to a stay at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. He was desperate to visit Volcano Bay after watching Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. Which is attached to this hotel. I think it’s fair to say that if you’re going to Orlando you may well be planning on visiting Mickey Mouse and friends as well as the Universal Parks. I’ll be honest and say that we always wanted to stay at a resort hotel. And I’m so glad that we managed to fit it in to our budget.
There are some clear advantages of staying on site at a Resort. The biggest one for us was being immersed in the magic at every possible second. There’s something very special about being so close to the action. And when I mean close, literally everywhere you turn. So much fun. The second being early entry to the parks. Having access to Harry Potter World before the main crowds arrived was pretty special and worth the investment in the hotel. George loved that there were pools at every turn and enjoyed a late night swim most nights.
We chose a family room, which sadly meant we didn’t have a view of the Volcano but we did have a lovely view of the parks and were a few steps away from the Garden Walk which took us straight to the City Walk and the Parks. Our room was spacious, comfortable, retro in design and had everything we needed. It was a great room. We had a kitchen which meant we could eat in the hotel however as we were so close to the City Walk we took advantage of enjoying a Starbucks on site or Voodoo Doughnuts for breakfast. And as it was our last few days we really enjoyed relaxing and eating at the parks which included enjoying an alcoholic drink with our meals which we hadn’t really done previously due to Mr H driving.
What would we do if (when) we visit Orlando again?
I say when because once you holiday in Orlando you will definitely be going back. There’s just something about it. The magic is real, especially if your’re visiting the Theme Parks. We loved both options and personally I would choose to do a split stay again. It’s the best of both worlds. Staying onsite meant that we could all relax, it was much easier and quicker to hop on a shuttle bus or water taxi. The parking costs at the hotel were minimal in comparison to the $25 a day we would pay at the parks or days out. It meant Mr H didn’t have the stress of driving and that we could come and go a little easier than when staying off site. Life was much slower staying at a Resort Hotel.
That said, staying in an apartment meant that we were forced to leave the parks a little earlier, switch off from the hustle and bustle and get a good nights rest. It was relaxing when we were in the apartment as it felt like we were home. Due to the location of the parks you’ll find that the villa’s and apartments are a little drive out so realistically you will need to hire a car. The main highway – I4 is a very very busy road however as we were only 1 junction from the Disney parks we were lucky not to feel it. We managed it without any problems however we did get caught out on our first day and spent an hour stuck in traffic. And so, Mr H found a work around. We would leave the parks around 4.30 pm or 7 pm and head over to ICON Park for happy hour and food. We would watch the route on Google Maps and venture home when the road was quieter.
I will admit to us all enjoying not having to park up when staying in a Resort Hotel. I think we had the perfect balance. However if we were to stay at a Resort Hotel for the duration of our stay I would still hire a car so that we could explore with ease. It’s nice to find restaurants that are a little quieter and away from the main areas. We loved ICON Park as it was less busy than the parks or areas like Disney Springs. Eating out is definitely more budget friendly if you can explore.
And that’s it – Should we stay in a Villa or a Hotel in Orlando?
Now it’s your turn to decide. I’d love to know about your experiences in the comments. Or what you have decided to do for your next trip. It is safe to say that you are visiting the most magical place in the world. Whatever you decide I am certain that you will have a truly wonderful holiday. And if you are looking for more tips for a trip to Florida then you might want to browse my Travel page for tips on booking fast passes, family friendly restaurants, what to pack and of course which theme parks were our favourite.