Villa, hotel, or resort hotel? How to decide on the best place to stay in Orlando

Kuoni travel experts weigh in with their top tips when you’re thinking about what accommodation is best for you and your family in Orlando. 

Staying within the Orlando theme park resorts can bring tempting perks like early park admission and even queue-jumping privileges. But it's certainly not your only option when you’re planning a trip. If you're thinking about exploring Orlando beyond the parks, having plenty of days in your hotel, or bringing everyone together on a holiday with friends or extended family, you might find there's an even better option when you visit.

Consider the perks of staying in a Disney Resort hotel

“I love Disney’s Port Orleans Resort.  It’s a quieter hotel and one of the closest options to Disney Springs so that you can get back to the hotel by boat at the end of a long day.”  
Heather Simmons, Tailormade Travel Expert

Disney’s Port Orleans Resort

For a fully immersive Walt Disney World experience, you can't beat staying at one of Disney's Resort hotels. You'll get a prime location and access to a fantastic (and free) transportation network to whisk you to and from the parks. You'll also be able to access the parks and Lighting Lane reservations before they open to everyone else, helping you avoid the longest queues. 

Early park entry is available to all guests staying in Disney Resort hotels. However, guests staying at Disney Deluxe Resort hotels, including Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Beach Club Resort, and Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, can stay late at the parks, sometimes up to midnight.

Booking a Disney hotel means you can add a Disney Dining Plan to your booking, which is perfect if you want to pay for lots of your food and drink in the parks upfront. You can’t add this feature to your tickets unless you stay in a Walt Disney World hotel.

Depending on which hotel you choose, you'll also have immersive Disney theming, such as rooms inspired by The Princess and the Frog at Disney's Port Orleans - Riverside or restaurants themed on Mary Poppins Returns at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. You don’t have to choose a themed hotel. Others, like Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, have a more premium feel without going overboard on Disney theming. 

Staying on-site also makes your time far more flexible. With free and regular transport between the parks and your hotel, it’s easy to flit between the two and allows you to take afternoon breaks before returning in the evening, whereas staying off-site makes this a little trickier. 

The advantages of staying in a Universal Orlando Resort hotel

“Tweens and teens will love the atmosphere at the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort and its underwater speakers!” 

Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando

The perks you’ll get by staying in a Universal Orlando Resort hotel vary slightly depending on which one you choose. At a minimum, when you stay at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Universal’s Aventura Hotel, or Sapphire Falls Resort, you'll get Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry PotterTM up to one hour before the parks open and the advantage of being closer to the Universal Parks with free and simple transport. You can easily return to your hotel if you've been enjoying the entertainment options at Universal CityWalk, too – some hotels are just a ten-minute walk away. 

If you stay in one of the more premium Universal hotels, such as Portofino Bay, Royal Pacific Resort, or Hard Rock Hotel, you get Universal Express Unlimited Passes included in your stay. This perk is worth serious consideration, as it’ll save you significant time queuing for rides. These hotels also have an extra perk: priority seating at some restaurants throughout the resort. There are other advantages, too. You can use your room key to make purchases in the parks and have anything you’ve bought delivered to your hotel.

Villa holidays in Orlando

“The space you have in a villa compared to the hotels is such a treat, plus having the option of making homecooked meals or a barbecue is a bonus for family nights on a warm Florida evening.” – Kim Ladas, Tailormade Expert

Bear's Den

Booking a villa or luxury home in Orlando can be the perfect option for multigenerational trips, or if you're visiting Orlando as a group of families. It can spread the cost, and it means you can all stay under one roof. In the evening, you can cook dinner together, order food in, and have a private socialising space – some even have outdoor kitchens, and most of the homes and villas in Orlando have private swimming pools. Choosing one of the more luxurious complexes of Orlando homes like Evermore means you'll have access to the same kind of resort facilities you'll find at hotels, such as a water park, restaurants, and activities, giving you the best of both worlds.

You don’t have to travel as a large group to benefit from booking a villa. They’re also enduringly popular with families travelling with younger children, as it’s often a more affordable way for the kids to have a room of their own. This is particularly appealing when they have early bedtimes so parents can have their own space to enjoy in the evening. And smaller kids will love some of the quirky décor available at Themed Villas in Orlando

You’ll need to pay for parking at the Disney and Universal theme parks—budget to pay $30 or more a day. Villas in resorts like Bear’s Den offer free transportation to the parks, and the villas at Evermore are so close to the border of Walt Disney World that there isn’t much difference in travel time. But before you decide on your Orlando accommodation, it can be worth working out if you’re happy with the additional travel times and car parking costs.

Choosing a hotel away from the theme parks

Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate

Hotels in the wider Orlando area can be a great option if you're planning on visiting all the major theme parks but also factoring in days of shopping, golfing, day trips out of Orlando or simply plenty of time enjoying your resort hotel's facilities. 

Staying off-site, on International Drive, or in neighbourhoods like Reunion or Championsgate can be a more affordable option. You'll often still get daily complimentary transportation to the theme parks, but you may get a different frequency of buses than if you stay at a Disney hotel (perhaps just one or two each day). The bus stops for non-Disney hotels aren’t usually quite so convenient to the park entrances, so you may find you have a longer walk, followed by a longer journey back to base. 

If you’re staying a little away from the theme parks, a hire car can give you the freedom to explore the wider area. But if you’re planning on driving to the theme parks, you should factor in traffic, travel time, and the cost of parking, which can be $30 or more a day at both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort. Staying off-site also commits you to longer days in the parks because of the longer journey times. 


Our Orlando experts are on hand to help you decide which accommodation is best for you and your family.

Read more about our Orlando holidays.

This feature was created on 27th March 2024. The information within this feature is correct to the best of our knowledge. 

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