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Alternatives to on-site Disney/Universal stay

Newcastle upon...
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Alternatives to on-site Disney/Universal stay
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Hi.

I'm in the very, very early stages of trying to price up a two-week trip to Orlando next summer from the UK (covid permitting) for one adult and two children (16 and 11).

From my initial research on the forum, for on-site trips several people recommend split stays i.e. a few days at one of Universal's hotels and the rest at one of Disney's.

Four nights at the Hard Rock and 10 at the Contemporary appear to be in the ball park of $7,000 (£5,000), according to quick searches on the Universal and Disney sites.

If I was to stay off-site to keep costs down, what would be suggestions for nice hotels/the handiest area?

Obviously I'd need to factor in car rental and parking in any cost comparison.

Finally, would you recommend buying flights as part of the package with Disney, or separately through Expedia etc?

Thank you.

29 replies to this topic
Newcastle upon...
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1. Re: Alternatives to on-site Disney/Universal stay
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Sorry, I mistyped the on-site cost estimate. I think it's likely to be higher - maybe around $8,000-$9,000 in total.

England, United...
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Hi. Loads of considerations. Contemporary is a deluxe resort, as is Hard Rock so they will be pricey. There will literally be tens of hotels near to Disney that are cheaper but it depends what is important to your family. With older kids do you need extra space? Have you looked at moderate Disney resorts or renting DVC points? The swan and dolphin are more Deluxe and may be cheaper too.

Personally we still have a car at Disney and Universal as we like to go off site for food, shopping and drive to the parks and other resorts to eat.

Exeter, United...
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The Contemporary is one of the most pricy options and not that well located for any of the Disney theme parks except Magic Kingdom. For a first trip, personally, if I was keeping an eye on costs I would look to somewhere like Coronado Springs or Caribbean Beach if you must be onsite at Disney. And I say that as someone who owns the Disney timeshare at the Contemporary. There are many great options offsite and right now (though that can and will change I guess) the benefits of paying a lot extra to stay onsite have been largely eroded.

Edited: 25 August 2021, 02:40
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Contemporary is one of the pricest onsite Disney options so you can go down a bit if onsite is desired but not at that price. Swan and Dolphin have great locations and are often much less than the official Disney hotels. But, I would look in Lake Buena Vista and Disney Springs for Disney. I would stick with Hard Rock (or one of the other ones that includes Express Passes- just pick the cheapest of the 3) because that is a perk worth staying onsite for. At the moment, Disney isn't offering a huge incentive to onsite in comparison.

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So as everyone has already pointed out, contemporary and Hard Rock being a Deluxe, look into the less costly options. For Disney, the Moderates all have extra amenities but less £, the Values are all fine but basic, which is ideal if spending all your time in the Parks and just really need a comfy bed at the end of the day. All the Disney Resorts have easy transport ( some have several forms of transport ) so no big deal there. For Universal, check out the lower tier Hotels, all of them are quite adequate for a few nights.

Have you checked out any Package Deals from the UK Agents ? Or have you only been pricing up direct with each Company ?

Newcastle upon...
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Thank you all for your quick replies. I’ll look into those hotel suggestions.

I’ve not priced any packages with UK travel agents yet as I thought it best to get an initial price direct first in order to be able to compare.

In terms of on-site, I stayed at the Contemporary as a youngster in the 80s when the price structure was no doubt much different!

I looked at that initially and the Hard Rock to get an idea of the price for a once-in-lifetime trip given its easy access to the Magic Kingdom (and probably a bit selfishly knowing how much I enjoyed it as a kid although I’m sure those memories are rose-tinted!)

I have briefly looked at the moderate and value hotels but not in any depth.

A work colleague stayed at one of the value hotels and described it as fine, although she said getting the buses was ok but a pain at times. However, it sounds from what people have said here the transportation aspect is fine for all on-site venues.

I think my memories of hopping on the monorail had led me to favour the Contemporary over the other options in my initial search.

In our other family trips to Orlando as a youngster, we stayed off-site at a variety of hotels with a car to get about to the various parks.

Edited: 25 August 2021, 03:23
Valley Stream, NY
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Summer is a busy time, I would keep the Hard Rock or one of the other deluxe hotels at Universal if you can. You'll get unlimited express passes included and you can walk (or short boat ride to the parks/citiwalk, bus to volcano bay). At Disney look at Swan/Dolphin or for a deluxe French Quarter (the others are big and spread out/too many bus stops), also check the 6 Disney Springs hotels (they have their own shuttles to Disney and from some you can walk to Disney Springs. Off site check Homewood Suites (free breakfast normally, shuttles to Disney and Universal), Floridays (condo resort with shuttles to Disney and Universal). :)

Newcastle upon...
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In terms of shuttles from Disney Springs/Lake Buena Vista hotels, would anyone know how convenient they are for getting to and from the Disney parks - and how long they take?

Over the last few days I've been thinking more and more about whether having a car would give greater freedom to arrive and leave when we want - as well as enabling travel to places such as the Space Centre or restaurants and malls.

And having read comments on various forums, possible lengthy wait times and shuttle schedules are beginning to feel like a chore I wouldn't look forward to.

Of course, though, a car comes with rental costs plus parking charges at many hotels as well as at the parks themselves, and from what I've also read rental prices are currently sky-high so having a vehicle could potentially be a large expense.

The early stages of research/planning have had my head in a spin at times as whenever I spot something that seems positive (time-saving/convenience etc) along comes a negative to cancel it out (extra costs)!

At some point I'll get some quotes for package deals from travel agents and then compare them against DIY bookings.

Thank you.

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Rent the car, especially since you want to leave the theme park bubble. Maybe return it based on your itinerary- aka have it for Disney and KSC, return it for Universal. Ride shares are a better option, in my opinion, than shuttles. Some hotels have better service than others though so that would take extra research.

Newcastle upon...
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Yes, I think your idea of only renting a car for a certain part of the trip makes sense. I did that previously on a three-week trip to the Grand Canyon, San Francisco and LA - handing the vehicle back for the six or seven days in SF and then renting another to head down the Pacific Coast Highway to LA for the last few days.

I'm provisionally looking at four nights at Universal to start, although now possibly at one of the hotels in a lower tier than the Hard Rock as I'd assume we'd only have two days in the parks that could utilise the Unlimited Express passes so the higher room tariff for the other two nights wouldn't be worth it.

Aventura looks nice on their website, although I haven't read any in-depth reviews yet. Sapphire Falls is another possibility, but that would less less of a saving.

The Disney element is proving a little trickier as none of the hotels I've looked at seem particularly enticing. I realise it's a matter of personal taste, but so many look the same - tired and bland with little character.

Having said that, it would really only be a place to sleep as I imagine if the holiday does go ahead the days would be largely spent at the parks etc.

Still, I like a holiday to feel like a holiday with comfortable surroundings.

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