If you’re considering a Walt Disney World family vacation during peak season – loosely defined as the school break-riddled span of February through April – this is the week to stop thinking and start booking.
Your first decision is the one parents often fret over the most. Do you stay within the Walt Disney World resort itself – or somewhere off property in that vast wilderness that goes by the name of Orlando?
If you’ve got kids under five, it’s hard to beat the convenience of on-property hotels that provide easy monorail access to the Magic Kingdom, especially if your young Disney fan is having a meltdown.
Staying within the Disney resort also means that on certain days your hotel may let your brood linger in one of the four parks after closing or, more valuable for parents of younger kids, you’ll get access to that park a precious hour early. However, if your children are older and, not incidentally, if you’re traveling with a party of five or more and can’t escape the expense of booking at least two hotel rooms, your best lodging solution may be a vacation rental.
A family of five that opts for a vacation rental in lieu of two hotel rooms can conceivably save hundreds of dollars, not including the extra savings realized from availing yourself of such amenities as full kitchens and in-house laundry facilities, says Hank Hudepohl, director of vacation rentals at TripAdvisor (www.tripadvisor.com/VacationRentals), who adds that on the site “you can find three bedroom townhomes that sleep eight with pool access for under $150 a night within five miles of Disney.”
More good news is that even during peak season, inventory for these rentals – available directly from the owners or through management companies – is high, and good deals abound. “Most properties have a three- or five-night minimum stay during peak season,” Hudepohl says, adding that “some properties offer late deals while others are willing to offer a discount if you book early. If you stay longer – a week or more – you are more likely to get a break on the price, such as a free night.” One TripAdvisor rental listing for the end of January offered two free nights with a five-day stay, with such sweeteners as a 52” HDTV and, something as potentially valuable as that extra park hour, a view of the “Disney fireworks from the master bedroom porch.”
If you know anyone who longs to experience Orlando without kids – and perhaps, someday, that might be you – have a look at what fellow ShermansTravel.com blogger Donna Heiderstadt has to say about Orlando for Grown Ups.