Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Florida for first timers - mini blog series - Where to stay part 1




I’ve split this into two blogs as it’s quite a lot to take in, the next part will be up later this week.

Deciding where to stay is the first step when I’m planning my holiday/ vacation.
Generally I spend time looking at reviews, reading forums and most recently, watching resort tours on YouTube.
Where you decide to stay depends entirely on the type of holiday you’re wanting to have.
Over the years I’ve stayed all over.. International Drive + area, Kissimmee, Lake Buena Vista, onsite at Universal, Villas and Hotels. I’ve stayed in amazing places…..and some not so amazing.
But each of them have been very different.


 I’ll give a description and some benefits about each of the areas you can stay in :) (you can also stay a little further away from the parks if that’s what you’d like but for right now I’m going to focus on the areas that I’ve stayed in)

A few questions to ask yourself, to find out where is best for you are …  is this going to be somewhere that I will just be sleeping ? Will elaborate theming make my holiday feel more special ? How close to the parks do I want to be ? How will I get to the parks ? Do I want my own private space? How many people are travelling with me?

I’ll start with International Drive.



To disney - 20 minutes
to Universal - 5-10 minutes
To SeaWorld - 10 minutes

 This is probably the number one area for tourists to stay. This is due to it’s affordability and close proximity to most of Orlando’s attractions. This area is very geared towards tourists and is lined with gift shops, restaurants and smaller attractions such as the infamous Wonderworks (upside down house) and the Orlando Eye.

The further north on International Drive you stay, the closer you are to Universal Studios, Wet n Wild and the Premium Outlets International Drive.

The further south you stay, the closer you are to the Orlando Eye, Pointe Orlando, Sea World and Disney.

Personally, I prefer to stay to the south side of International Drive and even just off of International Drive on Universal Boulevard… close to the Convention Center. This is purely because I find that it’s quieter. My personal favourite hotel in the International Drive area is the Hampton Inn near the convention center. This backs on to Bahama Breeze ( I 100% recommend this fabulous Caribbean restaurant - but be prepared as it can get very busy) and is a two minute walk to Pointe Orlando.


Other affordable and popular hotels on International Drive are

The Rosen Plaza
The Springhill Suites

Once you’ve narrowed it down to a short list, check out Trip Advisor, forums and Facebook groups for reviews and trip reports.

Most hotels on International Drive will offer shuttles to the parks. Some are free and some you’ll pay for, you can also take full advantage of the I-ride trolley and Lynx buses (which I’ll go into in more detail on my “getting around” blog)





Next up... Kissimmee / Lake Buena Vista and Villas. 



Kissimmee - (dependant on area)
to disney - 15/ 20 minutes
to Seaworld - 20/ 30 minutes
to Universal Studios - 20 / 30 minutes

Lake Buena Vista
to Disney - 10 minutes

to Seaworld - 20 minutes
to Universal Studios - 20 minutes



With each of these destinations just a short distance away from the attractions, they make the perfect place to stay. Not only is there plenty of choice with hotels, each area offers a huge array of fantastic villas, which are ideal for larger families or getting that “home away from home” feel.

A favourite Lake Buena vista hotel is the Wyndham Bonnet Creek resort which is located just behind Disney’s Caribbean beach resort and is just a couple of minutes drive to Disney Springs (it's like staying onsite...without actually staying onsite !) it also hosts fantastic views of Epcot.

Whilst some of the hotels in these areas may offer shuttles to the parks, I would recommend hiring a car. 


Villas.

With so many villas to choose from, where do you start ?

A good idea is to start with location, how far are you wanting to travel?
I use  Orlando Villas which gives information on each of the villa communities.

Next, what does your group want from the villa ?  How many bedrooms ? Would you like a pool ? Gated community ?
Finding the perfect villa for you will take a bit of searching, there are plenty of websites and forums offering villa rentals and advice.

If booking through a travel agent, you can opt for a named villa, or for your villa to be allocated to you on arrival. If opting for an AOA,  when you arrive at the airport you’ll be told where your villa is (this tends to be the cheaper option. Occasionally, travel agents may tell you where your Villa is before you arrive).

If you are planning on booking a Villa DIY, it’s important that you read reviews, have contact with the villa owners and ensure that you have read and understand the terms of your villa rental. Most Villa owners / management companies will be more than willing to answer your questions or concerns. 


Next up is Where to stay part 2 - Onsite at Disney / Onsite at Universal Orlando


Happy planning, Amanda x

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