I definitely don’t think of myself as a Disney Resort Snob, but I do enjoy staying on Disney property. When your bed is close enough to hop a bus or monorail to a theme park, or some can just walk over, then you feel like you are a part of the magic. I have heard many stories about people renting houses off property, some at pretty great discounts, but I generally lost interest in the conversation rather quickly. I like staying on property. But then Spring Break popped up, and I needed a place for a family of five and a dog.
I also needed it to be cheap…
We live 12 miles from the Gulf of Mexico in Alabama, close to fabulous resort cities called Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Both these destinations have made numerous top 10 lists for the entire United States in terms of best places to take a family vacation. The thing is, when you only have to drive 20 minutes to get to the beach, you don’t want to pay a lot. I really don’t want to pay a lot ever, but especially if I am vacationing close to home. After researching several beach houses that allowed dogs, it quickly became apparent I wasn’t going to find anything in my preferred price range. Spring Break is an expensive time to head to the beach. Our lowest quote for a week was $2100 for a location across the street from the beach. In other words, I found no deals I could live with. Now what?
Orlando, or course, seemed like a perfect solution, and after searching through many, many listings on a site called VRBO.com (Vacation Rental By Owner,) we found a nice four bedroom house in Davenport, Florida, which was about seven miles from the parks.
From my family’s experience, here are 18 reasons you should definitely look into renting a house in or near Orlando for your next Disney World vacation.
1. Large Living Room
While the furniture may not be as fancy as a Grand Floridian sitting room, it was more than adequate. The TV had basic cable and worked just fine. Honestly, I try to discourage TV watching on vacation anyway, so we didn’t hang around here much, but my sons were comfy watching cartoons when they did.
2. Your Own Fully Stocked Kitchen
We like to save money by cooking our meals when possible, and in this kitchen, there was lots of space to move around. Everything we needed to cook was right there, and with a Super Wal-mart within one mile and a Super Target less than two miles from the house, picking up food was certainly no big deal.
3. In-Ground Pool
Our rental house had a concrete in-ground pool. It wasn’t huge, but it was heated. Spring Break in late March is still a little cold to swim in a pool, but that doesn’t apply to a heated pool. It was lovely, and warm, and relaxing, especially at night after a long day at the parks. We could see the lights and hear the sounds from the Magic Kingdom 10 p.m. “Wishes” fireworks show from the warmth of our pool. Fabulous…
4. Neighborhood Amenities
There was also a community pool situated right on Lake Davenport, a fishing pier, a basketball court, a boat ramp, and a picnic area.
Nice green grass outside the enclosed pool? That’s a community run 9-hole golf course. This isn’t an Arnold Palmer designed course, but for less than $20 a day, it’s certainly affordable. And it makes a nice backdrop for a swim.
5. An Outdoor Porch Area
Want a little peace and quiet before you start your hectic day? Pull up a chair outside on the “lanai.” Enjoy a cup of coffee, watch the golfers on the course outside your enclosed pool, and check your e-mail. This is also a great spot for lunch or dinner, free of bugs and mosquitos because the pool area is enclosed.
6. Formal Dining Room
Corn dogs, PB&J sandwiches, and Mini-Wheats for breakfast is not exactly what you expect to be served in a formal dining room, but that’s our type of quickie “hurry up so we can get to the parks” types of meals. But even a fish stick on a paper plate looked fabulous when served at this six chair dining room table.
7. Large Master Bathroom with a Large Tub
Some of those Disney resort bathrooms, especially of the All-Star Resort variety, have bathrooms that are probably smaller than your bathroom at home. Our rental house not only had a very large glass enclosed shower, but it also had a large tub. Many of the rental homes we priced had jet tubs, but ours was not; it was just a regular large tub. This home had two bathrooms, but even if we had to have more than one person getting dressed at a time, this bathroom offered more than enough room.
There was also a door that accessed the pool area, so after a late night swim, you could jump in the shower without soaking the living room floor on your way through.
8. Formal Living Room
To be honest, we didn’t use this room a lot. There was no television here, and as many people do on vacation, we were often transitioning to other activities rather than sitting down. But a formal living area offers lots more space than your average budget hotel room, should you need it.
If you have multiple families staying in the same house, this would be a nice area to hang out and talk about old times or plan new adventures. This isn’t furniture like you’ll find in the Wilderness Lodge lobby, but it was more than adequate.
9. Huge Master Bedroom
If you’ve ever stayed in a double bed hotel room with four people, all stepping on each other as you get ready for bed and getting dressed, you just might be a Cheapskate Princess! But in a rental house like this, you have a ton of room to spread out. Our Master Bedroom had the private Master Bath, which you can see in this photo, a medium-sized television, and a walk in closet. The bed was comfy, and I can personally vouch for great afternoon naps taken here.
10. Bedroom #2
This isn’t just another bed in a hotel room. This was another separate room away from the Master Bedroom. If you have multiple families staying together, there was easily enough room to put some kids on the floor in sleeping bags. Can’t fit a family of five in a regular All-Star Resort room? A house may be a good option for your group of five or more.
11. Bedroom #3
Twin beds in this room. This room has a very small television. We all thought the beds in this house were comfortable, and we felt well rested, which is more than I can say for hotel rooms I have stayed in through the years.
12. Bedroom #4
The last bedroom was another twin bedroom, which made three bedrooms all in the same hallway sharing a bathroom. All three of our kids had their own individual space to spread out, their own drawers and closets to store their clothes, and they liked this perk.
Now many houses listed on VRBO.com were four bedrooms homes, but they ranged from two bedroom to seven, so there’s certainly bound to be something to fit your price range with the number of bedrooms to fit your needs.
13. Lovely home in a residential neighborhood
Our house was located on a relatively quiet street, with no noisy neighbors in a hotel room above us. I only saw neighbors when I walked out dog. Cars did go down the streets a little too fast at times, but that could happen in any city anywhere in the U.S.
I can recall just one house in all the homes we looked at on our walks through the neighborhood that didn’t fit the “vacation house” profile. It fit the hoarder profile, but I am sure the Home Owners Association was far less pleased with them than I was.
14. A Tranquil Lake Within Short Walking Distance
We were a five-minute walk from a beautiful lake, Lake Davenport in our case, which took more like 10 minutes to reach walking a dog. But the path there went past homes just as nice as ours, within sight of a golf course. This pier was located right next to the boat launch. There was another larger fishing pier by the picnic area, located behind the community pool. I’m not certain my photo does it justice.
On our last morning, five hot air balloons were within viewing distance behind the lake, steam was coming off the still water, and the waking birds had begun their morning chirps and coos. Of course I had no camera that morning, but it’s a vacation memory just as special as getting soaked that one time at Splash Mountain with all three of my kids.
One of the main reasons we rented a house on this trip was the ability to bring a pet. Let me rephrase that – we rented a house because the owners allowed pets, and all the other perks were just icing on the Disney cupcake. When you do your rental home search, you have to be sure to look for houses that allow pets, because some rental homes in the exact same neighborhood we stayed did not. Our dog loved walking down to the lake, and walks around the neighborhood were relaxing for both of us. Because we have an older pet, we brought her stroller for when she had walked enough.
16. The Golf Course
Polo Park East Golf Course is a well manicured 9 hole executive golf course. The course is open to the public, and they do not take tee time reservations, so you can play nearly any time.
Rates for the golf course are $14.00 for 9 holes, and $18 for 18 holes. Club rentals are $10.00 and a pull cart is $4.00. For more golf information, use this link.
17. The Price
For one week, during Spring Break rates, we paid $775 for this four bedroom house with a heated in-ground pool located right on a golf course. That price included cleaning fees, taxes, and the pool heating charge. True, I had to drive eight hours to get there as opposed to 15 minutes to the beach near my home, but even factoring in gas money, we made out like bandits.
I have friends that have used VRBO.com to find their rentals for years, and they raved about the deals they found. For us, this was the first time we ever found this great of a deal, seriously, too good to pass up.
It took a lot of work to get a price this low My husband estimates he sent 60 to 70 e-mails inquiring about pets and getting estimates. The price you see on the page is often not the actual price once they factor in taxes, cleaning fees, pool heating costs, etc. And my husband has no problem e-mailing for a lower price, so he really worked the system. But our bottom line price was well worth it.
18. Free Wi-Fi
Not all houses may offer this, but ours did. Gotta love free.
Following our enjoyable stay here, we tried to make reservations for the week before Christmas of this year, but this house was on the market, so they weren’t taking reservations. It’s not even listed on the rental page anymore. I did a little more research, and we found another four bedroom house two streets over from this house for $103 a night with a solar heated pool. My bags are practically packed already.
We stayed in the community of Esprit in Davenport, close to the intersection of roads 27 & 192. Like to see homes in the same area where we stayed? Use this link to get to the VRBO for Davenport, Florida. Look up “Esprit” to see our neighborhood.
Not all rental houses are created equal, just like Disney Resorts.
We looked through photos of houses with fewer amenities that what we had, and there were incredible houses with far more amazing details. Hot tubs, Disney themed decorations, two-story homes with seven and eight bedrooms, gourmet kitchens…you name it, there’s a rental house that will have it. But you have to do your research, and you might have to be willing to do some internet/e-mailing legwork to find it. Locating the property we rented was definitely not as simple as calling Disney direct and booking a room. But the end result was an amazing Spring Break at a price that didn’t leave me with credit card debt.
This was our first experience renting a house near Orlando, and we were pleased with VRBO.com. There are many, many rental agencies that service the greater Orlando area, so let us know if you have used a rental agency you would recommend. It’s always nice to find a deal.
Staying on property is a definite way to immerse yourself in the entire magical Walt Disney World experience, but there are other options. A good cheapskate always does the research to find a bargain, or at least gather enough facts to say they knew what they were getting in to. Here are some other article links that can help to plan your next Disney vacation.
If you ever said you would only stay on Disney property but rented a house to save money, you just might be a Cheapskate Princess!
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Give Erin a call at 214-697-7732, or send an e-mail to erin @ destinationsinflorida.com.
Disney’s Cheapskate Princess