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Florida holiday advice - universal, Disney or International Drive?

(17 Posts)
bodiddly Sun 12-Oct-14 15:49:37

We are planning a 2 week holiday next Easter for 2 adults and one 10 year old and cannot decide where to stay. I've been to Florida before but neither of the others have. If you had a budget of £3-4k for flights and hotel for the 2 weeks would you book a Disney hotel such as Port Orleans French Quarter, one of the Universal hotels or an independent hotel on International Drive?

If we stay at Disney then I would imagine we would only look to hire a car for 3/4 days to explore Cape Canaveral, the Keys etc but if we were to stay on ID I would imagine we would need one most of the time.

I am leaning towards the Disney hotel as although I know it's not as high a standard of quality, I imagine it is convenient and part of the whole experience. Does anyone have any advice? When I stayed before I stayed at independent hotels elsewhere but only did an occasional park day at Seaworld or Epcot/Disney etc. I would imagine this time we would be doing most of them!!

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 12-Oct-14 16:32:11

Some Disney hotels are really motels with external corridors and they are not all that great; you will pay extra basically for the Disney name. Better standard Disney hotels (i.e. no external corridors) would cost a lot more per night.

I would look at the Universal partnered hotels particularly if your child likes Harry Potter and is also familiar with the Marvel comics characters. Universal is ideal for young teens upwards, the Disney market is usually aimed at younger children.

Alternatively if you look at hotels on I Drive I would stay in an accommodation south of Sandlake Road (but no further south than Sea World). The I drive shuttle goes up and down there quite frequently and there are plenty of decent restaurants along there too.

Cape Canaveral is do-able in terms of driving from Orlando. If you did not fancy driving, Gray Line do a good day trip out there.

Forget visiting the Keys though, its too far from Orlando (unless you decide to do a two centre holiday and stay a lot further south as well as in Orlando). FL is a vast state. The Keys are in themselves a maximum drive time of three hours from Miami which is about 4 hours south of Orlando in terms of driving distance.

Easter is both popular and expensive in terms of flight costs and the flights do get booked up fast. I would book this asap if at all possible.

bodiddly Sun 12-Oct-14 16:54:49

Thank you that's really helpful. I think I was aiming for Disney because I felt it was a resort rather than just a hotel and it might be a little more "magical". That said, ds is likely to be excited by Universal rather than Mickey but will obviously love all the Disney parks.

I was trying to weigh up early access to the parks at Disney versus the 2 Universal parks as well!

FlipFlopFlorence Sun 12-Oct-14 16:55:48

How about a villa? They are wonderfully spacious and you have your own pool. You can get various sizes of villa. My kids were around 10 when we went and they loved it. We had a pool table and dart board too. Ours was just off HWY 27 and about a 15 minute drive to the Disney parks. Bizarrely, my 3 loved going to the huge supermarkets and buying american cereals and other food to cook ourselves. It was a few years back now but I remember thinking what good value it was. We went at Easter too. It's very busy but the secret is to get to the parks very early. they all open at least half an hour before the published time.

bodiddly Sun 12-Oct-14 16:59:26

This may sound daft but one of us, not me!, is petrified of snakes and feels that a villa may well make him nervous! I would go for a villa any day!!

Ludways Sun 12-Oct-14 17:02:29

I'd go got a villa or onto international drive, I like to be independent of the resorts but then I used to live in Florida and I prefer the wandering around.

bodiddly Sun 12-Oct-14 20:06:20

Has anyone stayed in either a Universal hotel or on a Disney resort?

PowderMum Sun 12-Oct-14 20:27:20

I've stayed at the cheaper Disney Resorts, the are OK but you are very immersed and the food becomes monotonous and it's not cheap. They are large and it can often be a long walk to the food court. All you get is a standard room with 2 double beds and sometimes a fridge. Transport is good but not always convenient.
My preference is to stay in an offsite property, I like Staybridge Suites, for less than Disney you can get a 2 bedroom suite with a lounge and full kitchen. The pool is very basic, but we never spend anytime at the hotel.

Can I recommend

bodiddly Sun 12-Oct-14 20:37:46

Thanks PowderMum, I will look at that. We are looking at Port Orleans as it's a smaller resort - it says it's one of the moderate resorts. I will look at the other place you go as well. Do you hire a car?

Flump007 Sun 12-Oct-14 20:48:05

We stayed in a condo at Buena Vista. Less than 5 minutes in the car from Disney. Independent restaurants and malls on our doorstep. Infact some evenings we walked to a restaurant to dinner so we could enjoy a few drinks too.

We preferred a condo to a hotel because we had 2 bathrooms (essential for us all to get out the door for rope drop), laundry facilities, fridge etc. I also felt it was better value than a villa, had more choice of retaurants etc on the doorstep than some villa complexes. We had a shared pool in the condo place which I know some villa people hate - but we felt we were in Florida theme parking and not intending to spend very much time chilling by the pool anyway, also going at easter meant we saved £££ on not having to worry about pool heating, that is usually charged on top of a villa.

DownTown Disney has independent hotels literally walking distance from DownTownDisney, which may be worth a look.

Kissimme is lovely too.

International Drive would be my last option.

We spent some time just looking at all the Disney hotels. The luxury ones are awesome and I would love to spend time in them if I could afford it. The one thing that puts me off is I didnt have one meal in Disney anywhere that overly impressed me.

PowderMum Mon 13-Oct-14 21:18:20

I've stayed at Port Orleans, we were there in 2003 last. It was good for a moderate resort.
We always hire a car, even when we stay onsite.

Minus2seventy3 Tue 14-Oct-14 14:50:54

Stayed twice at Port Orleans, Riverside - loved it both times. In nine days we're flying out again, one week on International Drive, then a fortnight in Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort ("Moderate", just like Port Orleans, but a larger complex).
Port Orleans has the boats to Downtown Disney, and of course the Disney buses to all the parks, so getting around Disney itself is a doddle. Taxis no doubt required to do off-site stuff (unless you hire a car, which is pretty reasonable price wise), but we did trips off to the malls etc, and never balked at the taxi fares.

bodiddly Tue 14-Oct-14 18:03:18

Thanks all. We've booked Port Orleans French Quarter so it's official, we are having a holiday next year!!!

roughtyping Tue 14-Oct-14 18:15:34

We went in June/july this year. We stayed at Hilton Bonnet Creek (which is AMAZING!) near disney, then stayed one night at RPR at Universal for the FOTL passes - it was amazing! Genuinely best holiday I've ever been on. Would recommend a night at Universal smile

HermioneWeasley Sun 19-Oct-14 18:18:01

A friend who previously always booked villas at Florida stayed at port Orleans last year and said it was brilliant and he wouldn't do a villa again. Enjoy!

spababe Sat 25-Oct-14 12:20:32

Another vote for the Lake Buena Vista area and we like to stay on Palm Parkway as it is fairly quite. Restaurants within walking distance at Crossroads. Very close to Disney. Winn Dixie supermarket close by. Walgreens in the area with a nurse practitioner for minor illnesses. We like a Condo too but these sort of hotels often include a free breakfast. If not driving, there is a Lynx bus that travels along Palm Parkway and stops by Downtown Disney where there is a very short walk to the bus station to pick up all the Disney busses.
Worth a look on Google Earth.

plipplops Fri 14-Nov-14 17:32:25

Got back two days ago from a fortnight in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and stayed a the Grand Floridian a couple of years ago. I know it's probably a bit late for any advice but will give my thoughts anyway?!?

We considered staying in a cheaper Disney hotel but went for AKL as it included the dining plan (didn't have that last time and spent a fortune on food as we had no car so were v restricted to eating on site). The better hotel including dining was about the same as one of the cheaper hotels and paying for food. Dining plan was ace, DDs are v fussy so it took the pressure off paying for food that they might not like (obvs we did pay for the food but the dining plan is pretty good value and since we had paid up front for it I didn't stress about it on hols). Staying on site means you can get to the parks early, although the days with Extra Magic Hours tend to be busier than other days so not always worth it. DH had some app (I can find out what it was) which predicted crowd levels at each park (inc Universal and Kennedy Space Centre) which helped us plan our days (crowd levels vary hugely day to day).

We hired a car this time which was LOADS better than not - it was included in the package (from Virgin) - you had to pay a bit more for their insurance but we saved money on transport to Kennedy and Universal so it pretty much cancelled out. Also lovely to be able to drive to a supermarket for extra fruit and cereal (dining plan doesn't give you every single meal so some days we just had cereal in our room before heading out). I really hate public transport (boring IBS type issues where I feel the need to be in control of getting to a loo, nice!!) but managed fine on the Disney buses. Having said that we drove to Blizzard Beach as it's dead easy to park there, and Hollywood Studios when we saw Fanstasmic as the queues for buses after the fireworks can be long.

Kennedy is brilliant, we drove it in a little over an hour. Make sure you don't accidentally drive through the tolls without paying, we're expecting a fine to follow us home from the journey from airport to hotel where we didn't really work the system outsad.

Universal is completely fab, the Harry Potter ride is my fave ride of all the parks and since your child is bigger they'll probably adore it (DDs are a bit smaller and not so great on rides so Universal has slightly less to offer us). You get utterly soaked on their water rides so make sure you go on a warm day!

My biggest tip (esp if the crowds are likely to be big), is register with them asap and book your rides using the FastPass+ system. From 90 days before you go you can book up to 3 rides a day, you get an hour slot to do each ride without having to queue. You can also make dining reservations this early and if you particularly want to do any character meals it's probably worth considering. For instance, the Seven Dwarves Mine Train ride is new, and when we were there queues were maybe 70 mins and you couldn't get a FastPass as they had already all been allocated. I'm not queueing that long for anything(!) so we just didn't do it. Can't say I'm bothered but I think DH is a bit gutted not to have had a go.

Sorry I went on a bit there. Will have a think about anything else and let you know...

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