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Leanne Smith

Recommendations for offsite hotels, timeshares, rentals, etc.

89 posts in this topic

Hiya guys....we stayed at Windsor hills..2 miles from Disney last Feb..loved it..they have 2-3 bdroom condos. Townhouses with splash pools and full 5 bedrooms houses with private pools...so everyone has a budget I know this place was super clean pool with slide very safe and secure..easy off site drive and cheap restaurant ...just a great alternative ...well be waiting for dates..the shortcutting drive was shorter than any Disney bus..and I think they have meeting rooms...for any classes we want to have..by the pool..so even if we don't get a hotel together..some can have some get togethers..ooh plus all have full kitchens ..we saved a ton on breakfast.

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We have stayed off property only once. While it was nice to have a house and our own pool and spa, it certainly lacked the Disney magic that you can only get staying on property. I am a confirmed Disney nerd and am very happy to help anyone who needs it! My next trip is in 15 days!! Can not wait!

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Vonni, we stayed off-property one year when going with my husband to a conference (not with my group) and we stayed off-property. My husband said then that he would rather stay on-property after that. I don't know why... he just didn't feel as part of things. It could have been the fact that he spent most of his time in conference workshops, though.

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The house was really nice that we had and we had the pool heated and a real hot tub. It was great to have a washer and dryer but there is just nothing like Disney service! And there is something to be said for not seeing your car for a week or two! I feel sad when I am away from their property! I just looked at the Disney Youth site and tickets are available now and they weren't last week! What are the dates that you are planning? I am going in 2 weeks but would love to go again!!

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Vonni, we're going in November. Disney hasn't confirmed my dates yet, though. I'll announce them when they do (they said they'll try to confirm by the end of this week).

 

Dianna

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Regarding staying on-property or off-property, I think the majority of my group stay off Disney property and really enjoy that. So those wanting to stay off-property, don't shy away from that if it's what you want to do. I'll post more information about choosing between the two options very soon.

 

Warmly,

Dianna

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Yes..I agree with everyone ...we got married at the Polynesian so..I do adore the on site hotels...but for $300 night we can't do poly anymore....I do get upset when people are so angry at on site and offsite....just because we chose it last time doesn't mean you have to neverstay on site again..but its a great alternative ...we do love the Disney bubble...

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Leanne, I'm so glad we have a good community here and on Facebook, where no one has ever gotten into arguments about on-site and off-site accommodations. I've seen too much of that on the various Disney message boards and certainly don't want to see it here.

 

Warmly,

Dianna

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Hello friends! 

 

I thought I'd introduce myself - I'm Robin and I live in a suburb of Atlanta. I homeschool my four boys, ages 14 (almost 15), 9, 6, and 5. We are very excited to be making our second family trip to Disney in the Fall. :D

 

I am an obsessive Disney planner - complete with spreadsheets and lists. But, I'm by no means a pro and I am always so excited to learn something new. The size of our family necessitates that we stay off-site, so I can answer some questions about that. Let me just go ahead and say, I think it's the way to go if you have a family the size of ours!

 

I look forward to sharing the excitement over this upcoming trip with y'all!

 

Joyfully,

Robin

Edited by Robin Harrison Axelberd
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Robin I have 4 boys and a 1 yo girl. We stay on roperty in the cabins. We love it but once Grace becomes 2 we will be looking at other options. I would love to hear what you do. We have not made reservations yet so maybe we will change our minds! I love the convenience and the perks of staying on property plus we tend to really enjoy the free dining plan. We do the whole spreadsheet thing too ... did you go to Tech(we are in SC but we are from Atl and both went to Tech!)? So we are always looking to save money!

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Tracie,

 

I DID go to Tech! My hubby didn't but he is a huge GT football fan - so it worked out well for us.  :D

 

We have stayed at two different properties, but both were the area of Funie Steed and Formosa Gardens (if you map it on Google, you'll see the roads). The first place was a villa and the second was a condo.I'll tell you about the villa first. In 2009 we rented a 4 BR villa (my MIL lives in Daytona Beach and usually drives over for one or two days), and we paid $750 for 6 nights, including $120 for having the pool heated. It was so spacious - enough room that not everyone was on top of each other. The pools at the villas are all screened in and have child locks. They are also not very big, but just right for getting wet and splashing around. 

 

The condo we rented in 2011 was $791 (including tax) for *9* nights! The condo was not so soundproof, so there was a lot of thumping, etc. overhead. It also wasn't nearly as big. 

 

This year we will be renting a villa again. Given the time of year, you can really get a steal on the rental properties. 

 

We've never stayed on property (though my hubby and I are going to take an adult-only trip in May!), so our family doesn't really know any different. I can tell you that the DDP may be convenient, but everything I've been reading lately says that it is definitely not worth it - even when it's "free." I've even read that the Signature Dining events are not worth the two table service credits even if you order the most expensive thing on the menu!

 

This was our eating strategy: We ate breakfast at the condo. Then, every kid got their own waist pack and they chose their snacks (several) - trail mix, ritz bitz, granola bars, fruit snacks - I bought a lot of stuff ahead of time using coupons and stashed it away  ;) Then we'd either go "home" for a late lunch/early dinner and then return to the park for fireworks/parades/whatever OR we'd eat a late lunch at the park, keep going and then fix dinner at the condo. Basically, we somehow managed to only eat one meal at the parks, and sometimes we'd buy a snack. 

 

I think the biggest sacrifice in not having the DDP and having a condo is that it isn't much of a vacation for mom! I still cooked a few nights and I still had to make breakfast every morning. Though, my kids are older and hopefully they will be much more self-sufficient. And, my hubby is a really big help, but you know how it is - the weight of responsibility just rests on our shoulders.

 

So - that's just a peek at how we "roll" at Disney.  :)

BTW - how lucky are you to have gotten a girl after all those boys!!!

Edited by Robin Harrison Axelberd

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We stayed in a condo at Windsor Palms in 2011 - it was OK. Units weren't soundproofed well. In 2009, we stayed in a villa in Sunset Lakes, and that's where we'll be staying again this year. I found the properties on vrbo.com and homeaway.com. With the size of our family and the (rock-bottom) prices of the rental units during the time of this trip, I just can't justify staying on property. And trust me...I've tried!  ;)

 

~ Robin

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I thought it would be more helpful if I make this the off-property recommendations thread, and started a new one for Disney resorts.

 

Warmly,

Dianna

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Ok - so even though I said that we were going to stay in a villa, I've been reading a lot about Wyndham Bonnet Creek. Anyone who's been there want to share your thoughts? My biggest concern is noise...

Thanks!

Robin

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Robin, I've heard a some great reviews of Bonnet Creek. I'll see if I can't get those folks to post in here for you.

 

Dianna

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In January '12 we stayed at Holiday Inn Orange Lake. It was amazing for our family of 5. If I could pick it up and put it on premises, I would do it in a heartbeat. I love being on premises, though.

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The Orange Lake area is very close to Disney property, isn't it?

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I have to highly recommend skyauction   The past 2 Disney trips we've done we have used their certificates and have been extremely happy. You basically go to skyauction and search for vacation certificate. On there they have a link for the booking website to see what resorts are avaliable, when and where. You put in what month, what state and then they pop up. If they have a resort you are interested in, for the week you want to go then you purchase the certificate from sky auction and then go back to the resort search website to book. It's a lot easier than it sounds than me typing it. Promise LOL  The last certificate we bought from them we used in October and they had a blowout sale on certificates and I got 2 for $150 each, the one prior to that I got for $249. And those prices are for 7!! nights.  Both were 3 bedroom units too with jacuzzi tubs, huge kitchens. The first one we booked was actually a 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom lockoff so we got 2 units for the price of one. The resorts are basically some of the older timeshare units. To give you names of the ones we've stayed at...The first was Barefoot'n In the Keys and the second was Legacy Vacation Club-Spas. You do NOT have to do a tour to use your certificate. Pretty great deal I think. Now they don't usually have weeks open for summer in Florida, it's mostly off season type availability but still where else can you get a 3 bedroom condo for 7 nights for under $300?  We hope to be able to come with you guys this year on the Disney trip and if we do we will likely be purchasing another certificate for a condo. I love staying onsite but to save that much money I just can't justify the cost. Plus, I kind of like having my nice big jacuzzi tub after a long day at the parks. =)

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We've stayed off-site on a few of our Disney trips.  

 

My kids enjoyed Vistana Villages the best, as there are several pools (3 pool areas, I think), and kids' activities.  We were there in July, so activities were in full swing-- poolside movies, roasting s'mores, crafts, etc.  I don't know what the activities would be like in November.  The location is great for visiting Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld, which we did during that trip.  The downside is that there is only one small restaurant on-site, but there are plenty of eating establishments nearby.   The rooms are small townhouses with a kitchenette, living room, washer/dryer, and either one or two bedrooms.  The bathroom featured a whirlpool tub.  Both the tourist-y I-ride trolley and the regular Orlando buses stop right outside of the main entrance of the Villages.  But if you are in a section towards the back of the complex, it can be a bit of a walk back to your room.

 

We've also stayed at the SpringHill Suites in the Marriott Village in Lake Buena Vista.  I believe there are two other hotels in the Marriott Village--a Courtyard by Marriott, and I am not sure of the other...maybe a Fairfield Inn and Suites.  The accommodations were your standard SpringHill Suites rooms.  Comfortable, not luxurious.  There is an outdoor pool, and a food court with the typical pizza, ice cream, sandwiches, etc...

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We have only stayed on-site once.  We are a family of 5 and a hotel room is just too cramped for us now.  We also can't afford the larger Disney suites, so we stay off-site.

 

We have stayed in several places off-site.   Since we typically stay 2 weeks each year, we stay in less expensive places that allow us to have a kitchen and at least 2 bedrooms.  Last year we stayed at the Polynesian Isles Resort and it was very nice.  We only paid $500 for 14 nights through SkyAuction, so we were very glad.  I would like to stay at Bonnet Creek, but the cheapest rate I could get was $1400 for the same stay.  We used that extra $900 for tickets and were fine.

 

Be aware that Bonnet Creek tacked on a $12 per night resort fee this past year as well.  So, whatever rate you are getting, add in taxes and a $12 per night resort fee.

 

Dawn

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Robin,

 

The best way to use SkyAuction.com is to buy their resort certificates.  Type resort certificates into the Keyword.  If nothing shows up, keep checking every few days, it WILL eventually show up.  

 

Right now they are listed at $269 per week.  That is a little higher than we have ever paid and it makes me wonder if it is because it is hitting Spring Break season.  We typically pay $249 per a one week voucher.  We have paid as little as $149 but I haven't seen that price before or since!  There may also be a $20 service fee on top of their $249, but if you get more than one voucher, there is only a one time $20 fee.  

 

Before you buy, you can check ResortCerts.com to see what sorts of places you can get.  The inventory changes almost daily, so check back often if you don't see what you like.  

 

The $249 includes all taxes and fees unless otherwise noted.  

 

You can only use them weekend to weekend (I see Fri-Fri, Sat-Sat, and Sun-Sun, just check the dates), BUT, the unit is yours for the whole week, so if you just need it 4 nights, you can go just for 4 nights, just know you don't get a discount if you don't stay the entire time AND make sure and call if you are arriving late.  They aren't supposed to give your unit away, but I always try to make sure.

 

Please also note this is NOT a good way to travel during holidays or peak season.  It is really an OFF-SEASON way to travel as these are pretty much left over vacant rooms from RCI that they are trying to fill for a minimal cost to cover basic fees.  And there is NO timeshare presentation to attend.  These are just unfilled rooms.  They may offer to have you attend a timeshare presentation for additional bonues while you are there, but we simply give a firm no and they have left us alone.

 

We have gone to Disney this way for 7 solid years now, often more than once per year, so I am very familiar with it if you have any questions!

 

Just know, I am your FRUGAL source for Disney if you need it.  We can go every year because I go cheaply!  We know many don't like doing Disney this way and that is fine, we just know we need to or we can't go very often.  We like to go often!

Edited by DawnM
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We have been on the Disney trips twice now and planning on going this year as well. Both times we have stayed OFF SITE with no regrets. Granted having never stayed ON SITE makes that easier. :rolleyes:  

The first time we stayed at Buena Vista Suites and was very, very pleased. For the space, amenities and the money I recommend this hotel hands down. 

PROS:

1. very reasonable fees (best to go through Mousesavers.com for deals) When we used them (2010) after we booked our room mousesavers later gave a better deal. I called Buena Vista and they matched that deal to our current reservation with no hesitation at all. 

2. The rooms were a great size. All rooms are suites. We had a Queen/Queen (there is also a single king option) which was 2 queen beds in the bedroom and the sofa in living area opened out to a bed. The beds were so luxurious. My back still misses them!
3. Full breakfast buffet. Not some cheesy continental breakfast. Fueling up before hitting the parks saves money. 

4. Free Shuttle service to the parks. We found them to be very courteous and accommodating as well. One night when the parks closed early due to the Halloween party the monorail was backed up so bad that we missed our bus back to the hotel. We called the shuttle service before we even got on knowing there was no way we'd make it. They assured us we would be fine. As we got to the bus area we found out that sure enough we had missed our bus. Another driver noticed us and asked if they could help. He instantly got on his radio, called the office and took us back to our hotel with no hesitation whatsoever. Go Mead transportation!!! 
5. Hotel fully renovated in 2010. The pictures on their website are accurate!!!

CONS:
1. Hotel restaurant (dinner) had great food but the cost and service left a lot to be desired. This was back in 2010 though. Hopefully it has improved. This was our ONLY complaint with this hotel.


In 2011 we rented a condo since my older daughter and her family were joining us (8 people total). 
The cost was a HUGE saving over any hotel you could think of. We paid $950 (including FL taxes which are HIGH) for our 16 day/ 15 night rental (3 bdrm/2 bath). That breaks down to about $63 a day and split between families could make it even less. :) We did pay a security fee but it was returned 2 weeks after our stay. You have to shop around to find the best deals but they can be found! Ours normally rented out for 7 day rentals but because it was off-season (usually vacant) the owner was very willing to make a deal to have it rented vs vacant. :D  So don't be afraid to ask for a deal. Company owned/managed rentals are a little less likely but don't rule them out.

PROS:

1. Lots of room and privacy.

2. Most come with washer/dryer/wifi and access to pool/hot tub/ game room (check to be sure)
3. Most come with pots/pans/dishes/utensils (you still may want to bring storage containers for leftovers if cooking at the condo, crockpot, etc)
4. Some come with linens and towels (check to be sure) Should still plan on bringing your own beach towels.

5. Freedom to get to and leave the parks as your family wants/needs.

Cons:

1. No shuttle service to park (Summers Bay Resort does offer shuttle service!) but the cost savings can cover cost of parking fees at Disney. There is a way to not pay Disney parking but I don't recommend it for those in poor health, with small kids or with elderly members joining them. Hubby missed that perk from the hotel as driving home after a long day in the parks was not his favorite thing to do.

2. Unless you know someone who has rented the exact condo (not just another one in the same group of condos as many condo communities have multiple owners) the furnishings can be very low quality. While I would rent our condo again (great price) the furnishings (mostly beds) left a lot to be desired. Cheap rooms to Go furniture. My back was killing me and every night on our way home my back would cry out for the Buena Vista beds as we drove by them.  ^_^ 

At both locations our family had the same routine of packing lunches, snacks & water bottles to go to the parks each day saving us even more. The snack backpack later becomes the souvenir holder or can fold up into one of our other bags. 

This year we will very possibly be going without the hubby and a few of our local homeschooling friends may be going daddy-less too so we are looking at sharing a large condo. Make sure it is with folks you REALLY get along well with. ;)  Even the closest of friends/family get stressed with Disney schedules. I

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