Published: January 26, 2008 at 6:14 AM
I have many opinions on this issue as my wife and I were frequent visitors to Orlando before we moved here. Our first trip was exausting! We stayed in Kissimmee at one of the "$29.95" a night hotels. We were going after the most we could do with our money via the longest stay and pack stuff in every day route. This is a flawed method used by many first timers. Please listen to this warning: IT IS NOT THE WAY TO GO!!! The "$29.95" per night hotels typically have management that doesn't care how many you pack into a room and our neighbors were a church group on holiday! There were like 8-10 people in the room with one adult to keep them from burning the place down and the rest were kids. YIKES!!!
Also, when you plan too much in a stay you cannot really enjoy it the way you should. You might feel cheated at the end!
We progressed up to the Embassy Suites on I-Drive. It was closer to everything and the property was significantly better than where we stayed before. It was, however, significantly more expensive.
It took us about four or five trips down before we stayed on property at Universal. We stayed at the Hard Rock just after it opened. While being more expensive than the Embassy (not a lot more) it opened our eyes to the "Time vs Money" concept. Most people think they have more time than money when it comes to vacations and to a certain extent that is true, however, by staying on property wherever you go (Disney or USF for us) you have the ability to do more with less time and you can do it at a slower pace.
If you come down and plan on just a weekend at USF, staying on site will allow you to have front of the line access to the attractions at both parks. With that you can easily get your fill in 1.5 days. That allows you time to lounge at the pool (something we never had time for before because we were always on the go) or see a movie or enjoy some nightlife!
At Disney, staying on property cuts the travel time down to each park dramatically! I am not sold on using the Disney bus line for getting around all the time though. If you don't mind paying for parking at one park for the day it might be better to take a car, or pay for a cab.
Guests at Disney parks get the advantage of "extra hours" as well and that is a big bonus!
I have had family visit and stay in a rental house in Davenport which is about 20-30 minutes from Disney property. The houses were nice and much less expensive than staying on property! They actually ranged between the "$29.95" joints and the middle range I-Drive establishments. Most have pools, nice kitchens, laundry, etc. Pretty good for a stay of 7 days or more.
In the end, it was cheaper to move here! Seriously, when the opportunity presented itself that was actually a factor for us.
To conclude, cheap doesn't equal good when staying in Orlando! For us the real value was quality of stay and in the end that is a big part of "vacation memories".