Welcome to Theme Park Insider! Join the community or log in
Theme Park Insider
Facebook Twitter Google Plus Email Newsletter

Vote of the week: Where do you prefer to stay when visiting a theme park?

By Robert Niles
Published: April 22, 2010 at 9:24 PM
I'm going to hope that most of you know that Theme Park Insider has hundreds of pages on the site where you can rate and comment on theme park attractions and restaurants. But I suspect that some of you might not know that we also have a section where you can rate and review theme park area hotels.

I'd like to encourage you to click over to our hotels section and to submit a rating and comment on any of the hotels listed there which you've stayed at in the last couple of years. I'll be profiling a few of the more popular hotels in the weeks ahead, as we move into the summer season. (In case anyone's wondering why we've listed the hotels we have... those are the parks that have elicited the most comment and conversations about hotels here on the site. At one point, we tried listing many more hotels, but when almost no one had anything to say, I just dropped those listings from the site.)

Keeping on the topic of places to stay, where do you like to stay when you make an overnight visit to a theme park? That's our vote of the week.

Before we get to the votes, and comments, allow me to offer a few definitions:

On-property hotels: Located within or next to a theme park, run by or affiliated with the park itself.
Off-property resort hotels: Hotels with a variety of features, including on-site table-service dining, recreation facilities and bell staff.
Off-property budget hotels: Hotels more focused on providing a place to sleep. There's no bell staff, limited dining and no room service. Recreation facilities typically are no more than a pool and a small exercise room.

And by "prefer to stay," I mean what is your first choice, given your budget. If your choice is different at different parks, pick the answer for the park(s) you visit most often.

(Update: Editor Fail for forgetting timeshares/rentals as an option. If that's the way you roll, please select the option that best describes the timeshare or rental that you use. If it's on-property - such as DVC - select that. If it's a resort-type rental, with services, go for resort hotel. If it's a more basic condo, without daily service, pick budget hotel. I'm gonna assume that no one's got a time-share campground, but, frankly, I'm amazed that no one's worked that concept in this industry yet. I'm sure that if someone has, you'll let me know in the comments.)

Please tell us in the comments about your favorite places to stay when visiting theme parks. And thanks again for reading Theme Park Insider!

Readers' Opinions

From Melissa Donahue on April 22, 2010 at 9:55 PM
For my money, I just don't think it gets any better than staying on property at the theme park resorts. Not only is this the most convenient option but it usually offers other perks, such as early admittance and/or extended hours for hotel guests and express lines. After a tiring day in the park, there's something to be said about a quick walk or water taxi/bus ride home to your hotel.
From Mike Gallagher on April 23, 2010 at 4:27 AM
My financial situation sucks, so I have to stay cheap off-property. But as long as a motel has the three B's..Bed, Bath, and Bowl, I'm fine. Motel 6 is usually my choice if I can find one within 15 miles or so of a park. And I've done that for Kings Dominion, Kings Island, Busch Tampa and Williamsburg, Dollywood, Six Flags Georgia, Kennywood, Hersheypark, Lakemont, DelGrossos,Six Flags America, and others.
From Derek Potter on April 23, 2010 at 5:10 AM
Depends on the park really. In Orlando, I'll stay on site at Disney or Universal. I'll stay on site at Cedar Point, usually at the Breakers or Breakers express. Not a lot of parks have their own hotels, but there are fringe benefits to staying in them. If they do have a hotel on site, I'll usually take a look at those first. If they don't, I'll cash in some Choice Rewards, Marriott, or Hilton Honors points. There's usually a decent hotel by one of those companies close.
From 72.204.135.201 on April 23, 2010 at 5:50 AM
How about house/condo rental. The only reason we go every year to Disney with the extended family is because of a great 4 bedroom with pool is significantly cheaper, faster for us then waiting for a bus at the parks, much more comfortable after a long day in the parks with all the nice things like home. The kitchen stocked with breakfast goodies holds us until lunch plus saves us money and time. We now try to rent or barter a house in every city we visit.
From Al Kraus on April 23, 2010 at 5:56 AM
When traveling to theme parks I use Hotwire or Priceline as much as possible. I prefer to camp for the experience, but some camp sites can be $65 for a tent site! But, with the bid web sites I can get a 2.5 or 3 star hotel with two double beds a bathroom and free breakfast for under $60...now that is cheap. Orlando is perfect for bidding as the high number of hotels drives prices very low. For example, you can stay at the Hyatt Place on Int'l Blvd near Universal for $73 (all taxes and fees included) and you get a free hot breakfast for up to six people...now that is travel on the cheap.
From Bill Lohr on April 23, 2010 at 6:28 AM
At Disneyworld we stay on sight. It makes the stay so much more magical to us. At other parks we look for low cost motels for the most part. If the area has a Starwood hotel then we will go for that since I work for them.
From Phil B. on April 23, 2010 at 6:31 AM
For the PA parks, Hershey and Dorney, I'm fortunate enough that my girlfriends Aunt and Uncle live in between both of those parks, so when I go there I just stay at her relatives for free, and they cook us breakfast. Can't beat that deal. Great adventure is always a day trip for me. Busch Gardens Virginia, where ever it is decently priced will do.

When it comes to Disney though, you can't beat staying on property. Extra Magic Hours, free transportaion, free parking for resort guest, relatively close proximity to the parks given the enourmous size of the Disney compound, and pretty stellar service to boot. I stayed on site for the first time in 2001, then I went back 2 years later with my girlfriend and her family and stayed off site at a Motel 6 I believe. That was the last time I would ever do that. The difference is night and day. As of now I stay at the moderate resorts, which I find to be fairly priced considering the level of theming and amenities they provide. Ofcourse the goal is to experience some of the Deluxe resorts eventually. Maybe next stay at the world.

From 24.144.112.134 on April 23, 2010 at 7:38 AM
I'm under RCI, and I stayed at a timeshare down the road from WDW (5 min) in 2006, and still would want to stay there for short vacations. If I have the chance, I'll camp out on property at the complex solo! Ha ha!
From James Koehl on April 23, 2010 at 9:24 AM
On-site at Cedar Point is great, with lots of choices of facilities and rates. My wife needs to use an electric scooter, so staying at the Breakers Hotel is really convenient. She can run it all over the park, and if she wants/needs to go back to the room to rest or cool-off (or recharge) she can do so without having to find a handicap-accessible van or bus.
From 24.46.190.96 on April 23, 2010 at 1:50 PM
For WDW, I try to stay on property, but for all other parks I do not. I don't use the WDW transportation, but I do sometimes take advantage of the extra magic early entrance to some of the parks. My favorite advantage of my on-site WDW stay last time was the WDW dining plan, which saved us some money in the long run and was way more convenient than carrying and dealing with cash. Another plus was the free parking pass for the parks. I really like the WDW hotels, although the rooms tend to be on the small side. I really loved our stays at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Coronado Springs Resort. The newly refurbished rooms at the Polynesian Resort are great, too, and the location is amazing for fans of the MK park.

For Universal Orlando, I found the cost of the hotels to be prohibitively high, so I have never stayed there. We checked out the Hard Rock Hotel's pool and lobby, and they looked fantastic. It was practically freezing outside but the heated pool was full of guests. looked like lots of fun. We stayed in our timeshare in Orlando for that visit.

From David Ackerman on April 23, 2010 at 6:11 PM
For Orlando, we use the price of hotel rooms (off-property) along with TouringPlans.com to pick dates to visit - the room prices are pretty good estimates of crowd size. Over the past 8 years, the strategy has worked pretty well and we've had prices as low as $25/night at a Comfort Inn, with mid-30s per night most of the time.

That having been said, our last 5 or 6 trips have found us staying at Ramada Resort Main Gate West. Price has been good plus the indoor pool is wonderful for days when the weather is bad (which hasn't happened all that often). Lots of food choices along Irlo Bronson help pick the spot.

From Deidre Dennis on April 23, 2010 at 6:32 PM
We try to stay on-site when it's available, particularly when it comes to the Disney parks, (Orlando and California). We've yet to stay on-site at Universal Orlando but we will definitely be doing that in the near future.

It adds something special when you stay on-site at the resorts. The early/late entrance and front of the line options are nice, but I love being totally surrounded by Disney/Universal when we vacation to those spots. Even when you're at the pool or in your room kicking back, there's something nice about being immersed in all of that magic.

From Charles Reichley on April 23, 2010 at 7:02 PM
Robert, there are indeed things that are essentially time-share campsites, but I don't think they are very popular. I think the one near my house predates most timeshares.

I stayed in the Cedar Point hotel for a couple of years (breaker's express) because it was nearby and didn't cost that much. But now even booking months in advance is too expensive.

I usually stay at Country Inns, because I do this a lot and I get a lot of points which saves me money, and they have rooms with 2 queen beds in them, which means my whole family can crash somewhat comfortably.

We do timeshares as well, but I rarely stay at one resort area long enough. We did use our timeshare for Dollywood last year.

From 70.138.223.227 on April 23, 2010 at 7:06 PM
I love staying on the Disney grounds. If you stay at Disney, you will not stay off property again. I have tried the off property and it is cheaper but it is day and night for the experience. I have stayed when my kids were young at the Disney and value and they are great but the moderate hotel are so much better. They have better pools and food courts. The whole experience is so much more enjoyable. I have also stayed at two deluxe hotels and that too is a difference experience.
From 24.90.249.214 on April 23, 2010 at 7:41 PM
You can not go to my opinion since my family is not a dihard themepark goer. I stay at a campground when we go down to Herseypark. The campground is Hershey owned so you can call it a on site campground. THe second themepark I go to periodicly is greatescapes. We used to stay at a hotel down the street from it but if we do it we travel to the boarder of vermont and stay with family to save money.
From Mark Hollamon on April 24, 2010 at 5:58 AM
It's bad news for the older hotels on 192 and also I-Drive in O-Town, but if you want the best vacation experience available there is nothing like staying on-site. Disney has hotels in every price range and the value hotels are VERY competitive with the I-Drive and 192 alternatives.

If you are vacationing at USF, there is no better way to do it than to stay on-site. Between the 5 minute walk to the parks (which allows for better rest times at night) to the express feature of the room keys, there is no better value in the area.

From Mark Fairleigh on April 25, 2010 at 6:44 AM
Definitely prefer to stay on-site...if the budget permits. :) It just adds another element to the trip, like convenience and immersion in the park experience. For example, the Hardrock is so close to USF it's really convenient for Halloween Horror Nights. Disney does a better job of offering more price levels...Universal really needs to create a value to moderate level on-site property.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

More Theme Park News

Previous article: What's your earliest theme park memory?

April 2010 Archive



Stories from a Theme Park Insider

Stories from a Theme Park Insider

What's it like to work in a theme park? Stories from a Theme Park Insider takes you inside the famous tunnels and backstage at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom for a look at how theme parks really work, sharing the funny moments and embarrassments that can happen when your job is someone else's vacation.
Order now: Kindle | iBooks | Paperback | Kindle (UK)