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