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Vote of the week: How much money is too much for a hotel room?

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Published: October 4, 2013 at 11:26 AM

How much is too much for a hotel room?

That's the question everyone budget-conscious traveler faces when planning a theme park vacation. Sure, we'd all love that suite overlooking the park, with 24/7 concierge service, front-of-the-line access to all the rides and shows in the park, and all local transportation on demand. But those rooms cost a lot of money. Too much, for most families.

Portofino Bay Hotel
It can be pricey, but enough Theme Park Insider readers considered it a great value that the Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando won our Theme Park Insider Award as the world's best theme park hotel last summer.

So how high can you go on a nightly hotel rate? What's the point at which you have to say, "I don't care how great the facilities and amenities are, I can't afford it."

You can find "Value" resort rooms on-site at Walt Disney World for under $100, but you'll probably end up paying more than $100 a night once you add taxes and fees. You almost always have to go over $200 a night, after tax, to find on-site rooms at either Universal Orlando or the Disneyland resorts. If you have to travel during school vacations, you'll often need to pay still more. But parks deliver a wide range of services and amenities for travelers who can pay higher nightly rates. Willing to pay $1,000 a night? You can find some really sweet accommodations, at pretty much any theme park, at any time of year.

Of course, most families can't pay that. Many can't afford, or just won't pay for, on-site location and amenities during the time of year when they can travel, so they look for lower-priced, off-site accommodations. But even off-site, you've still got trade-offs to consider: distance from the park, size and quality of the room, availability of parking, dining and airport access, whether you're a member of a loyalty program, etc. Considering all those factors, you try to get the most value for your money.

...Up until a point — that price per night when you can't pay more. And if you don't find the value you need for that price, you don't take the vacation. At least, not to that destination.

So let's talk about your financial breaking point for hotel rooms. How high are you willing to go on nightly rates? For this vote, let's consider the final price per night, including taxes, fees, and all the other costs a hotel tacks on to your bill at check-out.


We've offered a range of prices here, but tell us your specific cut-off, in the comments, if you'd like. What's the best deal you've found for a hotel on a theme park vacation? Where's your go-to option for value when you want to visit your favorite park?

For more: Rate and review on-site theme park hotels from around the world.

Readers' Opinions

From Russell Meyer on October 4, 2013 at 11:42 AM
We just don't spend enough time in our hotel room during a theme park vacation to warrant paying more than $100/night. In fact, since we normally travel to Central FL during non-peak times of the year (October/November), we typically try to target $50-75/night. When you factor in discounts or free dining promotions, we have even been successful at coming close to that $50/night number at Disney hotels when factoring in the savings that the discounts and promotions offer (along with free parking).

We did stay in the Animal Kingdom Lodge (Savanah-side room) for a couple of nights, and while the room and staff were amazing, we just didn't think it was a good value for us when we merely use the hotel room to sleep. Sure, it was amazing waking up and looking out our window to see animals at 6 AM, but was it worth $200+, probably not for us. Until we start slowing down and decreasing the number of hours we spend in the parks, paying extra for a nicer hotel room just isn't our style.

From Don Neal on October 4, 2013 at 11:52 AM
We stay off-site 90% of the time and rent a condo or house for $500-1000 a week. I love having a place to come back to that everyone can relax and chill. We have stayed on-site a few times. While it's been nice to be close to everything, it's just not as nice as having everyone in their own rooms, own bathrooms, tv, etc. And all that for less than a hotel. Greater value (for us) at a much cheaper price.

We are a family of five by the way...

From Vaughn Miller on October 4, 2013 at 11:56 AM
The last 2 times we have gone to WDW we have stayed off-site in a condo. We just find it more convient overall, as each of our boys has thier own room and if the youngest wants to go to bed he can and eveyone else con continue to watch tv, review pictures taken or what have nad not disturb his sleep.
From 74.202.118.163 on October 4, 2013 at 11:59 AM
There's kind of two sides to this coin for us. It costs SO much to travel to the mainland from Hawaii that much of our vacation budget has already been spent on airfare, so for our long term stays (6 nights at Disney World in 2012 for example) we have no choice but to go budget. We loved our stay at Pop Century, by the way, but in all fairness, our family is not that hard to please.

By comparison, if it is a short stay, and if we can find some way to make it a part of the celebration - a special birthday, for example - we're willing to go higher. We'll be celebrating my 50th birthday in 2014 by spending two nights at the Grand Californian in DCA. Been wanting to stay there since it opened and this feels like an occasion worth splurging for.

So while I checked the "up to $500" category in the survey, truth is, we'll usually limit ourselves to the $100-$150 range per night. Maybe something similar to this "depends on the occasion" policy applies to a lot of TPI readers.

From 207.233.45.9 on October 4, 2013 at 12:02 PM
My family generally doesn't pay more than about $150 for a hotel room, but we will make a rare exception for a hotel that offers a special experience, like the Legoland California Hotel, up to around the $300 price range.

When we make an overnight trip out of a Disneyland visit, we like the hotels/motels along Harbor Boulevard, some of which are closer walking distance to the main gate than the on-site Disney-owned hotels. The ones we like are usually under $125 (plus taxes and fees) if booked a few weeks in advance.

From Jacob Sundstrom on October 4, 2013 at 12:16 PM
I try to get under $150 because most of my vacation is spent far away from my hotel room. I'll spend more for convenience (i.e. staying on WDW property) but not so much for luxury rooms.

When my wife and I's collective income goes over $250,000 a year, my answer will change ;).

From Aaron Moore on October 4, 2013 at 12:22 PM
Every time I visit Orlando I always find a hotel that is within 2 miles of Universal. Because the hotels are usually cheap within 40 to 60 dollars a night. I stayed at the Holiday Day Inn that was just right across from Universal one year, it was an excellent room but I came back to the room just to sleep and relax after being in the parks all day. I would love to stay at any of the on-site hotels Universal has. But I would never ever pay over 200 dollars just to spend one night there. I make good money at my job but not enough to blow alot of money on a hotel room like that. But that's just my opinion.
From N B on October 4, 2013 at 12:49 PM
Considering the Royal Asante at AK Lodge can bring in up to $3000 a night during peak season, other on-site hotels seem cheap by comparison.
From Tony Duda on October 4, 2013 at 1:04 PM
I always stay on the cheap side of prices since, like others, I usually use the room for sleep and showering. Almost never care about pools or spas or on-site restaurants.

I understand your poll choices being specific dollar amounts but I usually think in other terms. I won't normally stay in a room that costs more than a day's pay unless for special occasions. This varies with individuals but the answers above seem to reflect that criterion. Maybe restate the choices to something like.. half day's pay, 1 day's pay, 2 days' pay etc. and see how people make those decisions.

From Mike Gallagher on October 4, 2013 at 1:14 PM
$60 is pretty much my cut-off. I'm just visiting regional parks, and I always find something around or less than that price. I'll move up to $70-75 in an "emergency" like I had at Cedar Point a few years ago. If I can find a Motel 6, I'm golden. It's a place to sleep and kill time when necessary. As long as I have the three B's..Bed, Bath, Bowl, it's all good.

Also, I'm often on my own, so the size of the room and things that affect families really don't come into play for me.

From Eric G on October 4, 2013 at 1:14 PM
What's the point of this survey?

I'm sorry, but this is a poor survey choice since the results and answers are not really relevant to anyone. They're certainly of interest to potential advertisers and the site owner, but for a persuasive discussion it's worthless.

What one person perceives as too much doesn't apply to the other and the discussion isn't really of any use. It's a personal preference and looking at the results why do I care that x% of the users stay within a certain price range.

If anything it just shows that most people on this site are price conscious, but again other than advertisers and those pitching the ad buyers who cares?

From Thomas Caselli on October 4, 2013 at 1:41 PM
Why does there have to be a point? It is what it is. He was probably just curious, so he asked the question.
From Brian Afdahl on October 4, 2013 at 2:07 PM
I'm paying 400 something a night for AK lodge. This is my daughters first trip to WDW and i decided to make it the best i could at this time. So she will remember this for a life time.
From 180.32.196.62 on October 4, 2013 at 2:53 PM
Its not really about can or cant, in my case, Yes I can stay at animal Kingdom , no problem. But as previous posters said, we spend so little time at the hotel. Its just stupid to pay 300 dollars a night, when you leave at 7am in the morning to go to the park and come back around 10 or 11.
From Jonah Sirota on October 4, 2013 at 3:22 PM
I voted under $200, but I make an exception for the universal on-site properties, which, for a two nights at the $200-$300 dollar range, get you three days of early admission to Harry Potter and front of line access to most rides for up to five adults. That is a huge vacation game-changer, and worth the extra money. If you bought the express passes separately and stayed in a $60 hotel room, you would spend nearly the same amount, and you wouldn't get the benefit of being on-site.
From Daniel Etcheberry on October 4, 2013 at 5:01 PM
My cut-off is 150. Comfort Suites Maingate East in Kissimmee is my favorite hotel; I always pay less than 100 a night, and it's close to Disney World.
From Melanie Howe on October 4, 2013 at 5:09 PM
I've done up to $189++ at Royal Pacific at Universal. I don't love it, but it comes with a lot of perks (onsite location, can walk/boat to theme parks, express pass, I can bring my dog to the hotel...). But I'll NEVER, EVER consider a Disney value resort again -- got bed bugs at the music one once and that was the end of that!!
From Gabriel Schroll on October 4, 2013 at 6:50 PM
The question was phrased as how much would you EVER spend on a hotel room?

Well, for my 1 year anniversary, my wife and I stayed at The Wilderness Lodge at Disney World and for our 5-year anniversary, we stayed at the Boardwalk Inn. Those were I believe in the low $300s, but we felt the occasion deserved going all out. We are already planning our 10-year anniversary, where we'll stay at the Grand Californian.

I've also had the pleasure of staying at the Portofino Bay during Harbor Nights, and took my dad to the Hard Rock Hotel on his 50th birthday.

All of these are in Orlando because I lived in Orlando for 10 years. So being a local, my costs weren't as high, as I'm not paying for airfare, and I can just stay one night rather than feeling like I have to stay 3 nights+ to make it worth a "vacation".

Generally, I don't like spending more than $150/night and think Disney World's moderate resorts such as Port Orleans is an outstanding value, but for a special occasion, I have no problem spending $300-400/night. It's just not something I'm able to do regularly.

I had the unfortunate experience of staying at the All-Star Sports hotel and can say without a doubt, I'll never do that again. If money is tight, I will wait it out and hold off because it was a horrible experience.

From Rod Whitenack on October 4, 2013 at 7:35 PM
I agree with many of you that it's difficult to see paying more than $200 per night for a room that all you're going to do in is sleep in and take a shower.

For most of us, the Park is the thing. Now for someone like Robert, who spends a great deal of time in theme parks and writes about them professionally, pretty soon you've been on every ride 100 times and then food and off-the-beaten-path things become much more interesting. But most of us don't get to the parks often enough to want to casually explore the hotel, its grounds and amenities.

I will say that Universal Orlando is a game changer, however. A few years ago I stayed for a couple of nights at the Royal Pacific hotel at a little over $400 a night and it was worth EVERY penny. The hotel was beautiful, but the front of the line access privileges made it possible for me to relax AND do everything I wanted to do in the space of time I had.

From Anthony Murphy on October 4, 2013 at 8:00 PM
That's the advantage of DVC
From Thomas Caselli on October 4, 2013 at 9:08 PM
We have stayed at the Contemporary Resort and Animal Kingdom Lodge once each for something different but normally we try to spend under $100 per night because we just can't afford anything else.
As far as the couple of negative comments toward specific value resorts, anything is possible but we have stayed at every value resort except Art of Animation and they have all been great.
From Apple Butter on October 5, 2013 at 5:01 AM
I'm staying at the Royal Pacific one of the universal on site hotels... The benefits out weigh the cost especially next year when they open up diagon alley, I'm expecting huge crowds like in 2010 but my family will be on easy street going to the parks an hour early and when the Harry thing fills up we go enjoy everything else with a fast pass that we can use multiple times. Even if you are going to purchase the fast pass at the front gate it only allows you to use it once a ride whereas the on-site you can use it for multiple re rides on that ride. For me I would rather save my money and take a vaca where whether its crowded or not doesn't effect my or my families happiness. That's why I'll save up to go on a nice vacation every few years for expensive things like rooms rather than then go on econo vaca twice a year. It's all a personal preference. I see a vacation as a getaway from my day to day lives so to lessen the waiting, grumpy people, arguing, and strollers I choose to stay onsite. The freedom outweighs the cost.

By the way you can still find deals this way too. I booked early for next year in November and got my room for around 200 a night. With all that staying onsite offers I think that's a deal with the expansion of Harry Potter opening up sometime next summer. In other words I'm having my cake and eating it too!

From Anon Mouse on October 5, 2013 at 9:06 AM
After buying a timeshare, I am spoiled by good quality and spacious rooms (1 or 2 bedroom suites). Mere hotel studio suites are not good enough. The exception are the hotel rooms at Las Vegas, but you know that the casinos are subsidizing the rooms. The Orlando rooms are still pretty cheap for the location. I find it amazing that rooms are easily had for under $100. This is more difficult here in California where good rooms are $100 minimum near the resorts, but that's if you don't mind a "quality" inn for around $60 further away.

I will spend up to $300 per night for a good quality room in a place like Hawaii or New York, but not other places.

From Wok Creative on October 5, 2013 at 9:19 AM
On any vacation, especially theme parks, we want to be out there doing stuff and don't spend much time in the room. Most of that time is spent sleeping. Hard to justify spending much at all.
Sometimes we will justify paying for a suite with a separate room for the kids, for privacy and better sleep for all of us.

I saved money once at an Orlando conference by staying in Kissimmee, but there was the drive, lots of spiders above doorways, elevator, soda machines..., much light coming in through frosted windows around the door...

From Annette Forrest on October 5, 2013 at 11:34 AM
I chose up to $300 for what my family is willing to spend if we are on vacation. If I'm traveling by myself or if it's a business trip, I try to find the cheapest room available but if I am vacation I enjoy having a nice place to come back to.

I see a lot of comments where people say "we don't spend enough time in the room to justify a higher expense". I think I'd feel that way on a work trip, where I am flying in to a place and then out again the next day. I stay at a Residence Inn or a Courtyard in that case.

We save up for our vacations a year or two in advance. For me, part of the thrill of vacation is staying somewhere nice. I enjoy coming back to a hotel that is gorgeous and plush and I like coming back to a room where the furniture and the bedding is top-notch. I love all the perks of a fancier hotel, including a staff that really pampers us on vacation.

To me, it's like choosing between McDonald's and a nice restaurant for dinner. On vacation, we eat in sit-down restaurants because that's a treat for us. We nickle and dime back at home to afford to splurge on vacation.

I'm 39 and figure I have about another 25 or maybe 30 (tops) vacations ahead of me. I don't always get to take one in a year. So I think $300 a night for a hotel for us is well-worth it. I enjoy myself on those trips more than I do if we'd try to find the cheapest room possible. All my skimping and saving all year is rewarded with a very lovely room for our vacation home away from home.

From Dan Heaton on October 5, 2013 at 1:07 PM
I can see a scenario where paying more than $200 a night would be worth it to have close proximity to a theme park or other perks. However, I've been good with paying much less and having a large condo just a few minutes away. I don't get paying the crazy prices that Disney charges for some of their resorts ($500+), especially when they're just pretty basic rooms. I guess as long as people will pay the money...
From Tim Hillman on October 7, 2013 at 6:43 AM
One aspect of the situation that many people overlook is that some folks are "night" people. My wife is one of them, and she typically doesn't wake up until 10 AM. So when we're on a theme park vacation, we try to stay in one of the onsite hotels at the higher rate, and my son and I will hit the roller coasters while she's still snoozing. Later on, when she's up and ready to go to the park, we'll hit the milder stuff.

When we have stayed in less expensive accomodations offsite in the past, the trips were somewhat disappointing since she felt pressure to get up and get going, and we still got to the parks later when the lines for the popular rides were longer. Nobody was really happy with the situation.

Now, we just bite the bullet and pay the higher price for the onsite hotels and everybody is happy (except my wallet).

From Dan Barnes on October 7, 2013 at 12:42 PM
I usually aim for a cutoff of $70/night. I absolutely will not pay $100/night for a hotel room. No amenities are worth that to me. As the old Motel 6 commercial said, every hotel room looks the same when you're asleep.

It comes down to budget. Often the difference between being able to go and not being able to go is as little as $10/night. If it's just an overnight trip I might bite the bullet and spend $80 for one night, particularly if it's a Saturday night. But I can't afford that much per night for a whole week.

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