Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Resorts vs. Rental Homes

For years, our family has been, Disney Purists.  We faithfully ride Magical Express, love the Disney Dining Plan, rely solely on Disney Transportation, and enjoy "coming home" to a different resort every trip. During our trip this month, we had the opportunity to stay with friends in a five bedroom, three bathroom, rental home in Davenport, Florida, about 25 minutes away from the parks.  We were a bit reluctant to accept the offer, since it felt like we were cheating on Mickey, but thought it would broaden our vacation view, since we’d sworn off staying anywhere other than “on-property” ten years ago.  Would we consider staying in a rental home again? Read on to find out.

I cannot tell you how much we missed Magical Express.  Traveling with two children, ages 3 and 1, meant we had lots of stuff; three suitcases, two backpacks, two car seats and a stroller.  Magical Express allows you to drop off your luggage at your departure airport and not see it again until it was in your room.  Since car seats aren't needed (or allowed) on Disney transportation, this was the first time we had to drag ours along, and it wasn't fun.  After getting everything into our rental car, we did love having our own transportation to and from the parks.  Traffic and parking was not as bad as we expected and since we’re annual pass holders, parking was free.  Having a car is much easier than wrangling kids and strollers on a crowded Disney bus.  The euphoria of being our own drivers quickly withered away when we realized we’d have to return the car and drag all our stuff through a long line to an airport ticketing counter.  If there was a way to use Magical Express and have a rental car waiting at our Disney resort, I’d be the first person to sign up.

Try getting this shot from a Magical Express bus...much easier in your own car!

The home we stayed in was large and very comfortable.  It was also pretty clean by my "germaphobic" standards.  Having a full kitchen, living room, dining room, laundry room, game room and pool meant we never arrived at the parks when they opened.  Instead of hurrying from our resort room to a breakfast scheduled six months prior, we slept in, cooked our own breakfast and ate by the pool.  This also meant we had to wash our own towels, clean the kitchen and bathrooms ourselves, and make our own beds, just like at home.  Isn't the point of a vacation to not have to do everyday tasks?  Traveling with small children meant mundane tasks would be done regardless of our lodging situation, and it was just easier to wash clothes and buy food without trekking across a resort to get them done.

As our family grows, it’s becoming more and more difficult to be comfortable in a non-suite room.  Having the children sleep three feet away, in the same room means no late night television for us.  It’s too expensive and our children are too young to stay in an adjoining room.  Costs for renting the vacation home for one week was less than half of the current rate for the same length of time at a deluxe or DVC resort, and still cheaper than a week in the family suites at Art of Animation. 

Although lodging was cheaper, we more than made up the difference in our vacation budget on meals.  Except for one character breakfast, we ate at the house before leaving, every day.  With most meals eaten off property, we ate a lot less and spent a lot more than we would have had we been on the Disney Dining Plan.  Food on Disney property is held to a much higher standard.  Against my urging, my husband insisted he try "House of Beef," which was very, very disappointing. While it was freeing not having to make advanced reservations and later rush to them, it is also freeing having prepaid meals that I knew would be fabulous no matter what I ordered.  The Disney Dining Plan and Disney food (at every meal) were sorely missed this trip.

Braised Pork from "Be Our Guest" & The Over/Under Burger from "ESPN Club" at Disney's Boardwalk

Would we consider staying at a rental home again? It totally depends on who we are traveling with.  With small children, we would most certainly stay at a rental home again.  More room, separate sleeping arrangements, easier travel to and from parks, more flexible dining schedules, easier access to kitchen and laundry facilities, and private pool are all great reasons to stay again.  If it were an “adults only” trip, or a trip with pre-teens or older children, staying at a Disney resort would be my choice, because older children and adults typically spend less time in the room.  After this trip, we are undecided on how we’ll handle next year’s family vacation, but one thing remains certain, the last week in June will be spent having a great time at Disney parks!

Honorary Gal - Lottie Ferguson


  1. I enjoyed your post. It had been years since we have stayed off property. The last time our car was broken into the night before going to Epcot. So I am still apprehensive. So glad you had an awesome experience.

  2. Great info here Lottie! I haven't stayed off property in ages and now that we are DVC members, I probably never will. I have considered renting a large home for a big family reunion someday so this information is really good to know. Thanks!

  3. Thanks, Tamela & Tricia!

    We're planning a huge family gathering in Florida, Christmas 2014, so I'm sure we'll rent again for that reason, too. I'm not so sure about renting again for our annual family vacation. We sure missed being on property!

    It appeared that the neighborhood we were in was predominantly vacation homes, and we felt pretty safe in the area. Sorry you had a break in, Tamela. Only you know what type of vacation is best for you. I'm just hoping I helped a few folks figure out what that is for them!

  4. Thanks for all the great info Lottie! I've often dreamed of taking the entire family back to WDW and this would definitely be one way to back that happen