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Where to Stay in Orlando

While the city of Orlando itself is relatively small, hotels and resorts of every type, size and price level are spread throughout Greater Orlando.

Walt Disney World’s theme parks aren’t technically located in Orlando at all, but rather in Lake Buena Vista, just to the southwest of the city. This area is home to Disney’s official resorts, which include some of the most luxurious and family-friendly themed accommodations in the area. Just outside of the official Disney World area but still in Lake Buena Vista is Hotel Plaza Boulevard, where numerous non-Disney hotels and resorts provide convenient access to the parks.

Farther south, the city of Kissimmee boasts numerous lodging types, and while not as packed with amenities as some of the resorts closer to the action, some of the most budget-friendly accommodations are located here. If affordable Orlando hotel deals are a must, this is a great place to start your search.

International Drive, also called I-Drive, is a main thoroughfare through the most popular tourist areas. Lodging options ranging from budget motels to luxury resorts line the roughly 14-mile stretch, as do dozens of family attractions. The southern end of I-Drive starts just east of Walt Disney World, extends north past SeaWorld and ends near Universal Studios.

Orlando Hotel Tips

The accommodations in Orlando are diverse, but it’s possible to fit every hotel into one of two broad categories: those with extensive amenities and those designed with savings in mind.

Closer to the theme park area on the southwest side of town is where you’ll find the greatest concentration of feature-packed resorts and condo-style suites that skew toward more expensive rates, though there are still plenty of simpler, cheaper hotels scattered throughout. As you get farther away, economy-minded chain hotels with fewer features are more common. In central Orlando and the north-side Winter Park area, you’ll find more sophisticated upscale hotels for vacationing adults and business travelers.

Orlando Hotel Recommendations

Just as Disney prides itself on presenting the ultimate theme park experience in Orlando, it puts the same imagination and attention to detail into its resorts. All of them cater to kids and include must-haves like swimming pools and on-site family dining, but some are more special than others. Disney’s Beach Club Resort, for example, is connected to Stormalong Bay, three acres of pools, waterfalls and fountains with a waterslide, lazy river and even a pirate shipwreck to explore.

Kids who like SpongeBob Squarepants, Dora the Explorer and other Nickelodeon characters will love the Nickelodeon Suites Resort, where live interactive shows take place nightly and features include a sprawling water park, a 4-D theater and a club hangout just for teen guests. You can even participate in the daily mass sliming, where you’ll be doused in Nickelodeon’s trademark green ooze.

For a family-friendly experience with classic upscale accommodations, the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes exudes elegance throughout. Adults will appreciate the championship golf course, luxurious spa and gourmet steakhouse, but kids will feel equally at home; there’s a massive water park, of course, and the executive suites are connected to special kids’ suites filled with games, toys and just-right sized furniture.

If you need your space, Floridays Resort Orlando provides fully furnished two and three-bedroom condos. An on-site grocery helps you make the most of your modern in-room kitchen, and when you’re not enjoying the comforts of home, you can splash through a series of pools or relax at the poolside tiki bar.

And if you’d rather save as much money as possible for Disney World, Disney even offers its own official discount resorts among its theme parks. Disney’s All-Star Music Resort, All-Star Sports Resort and All-Star Movies Resort are just a few of the themed budget properties that don’t disappoint.

Orlando Transportation

When your flight to Orlando arrives and you retrieve your luggage from the carousel, you still have up to an hour-long drive to get to most theme park area hotels. Renting a car at the airport is often a smart option, as it will give you  the freedom to explore Orlando without waiting for shuttles, though the city’s 7-day-a-week commuter traffic can be very heavy. The best alternative is to use one of the many shuttle or private car services to take you to your hotel. Shuttles run regularly and tickets can usually be purchased upon arrival, but car service will require reservations in advance.

If you expect to be spending your entire vacation in Walt Disney World’s city-sized complex of attractions, you can easily do without a car. An efficient and free transportation system runs throughout the area, utilizing shuttles, buses, monorails, ferries and water taxis. All Disney resorts and information centers can provide you with maps, schedules and other details.

You can also take advantage of the affordable I-Ride Trolley if you’re staying or seeing attractions along Orlando’s busy International Drive. The trolley makes 77 stops and single-ride fares are only $1.25 for adults and 25 cents for seniors. Kids 12 and under ride free, and valuable single or multi-day unlimited ride passes are also available.

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