Travel Blogs

Forget expensive Disney resorts!

Part of the Florida For Grown Ups Guide.


Those who go to Orlando with young kids say that they need to stay on-site at Disney and end up spending mega bucks….but if you don’t have kids (or at least young kids) and you don’t intend to spend your entire holiday at theme parks, why would you go to this expense? Makes no sense.

Yes, I’m sure the Disney hotels are lovely but you can get so much more for your money (and sanity) by renting your own villa.

The great news is that you can take your pick – there are thousands of them to choose from in Orlando and within close proximity to the parks – if that’s a priority.

The main villas can be found in the Davenport, Kissimmee and Haines City areas – all of which are within a 30 minute drive of the theme parks.

For years now we have been staying at Southern Dunes Golf Club in Haines City. We stumbled across this little oasis purely by accident back in 2010 when we booked a package holiday. I guess we fell lucky – and it’s the only place we will stay now!

So let’s weigh up the pros of choosing a villa over a park resort:

✔️ Cost

A typical four bedroom villa can easily sleep 8 – 10 people – so real savings can be made here if there’s a bunch of you. We travel as a couple and so a four bedroom villa really is far more space than we need – however, at around £450 a week, it’s still a lot cheaper than staying at a resort…..

2020 prices for a two week stay at Disney for two adults ranges from £3400 upwards, including flights from the UK. On the other hand, a villa (based on two sharing) with flights, can be found for as little as £2200.

✔️ Your own space (bliss)

Where would you rather stay for a fortnight? – a hotel room or a spacious villa on a golf course, with a private pool? Just saying.

Villas will generally come with all the amenities you could ever wish for, including television with Cable TV, a fully supplied kitchen, a BBQ and a washing machine/ dryer (I can’t tell you how great it is to be able to pack less and go home with a clean case of clothes!). Many of the villas also have a games room and ‘little extras’ like a BOSE system or a PlayStation.

Booking a villa couldn’t be easier; do it through an agent as you would a hotel, or else go directly into the owner. We use www.ownersdirect.com or www.southerndunes.com to find one we like and make contact with the owner that way.

Word of warning: In eight years, only once have we had a bad experience booking direct with the owner (they contacted us two weeks before we flew out to say that they were selling the villa and it was no longer available). We got our money back but we were left scrabbling about trying to find new accommodation at the last minute. I’d like to hope this experience is rare but if you’re the slightest bit uncertain, opt for booking via the agent instead – just be prepared to have no say in which villa you get.

✔️ Freedom!

Ok, so if you’re going to go ahead and book yourself a villa, you need to be prepared to be a bit of a drive away from the centre of the action. Therefore, a hire car should be factored into the overall cost.

The beauty of having your own wheels, however, is the freedom to venture wherever you fancy without relying on shuttle buses and expensive Uber’s. The really great thing about hiring a car in Florida is that it’s relatively inexpensive compared to many other holiday destinations and the gas is super-cheap! I’m talking about £25 to fill a big tank.

You can rent your car easily with the hire company (all based at the airports) or book it at the same time you book your flights (package deal, minus the accommodation). Be sure to do your homework and shop around to ensure you get the best deal. Mustangs are great fun, but there are plenty of cheaper alternatives out there.

✔️ Villas make a great ‘base’

If I had one complaint about villas, it’s that ‘boozy nights out’ are somewhat restricted due to someone always having to be the ‘designated driver’. Drinking at home is most definitely a cost-saver, but sometimes you want a bit more!

Given that I’ve already told you how cheap villas are in comparison to resorts, you may find that you are able to budget for an additional hotel stay as well (without really feeling like you’re wasting money on an empty hotel room).

The beauty of having a villa as your base and a car at your disposal is that you can venture almost anywhere for a night (or two) away. Why not go North to St Augustine, West to St Petersburg, or South to Fort Lauderdale? For a change of scene, if nothing else.

If you’re feeling ultra-adventurous (and flush), why not go the whole hog and hop across to another State? Internal flights in the USA are surprisingly cheap. We’ve taken advantage of this on a few occasions and travelled to both New York and New Orleans for a snippet of what it would have cost to fly there from the UK!

And do you know the best bit? Flying back to Orlando to continue your holiday – as opposed to flying back to the UK!


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