We’re often asked to recommend an inexpensive hotel room for one night near Walt Disney World. If your family is staying at at Disney resort for most of your visit, for example, and you need a place to crash on your arrival night before their vacation begins, you may not want to spent hundreds of dollars on a Disney hotel for just a few hours of sleep. Or if you’ve just finished your Disney vacation and need a bed for the night before your early-morning flight, you could save a lot of money by moving to a budget hotel.
Finding cheap, clean, safe hotel rooms is part of the basic research we do for the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. There’s even a section titled “Top 30 Hotel Deals” that takes price, amenities, and location into account. It’s one of my favorite research projects, and I’ve stayed at more than 100 Disney-area hotels over the years. Only once did I wake up covered in bugs.
My “Holy Grail” of hotels is one that’s $50 or less per night (with tax), clean, safe, and where everything in the room works. From what I’ve seen over the past week, though, that room might not exist. Here’s a summary of the 6 hotels I checked over the past 5 nights, along with their pros and cons.
Laurel says: I’ll be adding my own asides in this article. You should read them in your head in the voice of your significant other. For perspective, I was perfectly happy with a room I stayed in in New York City once where the sink was IN the shower.
Pros: Very clean. Great layout. Best night’s sleep I had the entire trip. $49.49 with taxes. Feels safe.
Cons: Sink and toilet didn’t drain properly. Wi-fi didn’t work. Low water pressure in shower.
I’ve wanted to stay at this Motel 6 for a long time (“Dream big, Len”, I know). It was one of the first to introduce a new room design across Motel 6’s properties, with triangular bathrooms, hardwood floors, and vertical storage cubbies. Plus it’s really close to Universal Orlando. I was ready to like this hotel.
To be fair, it could be that Motel 6 uses this sign to discourage rascals, scoundrels, and really bad eggs from actually checking in, so the place is safer that it would be without the warning. But the first thing that popped in my head was “My God, what happened to make this sign necessary?” Probably not what Motel 6’s marketing department wants.
Once checked in, though, it wasn’t a bad stay. The room was really clean, and the hardwood floors (instead of carpeting) emphasized the cleanliness. I also liked the room layout, which you can hopefully make out in this photo:
Here’s the bathroom:
As mentioned above, I couldn’t get the free Wifi to work, the sink took a long time to drain (over a minute when brushing teeth), and the toilet took several tries to flush properly. Water pressure in the shower was adequate for my short hair, but probably not good if you were trying to shampoo some really voluminous locks.
Would I stay here again? A qualified yes, if the plumbing can be improved.
Laurel says: Other than the musty halls and the making a copy of my driver’s license, this was OK. By OK, I mean I would stay the night here. If I had to spend the length of my vacation here to afford the trip, I would stay home. The room was pretty stylish for what it was. There was nearly no sound-proofing at the Motel 6, or maybe there were banshees down the hall. Being this far down I-Drive is not convenient for visiting Walt Disney World, but pretty good for Universal.
Pros: Clean. Room included microwave, fridge, and dehumidifier. $65 with taxes.
Cons: Door locks have plastic parts and no deadbolt. Exterior door locks felt weak. Hot water took a long time to work. Sink faucet leaked. Noise from I-4.
Hey, it’s clean and the Wifi worked better than the Motel 6. But I think the door locks here are a deal-breaker. There’s no deadbolt, and the way you lock the door is by pushing a plastic button that appears to prevent other, also plastic, parts of the lock mechanism from moving. Here’s a photo of the room. Zoom in to see the door for yourself.
The whole thing felt insecure enough that when we left the hotel to go to Disney Springs for dinner, we packed up all of our stuff and put it back in the car to take with us. I seriously considered moving the dresser over to the doorway for extra security at night. As it was, I moved a couple of chairs over, so the attack would have been noisy, anyway.
Our room was in the back of the hotel, where they apparently don’t put a lot of guests. While you guess which car is ours, ask yourself whether you’d feel safe walking here at night.
The good news is that the hotel can add locks pretty easily. There were some minor issues with the plumbing that I’m willing to overlook, such as water shooting out of the back of the sink faucet when I tried to use it. And the five minutes it took to get warm water in the shower. (No kidding – it took long enough that I had already noticed the delay, let it run for another minute, resigned myself to a cold shower, and finally got in.) But would I stay here again? No.
Laurel says: The Monumental Movieland felt sketchy and unsafe. I could also hear the traffic on I-4 from the room.
Pros: Clean. Almost everything worked. Friendly staff. $44 with taxes.
Cons: Dark, musty rooms. No weatherstripping around doors. Unpainted, patched walls.
The Knights Inn is where I hit my limit and decided I wasn’t spending the night there. (Actually, Laurel decided for us while I was on the fence. But I’m happy we moved.) Look, the staff that checked me in was very friendly. It’s clearly a family-run business. And it is as inexpensive as hotel rooms come. It’s also very popular – the front desk said they were at almost 100% occupancy the night before and the night I checked in. But it’s not the kind of place that I could reasonably recommend in the Guide, so it wasn’t worth spending the night.
Here’s an example of what I mean. The room’s light fixture was clearly installed by someone who wanted to use the absolute shortest piece of electrical wire they could, while still keeping the entire light inside the room.
Here’s the dresser, microwave, and fridge. The dresser was unique in that the left door wouldn’t stay closed, while the right door wouldn’t stay open. So there was no way to watch television unless you held the left door open. Sadly, I did not bring duct tape on this trip. The drawers had trouble opening and closing, too. Note the one missing drawer pull.
Here’s the sink area. The photos don’t convey how short these cabinets are – only slightly higher than my knees. They’re more like kid-sized sinks.
Unfortunately, Disney’s value and moderate resorts were booked solid that night. We declined DVC’s offer of a Coronado Springs room for 24 points plus $95 (about $430 at $14/point).
Laurel says: I never thought I’d long for the days of the Motel 6. I was on the phone to Disney trying to get a room, any room, as we were driving up. We literally didn’t think we were at the right place and thought it must be the hotel next door, which ended up being abandoned. That may have been a better choice. What’s a little B&E while on vacation?
We ended up at Hotel #4, the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista across from Disney Springs this night. It was clean, comfortable, and felt safe. It’s also a very short walk across the new pedestrian bridge to Disney Springs, so it’s got lots of dining options. What I hate about the Wyndham is the additional fees they tack on. The original $89 rate they quoted on their website ended up being almost $129 after adding in a $20 resort fee, $8 more for parking, and taxes. For that kind of money, you can get a 2-bedroom suite at the Staybridge around the corner on Apopka-Vineland (see below).
Would I ever stay at the Knights Inn? No. The Wyndham? Not at those rates.
Laurel says: I was just relieved we found a place to stay that night.
Hotel #5: Orange Lake Resort (a Holiday Inn timeshare) at 8505 West Irlo Bronson Highway (US 192)
Pros: Very clean. Huge 1-bedroom unit with kitchen and washer/dryer. $133 with tax.
Cons: Shower water pressure could be better. Foam pillows.
After skipping out on the Knights Inn Maingate, it was hard to tell Laurel that I chose the Orange Lake resort because readers had complained about its cleanliness. (You can read similar complaints on Orange Lake’s TripAdvisor reviews.) Happily, though, our 1-bedroom unit was as clean as it gets. Everything worked, too, including the washer and dryer, which allowed us to get some laundry done. Our unit had a separate area for the kitchen and for dining, a living room, small hallway for the laundry, and a bedroom with king-sized beds. It was comfortable, too. My only complaint was that the bed pillows were foam, and foam pillows are Satan’s soft goods.
Speaking of those TripAdvisor reviews, the Orange Lake resort is a Holiday Inn timeshare, and a few reviews mention some high-pressure sales tactics. We didn’t see any of that – not a single peep from anyone about anything timeshare-related while we were there. It may be possible to get a substantially lower rate if you agree to a presentation, but at $133/night, not much more than you’d pay for a Disney value resort some nights, I’m not sure the presentation is worth the cash.
I would definitely stay at the Orange Lake resort again. It’s a huge resort – 1.5 miles from the lobby to our room – so you’ll need to have a car. It’s also across from a Super Target shopping center, and less than 15 minutes from any Disney World park.
Laurel says: This place was bustling at 4 PM when we checked in. The staff was super friendly. Hopefully the housekeeping problems others have experienced have been addressed by Holiday Inn.
Pros: Very clean. Huge 2-bedroom unit with kitchen. Everything worked. TV stations included NY-1. $124 with tax.
Cons: Couldn’t find the elevator to our 3rd floor room.
I picked this hotel because readers of the Unofficial Guide rated it highly in our most recent survey. With an overall score of 81 out of 100, it’s rated the same as Disney’s Old Key West Resort, and higher than the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin; Disney’s All-Star Sports, Movies, and Music, and Disney’s Pop Century resorts, at about the same price point.
Here’s a look at the kitchen, which had a full-size refrigerator, electric range, and microwave. The glass-front cabinets hold plates, glasses, and cups, while the lower cabinets have pots, pans, and cooking utensils.
The only downside to the room was that it didn’t have a washer/dryer, like Orange Lake did. The Staybridge has an on-site laundry facility, but in-room would have been perfect.
Here’s a look at the living room, which has a 2-piece couch and a chair. (The room isn’t as dark as the photo suggests.)
And here’s a photo of one of the two bedrooms. The bedrooms sit on either side of the kitchen/living room area. One bedroom has 2 full-size beds, and the other (shown) has a king bed. Each bedroom has its own bathroom, with sink, shower, dressing area, and toilet.
The Staybridge Suites sits between two small shopping centers, both a short, easy walk away. In one is El Patron, a good, inexpensive Mexican restaurant, plus a Chinese buffet and Indian restaurant. The other shopping center holds an ABC store, where you can buy wine and spirits. The Staybridge is also a short drive to Disney Springs. I’m not sure I’d walk to it, but it’s maybe 5 minutes by car.
Would I stay here again? Yes. In fact, I’d recommend it over most of the Disney Springs-area hotels because of the amount of room you get, for about the same money. The Staybridge Suites ended up being my favorite resort of the entire trip.
Laurel says: The Staybridge is a winner! I would happily stay here again. The location is also a straight shot to Whole Foods on Turkey Lake Road and an easy trip that avoids I-4 to Universal.
I’ve got another trip to Orlando coming up in a couple of weeks. Let me know in the comments below if there’s a good, inexpensive hotel I should try.
Laurel says: Or let us know if what you really want to know is which Disney Deluxes have the best Club Level service. Please.