For value, renting a home is without exception the best way to go. You can stretch out on a leather sofa, watching a TV as big as a lap pool, speaking as loudly you want and firing up the grill beside your screened-in pool—why pay for the battery hen arrangement of a hotel ever again?
The zone pressing up against Walt Disney World's southern border is almost exclusively built with new housing developments. There are dozens of gated communities packed with shiny new two-story McMansions, most owned by people who are here maybe 2 weeks a year. They contract with managing companies who keep them spotless and rent them to visitors. Each management company requires the homes it rents to meet a certain standard, which usually means cable TV in every room, irons, vacuums, fully equipped kitchens, and laundry facilities. And every management company takes care of the nitty-gritty for you, such as making beds before your arrival or wheeling out the trash bins on garbage day. You will also find computers with high-speed Internet, video games, billiard rooms, and heated pools and hot tubs—it's like home, but nicer.
Most rental companies promise homes within mere miles of Disney (but ask, just in case) so they take about as long to reach by car as Disney’s cheapest rooms—except for the same price, you get an entire home instead of a single room packed with two double beds. A smaller number of condo-style properties are available near Universal and SeaWorld (the main development there is called Vista Cay).
There are generally two kinds of homes. Condos are attached to other units; these may have their own pool, but more often they share a communal, hotel-style pool at a clubhouse. Houses are free-standing and are generally about 30 percent more expensive than condos. They will almost always have private pools, usually screened to keep out insects. Occupancy is governed by law, so don’t lie about your party’s size.
In most destinations, you contact the owner directly. This is an option in Orlando, and the prominent online databases operate here, including Airbnb.com, FlipKey.com, Housetrip.com, and Vacation Rentals by Owner (www.vrbo.com). But in Orlando, many people who live far away keep homes as investments, so it’s easier and more reliable, for accountability’s sake, to use a rental company. Their agents inspect your potential home and give you support on the ground, unlocking the front door from miles away with the tap of a keyboard, and they can come fix things.
You’ll find most homes are just south or west of Disney World in the towns of Clermont, Kissimmee, and Davenport—about a 10-minute drive. Nearly all were specifically built to have one bathroom for nearly every bedroom, and you’ll have everything from an equipped kitchen to laundry. Generally, the older the house, the cheaper it is. Three-bedroom condo units sleeping up to eight, with a themed kids’ room, start around $129 a night, or half of what it costs to squeeze eight into two Disney Value rooms. Or you could have a whole three-bedroom house from $209. In addition to being selected for their reputations, longevity, and inventory, all of the companies listed in Frommer’s had an A- rating or higher with the Better Business Bureau of Central Florida (www.bbb.org/central-florida) at press time, and most are accredited.
Your credit card will usually be charged a deposit ($200–$300 or 1 night’s rent is standard) a month or two ahead of time, and if you cancel, you’re unlikely to see that again. You’ll also have to pay a one-time fee that goes toward insurance or cleaning; $50 to $80 is normal, which makes short stays less economical. Perks like a pool or grills may incur a surcharge, which is also normal. Also ask what supplies you’ll need to buy. Clean bath towels and sheets are supplied, but maid service won’t be unless you pay extra.
Rates for home rentals are all over the map these days, but these prices should serve as a starting point.
Elite Vacation Homes—A specialist in the Orlando market, meaning it doesn’t represent homes anywhere else, Elite focuses on developments a few miles from Disney, and you can even search by map on its website. We’ve seen four-bedroom homes in peak season for $129–$159 a night. You usually have to check in at its office to pick up your house keys.
5299 W, Irlo Bronson Blvd. U.S. 192, Kissimmee. www.elitevacationhomes.com. 888/510/6679 or 407/397-0850. No pets.
Global Resort Homes—Founded in 1993, this solid and responsible moderate-price choice manages properties, mostly around Disney, in about a dozen gated vacation-home communities with clubhouses for activities and swimming. The people who own the homes are responsible for decor, but GRH nudges them to make sure everything meets a high standard—all include Wi-Fi, a pool (either communal or private), dishwasher, a laundry room, and crisp furnishings—and staff is on call 24/7. It’s not unusual to find homes that sleep 10 going for as low as $231 a night in peak summer.
7796 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy./U.S. 192, Kissimmee. www.globalresorthomes.com. 407/387-3030. No pets.
IPG Florida Vacation Homes—IPG began by serving British vacationers before branching out into Florida; now it’s among the largest rental agencies, dealing in dozens of home developments near Disney, particularly Bella Piazza, Southern Dunes, Windsor Hills, and the Villas at Island Club. Two-bedroom condos run $120 to $160, often less; we have seen six bedrooms cost a mere $143—but all that can change with the market.
9550 W. U.S. 192, Clermont. www.ipgflorida.com. 863/547-1050. Pets with $400 fee.
Magical Vacation Homes—An area renter since 2007, Magical represents about 250 properties hosting from 2 to 14 people, most of them clustered in three high-quality developments (Reunion Resort, Windsor Hills, and ChampionsGate) just south of Disney. You don’t need keys since your entry is handled by coded keypad. There’s a 4-night minimum at many of its homes.
7555 Osceola Polk Line Rd, Davenport. www.magicalvacationhomes.com. 407/552-6155. No pets.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.