According to an Orbitz travel survey, Orlando ranks as the top place travelers are going this holiday season.While many of us are visiting Grandma, many more are apparently visiting Mickey and Minnie
I ‘ve been to Orlando a dozen times for work & pleasure, visiting Epcot, the Magic Kingdom, Universal Orlando, and all the other attractions. So I gotta tell you: For as much as Disney is SO great at making family vacations memorable and fun, choosing a hotel at Walt Disney World Resort can be VERY overwhelming. I am not kidding you when I say that if you look for a hotel at Walt Disney World Resort online, 30 very different lodging options pop up. Who has time to research which one is best?
(You can go through travel agents who specialize in Disney – They are also in the know about meal plans, ticket packages, etc & can steer you to the best savings. )
Most people booking the hotel themselves look at the price point for his or her budget- and there is a wide range…from thousands of dollars, to hundreds a night.
This past summer, my family and I tried one of their moderate/budget hotels - we were only there two nights, with more time spent at the park than in our room. I was curious to see what $180 got you for one room where my entire family of five could stay together – two queen beds, and one pull down bed with REAL mattress, not a roll away. A little squeezed, but as I said, the kids were up at the crack of dawn to get to the Magic Kingdom, and we were out late.
We stayed at Port Orleans Resort – Riverside and were pleasantly surprised.
Like all the Disney resorts, this one had a theme: The Louisiana Bayou, – think swamps and riverboats. Other Walt Disney resort themes are the Animal Kingdom Lodge, All Star Music, All Star Sports Resort, and a Beach Club to name a few.
Port Orleans wasn’t one of the more exciting themes for kids, but there is something nice about being in a tranquil setting near nature – ponds, greenery, etc – rather than neon lights and loud music. You’ll get plenty of that on the rides at Orlando’s theme parks.
The tranquil design is done really well -but lends itself to be spread out on a lot of land. So if you can’t walk a lot, or get in late at night, try to request a room close to the main lobby BEFORE you arrive. There are multiple pools and lounging areas and can make it more confusing when not in the light of day.
The rooms themselves are an ok size – But most importantly – they are clean. That is a consistent Disney trait. Port Orleans has connecting rooms for families as well.
One trait that makes this resort unique is that it has a 95 foot waterslide on “Ol Man Island” – a man made island that is part of the hotel with a swimming pool and fishin’ hole. Think Tom Sawyer. Around the resort, there are five other pools. When it gets too hot in the middle of the day at the parks – and it DOES – it’s nice to come back & take a afternoon break. Although Disney does put spray misters on some of the park’s ride lines, they really can’t keep everyone cool – those lines can get really uncomfortable if they are long.
If you are a rare person who sleeps in late while at Walt Disney World, or anticipate being jet lagged, request a room away from any of the pools because they can be loud. Some of the favorite rooms are Magnolia Bend mansion rooms… closer to everything… & the Alligator Bayou Lodges are more rustic, & spread out.
There aren’t many places to eat here – one casual sit down restaurant open only for dinner, and heavy on Southern food – Boatwright Dining Hall.. or a food court with buffet service that is packed for breakfast!
One note – there are some Disney resorts like the Contemporary that are walking distance to the Magic Kingdom. Port Orleans is one of the farthest resorts from the park – it’s near Downtown Disney. (For those of you who know, Downtown Disney is like a Disney outdoor mall area, not part of the theme park.) However – Disney offers great complimentary shuttle service to its resorts and parks. It is about a 15 minute shuttle ride from Port Orleans Riverside- which does seem like a long time at the end of a hot sweaty day at the Magic Kingdom- but for $180 a night? Worth it.
With tickets to the Magic Kingdom looming near the $100 range, my theory is that travelers will start compensating by staying at more of the budget hotels, not eating at the restaurants as much, and buying fewer souvenirs. If that’s the case – Port Orleans -Riverside should be considered.