Your choice at the time was either an on-property Deluxe resort (expensive for the average family), or one of the few hotels/motels (relatively expensive too) on US 192, which is still called the “Main Gate” to WDW. Of course, that all changed rather quickly once the entrepreneurs saw how successful WDW was and the boom to build motels/hotels from 1 to 5 Stars (AAA rating) began in earnest. However, one problem since DAY 1 for the “not-so-average” family of four, was where was everyone going to sleep after a wonderful day at the MK, and starting in 1982, EPCOT. Solutions ranged from renting a rollaway bed or two, to the kid favorite, “adjoining rooms. “However, this article is not about hotels or motels, or even resorts, time-share or otherwise surrounding WDW but a relatively new, but cost-effective, alternative of where-to-stay while visiting WDW-the “vacation home rental. ”
About 20 years ago, more or less, the first so-called vacation home was built near WDW. At the time though these homes were being built for families who loved WDW and Florida, but for most of the year many of the owners (snowbirds) only visited a few months of the year, or in some cases only for a week or two. The rest of the time the homes stood vacant and cared for by management companies of the housing projects (resort neighborhoods). Then, about 8 years ago, something magical happened that would change the landscape around WDW forever. Someone came up with the brilliant idea of renting the “empty-for-most-of-the-year” vacation homes to tourists visiting WDW and that other place to the north. However, the number of homes that could be rented was limited, so what to do?Well, like most times we are in trouble, we call upon our dear friends the British, who by the way own a good portion of the USA anyway. Why wouldnÂ´t they be interested in buying more?
Buy they did! Thru some slick promotions (promises of megabucks, tax shelters, and a permanent place to stay while visiting the States) in the UK and later in Canada, the rental vacation home boom began. Soon hundreds and now thousands of homes were/are now being built just off US 192 to the west of the Main Gate and at the intersection of US 27 and US 192, in both directions for miles. If you have ever driven to or around WDW on US 192 who have seen the signs for the various housing projects/resorts, and/or have seen the impressive management buildings that stand out in sharp contrast to the surrounding scrublands. Oops, excuse me, “conservation areas. ”
Okay, enough of the background stuff, letÂ´s get down to the real nitty gritty, as my generation used to say in the Â´60 and `70s. So, you have a big family, or you just want to get away from all the hubbub of WDW after a day at the parks and relax by your own pool or spa with a cool drink for a reasonable price. If so, then a vacation home may be for you. First thing you have to do is choose a location. Of course, the closer the home is to WDWÂ´s Main Gate the higher the price, but there are exceptions. Next, you have to decide how may beds/baths you are going to need. The smallest home will have 3 beds/2 baths, and then you go up and up to 7 and 8 bedroom mansions, but the majority of the homes are in the 3-5 bedroom range with or without a pool and/or spa. Yes, you can rent a home for one night, but most places require at least a 5 night stay. LetÂ´s say you have decided you need a 3 bedroom home for 10 nights. Now what?Well, you have to find a management company, and there are dozens in the Orlando area. Most do business under numerous names and websites (where you can take virtual tours of the properties). You have probably seen a number advertised on DWT, or other unofficial WDW sites thru Google ads, or in Florida advertisements in newspapers and magazines. Your best bet is to ask around the forums of WDW sites for recommendations. Most of the management companies will have a rating system for the homes from 3 to 5 stars, a la AAA, or their own bronze, silver, gold, and even platinum rating systems. Most are meaningless, as the average “executive” vacation home will be equivalent to a 3 star AAA rating hotel/motel. It is a good idea to look for the AAA rating in the AAA TourBooks. The extra points, stars, etc. usually will be given to homes with nice views (of a lake or conservation area) and/or on bigger lots, or in more secluded areas in the housing project.
So, now that you have decided on a management company, the real fun starts-not!
Most management companies have homes in several housing projects (neighborhood resorts), or they own project/resort. While you can rent a home over the Internet, it is best to call the place directly, even if they say their Internet rates are the lowest possible. You best option is to visit the management company and ask for a tour of the home you are going to rent. Most companies are glad to oblige. Remember, these companies do not own the homes, they are only providing a service to the owners for a commission of 10%-30%. The caveat of car buying of not telling the salesperson what you are prepared to spend on a car also applies a vacation home. The representative you talk too may or may not be thinking of your best interests when s/he is trying to get you into a vacation home thru his or her company. Depending on when you are going to visit WDW you will fall into one of four “seasons” for vacation homes, just like at WDW. The highest rates will be around the traditional American holidays and the lowest after Spring Break time until the end of May, and once schools start in August and September, and all of January and half of February. Rates can be from $89-99/night (not including the double-digit Florida resort tax) and up to $200+/night again depending when and how big a house you need. Remember, all rates are negotiable, so donÂ´t hesitate to haggle, especially if you are staying for more than a week or two. Monthly rates are also lower. Florida law currently prevents you from renting one home for more than 6 months, however. Expect to pay a refundable security deposit of several hundred dollars and a one-time application fee of about $25 (credit cards preferred). The companies would like for you to pay in full when you make your reservation, but most will let you wait until a month before you arrive to pay the balance. Be sure to read your contract very carefully concerning cancellations. It can cost you a bundle (from several nights rent to the full price of your rental) if you have to cancel very near your reservation time. When you arrive you will either have to check-in (yes, they have specific check-in and check-out times) at their office (some are on property and others several miles away) like in a hotel/motel, or some companies will mail you instructions of how to find your home and to open the “key safe” attached to the home.
The typical vacation home is sold fully furnished/equipped for both the owners and their future guests, and is non-smoking. Smoking is allowed outside on the lanai, that most pool homes will have. Most management companies have contracts with decorating companies to furnish the homes. Most homes will have lower end furniture that can take the wear and tear, and be easily replaced, if necessary. Generally, if the owners live in the home for any part of the year, the furnishings are usually better. The master bedroom/bathroom will have a have queen or king bed, and a garden tub and shower. The second bedroom/bathroom will usually be queen or king and a tub/shower combination, and the third, fourth, etc. bedrooms will have twin beds and/or bunk beds and Jack & Jill bathrooms (be sure to ask if thatÂ´s important to you, or look at the home on the website for details). There is at least one queen sleeper sofa in all the homes. Most homes will have several televisions (from el cheapos to plasma and/or LCD monitors but basic cable only) and at least one VCR and/or DVD player. Some homes will also have play stations and the like. Expect to pay a high premium ($10/day) for high-speed Internet access, if available, (you can also visit an Internet cafÃ© or the public library) and to heat the pool ($30 to $50/day with 3 to 5 day minimums) if you visit during the winter months when it can get down in the 50Â´s, or lower, at night. Most homes have free phone service and many newer homes have dial-up Internet access. Most homes will also have a propane BBQ grill and a crib. The recreation/exercise rooms that are advertised are usually a pool table and a stationary bike, or some free weights in the de rigueur two-car garage. All you have to bring with you is your clothes and food, but itÂ´s also a good idea to bring/buy your favorite brand of toilet tissue and bath soap if youÂ´re going to be there awhile. There are supermarkets and restaurants galore nearby most of the homes on US 192, and then there is the legendary Wal-Mart in Kissimmee. Heat and AC is included in the rental price, but newer homes will have automatic controls to shut the systems down if no movement is detected while you are off to the parks or elsewhere. DonÂ´t expect softened water though. The management company will provide 24 hour maintenance and/or extermination services. Depending on the length of your stay you will or will not pay a cleaning fee after you leave. More frequent cleaning service is available, of course, at a price from $35/visit on up. Some of the neighborhood resorts will have 24 hour security, but most wonÂ´t since some of your neighbors are full-time residents who are very into Neighborhood Watch. Some of the resort neighborhoods will have a community pool, park, clubhouse, multi-purpose courts, playground, walking or jogging paths and even a soccer field. The management company can also provide you with discounts for rental cars, park tickets, and reduced green fees at the numerous golf courses surrounding WDW. Rental vacation homes are also available thru travel agents, but expect to pay the highest rates.
Well there you have it. All you ever wanted to know about renting WDW area vacation homes in less than 1,860 words.
P. S. The management companies would love to sell you a vacation home. New 1,500 to 1,700 square foot homes in the outlying areas (10 to 15 miles from WDW) can be had for about $150,000 now. Older same-size homes near WDW are going for $250,000 and up. The management company will take care of all the other bills from an escrow account (several hundred to a thousand or dollars more a month) they set up for you. That does not include your mortgage payment or taxes.