Vacation home rentals near Walt Disney World have become a popular way to stay in large accommodations near the parks with private pools, game rooms, full kitchens, laundry, and other features. In this post, we share photos from inside luxurious and themed houses, offer thoughts on reputable companies, and thoughts on whether vacation homes are right for your WDW trip.
Many readers already have made the move off-site, whether it’s to hotels at Disney Springs, options at Universal that offer perks at those parks, or other nearby hotels. Another option growing in popularity is vacation home rentals, whether that be via large booking engines like Airbnb or via specialized Disney sites like Incredible Vacation Homes.
We first learned about the option to rent a house near Walt Disney World while listening to the (now defunct) WDW Today Podcast and hearing ad pitches for (the also now defunct) All Star Vacation Homes. It all sounded a little too good to be true: arcades, home theaters, private pools, countless bedrooms, and so on. But it was true. The homes were really as-advertised, with reasonable prices that were a fraction of comparable on-site hotel prices.
Since then we’ve used Airbnb extensively with great results around the world, including months at a time. That’s pretty much been our go-to, but usually for smaller flats or apartments. Rentals near Walt Disney World are a totally different ball game, as most are newly-built houses (the term mansion is apt for many of them) for the express purpose of rentals.
In other words, when you rent one of these, you’re not staying in someone else’s personal home some random week they are out of town. These houses exist solely for the purpose of being rented, and are operated much like a hotel.
With most of our Walt Disney World trips being just the two of us, we haven’t had the need for a vacation home rental in years, and hadn’t really kept apprised of this burgeoning market. However, Incredible Vacation Homes approached us about advertising in our newsletter earlier this year, and before allowing that, we wanted to perform our due diligence.
Plus, I’m really curious about homes in Central Florida (I find the explosion in large and expensive properties endlessly fascinating), particularly the resort areas like Windsor Hills, Champions Gate, and Reunion. This gave us an excuse to tour some of those homes, and also meet with the team of folks who operate and run day-to-day operations at the company. (Note: all of the photos in this post are from those tours–we haven’t stayed in any of these vacation homes.)
Beyond the size and themed areas of the flagship houses available for booking at Incredible Vacation Homes, the biggest surprise for me was the size and scale of the business. They have curated a sizable home inventory of Disney-centric homes, and are partnered with a management company offering a dedicated team and 24 hour customer service.
While we were touring the homes, staff vehicles were zooming around attending to other homes, getting them ready for guest check-ins. I don’t know what I was expecting–probably something a bit more disorganized and informal. That’s definitely not the case.
To my surprise, this is not atypical for the big players in the Orlando-area vacation rental space. Doing further research about vacation homes around Walt Disney World was a bit daunting. The various rental outfits seem to be in a race to the bottom to create the least coherent descriptions, stringing together a slew of spam-like keywords they believe will please the almighty Google gods.
Once you cut past the messy search results and begin delving into the pages of the respectable rental companies (including reviews from actual guests), there’s a lot to like. I found 6 different companies in the Walt Disney World area that I would consider to be reputable.
That’s just in doing research for this article; there very well could be other exemplary under-the-radar businesses that I’m missing. In combing the reviews, guest experiences are generally very positive–on par with crowd-sourced reviews for Deluxe Resorts at Walt Disney World.
The main players in the Orlando vacation home rental market scene all seem legit; like polished and bona fide businesses rather than small-scale side hustles. In addition to Incredible Vacation Homes, this includes Orlando Vacation, Windsor Hills Orlando Condos, and Magical Vacation Homes.
There are a handful of other agencies, including Go Disney Vacations and Emerald Island Rentals Orlando that have good ratings, and I wouldn’t hesitate to rent from any of them if we were in need of such a property.
I know a lot of people are uncomfortable about services like Airbnb or VBRO, which we personally have zero hesitations whatsoever to use. I don’t think either of those are even remotely unsafe, despite a handful of horror stories receiving disproportionate amplification.
In reality, hotel horror stories are just as prevalent but not headline-grabbing because it’s easier for the local news to scare you with stories of the scary startup than something with which you’re already familiar. Things like ride-sharing, home rentals, and self-driving cars are the boogeyman…if you ignore the reality that their established counterparts likewise pose risks. But I digress.
The point is that these Walt Disney World-centric vacation home rental companies are even safer, as they have direct control of and access to the properties, real-time support, and physical storefronts/offices in the area. They are basically like a hotel, but instead of their inventory consisting of individual rooms, it consists of entire houses.
Like hotels, they also have reputations that are inextricably intertwined with the properties, whereas Airbnb is decentralized and is only a booking service/engine; it doesn’t take a reputation hit when an individual property receives a poor review, nor does it have the means of offering a real-time solution, beyond a refund.
As for the pros and cons of vacation homes, we cover the basics in our Off-Site v. On-Site at Walt Disney World article. Beyond that, the biggest strength of vacation homes is in the size of the accommodations. If you’re looking at price per square foot, nothing any hotel of comparable quality offers at or near Walt Disney World can touch vacation homes.
Other upsides include free parking, having a full kitchen, laundry, game rooms, private pools, and whatever other features the specific home you book has. Many of the aforementioned communities where the homes are located are gated, ensuring safety, and have shared common areas, like pools and water play areas on par with those at some Walt Disney World resorts.
The downsides are also fairly obvious. There’s no access to Extra Magic Hours, but as we’ve covered in recent posts, the value of that is declining (and for the cost difference of the accommodations, you could pay to do Disney After Hours for a better experience).
The biggest real downside is being off-site and having to drive or, better yet, use Uber or Lyft. However, you figure that adds $25/day to your Walt Disney World vacation budget, and gets you private transportation from your door-front to the parks in about the same time (if not less) commuting from the All Star Resorts via Disney transportation–at a per square foot price that’s lower than even the All Stars.
Nevertheless, it should also be noted that vacation home rentals are not for everyone. As much as I enjoy having a good freakout a la Kevin McAllister in Home Alone and running all over a mansion, one of these houses would be total overkill for just Sarah and me. We like our space, but don’t need that much.
Even if we did need more space, we like the hotel experience–and are particularly suckers for staying on-site at Walt Disney World. As we noted in the above-mentioned ‘Disappearing On-Site Advantage’ article, the nostalgia and emotional pull of staying on-site is incredibly powerful for us.
However, your mileage may vary on that, both in terms of your party size and how much emotional or nostalgic weight there is in staying on-site. If you have a party of 4 or more and want nice and spacious accommodations, vacation home rental near Walt Disney World might be perfect for you. This post basically serves a primer to the ever-growing rental market in Orlando, cuts through the fluff, and provides insight into what to expect from these homes. If there’s reader appetite for more on vacation homes, we’ll follow up with more.
Have you ever rented a vacation home near Walt Disney World? Which company did you use? What did you think of the experience? Would you recommend it to someone else? What do you perceive as the pros & cons of renting a vacation home as opposed to staying in a Walt Disney World resort? Do you agree or disagree with our thoughts? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!