Overwhelmed? We know where the best places to stay are, regardless of your budget.
There is no shortage of family-friendly accommodations in Orlando. Frankly, it can be a little overwhelming. In our list, we've included on-site properties for both Disney World and Universal Orlando, as well as resorts that are destinations in their own right. And we've also included a few budget options for families who rather spend their money on Orlando's attractions.
Photo courtesy: Loews Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando
1/Disney's Pop Century Resort
1050 Century Dr., Lake Buena Vista
If you’re looking for a basic hotel that gets you the on-property Disney perks, Pop Century is your best option. Themed around the decades, you can take a walk back in time with oversized icons from the 1950s through the 1990s. The life-sized Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head or the Big Wheel that is several stories tall will delight younger kids while older ones will enjoy the Hippy Dippy Pool, complete with flower-shaped water jets. Pop Century is a value resort, so rooms are Disney's smallest. But how much time are you really going to be spending in your room? The rooms at Pop Century are in the middle of a complete renovation and, when finished, all rooms will have two queen beds as opposed to double beds, laminate flooring, coffee makers, and redone bathrooms. The second bed will fold away into the wall when not in use to give you extra floor space. The resort has bus transportation to all the Disney theme parks and Disney Springs. Unlike many of the other value resorts, Pop does not share buses, which makes your ride to and from the park quite a bit shorter. Pop Century’s food court is one of the best on Disney's properties with a variety of options including a create-your-own salad station and tie-dyed cheesecake. Rates start at $118/night.
KidTripster Tip: The preferred rooms at this resort are worth the extra charge to be closer to the main building and transportation. The preferred pool view rooms can be very loud though, so be careful when picking your room category.
2/Disney's Port Orleans Riverside
1251 Riverside Dr., Lake Buena Vista
Port Orleans Riverside is one of the biggest resorts on the Disney property, but the quaintness of the buildings and rooms makes it feel like you have landed in the antebellum South rather than Orlando. The resort is situated on the Sassagoula River and includes two distinct areas - Magnolia Bend with mansion buildings that harken back to Gone With the Wind and Alligator Bayou, a backwoods area resembling a swamp complete with ramshackle-looking buildings. Magnolia Bend also is home to the Royal Rooms, which have been specially-decorated by Princess Tiana from The Princess and the Frog for her Disney princess friends. The attention to detail in these rooms is incredible, but the upgrade price may not be worth it, unless your family has a big princess fan. Alligator Bayou is the most economical option for families of five traveling to Disney World. The rooms include two queen beds and a fold-down banquette bed. Buses are available to the theme parks with multiple stops around the resort, and you can catch a boat to Disney Springs. Port Orleans Riverside also features several pools, including one with a hot tub and waterslide. Rates start at $212/night.
KidTripster Tip: Have kids who can’t sleep together? If you book a preferred room at Port Orleans Riverside, you're guaranteed a fold-down banquette bed (smaller than a twin, so best for kids under 10) to give your family extra sleeping space.
3/Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
2901 Osceola Pkwy., Lake Buena Vista
If you are looking to leave Florida totally behind and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of Africa, Animal Kingdom Lodge is your hotel. Situated on specially-built savannas, the hotel is surrounded by animals and African art. When you walk in, you are greeted by two stories of windows that offer your first view of the giraffes, zebras, ostriches, and other animals that roam freely, seemingly within your reach. In addition to stunning animal views, Animal Kingdom Lodge also offers two pools with waterslides and splash areas that are perfect for kids of all ages. Another highlight at this resort is the activities schedule, which is included free of charge and offers unique options like African drumming, storytelling by the fire pit, night-vision goggle animal viewing, and cultural resort tours for adults. Most rooms have two queen beds, but some have one queen bed and a set of bunk beds. All rooms have a private patio or balcony, coffee maker, and small refrigerator. Rooms offer a variety of views, but only the savanna category will give you a guaranteed look at animals from your balcony. Buses take you to all of the theme parks. Rates start at $358/night.
4/Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
4401 Floridian Way, Lake Buena Vista
Disney’s flagship resort may seem too fancy and fussy for some, but don’t let the string quartet in the lobby deter you. This resort is one of the best situated with regards to the parks and is also a fabulous, relaxing oasis in the middle of Disney World. The Grand Floridian is located on the monorail line, which gives you almost instant access to Magic Kingdom and a quick trip to Epcot. There also are boats that take you to and from Magic Kingdom. Unlike the other two hotels on the monorail line, the Grand Floridian doesn't feel as much like of a tourist destination and has fewer day guests to check out the restaurants, decor, and pools. (While pool hopping is against Disney policy, it does happen.) The result is a relaxing vibe with views of the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the pool. Rooms are large with two queen beds, a twin day bed, and balcony or patio. The resort also has two pools (one with a waterslide) and activities throughout the day. Rates start at $610/night.
5/Loews Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando
6550 Adventure Way
Though brimming with a swanky, retro style, Cabana Bay Beach Resort is actually the least expensive of the Universal Orlando hotels and offers family suites for up to six people. In addition to being located right in the middle of the action, other advantages of staying on-site include early park admission and complimentary transportation to the parks. The resort has two, family-friendly pool areas: one features a tower waterslide and the other has a sand beach and lazy river. For some evening fun, head to the hotel's 10-lane bowling alley. Prices range from $110 to $150/night during low season and $230 to $250/night during high season. For a full review of Cabana Bay Beach Resort, click here.
6/Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando
6601 Adventure Way
Universal Orlando’s Loews Sapphire Falls Resort is the newest of the on-site hotels. The most impressive feature of this resort is the pool area. Covering 16,000-square feet, the pool features sandy spots for playing, a children’s area with pop-up jets, a huge hot tub, and a 100-foot-long water slide. In the evening, enjoy poolside movies and s'mores. As with Cabana Bay, early park admission and complimentary transportation to the parks are included with your stay. Standard room prices range from $200 to $215/night during the slow season and $299 to $315/night during peak season. For a full review of Sapphire Falls Resort, click here.
7/Marriott’s Grande Vista
5925 Avenida Vista
At Marriott’s Grande Vista, the theme parks are nearby, but your kids might not care. Thanks to four, kid-friendly pool areas with features like spray cannons, castle forts, rushing falls, and splash pads, they may not even leave the water. Besides heated pools, Grande Vista has a 9-hole golf course on the edge of the Everglades with a driving range, putting green, and Marriott Golf Academy to assist golfers of any age. Rooms feature fully-equipped kitchens, and the Marriott Marketplace includes groceries and other necessities. Food options are plentiful with fine dining at The Grill at Grande Vista and poolside dining at Grande Cove Restaurant and Copa Loca Bar & Grill with rooftop table tennis. Treats can be found at the Lighthouse Sweetery or at weekly beach campfires that feature songs, stories, and s’mores. Daily resort activities are plentiful and include family jellybean tastings, painting ceramics, live animal demos, and stuffed animal crafts. A Kids' Night Out option also is available for a fee. On rainy days, spend time at the arcade or play at the indoor MAZE structure. Rates for a 3-bedroom villa start at $475/night.
KidTripster Tip: Kids (15 and under) play golf for free with a paying adult after 3 p.m.
8/Rosen Shingle Creek
9939 Universal Blvd.
Located within a 10-minute drive of all of Orlando's theme and water parks, guests still feel secluded in the natural setting of this 230-acre property with its walking trails and on-site fishing. Rosen Shingle Creek offers a variety of activities: swimming, tennis, basketball, beach volleyball, video arcade, and an 18-hole championship golf course. You even can see the nightly fireworks at nearby Magic Kingdom. Room rates start at $157/night; suites start at $259/night. For a full review of Rosen Shingle Creek, click here.
KidTripster Tip: The resort provides a complimentary shuttle to all the parks, allowing you to skip the obligatory $15 parking fee.
9/The Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes
4012 Central Florida Pkwy.
The Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes is an oasis nestled in the heart of Orlando, just down the road from SeaWorld and about 20 minutes from both Disney World and Universal. Since the resort has so much to offer families, stay here before or after your theme park visits, so you're not paying for amenities that you’re not using. The resort delivers an unrivaled experience, starting with Ritz Kids Club. In addition to crafts and activities, your kids will love the animals: a rabbit, a bearded dragon, turtles, chickens, and even baby alligators. Also enjoy the pool, ping pong, air hockey, foosball, shuffleboard, and bocce ball. Rates run $400 to $800/night, depending on room category; there's also a daily $35 resort fee that covers two hours at Ritz Kids and transportation to the parks. For a full review of The Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes, click here.
KidTripster Tip: Ice cream for kids is always free with a blue Ritz Kids bracelet. Kids get it at check-in and can present it for a free cup, whenever they please!
10/Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld
6677 Sea Harbor Dr.
Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld sits directly across the street from SeaWorld, home of the Kraken Unleashed and Mako roller coasters plus, of course, sea creatures galore. It’s a perfect place to call “home” if you don’t want to be inundated by Mickey and company 24/7 but still need close proximity to all of Orlando’s theme parks. A true resort, the Renaissance boasts spacious rooms, multiple eateries, a spa, and a large pool complete with its own mini water park. Rooms start at $129/night, plus $25 daily resort fee which includes complimentary transportation to area parks, bottled water, and more. For a full review of Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld, click here.
BONUS/Caribe Royale Orlando
8101 World Center Dr.
Bathed in pink, the Caribe Royale Orlando is a budget option, conveniently located just 1-1/2 miles from Disney World. The one-bedroom suites have a queen, king or deluxe king bed and a separate living room with a full-size, pull-out sofa for the kids. Two-room villas offer separate bedrooms, plus again, the pull-out sofa; these units are ideal for large families. Your kids will make a beeline to the large pool with waterfalls and water slide. You’ll also find a playground, basketball court, tennis court, and spa. Rooms start around $124/night.
Former journalist Jamie Farber lives in West Michigan with her husband and three sons. Her English degree somehow led her to a career planning Disney vacations with Mickey Travels.