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Every day, tens of thousands of people visit the Walt Disney World Resort just outside of Orlando, Florida. In fact, the Magic Kingdom alone saw over 20 million visitors last year — and that doesn’t factor in the more than 10 million annual visitors to each of Disney World’s other three parks: Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot. And all those people need a place to sleep. In fact, the Orlando area boasts over 120,000 hotel rooms, more than in New York City.

While there are plenty of hotel rooms to choose from in Central Florida, the sobering truth is that a Walt Disney World vacation for a family of four is expensive — easily thousands of dollars. The good news is that one of the easiest ways to significantly reduce the cost of a Walt Disney World vacation is by using hotel points. (Though not inside the park itself, as most Disney hotels don’t accept points — but more on that later.)

Photo by Cody Board on Unsplash
(Photo by Cody Board/Unsplash.)

While there are benefits to staying at a Disney World resort, there are hundreds of other hotels waiting just outside the theme park, including some with the same perks as the official Disney resorts. And TPG‘s here to help you find the best lodging for your buck. We crunched the numbers and found the best points value in the Happiest Place on Earth.

(By the way, if you just want to skip to the best points hotels for your specific hotel loyalty program, we’ve got you covered in our guide to the Best Disney World Points Hotels for Your Points Program.)

In This Post

How We Calculated the Rankings

We gathered stats on all of the points-friendly chain hotels within a 20-minute drive of Walt Disney World — 169 properties across 10 major chains. We emphasized what’s important to traveling families: award availability, value per point, Disney perks, free breakfast, resort fees, free transportation to Disney, elite benefits and more.

(Photo by CL Photographs/Flickr.)

We also took note of in-room kitchens and other money- and time-saving conveniences like access to laundry machines. Because not all of the fun happens in the parks, we also took a look at the pools, waterslides, arcades and other hotel fun available to guests.

Note that we included peak and off-peak dates in our searches since some programs, like Hilton Honors, charge varying amounts for award nights. Starting in 2019, we’ll also see different peak and off-peak rates at some Marriott Rewards and SPG properties, so point rates aren’t always fixed.

And remember that we’re identifying the overall best option when using hotel points to book a property near Disney World. “Best hotel” doesn’t necessarily mean the newest, nicest or closest property to Disney World that happens to accept points. This ranking is about overall points value.

One point: Disney World replaced FastPass with FastPass+, though everyone tends to use the words interchangeably. To make it even more confusing, Disneyland — the one in Anaheim, California — uses a system called FASTPASS. For the purposes of simplicity and in line with common usage, when we refer to something as “FastPass” in this story, we mean FastPass+.

Top 10 Best Points Properties Near Disney World

1. Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista – Disney Springs Area

    • Point cost: 45,000 to 50,000 Hilton Honors points per night (Hilton has variable redemption amounts), worth $270 to $300 based on TPG’s valuations
    • Resort fee: $35, waived on award stays
    • Number of rooms: 814
    • Total score: 65

One of the biggest considerations in picking a hotel here is Disney perks. And the top hotel in our rankings, the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista (as well our No. 2 and No. 3), is rich with Disney benefits.

Photo by Chad Sparkes/Flickr
Disney Springs (Photo by Chad Sparkes/Flickr)

There are seven hotels in Disney Springs, and they’re the next best thing to actually staying inside the park. Through at least the end of 2019, Disney Springs hotels including the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista get access to Extra Magic Hours and 60-day FastPass+ reservations. The value of the latter can’t be overstated: They can mean the difference between actually getting into the popular rides and spending all day waiting for Mine Train or Slinky Dog Dash.

Don
Photo courtesy of Disney Springs.

So why is the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista better than other Disney Springs hotels when it comes to points? Above-average award availability (including suites), the ability to leverage elite perks for inclusions such as breakfast, and solid ratings from travelers on Hotels.com.

(Photo courtesy of the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista – Disney Springs® Area)
Photo courtesy of the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista.

To stay in a room with two queen beds just after Christmas (peak season) would cost you about $300 per night with cash, including taxes and the $35 resort fee. But as of mid-September, there were standard rooms available for 50,000 Hilton Honors points per night (and non-peak dates go as low as 35,000 points). And you don’t pay resort fees on award stays booked solely with points, so your 50k-per-night award rate is actually just 50,000 points.

With a variety of Hilton cobranded credit cards available right now with welcome bonuses as high as 150,000 Hilton Honors points, it’s easy to rack up lots of points in a hurry. And those with Hilton elite status (which you can get by applying for the no-annual-fee Hilton Honors American Express Card) also receive the fifth award night free when booking with points, making this property an even better play if your family wants to stay near Disney World for five nights.

Though the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista has a Disney character breakfast and Disney Store, it doesn’t necessarily emit that Disney “magic.” If you want full-throttle Disney, this hotel isn’t for you. But if you want Disney perks, the ability to leverage elite status, close proximity to Disney and above-average award availability even during peak seasons, check it out, like we did.

Photo courtesy of Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista
Photo courtesy of Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista.

2. Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace – Disney Springs Area

  • Point cost: 50,000 Hilton Honors points per night, worth $300 based on TPG’s valuations
  • Resort fee: $35, waived on award stays
  • Number of rooms: 1,011
  • Total score: 64

Coming in just one point behind our winner, the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace in Disney Springs is close to Disney World and has Disney perks, elite benefits and award availability. But where it beats our No. 1 is with its lazy river.

This property has standard award rooms for 50,000 points per night, and true suites often start around 100k points per night. Most of the rooms feature a private balcony, and all have an in-room fridge. There’s a Disney character breakfast on Sundays and a continuous shuttle between Disney World and Disney Springs.

Photo courtesy of Hilton Orlando Buena Vista
Photo courtesy of Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace.

Where this property lost a little ground against our winner was in its Hotels.com traveler rating, where it received a score of 7.6 (as opposed to our winner’s 8.2). Reviewers complained that the hotel needed to improve its cleanliness and update its product. The hotel told us recently that all rooms have been renovated but not the bathrooms, so time will tell whether this hotel claims the top spot as the refresh continues.

Photo courtesy of Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace
Photo courtesy of Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace

3. Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort Area

  • Point cost: 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points per night, worth $180 based on TPG’s valuations
  • Resort fee: $25, waived on award stays
  • Number of rooms: 213
  • Total score: 62

The Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort uses Wyndham’s flat award chart where all standard rooms are 15,000 points per night, giving this hotel an above-average return for points during peak school breaks. TPG values Wyndham points at 1.2 cents each, but our searches showed one could achieve an average redemption value of 1.6 cents here. Perquisites include Extra Magic Hours, 60-day FastPass+ reservations and a pool playground with child-friendly water features.

Photo courtesy of Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs
Photo courtesy of Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs.

The Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs has a continuous shuttle to Disney World, a Disney character breakfast (with Goofy and Pluto) on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, tennis courts, volleyball, basketball and an arcade, in addition to its own “director of fun”.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Room
Photo courtesy of Wyndham Lake Buena Vista.

So why didn’t it come in at No. 1 in our rankings? It didn’t have suites you could book with points. Additionally, even top-tier Wyndham elites don’t get complimentary breakfast.

Still, it’s a strong contender and actually has the highest Hotels.com traveler rating of our top three properties with a score of 8.4. Last but not least, it’s the closest hotel to the Disney Springs footbridge, which can be crucial when you’re lugging home cranky, sleepy kids after a day of Disney.

(Photo courtesy of the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort Area)
Photo courtesy of the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort Area.

4. Homewood Suites by Hilton Orlando – International Drive/Convention Center

  • Point cost: 30,000 to 35,000 Hilton Honors points per night, worth $180 to $210 based on TPG’s valuations
  • Resort fee: None
  • Number of rooms: 252
  • Total score: 58

The location isn’t as good as Disney Springs, but the hotel has plenty of amenities, including a free full hot breakfast, complimentary evening snacks, free parking and a free shuttle to Disney World. The hotel also features reasonable availability for larger rooms.

5. Residence Inn Orlando Convention Center

  • Point cost: 25,000 Marriott Rewards points per night, worth $225 based on TPG’s valuations
  • Resort fee: None
  • Number of rooms: 124
  • Total score: 58

The Residence Inn Orlando Convention Center has excellent availability for award members, larger rooms and a free, full hot breakfast.

6. Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista Resort

  • Point cost: 40,000 Hilton Honors points per night, worth $240 based on TPG’s valuations
  • Resort fee: $19.95, waived on award stays
  • Number of rooms: 334
  • Total score: 57

This hotel is just a mile from Disney World, a short ride on the free shuttle. Every room is a two-room suite, and there’s a separate splash area for kids for hot days when you don’t head to Disney World. The hotel includes a free, robust hot breakfast, free parking and evening snacks and drinks. This is a great property if you want more space, minimal food costs and don’t need Disney perks.

Photo courtesy of Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista
Photo courtesy of Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista.

7. Best Western Lake Buena Vista-Disney Springs Resort Area

  • Point cost: 20,000 Best Western Rewards points per night, worth $140 based on TPG’s valuations
  • Resort fee: $13.99, not waived on award stays
  • Number of rooms: 325
  • Total score: 57

The Best Western Lake Buena Vista-Disney Springs Resort Area is a short walk from Disney Springs and gives guests 60-day FastPass+ reservations and Extra Magic Hours. Plus, there are Mickey waffles, a view of Disney World and a solid value for folks with Best Western Rewards points.

(Photo courtesy of the Best Western Lake Buena Vista)
Photo courtesy of the Best Western Lake Buena Vista.

8. Hyatt Place Orlando/Convention Center

  • Point cost: 8,000 World of Hyatt points per night, worth $144 based on TPG’s valuations
  • Resort fee: None
  • Number of rooms: 150
  • Total score: 55

This limited-service Hyatt hotel is about 20 minutes by car from Disney World. While the location isn’t great, the hotel offers solid award availability at just 8,000 World of Hyatt points per night, which you can transfer at 1:1 from Chase Ultimate Rewards, earned with cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve. This hotel also features free breakfast for all guests, no resort fee, free parking and rooms that can sleep up to five.

9. Hyatt House across from Universal Orlando Resort

  • Point cost: 8,000 World of Hyatt points per night, worth $144 based on TPG’s valuations
  • Resort fee: None
  • Number of rooms: 168
  • Total score: 55

The new Hyatt House across from Universal Orlando is a 20-minute drive to Disney World, but comes with a free, full hot breakfast, excellent award availability and families will appreciate the extra space in the new rooms. If Universal Orlando is also in your family’s Orlando travel plans, this property is a stellar choice, since it’s a Universal Studios partner hotel with free transportation to those parks.

Photo courtesy of Hyatt House across from Universal Orlando Resort
Photo courtesy of Hyatt House across from Universal Orlando Resort.

10. Homewood Suites by Hilton Lake Buena Vista-Orlando

  • Point cost: 37,000 to 40,000 Hilton Honors points per night, worth $222 to $240 based on TPG’s valuations
  • Resort fee: None
  • Number of rooms: 130
  • Total score: 55

There are two Homewood Suites properties in our top 10, with good reason. At Homewood Suites, you get a free, full hot breakfast and evening snacks, you don’t pay for parking and there’s a free shuttle to Disney World.

Why Aren’t the Disney Swan and Dolphin in the Top 10?

If you know anything about using hotel points to stay at or near Walt Disney World, you’re undoubtedly wondering why the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resorts have yet to be mentioned. While they’re solid contenders on Disney property that can be booked with Marriott Rewards points, they only came in at No. 23 and No. 36, respectively.

Families can use the annual night award that comes with the SPG Luxury Amex at the Disney Swan or Dolphin
Photo courtesy of Disney Swan and Dolphin resorts.

The reason? After the SPG and Marriott Rewards integration, the Swan and Dolphin cost 50,000 Marriott Rewards points per night (up from 30k), making them extremely expensive for award stays. Worse still, availability is tight, and standard rooms were frequently unavailable when we looked. To make matters worse, both hotels charge resort fees ($31.50) on award stays, unlike most of their competitors.

Photo courtesy of  Walt Disney World Swan.

While the Swan and Dolphin are walking distance to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, have easy access to Disney transportation and offer a nice pool complex, playground and lake, they don’t include breakfast or snacks for non-elites. In short, though convenient, the Swan and Dolphin come at a price that knocks them out of contention for best overall value. Plus, the Disney Springs hotels get the same Disney FastPass+ and Extra Magic Hours perks.

But if you want to leverage your Marriott Platinum elite perks, have a large balance of Marriott Rewards points or an annual 50k award night from the Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card, then by all means go for it.

Pool at the Disney Swan and Dolphin
Photo courtesy of the Disney Swan and Dolphin resorts.

What Matters to Families

Award Availability

In a points situation, few things matter more than whether the hotel has award availability. Our top-scoring Disney-area properties with consistently available award rooms (especially during peak travel times) included:

If you’re working with a larger points budget and want to enjoy a more luxurious stay near Disney World, the Waldorf Astoria is a great property with solid award availability at 80,000 Hilton Honors points per night. Remember that certain Hilton elites can now enjoy an included breakfast at Waldorf Astoria properties, so consider using your Hilton weekend anniversary award nights available with the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express.

Pool at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando. Photo courtesy Hilton
Photo courtesy Hilton – Waldorf Astoria.

Or if you stay at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando using cash, book via The Platinum Card® from American Express‘ Fine Hotel and Resorts program to get a $100 spa credit, 4:00pm checkout, breakfast for two and other perks.

Value per Point

It’s great to be able to use points to pay for your hotel, but that doesn’t mean you should. On one hand, some Orlando hotels are quite affordable with cash, which is great. On the other, resort fees run rampant in Orlando. Thankfully, award reservations booked only on points are exempt from resort fees in most hotel loyalty programs (though not Marriott Rewards).

Additionally, some hotels are simply better than others. We don’t want you to use points to stay in a place that is, shall we say, excessively worn. That’s why we factored in the Hotels.com traveler scores.

Some hotels stood head and shoulders above the rest for value. In fact, six of them represented at least a 10% higher value for redeeming points than TPG does in his monthly valuations, and all top 10 properties exceeded them.

The best values are:

  1. Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista – Disney Springs Area
  2. Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort Area
  3. Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
  4. Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace – Disney Springs Area
  5. Best Western Lake Buena Vista – Disney Springs Resort Area
  6. Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort Area
  7. Hyatt House across from Universal Orlando Resort
  8. Homewood Suites by Hilton Orlando Theme Parks
  9. Staybridge Suites Orlando at SeaWorld
  10. Magic Village, Trademark Collection by Wyndham

Amenities

Families want more from a hotel than just a bed and a shower. The amenities we looked for included standard ones such as a pool and free breakfast for elite members, both table stakes for hotels in Orlando. We also scoured the internet and called over 100 hotels to dig deeper, looking for kitchens, washer/dryers, cool waterslides and even waterparks on the property.

The IHG family fared well with amenities. Both the Holiday Inn Club Vacations at Orange Lake Resort and the Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites Waterpark come with plenty to keep kids occupied. The waterpark at the latter looks especially nice for a hotel that costs just 35,000 IHG Rewards points per night. This means you could use the annual award night that comes with the IHG Rewards Club Premier Card Credit Card or benefit from the card’s perk that gives you the fourth night free on award stays.

Photo courtesy of Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites Waterpark
Photo courtesy of Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites Waterpark.

The worst of the bunch? Naturally, there are a number of Choice Hotels and Wyndham Rewards properties with limited amenities. Some of these hotels offer “bang for your buck” in terms of availability and value, but you’ll want to think of them as a bed, shower and breakfast, not a place to entertain your family.

Resort Fees and Parking Fees

Resort fees: the nasty-looking green fungus on the bottom of an otherwise beautiful, clear pool. Worse, they’re spreading like wildfire. Are there even resort fees at an Orlando-area Econo Lodge? At a Comfort Inn? Yes and yes.

The worst offenders are familiar to the Disney faithful: Walt Disney World Dolphin and Swan. Both charge a hefty $31.50 nightly resort fee to all guests, and Marriott Rewards doesn’t waive resort fees on award bookings. That means that on top of paying 50,000 points per night, you’ll also end up forking over $200 for a weeklong “free” vacation purely in resort fees. There’s also an extra $23 per day for self-parking and $33 per day for valet parking.

Thankfully, some chains, like Hyatt and Hilton, waive these resort fees with award bookings.

Elite Status Perks

Elite perks tend to be less spectacular at Orlando area hotels than elsewhere, largely because there aren’t many club lounges. Also, because free breakfast is a benefit at many budget hotels for all guests, elite members don’t get a huge leg up the way they might in New York City. And suite upgrades aren’t something we see a ton of in Orlando, especially since many hotels don’t have those aspirational rooms.

That said, the elite perks leader in the Disney World area is the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. For top-tier World of Hyatt Globalists (or Hyatt Explorists using one of four annual Club Lounge passes), there’s a full continental breakfast with additional hot items in the club lounge, and a small kids area with cartoons.

Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Club Lounge (photo courtesy of the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress)
Photo courtesy of the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress.

In the evenings, there are cold and hot appetizers and a solid dessert spread in the club lounge, all with a view of the Disney fireworks. As an added perk, the hotel does a decent job awarding complimentary suite upgrades to elite members.

Photo courtesy of the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress
Photo courtesy of the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress.

The Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress is a Category 4 Hyatt property, so you can book standard rooms for 15,000 World of Hyatt points per night, or use a Category 1-4 free night award (which you get by having the World of Hyatt Credit Card). If your elite status won’t get you into the lounge, you can book rooms with club lounge access for 21,000 World of Hyatt points per night.

Transportation

We took a look at how each hotel handled parking and shuttles to Disney World and found two trends. First, and disturbingly, there were way more hotels than we expected near Disney World that charge for parking. Some fees were quite pricey, such as $23 daily at the Swan and Dolphin.

On the positive side, we found that at least as many hotels offered a free shuttle to Disney World. Look for the properties Disney World calls “Good Neighbor Hotels.”

Bottom Line

There isn’t one perfect points hotel near Disney World that’s inexpensive, always has rooms available, offers tons of inclusions, is close to the parks, has an amazing pool and lounge, is recently renovated and oozes Disney magic. But there are several that come close enough.

Our numbers pointed to the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista – Disney Springs, but the best points hotel near Disney World is ultimately the one that makes your family happy, keeps money in your pocket and allows you to focus on the fun instead of the bill. We’d love to hear what your No. 1 is.


Want to read more about Disney parks around the world? Check out our other Disney guides…

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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