Wyndham Lake Buena Vista at Disney Springs makes a great case for staying off property.
Note: I was hosted by Wyndham Lake Buena Vista for one night and offered a media rate for additional nights. Opinions expressed are all my own.
If you’re like me, you value being in control of what you spend on vacation. You budget for the big things (5 day Disney park hopper passes), find a bargain on the necessities (a clean, comfortable hotel with a nice pool) and skimp where you can (stock up on snacks at Publix on the way to Disney). And, saving cash on airfare by driving to Disney? Hullo shopping and great restaurants!
Of course, staying on property at Disney has its benefits, but nearby resorts offer plenty of advantages and there’s so much to do in Orlando, I almost always choose to stay at an off-Disney property. On our most recent trip we stayed at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista at Disney Springs, which allows us the best of both worlds: many Disney perks and a non budget-busting vacation experience.
Here are the 7 reasons why staying at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista was great for us:
1. Eat what you want, when you want and pay what you want
Publix is only a mile and a half away for snacks, bottled water, wine and more; Walgreens, CVS and other stores are nearby, too. And there are plenty of fast casual restaurants nearby, some even within walking distance.
We stocked up on prepared salads and fruit at Publix, as well as water and snacks and were able to hit the parks well fed in the morning. We tend to go to the parks early and then leave in the late afternoon for an early supper; relaxing with a salad in the A/C in the late afternoon was great before returning to the park for a last few rides and fireworks. This has been our go-to strategy since our daughters were toddlers and a mid-afternoon nap was a critical part of a good day.
2. Disney Springs, Disney’s newest entertainment jewel
Some evenings we went out to dinner (or to shop) so we headed to Disney Springs, just across the street from the Wyndham and accessible by an elevated skywalk. This new entertainment and shopping plaza (formerly Downtown Disney) has been transformed to be more reflective of Disney’s Florida roots with a modern, sophisticated feel. With a lake at its center, Disney Springs is surrounded by restaurants from celebrity chefs such as Guy Fieri (Planet Hollywood) Art Smith and Wolfgang Puck. There are shopping staples like Sephora, Uniqlo, Lego and of course, the Disney store. It’s nice to shop outside of the park; I hate getting talked into a purchase that I then have to babysit all day while my kids are on rides.
3. Busses get you to and from the parks easily
Wyndham is on the Disney Resort route, so there’s free transportation to and from the parks every 30 minutes all day—starting 60 minutes before park opening to 90 minutes after closing.
Even faster is the Disney Springs shuttle: Wyndham is the closest hotel to Disney Springs, and the shuttle stop is about a 10 minute walk from the hotel (Disney Springs shuttles run only after 4PM, however). We found this to be the best way to return from the Magic Kingdom since the shuttle goes directly from the front gate to the Disney Springs, while the hotel shuttle leaves from the Magic Kingdom transportation center which requires you to take the monorail from the main gate.
In all, though, the transportation system was easy to use, easy to find both at the hotel and in the parks, and reliable. It typically takes half an hour from one point to the other—often better than between-park transportation.
4. Resort amenities without a resort price tag
Yes, I said resort, and it’s one of Wyndham Lake Buena Vista’s best features. A massive resort pool fills the entire back of the Wyndham property; it has a bar and grille, a water play area for smaller kids, a hot tub and plenty of chairs for relaxing in the sun. It’s the perfect place for a Southern Siesta. On those super hot summer days, put on your swimsuit, a baseball cap, grab a cool drink and slip into the water. THAT is how Southerners stand the heat.
The Wyndham’s $18 a day resort fee gets you access to the pool, towels, fitness center, activities and more.
5. Pick your room and your price: Garden ($) or Tower ($$)
Rooms at Disney can be pricey, so staying off property is attractive. Wyndham features two room types—garden and tower—both nicely priced for the value.
Garden rooms are smaller and more motel-like, accessed by an outside hallway so you walk right out your door to a pool or garden view. Our room was on the main (3rd) level so we never had to wait for an elevator—a saving grace if you have toddlers and strollers.
Our room also had two comfortable, newish queen beds with crisp white linens, a dorm-room sized refrigerator and plenty of room for our luggage, snacks and electronics. The bathroom has a ‘barn sliding door’ for full privacy, plus a toilet and shower that close off from the vanity area. I liked that. I also appreciated that there was a small closet in the bathroom. Garden rooms are the more affordable choice, starting at about $100 a night
Tower rooms are more luxurious with a more sophisticated look and feel. They are accessed by lobby elevators and feature sweeping views of Disney Springs, the parks and nightly fireworks (rooms above the 16th floor have the best views). More typical of a hotel, prices start at about $150 a night.
6. Convenient food choices that don’t break the budget
The Wyndham’s dining choices made us think twice about a trip to Publix. We had burgers and beer one night in the lobby bar (which was essentially room service, not table service, though there is a bartender) and a grab-and-go self service food center (sandwiches and salads, $10; doughnuts, $4; latte $4.50; cereal, milk and other necessities are available too). Room service is available in all the rooms and Dominos pizza delivery is available all day until 3AM.
On the mezzanine level is the Lake View Restaurant, a full service restaurant with Disney Character breakfasts. One advantage to these character breakfasts is that typically there’s no line and you might even get to have breakfast WITH Goofy, not just a meet and greet with him. The restaurant has a breakfast buffet (yes, with Mickey waffles) and a full service lunch and dinner.
7. The best part: A great staff
This is what makes or breaks a vacation: A helpful, friendly, efficient staff. From the Lake View manager who let us in after the restaurant had closed and found a cork screw for us, to the valet staff who brought our car up in minutes despite a huge crowd of guests waiting for their cars (valet parking is $12 per day), to the friendly front desk staff, the hotel felt amply staffed; it wasn’t hard to find someone to help with whatever we needed.
We’ve stayed off property at Disney more than we’ve stayed on property and it’s a choice I’ll always go for. While I like the convenience of staying at Disney, there are many other great things to do in Orlando, and that’s part of the journey, too.