In 2016, before realizing that I prefer to go on vacations and write about my trips, I tried my hand at running my own travel agency. As I was learning the business, I was able to discover fantastic deals for our family vacation. One of our discoveries was the Holiday Inn Orange Lake Resort in Orlando, Florida.
We contemplated staying on Disney World property, as I have done on many previous trips. However, the high prices and lack of availability for our trip in late July/early August, made us look elsewhere. I don't think that the Holiday Inn has a great brand image, but we read reviews of the property and our price couldn't be beat.
We got a two-bedroom condo for two weeks and a mid-size rental car for about 1600.00. No parking fees or other costly surprises. The resort is just a fifteen minute drive from Disney property and located very close ( practically walking distance) to restaurants, grocery stores, and a Target. We ate at several of the local restaurants, including a Bahama Breeze ( twice), a waffle house (twice), and the biggest hit with our family, Logan's Roadhouse. As a Disney fan I'm shocking myself by writing this, but I think I enjoyed our time off-property, as much as in the parks.
There were a few catches to the incredible deal. The main one being that the Holiday Inn Orange Lake Resort is a time-share. We are not time-share owners nor was our deal contingent on taking a tour or sitting through a sales pitch. We simply booked an available room through my travel agency ( any agency can help you, I didn't have special access) and bundled it with our car rental. We knew it was a time share or "vacation club" going in and we had read advice on handling the time share employees from Trip Advisor.
When we checked-in, we were directed to a separate desk to get our parking pass. This is the time-share ploy. We knew it was coming. We responded to the rather intense offers of checking out their vacation club, with a polite and firm, "No Thank You." We were offered the usual time share gifts, like park tickets and coupons for free inner tubes for the lazy river on property. They charge nine dollars a day per tube, so we just skipped it and honestly, the kids didn't mind. We read on trip advisor that we should unplug the phones in our room, because the time share people would try calling and sure enough, they did. However, with enough polite and firm "No's" they will leave you alone and we did not have this impact our vacation.
Our family time is too precious to waste sitting through a presentation for something we are not going to buy in efforts to get a "free gift."
Our room was located on the front entrance boarder of the property, on the top floor in a three story building.
Some of the rooms are single-story bungalows. We had a large back balcony that faced a golf course that circled Orange Lake Resort. We don't golf, so this was another amenity that didn't matter to us. It looked nice if you are a golfer. I often sat on the patio to read and it was always peaceful with lots of local birds landing on our deck. I loved the patio. It was a good place for me to have a break, when everyone else wanted to watch television.
The condo was perfect for the four of us. We had our own little kitchen that was fully stocked with everything that we needed to make meals at home. Although we often ate in the parks or out locally, we did have a couple of dinners in and we found that it was really helpful for breakfast. With little kids (6 and 9 at time travel), it was easier and cheaper for everyone to eat breakfast in the condo. We mostly used the breakfast bar for these quick meals, but the condo also had a beautiful dining room table.
My Swedish stepkids wilted in the Florida heat, so we discovered that it was best to either go to the parks in the morning or late at night for just a few hours. This meant that we had plenty of time to enjoy the condo. The living room was perfect for watching movies and cooling off in the air-conditioning. This was the summer that we all discovered the show "The Impractical Jokers," which pretty much always seemed to be running in a marathon on TruTV.
The kids had their own room and their own bathroom. They surprised us by unpacking their suitcases and putting their clothes neatly away in their bedroom drawers!
Our master suite was down the hall and it had a large bathroom with a spa tub. The entire condo was spacious and comfortable.
I actually enjoy doing laundry, even on vacation, so I was thrilled that our condo included a washer and dryer. It just made things a lot easier, especially when our clothes were gross from sweating and getting dirty at the theme parks. Lots of stains from dripping Mickey ice cream bars!
One downside is unlike a traditional hotel, we did not have regular cleaning service. We could have had it for a per-day fee, but instead we just kept with the two cleanings that were included in our stay. We had to call to book the cleanings, but we found that they did a very good job. The lack of daily cleaning didn't bother me much, because we had the washer and dryer to clean towels and linens. We purchased an all-purpose spray cleaner and paper towels to keep sticky surfaces from getting mucky. It wasn't hard or a hassle to keep the room relatively clean ourselves.
As I mentioned, the Holiday Inn Orange Lake Resort has a pool complex with slides and a massive lazy river. This was not near our room. The entire resort is enormous and it even has an internal bus system. We drove over to the pool complex and found to be over-crowded. On a slow day, it might be nice, but for our needs, the kids were more happy at the small, basic pool/hot tub that was located within walking distance from our condo. The pool close to our room was rarely crowded and it was just easier than having to haul ourselves over to the bigger pool area. As much as our family loves lazy rivers, no one was fussed about skipping this one and for a family of four, it saved us thirty-six dollars a day in ring rentals! We never went back and since none of us had a camera with us, we didn't take pictures of the big pool area. The resort website has great pictures if you're interested.
Here is a shot of the pool near our condo. We used this every single day of the trip. A little Florida rain didn't stop the fun!
The Holiday Inn Orange Lake Resort has many features we didn't visit, such as restaurants, arcades, kids activities, a gym...it has a lot to offer.
Besides the initial pushiness of the time share people and the crowds in the main pool complex, we really had a fabulous time at the Holiday Inn Orange Lake Resort. The price simply cannot be beat and we loved our condo. It was convenient to the Disney parks and area shops/restaurants. It was the ideal fit for our family. We would definitely return to this property and seek out other Holiday Inn Vacation Resorts.