All the rates here are what are called "rack rates." That means they're typical prices listed in the hotel brochures or the ones that hotel clerks give over the telephone. You can almost always negotiate a better price by purchasing hotel package deals, by assuring the clerks they can do better, or by mentioning to the clerk that you belong to one of several organizations that receive a discount (such as AARP, AAA, the armed services, or a labor union). The Orlando Magicard can save you plenty of cash as well (this discount card is available through the Orlando Convention & Visitors Bureau at www.orlandoinfo.com). Even the type of credit card you use could get you a 5% to 10% hotel discount at some of the larger chains. Any discount you get will help ease the impact of local resort taxes, which aren't included in the quoted rates. These taxes will add up to 12.5% to your bill, depending on where you're staying.
The average, undiscounted hotel rate for the Orlando area is currently about $101 per night double, and that rate in good times can climb up by 5% -- even 9% a year. The lowest rates at WDW are at the Pop Century and the three All-Star hotel resorts, which, depending on the season, can run from $82 to $160. They're pricier than comparable rooms in the outside world; though they are small and basic, they are still Disney-owned and offer the same on-property advantages as Disney's more expensive resorts.
WDW's 2009 value seasons or lowest rates are generally available from January 1 to February 12, August 9 to October 1, and November 29 to December 17. Regular season hotel rates are available from April 19 to May 21 and October 2 to November 28. Easter hotel rates run from April 5 to April 18. Summer hotel rates (only at Disney's "value" and "moderate" resorts) run from May 22 to August 8. Peak hotel rates apply from February 13 to April 4, and holiday hotel rates from December 18 through December 31. Be aware, however, that Disney's new pricing schedule breaks down seasonal rates even further to include specific weekends and holidays such as Presidents' Day, Independence Day, and MLK Day, among others (none of which are listed above). Although the actual dates will shift a little (and will also change depending on the level of hotel you choose), the same general periods should apply in 2010.
If you're not renting a car or staying at a Walt Disney World or Universal resort, be sure to ask when booking your room if the hotel or motel offers transportation to the theme parks and, if so, whether there's a charge and exactly what it is. Some hotels and motels offer free service with their own shuttles (listed in the reviews). Others use Mears Transportation, and rates can be as high as $18 per person round-trip (some hotels make these arrangements for you; others require you to do it). On the other hand, if you have a vehicle, expect to pay $12 a day to park it at Disney, Universal, or SeaWorld.
If you stay at a WDW resort or one of Disney's "official" hotels, transportation is complimentary within WDW.
In or out of Walt Disney World, if you book your hotel as part of a package, you'll likely enjoy some type of savings. The Walt Disney Travel Company (tel. 407/934-7806) offers a number of Disney resort packages.
Outside Disney, you'll probably be quoted a rate better than the rack hotel rates contained in our listings, but you should try to bargain even further to ensure you get the best rates possible. Ask about discounts for students; government employees; seniors; military; firefighters; police; AFL-CIO; corporate clients; and, again, AARP or AAA, holders of the Orlando Magicard, even frequent-traveler programs (whether you have hotel or airline membership). Special Internet-only discounts and packages may also be featured on hotel websites, especially those of the larger chains. No matter where you end up staying, always ask again when you arrive if there are any additional discounts or promotions available. But never come to Orlando without a reservation: Taking chances on your negotiating skills is one thing; taking chances on room availability is quite another. Orlando is a year-round destination, with a heavy convention and business trade, and international vacationers flock here during periods when domestic travelers don't. If you come without a hotel reservation, you may find yourself extremely disappointed -- or completely out of luck.
I mention concierge levels where available. In these hotels within a hotel, guests pay more to enjoy a luxurious private lounge (sometimes with great views), free continental or full breakfast, hot and cold hors d'oeuvres served at cocktail hour, and/or late-night cordials and pastries. hotel Rooms are usually on higher floors, and guests are pampered with additional special services (including private registration and checkout, a personal concierge, and nightly bed turndown) and amenities (such as upgraded toiletries, bathroom scales, terry robes, hair dryers, and more). Ask for the specifics when you reserve a room.
You'll also find counselor-supervised child care or activity centers at some hotels. Very popular hotel in Orlando, these can be marvelous, creatively run facilities that might offer movies, video games, arts and crafts, storytelling, puppet shows, indoor and outdoor activities, and more. Some provide meals and/or have beds where a child can sleep while you're out on the town. Check individual hotel listings for these facilities.