As 15-year members of the Disney Vacation Club, we never thought we’d stay anywhere besides an amazing DVC villa during one of our frequent Walt Disney World visits, especially when traveling with our large, extended, multi-generational family. In fact, we were ALL really nervous after we booked this trip, thinking we would totally regret this decision to stay off-property. However, “Characters Corner”, a beautiful vacation rental home accessible via VRBO online has won us over!
Location, Location, Location – Near Disney!
First and foremost, the location was fabulous – literally minutes from the Disney Parks and Kissimmee grocery stores and restaurants. Each morning we left the house and were parked and on a tram to the Park within 10 to 20 minutes. Several shopping centers were located within five to ten minutes of the home, including a Super Target, Publix, and Walmart Supercenter. We also had many restaurants located nearby for dining options. Some of our favorites were Chuey’s Mexican, Shula’s Burgers, and Chic-Fil-A.
Safety for Multi-generational Needs
We felt extremely safe, which is important to us no matter where we go. This rental home is located in a gated community, and the home itself has a security system and alarms on each door leading to the beautiful Mickey-themed swimming pool. This worked out great for us, especially since our multigenerational group included some very young children who needed to be monitored while in the pool or yard.
Amenities to Rival Disney Resorts
Characters Corner is a wonderfully appointed home. The owners put a lot of time and care into outfitting the 3,100 square foot home (not including the huge garage converted into a game room) with every possible thing you can imagine.
- Sleeping Arrangements: Six bedrooms, four bathrooms, and a living room sofa bed allow for plenty of sleeping options. Three of the bedrooms are master suites (two king and one queen), with en-suite bathrooms. Two rooms contain twin beds, and are themed with Mickey Mouse and Winnie-the-Pooh, respectively. There is also an adorable “Princess-themed” bedroom, with a full-sized canopy “carriage” bed, adjoined by French doors (lockable) to one of the master suites and also with outside doors to the living room and covered pool area. Each bedroom also boasts its own television/DVD combination. The upstairs master suite also contains a sitting area with a pull-out sleeper sofa.
- Gathering/Dining Areas: The family room (which includes a leather sectional sleeper queen sofa) has a home theater surround sound system. The owners also thought to provide an assortment of DVDs and board games for family enjoyment. The family room opens both to the pool area, and to the gourmet kitchen, which is equipped with everything you need to enjoy cooking together, either indoors or outdoors on the gas grill. There are several options for dining, including a formal dining area, a kitchen dining table, and a patio table.
- Living Areas: There is a sitting room off the entrance which the adults enjoyed using as a quiet room for reading or conversing. It opens directly to the swimming pool and spacious back yard. A finished garage has been turned into a terrific game room which the kids loved – with air hockey, foosball, and a pool table. And, the entire home is equipped with free WIFI wireless internet access. The washer and dryer are located right next to this room.
- Essentials: It was as clean as a whistle and we found that it was very well-maintained upon arrival. Soaps for the bathrooms, dishwasher, and washer/dryer were even provided, though we did need to purchase more during our stay.
Rest Assured in a Vacation Rental Home
Our family enjoyed everything about this home during our vacation. Like I said earlier, we were nervous at first, being the spoiled Disney Resort folks we are. However, we have decided that this was the most relaxing Disney vacation we’d ever taken together, by far. Why? Mainly because the kids had so many options for hanging out together – the large backyard (for our soccer and baseball-loving kids), swimming pool, the game room, etc… without needing several parents providing constant supervision to make sure they were safe.
If they were swimming, only one parent needed to be with them. Try keeping track of 10 kids at the Disney Resort swimming pools! This one thing afforded the adults so much more (needed) time for “unwinding and recovering” between our visits to the Disney Parks, which makes all the difference in being able to come away from a Disney vacation feeling relaxed rather than like you just survived the apocalypse, especially in the hot and crowded summer months. It’s so nice to really be able to get away from the crowds when you need to – and yet be close enough to pop over for a Dole Whip at the Polynesian Village Resort if you feel like it, and we did!
This was a multi-generational group, and everyone was pleased, from the youngest (4 years old), to the grandparents, who loved that they had such a nice place to just hang out and enjoy the pool on the days they didn’t feel like going into the Parks with everyone else. The owners thought of everything, and were also kind enough to provide extensive directions and wonderful tips in a notebook on Disney and other activities and local amenities.
Drawbacks to Off-site Disney Stays?
Was there a downside to staying off-site while visiting Walt Disney World? Well, if it is important to you to really feel like you are remaining in the middle of the magic constantly, and you don’t mind the fact that you have to literally watch every step your child takes at all times, then it is really hard to beat the “snow globe magic” feeling of staying in the middle of it all at a Disney Resort.
We are a very close-knit group, and are used to staying in close quarters together for vacations. If you think that you will need more “privacy” (ahem!) at times, then the option of staying in separate rooms in a condo or resort is a great idea. Everyone can play together during the day, but not have to stay together in common areas, such as the living room, kitchen, dining areas, and play areas. However this particular vacation home was large enough that we never felt cramped or crowded together.
Another downside is that staying outside the Disney Resort area means that you will have to find your own transportation to the Parks, and pay the parking fee each day, which runs about $17 per vehicle. However, we beat the system because we were allowed free parking at the Parks as either DVC members or Annual Pass Holders (we are both). Therefore, one of us rode in each vehicle, so we all got to park for free.
Tips for Large Groups/Multi-generational Families in a Vacation Rental Home
- Make sure you have enough private bedrooms/baths for each family. It is nice to stay together and share amenities (and money!), but there is a certain level of privacy that is extremely difficult to overcome without private rooms/facilities available.
- Take turns watching the kids at play, so all of the adults get to enjoy some special time of their own.
- Plan meals ahead of time, and let each family have a turn in “hosting”. We pooled our groceries, and took turns shopping for and preparing meals.
- Make sure everyone has time to use the amenities – for instance, don’t hog the washer and dryer! Please don’t bring your dirty clothes hamper from home expecting to get to do all your laundry on vacation!
- Realize that everyone needs some space sometimes, so don’t get offended if some of the group members decide to forego some of the group activities.
- Have someone keep track of all of the costs and expenditures, and make sure everyone is reimbursed fairly.
- Read Traveling Mom for more Multigenerational Family Travel ideas
Of course we look forward to staying in the Disney Resorts again in the future, but when we travel with a large crew like this again, we are so happy to know that Characters Corner exists as a great option. We look forward to planning our next trip there in the future!