As a rough guide, four main areas make up the great Orlando tourist conglomeration.
Walt Disney World Resort in Florida
Some of the most sophisticated, convenient and fun places to stay are Disney’s own hotels. They all feature free transport to the parks, your own resort ID card (so you can charge meals and souvenirs to your room, and have purchases delivered to the hotel), free parking and the BIG bonus of Extra Magic Hours. Many resorts also have great kids’ clubs and babysitting services. However, these hotels are among the most expensive, especially to eat in, and are a fair way from other attractions you may wish to visit.
Lake Buena Vista
Around the eastern fringes of Walt Disney World Resort and along Interstate 4, this features a good mix of hotels. It is also handy for all the Disney fun, with most hotels offering free transport to the parks, plus there is excellent dining and shopping. Still a bit pricey, but its proximity to I-4 makes it convenient for much of Orlando.
The ribbon development known as I-Drive lies midway between Disney and downtown Orlando and is an excellent central location. Running parallel to I-4, it’s about 20 minutes’ drive from Disney, closer to Universal and SeaWorld. It is also a well-developed tourist area in its own right, with great shops, restaurants and attractions like Wet ’n Wild, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, WonderWorks and iFLY Orlando. The downside is it gets heavily congested in peak periods, especially the evenings. But it does represent good value and is one of the few areas with extensive pavements, making it easy to explore on foot.
Budget holiday-makers can be found in their greatest numbers along the tourist sprawl of Highway 192, an almost unbroken 20ml/32km strip of hotels, motels, restaurants and shops. It offers some of the best economy accommodation and is handy for Disney, though it is further from Universal and downtown Orlando. A car is most advisable here, though there is now extensive pavement, landscaping, bus shelters, benches and water fountains, which makes it better for getting around on foot or by bus.