Our Take on Off-site vs. On-Site and a Review of Florida Sun Vacations Windsor Hills

Discussion in 'Orlando Hotels and Attractions' started by UWGRAD, Nov 2, 2011.


    UWGRAD Earning My Ears

    Jan 2, 2010
    So this is only our 2nd trip to Disney. The first trip we stayed Club Level at the Poly and this second trip we rented the Lady & Tramp 3BR Townhouse through FloridaSun Vacations. It is apparent that our family cannot stay together in a standard hotel room and will require the space of a larger condo/townhouse to enjoy ourselves. I’ll try to break this into a comparison of staying on-site vs. off-site then a review of the actual townhouse itself.

    Space Comparisons
    This is an obvious win for the offsite condo. Our family needs space. If yours doesn’t, then you don’t need to stay offsite. We stayed 6 nights in the condo and had no space issues (actually we could have used even more). We stayed 1 night in a standard hotel in Clearwater Beach at the end of the trip and were ready to kill each other.

    Transportation Comparisons
    Staying offsite forced us into a rental car and thank god it did. I personally couldn’t stand the crowds, rudeness and delays of Disney Transportation. Driving and parking was so much more convenient for us than taking the buses from the Poly to DHS and AK. Traffic was a breeze and the commute times were as follows (with no prior driving experience in the area): AK 5 minutes, DHS 10 minutes, Epcot 10-15 minutes and MK 15 minutes. All roads are very well marked and you would have to be a complete idiot to get lost. We were unlucky with parking as we seemed to be perfectly placed at the end of every parking lot row and had a decent walk to the Tram. If we had gotten luckier the Parking would have been a non-event.

    Access to Restaurants & Stores
    Being with a rental car and in a condo we took advantage of all the extra dining and shopping options. We don’t particularly find anything “enjoyable” about Disney Dining options so were happy to get offsite and eat at reasonably priced and not-so-crowded restaurants. With having the ability to go to stores to buy stuff as needed, you can save on packing stuff. We over-packed things like aspirin, antacids, banda-aids, etc… You can hold off bringing that stuff and just go to Walgreens if you end up needing it. The Walgreens prices were no different than our prices back home. Grocery shopping helped a ton with snacks and breakfast. We didn’t do any real meal cooking so you could save even more if that was your cup of tea. Be careful selecting your grocery store to shop at…we defaulted to Winn-Dixie because we were too tired to hunt down the Publix. We probably overpaid about $60 because of this.

    Access to Medical Attention
    I ended up needing to go to an urgent care clinic during the trip. This would have stressed me out and been logistically difficult on-site without transportation. Off-site and with the rental car, I just simply went onto my healthcare provider’s website and did a search for in-network facilities and found one 2 miles away from the condo. Very easy and helped alleviate an already stressful situation.

    Magic Kingdom Comparison
    Even with all the other perks of staying off-site, MK was much easier to access and enjoy when we stayed at the Poly. If the MK was our only park we were visiting, we would stay at a Monorail resort. While it wasn’t “hard” to park at the TTC and take the Ferry/Monorail to the park, it was inconvenient and slow.

    There is no housekeeping in your condo. It sucked having to do dishes and clean towels. However, it was nice to easily clean our clothes. Upon review I would rather have someone else clean my room and provide fresh towels every day. We created more garbage than would fit in the disposal bin for the unit (this was very irritating as we always had a tied-up bag of garbage in the unit’s closet each day).

    Disney Magic
    Clearly on-site will win this argument any day. There wasn’t any “magic” for our family staying off-site.

    Our Personal Conclusion
    We will never stay in a standard hotel room again for a vacation. If we could find a good deal at Bay Lakes Tower we will try that. We need more space, but we also want some of the creature comforts of having housekeeping. I fear price will not allow that to happen though and we will become full-time offsite visitors. Also, even if we did stay on-site we would rent a car for the visits to AK and DHS.

    Lady & Tramp via Florida Sun Vacation Homes Windsor Hills Review
    Where to start with this…

    The pictures on-line just don’t really show how worn this place really is. Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like this place was horribly worn, it just wasn’t what I would call immaculate. Following is a list of our observations:

    • Some pool chairs moldy and ripped (no attempt to fix…actually one was just folded up to hide it)
    • TV remote battery holder backs were all broken off and fixed by using electrical tape (not very classy)
    • All electronics (TV’s and DVD player) were old and outdated…not a huge deal but for me it was
    • Dishes were cheap plastic “picnic type” dishes
    • Both “adult” mattresses were horrible (stained and no support)
    • Various parts of the unit could use touch-up paint
    • Various burnt out light bulbs

    During our 6 night stay we had 4 calls to maintenance:

    1. Broken DVD player (fixed by maintenance coming out and simply prying open the DVD door)
    2. Kids shower curtain broke…replaced but told don’t hang anything on it (who doesn’t hang towels on shower curtain rods)
    3. Smoke Detector Batteries went dead setting the alarm off at 5 in the morning
    4. Toilet bowl flushing handle connector broke…had to reach into tank to flush toilet
    5. Dead batteries in remote controls

    Florida Sun Vacations fixed these all the next day after notifying them, however we always discovered the broken items after returning from the parks at night and thus had to go a night without the thing working. By far the biggest deal was the Smoke Detector going off at 5 in the morning waking my wife and I up to a very rude awakening.

    We would not stay at this particular unit again. We would stay at a unit managed by Florida Sun Vacations, but would spend more time making sure we understood the age and quality of the unit itself.

    We paid a premium to deal directly with this reputable company and we got a less than premium quality unit and are disappointed with that. We will be making a formal complaint to Florida Sun and I will update this with their reply.
  2. lotus14

    lotus14 All This Disney Research Is Hurting My BRAIN!

    Jun 22, 2009
    Thanks for your comparison. We are staying off site for the first time and we are so excited about it for all the reasons you have listed here. We would otherwise be staying in a value and there's just no comparison in size. We have rented through Vacation Central Florida. Hope we find routine maintenance better done there.
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  4. c&m

    c&m Love the Mouse but love my DH more for taking me t

    Apr 24, 2000
    Thanks very much for your review. It was straightforward and honest. Sorry to hear that your townhouse rental wasn't quite as nice as it should have been.

    I totally agree with you about space issues and the need to go off-site to find affordable spacious accommodations. We stayed off-site once, our first time ever at WDW back in the early 90s. Since then, we've always stayed on-site with our kids and really loved it for the convenience and the "magic". However, our kids are now 16 and 12, and extra space is necessary. A standard hotel room just doesn't cut it when we're all trying to get ready in the morning. Our next trip in March 2012 will be in a condo off-site - the Hilton Parc Soleil. First time with our kids at WDW in an off-site property. Our last stay at WDW with the kids was at AKL...a really amazing stay too...so hopefully this off-site stay will be somewhat comparable.

    UWGRAD Earning My Ears

    Jan 2, 2010
    update based on discussions with Florida Sun Vacations.

    Was simply told sometimes things require maintenance in homes.

    Well no kidding Einstein, but what differentiates you from others is making sure you are on top of that maintenance when your guests aren't present.

    I guess I would no longer consider recommending Florida Sun Vacations as I wouldn't personally use them again. I would go a different route. Don't read this wrong and "freak out" if you are using them. They honored all economic and all macro issues, I just personally felt the unit should have been better especially since I paid a premium booking through them vs. a direct owner on www.vrbo.com.
  6. Teacher03

    Teacher03 DIS Veteran

    Sep 9, 2005
    We used Florida Sun Vacation Homes in 2009 and our condo was amazing, so it sounds as if some are more run down than others.

    We also enjoyed the extra space and didn't mind the driving at all. As you said, other than the MK, it was much easier. We are staying onsite for our next trip just because we all want to do different things and only having one car to depend on for transportation would be an issue.
  7. AboutTheMouse

    AboutTheMouse Mouseketeer

    Dec 3, 2003
    OK, so I'll start this by saying that I'm not familiar with how the vacation rental works from an owner's perspective ...

    How many of these issues are truly the responsibility of the management company versus the owner? I was always under the impression that for things that needed to be replaced, be it a DVD player, mattresses, dishes and the like, were the responsibility of the owner. The owner determines the quality of the items that are present in the home. If things need replacing, it is up to the owner to do so.

    The management company, however, would be responsible for things like light bulbs, smoke detector batteries and cleaning issues. They would also be the one to immediately take care of any safety or emergency issues.

    Am I mistaken?

    BTW, if this is a bad unit thank you for pointing it out to the rest of us. :hippie:
  8. bankr63

    bankr63 DIS Veteran

    Aug 3, 2010
    One suggestion for an alternate approach would be a 3BR or 4BR villa at a good quality timeshare resort. At the good ones, maintenance staff is onsite and responsive, and quality of units is very consistent. Daily housekeeping is usually available at extra cost (otherwise it is limited to once or twice a week). This would address your biggest concerns.
  9. mom2att

    mom2att Close enough for a day trip!

    Jan 12, 2005
    We have rented from Florida Sun many times and have not had a problem. However, on our most recent visit (October 2011) we did notice that Windsor Hills and specifically the unit we were staying in were showing their age. In 2005, 2007, and even 2009 the place seemed practically brand-new. As one would expect with a popular resort that gets lots of traffic and has many individual owners, it's looking older and more time-worn.

    I have no idea how many owners Florida Sun manages, but I imagine it's a lot. Someone else mentioned Vacation Central Florida. We've rented with them as well, and know that they are a much smaller company. Perhaps their upkeep record is better because of that.

    At any rate, I still think offsite is a great deal when you need more space and prefer more dining options. But WH is not brand new anymore . . .
  10. saskdw

    saskdw DIS Veteran

    Feb 7, 2011
    We'll stick with on-site. We like the feeling of being submerged in the Disney atmosphere. I like not having to drive while I'm on vacation. Other than a few rude people we've had nothing but excellent bus service at Disney. By the time your done parking your car in the boonies and making your way to the park, we're already inside. Keeping in mind we stay at the moderate resorts which have better bus servcie than Poly.

    The one time we needed medical attention the resort provide instant and complimentary transportation to the Disney approved clinic. I was very impressed with how well this was handled. We also enjoy the food offerings at Disney.

    These things all come down to personal taste and family vacation style. I don't wan't to spend my vacation in a run down condo that hasn't been properly maintained. We have the Garden Grocer deliver grocery's and eat breakfast in the room just about every morning as well.

    Staying at CSR which has deluxe type amenities for the Mod price with the free DP works out pretty good for us.

    Thanks for the review though. It's always interesting to hear other people's perspective.
  11. Teacher03

    Teacher03 DIS Veteran

    Sep 9, 2005
    We've stayed onsite and offsite and there are pros and cons to both. But the one thing that I would like to point out is travel time....it is quicker to travel by car from Windsor Hills than by bus from a Disney resort. I didn't believe it either, but was amazed at how easy it was. The only park that I felt it was about the same was MK. But if you don't like to drive, then Disney transportation can't be beat.

    As for the run down condos....we've stayed at two and both were beautiful and well maintained. I would hate for anyone who was planning to stay offsite to have the impression that all need updated. To be honest, last time we stayed onsite, All Stars were a little run down.

    But as you say, it's all a matter of perspective. We are staying at the Dolphin next June and are very excited!
  12. mdmetromom

    mdmetromom Mouseketeer

    Mar 23, 2010
  13. UWGRAD

    UWGRAD Earning My Ears

    Jan 2, 2010
    We were there at a very slow time so we had no need to use Sherberth Rd except for when we went to Animal Kingdom.

    192 to World Drive worked just fine. People claim that Sherberth is always faster but I just didn't see the point as we never had any traffic.

    Also, I must be one of those idiots who can't follow signs...but I couldn't find how to turn Left (West) onto 192 from Morgan Williams Rd as the "standard directions" say you can. You could only go Right (East) and then had to pull a u-turn. So I just eliminated the Morgan Williams part of the route.

    Finally, Old Lake Wilson Rd was under construction and down to one-lane in each direction and the lighting sucks. No biggy really but you could tell a lot of tourists were struggling with it. Even saw one decent accident.

    Have a great trip.

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