| Disney Dreaming
What Keeps Us Coming Back
Disney for Veteran Visitors
Best Disney Trip Advice
Getting Your Disney Fix
How Young Is Too Young?
Top Ten Disney Questions
Timeshare Vacation Offers
Disney World on a Budget
Credit Cards 101
Preparing Kids For Disney
Taking Toddlers to Disney
Planning Trips for Others
Convincing Others To Go
Importance of Being Lazy
Preparing For Your Disney Cruise
Ten "Must Pack" Items
Touring With A Group
Chaperoning A Group Trip
| Ten Travel Tips
iPhone, I Travel
Driving to Disney
Driving With Kids
Child Safety Seats
CARES Harness Review
Amtrak Auto Train
Flying With Kids
Surviving Long Flights
Surviving Bumpy Flights
Surviving Bad Vacations
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First Aid on Vacation
Pregnant at Disney
Dress For Travel
Traveling With Pets
Taking A 'Greener' Trip to WDW
Orlando Sanford Airport
| Choosing a Resort
On-Site Lodging vs. Off-Site Lodging
Disney Resort Primer
Reserving a Room
Key to the World Card
Fun at Resort Hotels
Disney Vacation Club
All-Star Vacation Homes
Animal Kingdom Lodge: Perfect for Teens
Villas at Animal Kingdom Lodge
BoardWalk Inn & Villas
Ft. Wilderness Camping
Old Key West
Home Sweet Home
Grand Californian #1
Grand Californian #2
Orlando Airport Marriott
Radisson Resort Parkway
Shades of Green
Westin Century Plaza
Making The Most of Bell Services at Disney's Deluxe Resorts
DVC's Old Key West Resort
| Preparing For Your Disney Cruise
International Port Security
Convincing a Husband to Cruise
Palo Dinner Review
Vow Renewals Onboard
Cruising With Special Diets
Cruising St. Martin
One in a Million Cruise
Zip-A-Dee-Zip-Line: A Canopy Adventure
A 'Magic' Time In The Mediterranean
A Wrap-Up From DCL's Inaugural Mediterranean Cruise
DCL: Not Just for Kids!
Spa Villas Review
| Laugh Floor Comedy Club
Fantasyland For Adults
Rock 'n' Roller Coaster
Star Wars Weekends
Surviving the Parks as First Time Parents
Surviving the Holidays
Overcoming Kids Fears
Planning Park Days
Four Parks in One Day
Touring with Toddlers
A Kid's Perspective
A Teen's Take
Flower & Garden Festival
Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party
Scary Places (Halloween)
A Day With Allie
Past Attractions at Magic Kingdom
Disneyland at 50
Future of Disneyland
Beyond the Disney Parks
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Expanding Disney's California Adventure
10 Reasons to Love Disneyland
A WDW Veteran's First Trip to Disneyland
A Disneyland Veteran's First Trip to Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World With Pre-Teen Boys
Keys To The Kingdom Backstage Tour
Pirates & Princess Party
WDW with Teens? Absolutely!
| Disney Dining Plan
More Dining Plan Tips
Dining Plan Revisited
Dining Plan Answers
Advance Dining Reservation (ADR) Strategies
Artist Point Review
California Grill Review
Nine Dragons Review
The Turf Club Review
Crystal Palace Review
Yak & Yeti Review
Tutto Italia Review
Dine With A Disney Imagineer
Eating Healthy at Disney
White Water Snacks
MurderWatch Mystery Theatre
Disneyland Dining: Yamabuki
Disneyland Area Dining: Pirate's Dinner Adventure
Party For The Senses
1900 Park Fare Dinner Review
| Romance At Disney World
Beating The Post Trip Blues
Discovering the Magic
Magic of Slowing Down
Wishes Fireworks Cruise
Epcot's Segway Tour
Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival
Taking Great Photos
Taking Great Fireworks Photos
Digital Photo Q & A
Souvenirs on a Budget
Birthdays at Disney
Reunions and Gatherings
Disney Intimate Weddings
Disney Vow Renewals
Finding Scrapbook Supplies at WDW
Memories and Milestones
Hidden Mickeys Book Review
Richard Petty Experience
More Richard Petty Rides
Ft. Wilderness Trail Ride
Cirque du Soleil: La Nouba
| Making of PassPorter
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Adventures by Disney: Wyoming
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Zoos of the World
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New Attractions at Universal Orlando
Seuss Trolley Train Ride at Universal Orlando
Sanibel & Captiva Islands
Universal: For Non-Thrill Seekers?
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Busch Gardens Africa: SheiKra Coaster Review
NASCAR AllState 400
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Blue Horizons at SeaWorld Orlando
London's Globe Theatre
Great Britain via Harry Potter
Quebec City, Canada
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Niagara Falls, Ontario
ALL STAR Vacation Homes Near Walt Disney World: A Review
by Jennifer and Dave Marx, Authors of the PassPorter Walt Disney World Resort guidebook
Do you love Walt Disney World but miss the comforts and
space of your home? With our growing family, we prefer to stay in more than just one room when we travel. We can book
suites or connecting rooms, but it gets expensive fast! So when we wanted to have a mini-reunion with
Dave's brother's family, we tried out a vacation home (by ALL STAR Vacation Homes) near Walt Disney World.
ALL STAR Vacation Homes
Address: 7822 W. Irlo Bronson Hwy., Kissimmee, FL 34747
Check-in time: 4:00 pm Check-out time:
Now, if you have a copy of PassPorter Walt Disney World,
you'll know that ALL STAR Vacation Homes is mentioned in there. Because we want to offer our readers only the best, this
visit was used to familiarize ourselves with the company's vacation homes and
service. ALL STAR staff was aware of our identity. So while this report was
prompted by the business relationship, we made it clear that we would
call things as we see them. Note that while this article was first written in
February 2005, we refreshed it and updated some information in February 2007 after our most recent visit.
How We Booked
We began by visiting ALL STAR Vacation Homes web site at
http://www.allstarvacationhomes.com. This is a web site after our own heart -- it's very detailed! We found descriptions and photos of all the vacation homes, plus the dates they were available. We had a ball looking at the various houses available -- they come in four categories: condos & town homes (2-3 bedrooms), luxury homes (3-6 bedrooms), resort homes (3-7 bedrooms), and estate homes (4-7 bedrooms). Based on the number of people joining us, we calculated that a seven-bedroom estate home would work best. And -- wow -- what a steal... the price
for our stay during the Martin Luther King holiday weekend was about $450/night (that includes taxes and the mandatory fees, like cleaning and processing). The one-bedroom, on-Disney-property villa we'd booked during MouseFest
cost more than this. Two-bedroom vacation homes through ALL STAR Vacation Homes start at about $199/night.
We opted for pool heat
(a January necessity) and a crib rental, which added a bit more to the total.
Unlike booking a Disney hotel room or villa, you are able to reserve the exact vacation home you want.
There's a $200 non-refundable deposit required at the time of booking. Payment is due 30 days before arrival,
and it's non-refundable at that point (you may want to opt for travel insurance, which is reasonably priced). Once our vacation home was reserved, we received an e-mail confirmation form along with arrival directions.
Tip: PassPorter readers can get one of two special deals --
either a free standard-size Enterprise car rental with a 7-night reservation of a private pool home
or $125 off a 7-night reservation at a
Condo or Town Home during low, mid, and high season. Just go to our deal page at ALL STAR Vacation Homes, type "passporter" as the promotional code or mention
"PassPorter" when reserving over the phone.
You can only use one promotional code or special for a reservation (and they aren't available during holiday season),
so do check the web site for other deals -- for example, there may be seasonal specials that offer even better savings.
After arriving at Orlando
International Airport and picking up our rental car, we followed the directions to
the ALL STAR Vacation Homes office on US 192 in Kissimmee, just south of
Walt Disney World. We'd arrived close to midnight and the office was closed, but easy instructions were provided to open their lock box and retrieve an envelope with the house keys. It took all of 5 minutes.
The next thing we knew we were pulling into "our" neighborhood, where we entered a security code to open the security gate. Pulling into "our" home's driveway at 8015 Acadia Estates, we were quite impressed. The house was grand yet inviting, with gas-lamps flickering on either side of the garage and the foyer light on.
8015 Acadia Estates
|A Look Inside
We were really floored when we saw the inside of the house (no pun intended). It was just gorgeous... and huge! We immediately checked out the seven bedrooms - we had to stake out our territory
before the rest of the family arrived. Our house had three master bedrooms (each with a bathroom) on the ground floor,
and four more bedrooms upstairs (two more masters and two kid-styled rooms
each with two twin beds, that shared a bathroom). We laid claim to the best master bedroom on the first floor-it also happened to be the one with the crib in it (this was a very nice wooden crib, not a
Pack 'n' Play). Our room had French doors leading out to the patio and pool and a very large bathroom with an oversized tub. Of course, all the rooms had TVs and combination phone/clock/radios.
Our master bedroom (with crib!)
|Lots of Space... and a Pool!
Once we'd deposited our luggage in our respective rooms (Allie chose a room with two twin beds decorated with a princess theme and
hosting the PlayStation 2), we checked out the rest of the house's 3354 square
feet: A big 52" screen TV in the living room, fully-equipped upscale kitchen, dining room with a table already set for six, Dell computer with
high speed Internet access, game room with pool table and foosball... the list goes on and on. Words do not do this house justice. Jennifer took a break to feed Alexander while Dave snapped many photos of the home.
Our favorite part was just outside the sliding glass doors (which had child safety locks, by the way)
-- a large, screen-enclosed pool deck with a kid's wading pool (it looks like Mickey with huge ears!), good-size swimming pool, round hot-tub, and patio table with chairs.
A small cascade of water poured into the pool from the elevated hot tub
(see photo) whenever the jets were turned off - a nice added touch. The pool area also had a child safety fence, which was secured upon our arrival. As soon as Alexander was asleep, we snuck out to the pool for a late-night swim. It was absolute heaven. We did have a bit of a challenge finding the hot tub controls-they were
all the way across the deck, on the wall near the pool's shower. Brrrr!
on a chilly evening! We sure were glad we had pool heat! (You need it for the hot tub, too, or you'll have a cold tub!)
A bird's-eye view of the kitchen and living room
Our private pool and hot tub
|ALL STAR Vacation Homes Office
The next morning we left Alexander and Allie with Jennifer's mom and
visited the ALL STAR Vacation Homes office. We must admit we were expecting a small outfit, and we were pleasantly surprised to find a relatively large suite of offices with more than seven employees
present (at our count). They were very organized, professional, and welcoming. Here we picked up some PlayStation games for Allie (no charge). DVDs were also available to check out. The receptionist was available to answer questions, give directions, and make arrangements to purchase Disney park tickets (they get delivered to your vacation home, so you can do this over the phone, too). There were also free Internet terminals here for those guests who don't have Internet in their vacation home.
Dave and Sara Moore at the All Star Offices
|Other Vacation Homes
The friendly folks at ALL STAR Vacation Homes also gave us a tour of some other homes so we could pass along our thoughts to our readers.
The homes in the All Star
"inventory" are all investment properties, intended to be rented
full-time. All Star provides all management, cleaning, and maintenance
services, and holds all owners to strict standards of quality. Owners
are free to participate in the furnishing and decorating of their
properties, leading to some very distinctive choices between homes.
There's clearly some competition between the various owners, both to
express their own taste and personality, and to attract more business.
The homes are scattered throughout a variety of community developments
just south of US 192 in Kissimmee, although as the company has grown All
Star has begun to develop entire communities for its own needs. In the
near future the company plans to open a central community and recreation
center to serve all its properties.
Every home we saw was impressive. We saw both smaller and larger homes.
All were decorated nicely and had excellent layouts. We saw one home with an enormous pool deck-you could
host a wedding reception there! And the some of the town homes have adorable, private "splash pools" which look like very large hot tubs -- and
guests in those homes still have access to a large community pool. The condos feel the most like
Disney's on-property villas. The condos are located in large buildings and
are part of a larger resort community, with a clubhouse that features a fitness center, arcade, movie theater, playground, and small store.
A large living room in an estate home
|Hangin' Out at the House
Once the rest of the family arrived later that day, we set out to put the home through its paces. The kids had a little pool party of their own one evening. We spent the better part of another day hanging out in the game room,
shooting pool and chatting. We made breakfast in the kitchen and ate in the dining room. We watched some movies on the big screen TV. We used the Internet to check our message boards and search Google for a nearby restaurant. We used the phones to call the office. We used the washer and dryer to clean some of Alexander's baby clothes. We had a couple
of late night sessions in the hot tub. Every bedroom was slept in, every bathroom was used. The only problem reported was with the hot/cold faucet in one of the bathrooms -- Dave's niece Melanie thought it was labeled wrong, but on inspection
it was fine, just a bit different than what she had at home. Everyone raved about the house and we had a great time!
Jennifer's mom uses the computer
Was It Worth It?
We have to be honest -- we hadn't tried a vacation home before. Why? We were concerned about transportation to the parks. We were concerned about quality. Mostly, we were concerned about losing the "magic" of a Disney vacation. Our fears were
(mostly) unfounded. With the rental car, getting to the parks was actually faster in some cases than waiting for Disney transportation (we were literally five minutes from Disney's Animal Kingdom). The home was well furnished, clean, and attractive -- very upscale. And it didn't feel like someone else's home either -- it was decorated like a hotel suite. Oh, and there was no selling going on here -- no one tried to get us to buy a vacation home or timeshare. And thanks to all those extra private amenities we don't normally get when we stay on
Disney property, we still felt the magic, even if it wasn't Disney magic. At the end of the stay, we all agreed that it had been delightful! We even day-dreamed a bit about returning with for another reunion in a couple of years.
Dave and Alexander enjoy the big screen TV
Now, don't get us wrong -- we don't think a vacation home is right for everyone, nor right for every visit to Walt Disney World. So here are the pros and cons of a vacation home stay that might help you decide if it's right for you:
- Much, much more space for the price, including entertaining space
- Amenities, amenities, amenities
- Kitchen facilities
- Private pool and hot tub with luxury, resort, and estate homes
- Ease of transportation in many cases
- Ideal for large families and groups
- Not "on-property" so you need to rent a car
- You need to stay at least four nights
- Not for those who want to spend under $100/night
- Deposit not refundable; entire payment must be made 30 days before arrival and it's not refundable after that point.
We're now believers in the vacation home concept... and we highly recommend ALL STAR Vacation Homes! And we'd love to hear from you and get your comments and experiences. Please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can include your comments here for others to learn from.
Some Thoughts About Staying Off Property
No matter what, an extended stay at a Walt Disney World resort provides a unique
atmosphere that can't be duplicated outside of Disney property. It's like
visiting a tropical isle. Once you're on the "island" the cares and honky-tonk
of the world outside disappears, and your focus shifts to enjoying the parks and
other pleasures of Walt Disney World.
However, not every vacation benefits from this "all parks, all the time" focus.
Sometimes you want to concentrate on your family and/or friends, rather than be
distracted by the goings-on around you--to make Disney the "spice" rather than
the entire meal. When you're off-property the pull of Disney's parks become less
irresistible, opening the way for more one-on-one quality time with your loved
ones. A vacation home delivers added living spaces that make it easier to
socialize as a group, space that you don't have to share with strangers. And you
definitely get more bang for the buck.
Still, not all the differences are positive. Dinner "at home" is a matter of
cook-in, take-out, or hop-in-the-car, and the choice of restaurants on US 192 is
a bit spotty. A couple of big, everyone-pitches-in meals will be fun, but
cooking every meal "at home" or dining at the same old chain restaurants is
nobody's idea of a vacation. We still prefer to have at least half our meals at
Disney's distinctive restaurants. In the absence of Disney's on-property
transportation system it's harder for various parts of the group to split-up and
go their own way--if you haven't driven down to Orlando, you may need several
rental cars to give everyone the freedom they desire. And whether you're leaving
the magic of your vacation home or the magic of Disney's parks, the special
feelings are going to deflate a bit when you hit the highways. But when we
compare this downside to the wonderful times we had with our extended family...
we'll take family any day!
Related Reading: Home Sweet Home: A Follow-Up Visit to ALL STAR Vacation Homes
Comments from PassPorter Readers:
"I recommend ALL STAR Vacation Homes. We rented a beautiful 3 bedroom, 2 bath 1400 square foot condo over the Christmas holidays a couple of years ago for around $1000 for the week. It was in a gated community called Windsor Palms which was located just three miles from the entrance to WDW. They also have townhouses and houses for rent as well. There was a pool, basketball courts, clubhouse with gameroom, snackbar, movies to rent etc. The condo itself was gorgeous with a full kitchen, dining area and living room. There was also a screened in porch off the living room. It was nice because we could breakfast at our condo before we hit the parks. The only downside is that there isn't a shuttle, but if there are six or seven of you; you could maybe split the cost of a rental car for the week which really isn't that bad especially if you are saving a lot of money on your accommadations. Good luck!" -- from Vicky (stretch2864)
"We've stayed with All Star several times (in fact we're renting from them again this summer). The service is great, very nice to work with. The homes are exactly like you see on the virtual tours. We love having our own pool and relaxing a bit out of the parks. It is also great to eat breakfast before heading for the parks. The homes Allstar offers are really about as close to Disney as you can get....it only takes a few minutes." from Linda (MickeyMAC)
"A good friend of mine stayed in an All Star Vacation Home last year and just loved it. There was plenty of space for her group of 9, a pool, full kitchen - all of the comforts of home." -- from Wendy Bell
"I'll just put my vote in for AllStar Vacation homes. I've actually never stayed in one, because I usually go to WDW solo, but I do know a few people who have stayed in them and were very pleased. I have stayed in 2-BR condos, however, which are not quite the same as a vacation home but do have some of the same advantages. Staying off-site is not the terrible burden that some people make it out to be. More than half of my trips have been off-site, either at cheap hotels in the lake Buena Vista area, or staying with friends in Kissimmee, but the off-site trips were just as Magical as those on-site.
No noisy neighbors running past your room like a herd of buffalo at 2am.
Full kitchen available for snacks or even whole meals (great for breakfast)
ACRES of extra space
Private parking, so no haveing to park 2 miles away when you get back to the house exhausted from a long day in the parks
Multiple bathrooms, essential for any group over 3 people
Many vacation homes have their own pools"
Best bennefits of a vacation home over a hotel will be:
-- from WillCad
"We rented a 5 bedroom home in December 2003. It was gorgeous! My whole family went (11 total) Until then, we were always Disney Resort Hotel people--BUT--when you are able to walk into a huge house and relax in your own hot tub at the end of a wonderful Disney Day, it's worth it!Our living room had a big screen TV, DVD, and Playstation. We also had a washer/dryer and a game room in what was the garage.
We cooked several meals at home to save $$$-in fact our house even had a BBQ grill. Everything in the house was picture perfect. I would highly recommend it !!! " -- from PrincessInTraining
"A friend of mine at work had a vacation home reserved through another company, and I told him about the ALL STAR Vacation Homes and gave him the website. He checked into it and found a nice 4-bedroom home about 2 miles from the park. He said it was very well kept, very roomy, very convenient, and his whole family loved it. And, it was cheaper than the house had had reserved previously. His wife had injured her back and couldn't take much time in the parks, so they would tour for awhile, then come back and take it easy at the house, let their son swim in the pool, and she would make up an easy dinner and have it ready when the rest of the family got back from the parks. They have already recommended the homes to other co-workers planning a Disney trip." -- Jitterjet
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