We spend most of our posts on Hotel Scoop giving you detailed reviews of interesting hotels and resorts, but we’ll freely admit that a hotel room is not always the best lodging option for your vacation. This is especially true if you’re with a family or group, and you’re likely to be with one or both when you’re in the theme park playground of Orlando, Florida. When four of us hit that city last weekend to spend two days at Universal Studios, we got some room to spread out in a condo from All Star Vacation Homes.
We stayed in a nice three-bedroom condo that was bigger than most houses I’ve lived in, with a formal dining room, huge granite counters kitchen with four bar seats, a large living room extending from there, a laundry room, and a balcony. We were on the third floor in an elevator building, in a gated complex that had plenty of parking and a pool. This being December and a trip to visit Harry Potter and The Simpsons, we never even went to see the pool, but on a longer stay in hot weather it would make a nice break from all-day walking.
The condo had a TV in the master bedroom, one in the bedroom where the two girls stayed (with a Playstation unit too) and a giant one in the living room had a DVD player in addition to the cable channels. A small stereo and a computer to use were also there. The kitchen was well-stocked with everything we could need, including a coffee maker, toaster, full stove, dishwasher, and garbage disposal. All the comforts of home and then some. The WiFi worked well throughout the apartment.
We were only about a ten-minute drive from the Universal Studios theme park, including stop lights, and close to I-4 when it was time to head home in our car. So if we had wanted to come back to rest up and go back to CityWalk at night, it would have been an easy round trip.
This was actually one of the company’s lower-priced offerings, at about what it would cost for two adjoining hotel rooms near Universal. It could sleep six though, so a better value than most hotels. They can certainly accommodate larger groups and some units are free-standing homes with garages. Two available in Orlando have 14 bedrooms. Sure, they cost a lot more (as in around $2,500 per night), but that’s a lot of people they can hold, plus the living and lounging areas will make you feel like a rock star. Here’s the theater room at one of their 10-bedroom places:
You don’t have to spend a fortune to splash out though: the house with this fun game room goes for less than $400 per night.
I was impressed with the service throughout the process after making the booking, with regular (but not nagging) e-mails with information and one printable document that had everything we needed in one place: gate code, address, key code, and phone numbers. Other essentials, like pool access info and WiFi password were laid out prominently in the kitchen. The door code on the condo made things much easier than carrying a key around and after we left for the last time we entered a new one so the process would start with a different number for the next tenant. Very organized.
The true test of customer service is how a company responds when something goes wrong. As we were waiting in line for a ride at Universal Studios, we got a call from the rental agency asking if everything was okay. We told them mostly yes, but the refrigerator wasn’t working right and wasn’t cold inside. They immediately sent someone to take a look. It turned out there was really something wrong and they’d have to order a part. Apart from moving in a whole other fridge, which would have been impractical, there was not much they could do immediately. So they brought in a giant cooler with ice so we could at least keep our food cold. I’m confident that if we were staying more than two days they would have worked out a temporary fridge or something.
Visit the All Star Vacation Homes site to see all the condos on offer or request a printed catalog by mail that doesn’t require an electrical outlet. Besides Orlando, they have units in San Diego, Captiva Island, and Sanibel Island.
Review and two photos by editor Tim Leffel, who won a stay with All Star Vacation Homes by winning first prize in the annual awards from the North American Travel Journalists Association (for this Lonely Planet feature).