Is this the best budget hotel in Orlando? We think so…
By Helen Wright
There’s no way of getting around it, it’s very difficult to do a cheap trip to Florida from the UK. With the cost of flights, insurance, theme park tickets and all the extras adding up, for most people an epic trip to Orlando requires a lot of saving and planning. (That’s where we come in, of course!). However, let me let you into a little secret; I have found THE best bargain hotel in Orlando and you’re not going to believe where it is… Universals Endless Summer Dockside
Cover image: Helen Wright. This page contains affiliate links
Best kept secret: a fancy hotel on a budget in Orlando
Staying at a Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando Resort hotel is a dream for many, but accommodation on-site at a theme park resort often comes at a premium. Most people, when looking for a budget hotel in Orlando, look at the popular International Drive and Kissimmee areas. There are some excellent deals to be found here (including holiday homes and villas), but how about if I told you there is a brilliant BUDGET hotel just minutes from the parks with FREE transportation?
Introducing Universal’s Endless Summer Resort
Universal’s Endless Summer Resort and Suites has shaken up the hotel scene in Orlando – which is only good news for guests (especially us Brits looking for a fab Florida bargain). The stunning hotel complex features beautifully-designed rooms, a huge pool, on-site facilities such as concierge, coffee shop and restaurant and lot of big theme park energy. This is because Universal’s Endless Summer Resort is – yep, you got it- part of the Universal Orlando Resort. A first for the resort hotel groups in Orlando, Endless Summer Resort created a new entry-level VALUE resort, elevating Universal’s existing value hotels into a new, Prime Value category.
Even better – it’s not just one fantastic budget hotel, but two!
Do you want to know the greatest thing about this super stylish resort? There are actually two brilliant bargain hotels here – with a whopping 2800 rooms between them. Universal’s Endless Summer Resort is made up with two sizeable hotels that sit side-by-side outside the gates to Universal Orlando (home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Marvel Superhero Island and the Jurassic World VelociCoaster). Both hotels have a free shuttle bus to transport guests to Universal Studios, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay water park. And, most importantly, both hotels have fantastic price points, starting at just £57 per night!
Despite being the cheapest hotel at Universal Orlando Resort, guests at Surfside Inn and Dockside Inn still get Early Park Admission perks to the theme parks, which is brilliant. Plus, after a busy day riding roller coasters and doing lots of walking, the beds are crazy COMFY, so you should have no problems getting to sleep.
Universal’s Endless Summer Resort: Dockside Inn and Suites
Both hotels at the Endless Summer resort have a waterside theme, with Dockside Inn and Suites taking on a sailing, nautical angle. The larger of the two hotels, Endless Summer Resort Dockside has a mid-century design, with very cool architecture, a sprawling lobby and very well-proportioned rooms, accessed from indoor corridors. Plus, the exceptional service that guests expect from the Universal theme parks extends to the resorts and you are greeted with a warm welcome and can’t-do-enough-for-you attitude.
Can’t be beaten on budget
There is no doubt that Endless Summer is the most budget-friendly hotel option at Universal Orlando Resort (see our lowdown on all the Universal Resort hotels here), but the hotels also rank very competitively with ‘commonly booked’ hotels on International Drive, such as the dated Rosen Inn. This motel property is often included with a lot of package deals, but is generally a tired and uninspiring hotel, certainly with nothing ‘magical’ about it. The average nightly rate of £75 per night for the Rosen Inn is laughable when compared to what’s on offer at Universal’s Endless Summer Resort.
Endless Summer Dockside Inn and Suites have room rates starting at less than $73 (£57) per night for a seven-night stay and $85 (£66) per night for a four-night stay in a standard room. This price is very attractive for families planning a Florida holiday from the UK on a budget.
Even more tempting is that both hotels at the Endless Summer resort have spacious two-bedroom Suites that sleep six people, so may also be a great option for friends visiting Orlando as a group. The two-bedroom suites start from $111 (£105) per night and, like the family suites at Cabana Bay Beach Resort, feature a kitchenette and separate bathroom and vanity areas making good use of space, but at a lowtgyer price.
The best hotel for groups in Orlando
We recently visited Orlando with our two children (aged 6 months and 4 years at the time), as well as their Gaga (Simon’s mum, Polly). Staying in the two-bedroom suite at Universal’s Endless Summer Surfside Inn was ideal for us. Simon, the kids and I took the main room, which has two big beds and the kitchenette to the side, and Polly slept in the 2nd room, which has a door that can be closed for privacy. We all shared a bathroom, but there are two sinks and a large vanity, with the toilet and shower in a separate room. It was perfectly comfortable for us to share and would have been fine with two occupants in the 2nd bedroom as well. For multi-generational families, this is a no-brainer if you want to save money on trip to Florida. Having a suite definitely gives the same feeling of space as booking an apartment or villa. There is no private pool or full kitchen, but you can enjoy the perk of having housekeeping clean and make up your room!
Endless Summer Resort and Suites: A look at the two-bedroom suites
The Endless Summer two-bedroom suites have identical layouts at both resorts, providing a great base for larger families, extended families or groups staying in Orlando. Surfside Inn has a slightly lighter colour theme, using pale blue and yellow accents. The prints on the wall have colourful surfer motifs.
The main room is large, with two big beds and a kitchenette area. The Kitchenette has a small table and chairs, a fridge, microwave and a coffee machine. Seems like a small detail, but there are also some shelves, which is so handy if you are visiting with kids because you’ll have space to keep all their cups, bottles and snacks out of the way! It goes without saying, having the ability to refrigerate and warm baby food and milk is essential when visiting with young children. I also find the fridge handy to keep leftovers in, as I never finish the giant meals they serve in the USA!
I loved the super bright bathroom, plenty of space to keep all your toiletries and cosmetics and a big shelf underneath. The shower is powerful and having a bath made cleaning the kids after a sweaty day at the theme parks much easier. Decent toiletries are provided, including shampoo, conditioner, soap and a vanity kit. The room also has ample space for the children to play on the floor, including with their Trunki cases.
The second bedroom is obviously fantastic for sharing with extended members of your family group, but a suite is also a wonderful way to spread out if you want a bit of extra space and can afford to spend a bit extra. Even if we were travelling as just the four of us, we’d definitely consider booking the suite anyway (price permitting). That way, the children can go to sleep in the 2nd bedroom, leaving Simon and I a bit of extra space to relax after they have gone to bed, without having to tiptoe about in the dark with the TV off. I’m sure parents everywhere can relate!
A double room has two double beds in, the two-bedroom suite has three double beds (across two rooms). We requested a baby crib for Isobel and it was already in the room when we checked in. After a long flight from London, this was a nice touch. As well as the rooms being perfectly sized for us all, the kids really loved being at the resort, which is designed to be fun from the moment you enter and doesn’t disappoint.
Room to play
Both hotels have large pools, each with a pool bar serving cocktails, soft drinks and snacks. The view of the pool at Dockside Inn from my room was pretty great. In the distance, you can see Icon Park, which is on I-Drive. So location-wise, the hotel is ideally situated for exploring outside of the Universal area too. The drive to Walt Disney World from here is about 35 minutes (which is a pretty standard distance from anywhere in the Orlando tourist area). You are also very close to SeaWorld and Discovery Cove.
Around the hotel
For my personal taste, if I had to pick one Endless Summer Resort over the other, I would probably lean toward Surfside Inn. I liked the carefree, beachy branding and the little design touches around the resort. Finn loved the surfboards in the lobby. At Christmastime, Surfside Inn had one of my favourite Christmas trees at the whole resort too.
However, the sister resorts are across the road from each other, so it’s easy to nip over and check out the other resort and use the games rooms or restaurant.
The restaurants at both resorts are a cafeteria-style set-up with different stations providing a range of options (from cooked breakfasts, French toast and pancakes in the morning, alongside fruit and bakery items) and different cuisines in the evening including burger and chip-style food, Mexican and salads. There is also a Starbucks Coffee shop and a lobby bar (serving excellent cocktails and snacks) at both hotels.
The pool at Surfside Inn is even shaped like a surfboard! Only guests staying at the individual hotels can use the pool, so that’s the only facility that can’t be enjoyed if you are staying at the sister resort.
Universal’s Endless Summer Dockside Inn and Suites
If you are looking for a budget hotel in Orlando that still has a bit of atmosphere and magic about it, this hotel combo is by far the best you can get in this price bracket. If you want to pay a bit more, some hotels have lazy rivers, rooftop bars or transfers to the Universal Resort by boat, but if you want a spacious room, with great facilities, a few perks and lots of nice touches, Universal’s Endless Summer Dockside and Surfide Resorts cannot be beaten in my opinion.
For Marvel fans, I especially liked how the design of Universal’s Endless Summer Dockside reminded me of the comic book Art Deco drawings seen in the original depictions of Marvel characters, such a Spiderman. Do you see a resemblance?
DID YOU KNOW? You can see Marvel Characters in Orlando at Universal’s Islands of Adventure at the brilliant Marvel Super Hero Island? This is also where you will find one of my favourite rides in Florida ‘The adventures of Spiderman” and the Jurassic Park Velocicoaster.
FREE transfers to Universal Citywalk
Orlando has so much entertainment, it’s almost overwhelming to plan a night out. However, staying at Universal’s Endless Summer Dockside or Surfside Inn means access to Universal’s Citywalk via a free transfer bus. Here, there are bars, clubs and some excellent restaurants, as well as street entertainment and live music. It’s one of my favourite places to have a night out in Orlando.
What to expect at Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando Resort is an incredible theme park resort that you definitely don’t want to miss during your trip to Florida. Starting as just Universal Studios, and themed around classic movies, the resort now consists of two theme parks (soon to be three) and a water park. As well as the incredible Wizarding World of Harry Potter (which connects the two parks via the Hogwarts Express), fans can enjoy lands based on Jurassic Park, the Simpsons, Marvel and old Hollywood and some of the best rides in Orlando. Younger children will enjoy Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon and Suess Landing, an area themed completely on the bonkers and colourful Dr Suess books.
If you hadn’t seriously considered Universal Orlando before reading this, take a look at our Disney Vs Universal post which breaks down the differences between the two parks and answers some questions.
DID YOU KNOW: WE HAVE OVER 30 GUIDES TO HELP YOU PLAN AN AMAZING HOLIDAY IN ORLANDO?
CHECK OUT SOME OF OUR MOST POPULAR POSTS BELOW:
Disney and Universal Trip Planner
How to spend two weeks in Orlando
What is there to do besides theme parks in Orlando
The best place to get theme park tickets for Orlando IN THE UK
What is the cheapest way to book an Orlando holiday?
Do you need a car in Orlando?
How much does a holiday to Orlando Florida REALLY cost?
Disney Vs Universal – which parks are best for you?
The best way to spend Halloween in Orlando