Thursday, May 5, 2011

Orlando 101 For SQLRally Attendees: Accommodations & Travel

The inaugural SQLRally in Orlando is less than a week away (May 11-13)! Maybe you're coming to Orlando for the first time, or maybe you've been here before but just aren't familiar with the area. I live a few miles away from the Marriott so I thought I'd share some "insider" tips.

In this post I'll talk about hotels (I hear some people may still one) and travel. But first…

The Lay Of The Land
The area of town where SQLRally is being held has two common names: Lake Buena Vista and Westgate. It's a very touristy section of town - lots of hotels, lots of restaurants, plenty of places to shop, and lots of people here on vacation. The single best piece of advice I can offer here is bring a big bag of patience. It takes twice as long to do whatever it is you're doing than you think it's going to take.

Hotels
If you're travelling alone and looking for the least expensive option possible, consider finding a roommate to split the cost of a rental car and hotel room with. (Use the #SQLRally hashtag on Twitter to help with this)

Two miles away from the Marriott is the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Lake Buena Vista. I haven't stayed there personally but everything I've seen and read suggests it's a decent place for under $100 per night. They offer free shuttle service to most area parks and attractions and it's walking distance from shopping and dining.

If you're bringing family & kids two places come to mind:

  • The Nikelodeon Hotel is right across the street from the Marriott and they've got plenty of things to keep children occupied. It'll cost you about the same as the Marriott but your kids will probably enjoy staying at the Nickelodeon more. They offer shuttle service to area attractions at a marginal cost.
  • Just a few miles away are all the Disney resorts if you're bringing younger kids and the Nickelodeon isn't your cup of tea. Disney is the only hotel\resort which offers *free* shuttle service to\from the airport, and once you're on Disney property there's free public transportation to all of their offerings. The only catch is that you'd need a way to get to the Marriott but at that point cab fare is pretty cheap or you could catch a ride with another attendee who has a car.

Travel
The Orlando area is very spread out and I highly recommend renting a car to get around once you're here. Every rental company has a presence at the airport, most are fairly cheap for an in-town rental.

As I mentioned there are a lot of people visiting the Lake Buena Vista\Westgate area; Orlando ranks consistently in the top 20 most traffic congested US cities! Interstate 4 is the main road that cuts through the heart of Orlando and at times it can be bumper-to-bumper stop and go. Mornings around 10-11 AM are particularly bad, as are evenings from 5-6 PM.

The Marriott is located on Highway 536 (World Center Drive) and if you're coming to the after hours events your GPS may route you along Highway 535 (Vineland Rd). The intersection of these roads, and especially the stretch on 535 to I-4, are insanely busy around 5-7 PM. You may be better off taking 536 to I-4 (it's like picking the lesser of two evils), then get off I-4 at 535 (exit 68). Check the traffic beforehand and make a judgment call - but either way be prepared for traffic!

If you don't want to rent a car there are plenty of shuttle\taxi services that can get you from\to the airport and the Marriott for $50 or less, then once you're at the Marriott you can catch rides with other attendees who have cars. Here are two services based in the area which have been recommended to me:

  • Greater Orlando Shuttle: (321) 939-2200
  • Celebration Transportation Services: (407) 383-7741

We've also listed some other hotel and travel options on the SQLRally website that you may want to check out.

Next Up…
In my next post I'll cover places in the area to eat.

 

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