Countdown: 5 days til Disney World!
Today, I am discussing Disney World resorts. I am a huge proponent of staying at Disney resort hotels. The resorts are like a park in themselves -- there's so much to see and do to keep you occupied. It's also common knowledge that most of the best dining at Disney World is found in the resorts.
The lobby of the Animal Kingdom Lodge, where we stayed in April 2009 for our honeymoon.
Disney resorts are divided into 3 tiers of cost -- Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. Value resorts are more like staying at a Best Western or something along those lines, but with fun theming and a food court. Moderate resorts have more to offer in the pool areas and include a sit-down restaurant in addition to the food court. And Deluxe resorts have lots of extra activities, the most spacious rooms, beautiful architecture, numerous pools and hot tubs, and several sit-down dining options to choose from, including some of the best restaurants in central Florida.
Some deluxe resorts are also available as villas, aka condos, and these villas are the "home resort" for members of the Disney Vacation Club (aka timeshare club). If only I had thr cash for that...
Here's a full list of the Walt Disney World resorts (Click here for a map to see the locations):
** Denotes that I have stayed at this resort or plan to stay there this year.
+ Denotes that I have visited this resort or will visit this year to eat and take in the sights.
**Animal Kingdom Lodge
Beach Club Resort
Yacht Club Resort
+Grand Floridian Resort
Deluxe Villa Resorts:
Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas
Bay Lake Tower
Beach Club Villas
+Old Key West Resort
Wilderness Lodge Villas
Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
Ft. Wilderness Cabins
+Port Orleans Riverside
**Port Orleans French Quarter
**Pop Century Resort
A lot of times, the question is, "Why should I pay more to stay at a Disney resort when I can stay at the Holiday Inn, Best Western, La Quinta, etc., just outside the park for much cheaper?" That may be true -- you *can* stay for cheaper outside the parks. But when you're not staying on Disney property, you don't get all the extra perks, which oftentimes can save you money. So, what are these resort perks?
1. Free parking at the parks. If you're staying off-property, this costs $10 per day.
2. Extra Magic Hours. This is when select parks open early or close late on certain days. I have yet to take advantage of this, but I hear it's really cool.
3. Complimentary airport transportation, known as Disney's Magical Express. We'll be taking advantage of this for the first time on Saturday. If you're flying in, you get luggage tags in the mail. You check your luggage at your home airport, then when you arrive in Orlando, you get directly on a Disney's Magical Express bus. Your checked baggage is delivered a couple hours later to your resort room. No lugging around heavy luggage! Hooray!
4. Package delivery. If you buy souvenirs at any of the Disney parks, they will deliver it straight to your room.
5. Key to the World card. I mentioned this in my last post. It's so convenient having park tickets, dining credits and your room key all together on one card.
6. The Disney Dining Plan! This is my favorite benefit available only to guests staying on WDW property. There are 3 tiers of dining plans and I am a HUGE fan of the Deluxe plan, which I'll get more in during my next post.
Even more benefits are listed here.
Even though I have yet to visit or stay at all the resorts, I've seen enough of them to pick out a few favorites: the three Deluxe resorts situated on the monorail near the Magic Kingdom, (Polynesian, Grand Floridian and Contemporary resorts) as well as the Animal Kingdom Lodge. If money were no object, I would stay at one of these four resorts on every trip to Disney World.
We were lucky enough to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge last year, which, surprisingly, is one of the cheaper Deluxe resorts, even though it is the newest. It's highly rated and houses some of the best restaurants on WDW property, which we will be visiting next week.
In 2006, we stayed at the Port Orleans French Quarter resort, a moderate resort. And this year, we are saving some green and staying at the highest-rated Value resort, Pop Century. So by the end of this trip, we will have stayed at one each of the three pricing tiers and will have a better sense of what you get with each price point.
If we are happy enough with Pop Century, I would consider staying at a Value resort over a Moderate resort just for the pure cost savings, because I don't think there's a huge difference. Ideally, I would go to Disney World twice a year -- a longer trip while staying at a value resort, and a shorter trip while staying at a Deluxe resort.
Coming up later this week -- Disney World FOOD!