(photos: The Grand Floridian dressed for the holidays, Emma and Noah dwarfed by Mowgli at Pop Century, and our living room at the Wilderness Lodge Villas)
Last week’s vacation marked our third family trip to the World in just over a year, and my fourth trip there this year. Add that on to the two times I stayed in a Disney Resort as a child and I’ve stayed in a total of six Walt Disney World Resorts. While I am far from an expert, I think it’s safe to say that at this point I can give an educated opinion of what it’s like to live at the World during your Disney vacation….and that I have a serious Disney addiction.
Value, Moderate, Deluxe – Learn the Lingo
Walt Disney World resorts fall into three basic categories. Value resorts offer the least amount of square footage for what I really believe to be a rock bottom price – truly a value. Beginning at $82 a night during the value season, you certainly cannot beat what you receive for your dollar. Moderate resorts have a bit more space, a little more pomp and circumstance, and a price that begins at $149 a night during the value season. I have stayed at both Value and Deluxe resorts, but have yet to stay at a Moderate, so everything that I know about this class of resort comes only from what I’ve read. I do know that for many people, Moderate resorts are a favorite offering some of the glitz and glam of a Deluxe resort without the sticker shock. Deluxe resorts truly offer top of the line hotel accommodations with room size at the flagship resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, rivaling many Manhattan apartments. Prices at Deluxe resorts begin at $240 a night during the value season and go as high as $649 a night during Christmas week.
Already confused? Let’s add the Villas into the mix now. Disney’s Deluxe Villas are part of the Disney Vacation Club accommodations, but they are also available for booking as a regular hotel room by non-vacation club members. The accommodations tend to have less fancy details then a regular Deluxe room, but what they miss in frills they make up for in space and utility. With Villa choices ranging from a studio at $325 a night to the two bedroom villa at $630 that includes a living room with sleeper sofa, full kitchen, and two private bedrooms each with their own full bath, the Villas provide a great choice for large families or multiple family vacations.
As if that wasn’t enough, there are also three unique resort properties: Shades of Green, The Dolphin, and the Swan. The Swan and Dolphin are on Disney property but are owned and run by Westin. While they are not technically Disney resorts, they do have access to some Disney Resort amenities such as transportation to and from the parks, use of Disney’s Magical Express from the Orlando airport, and even character meals. Shades of Green is a resort on Walt Disney World property that is owned and operated by the U.S. Department of Defense. It is only open to active and retired members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. Reserves, National Guard, as well as currently employed DOD civilians and U.S. Public Health Officers. Thoroughly confused? Here’s one more option! Check out Fort Wilderness Campground for those who want to combine the camping experience with their Disney World vacation! With all of th
ese choices and price points, there is bound to be a perfect fit for every Disney guest.
My three year old will tell you without reservation that his favorite place to “live” at Disney is Pop Century. One of the Value resort properties, Pop Century’s larger than life portrayals of pop culture favorites ranging from Play-Doh to Big Wheels to favorite characters such as Lady and the Tramp make it a little slice of heaven for kids from three to eighty-three. Staying at a Value resort? Request an in-room mini-fridge for just an extra $10 a night, grab a quart of milk at the resort store, and eat breakfasts in your room each morning to save money. Worried about the long walk to the bus stop? The spokes on a wheel set up of the buildings helps to prevent this from being a concern, but if you’re still worried, considering paying just a bit more a night for a preferred room. We did just that for our June trip and enjoyed not only an easy walk to the main building and bus stops, but also a great view of the central pool, the Hippy Dippy. Manager Greg Chase does an amazing job of keeping this expansive resort running like a well-oiled machine, and the transportation system also serves this property very well with waits for buses to the parks never lasting longer than ten minutes during our off-season trip.
We have also enjoyed the opposite end of the spectrum by staying at the Grand Floridian, which is on the monorail system across the lagoon from the Magic Kingdom. There is no way to put a price on the value of being able to take the two minute monorail ride from your hotel to the Magic Kingdom. While we enjoyed the efficiency of Disney transportation regardless of if we were riding buses, boats, or the monorail, there is nothing easier than pushing your toddler in a stroller from your room on to the monorail and directly into the park without the need to break down the stroller for the journey. The Grand Floridian is also an incredibly stunning, yet child-friendly hotel. Nobody but Disney could make adults feel as though they are in the lap of luxury while making children feel at home. My kids in particular enjoyed the zero-entry pool and the marble characters “hidden” in the floor. More to come about the Grand Floridian…
Last year our family also had the pleasure of experiencing the Disney Deluxe Villas during our family vacation with my parents. We ordered groceries online from Garden Grocer prior to our arrival and were able to make breakfast, lunches to take into the parks, and snacks in our full kitchen. At the end of each day the kiddos went to sleep in the privacy of our own bedroom while my mom and I sat in the living room planning the next day. When my dad needed a break, he had the grandparent bedroom to escape to, and with two bathrooms, there was never any fighting…which is a lot to say when travelling with two pre-schoolers!
My fondest memories of Disney Resorts are of staying at the Polynesian when I was a child. On our most recent visit we stopped at the Polynesian to see the holiday decorations and walk around the property. Even the smells in the lobby with the beautiful flowers and waterfall were identical to my memories. I look forward to staying there on our next trip in 2010.
For detailed reviews, fact sheets, and images from every Disney property, visit my favorite Disney blog, All Ears
Through a relationship with Disney public relations, some discounts were provided during my recent stay. My family has never visited Walt Disney World on a complimentary trip and all opinions expressed are my own.