Monday, May 16, 2011

Disney: Lodging

Planning a trip to Disney World?  Or just love Disney?  Either way, check out all my previous Disney posts.

As I mentioned before, deciding where you are staying while "in the World" is one of the hardest decisions about your trip.  I really can't attest to lodging outside of Disney because after we made our decisions to stay on property, we didn't really look at anything off property.  However, I did learn a little bit about on-site Disney lodging and I'm going to share that with you.

Resort Price
Disney separates their vast array of resorts by price levels.  This is actually a pretty smart way to do it, in my opinion.  Because if you are like us, money is always on your mind while you are planning your Disney trip.  You can stay in the Value Resorts, the Moderate Resorts, the Deluxe Resorts or the Deluxe Villas (I'm pretty sure the Deluxe Villas are only for Disney Vacation Club members).  There is also a campground available if you have an RV. 

Each price level has 4-8 different resorts to choose from.  That can be overwhelming.  Trust me I know.  But by breaking it down by price, you can eliminate a lot of the choices.  We started out by going to Disney World's website and finding this page.  It lists the price range for every Disney resort.  Obviously, the nicer, bigger rooms will cost more.  Decide what you can afford to spend on lodging and pick your price level.  We went with the Moderate level.

Congratulations, you've now narrowed your choices from 26 down to 8 at the most.  Your halfway there!

Resort Amenities
Do you like to fish?  Want to rent a boat?  How about the proximity to the parks?  Would you like to be within walking distance to Epcot's back gate?  Those are all possibilities that you can do in one of the Disney resorts.  Now that you have narrowed down your choices, it's time figure out what you really want in a resort.  If you are just looking for a place to crash after spending all day touring, then maybe finding a really quiet resort is your number one criteria.  A Disney guide book will really help you out here. In it, you can find a list of all the extras included in each resort.

For us, a great swimming pool was a must.  Our children love to swim and our plan was to swim in the evenings after touring at the parks and to swim on our day off.  We started by getting several resort recommendations from friends (all you have to do is post a question on Facebook).  Then we looked at all the pictures and descriptions of those resorts and chose Port Orleans, French Quarter mainly because of the pool (see it here).

Finding Deals
Now that you've got your resort all picked out, how can you save money?  The best way is to register your email address on Disney.com early on in the planning process.  Disney sends out savings emails to its subscribers.  These emails have a pin code that is unique to your family.  You cannot share them and you can't use someone else code (sorry).  Just be patient and the right deal will present itself to you.  Keep in mind, most Disney deals are for specific dates; so if you are going at a high traffic time, your chances are lower that you will be able to use a deal email.  We got a pin code for 40% off of a room only reservation.  That was perfect for us, so we jumped on it.

As I mentioned in my Disney budget post, with 40% off, we paid just over $1000 for a week at Port Orleans, French Quarter.

Pros and Cons
We learned some things about Disney resorts once we got there.  Some were good, some bad.  Here's what we learned.

Cons
  • No free internet access and no wireless internet access at all.  If you want the internet, you'll have to pay $9.95 per 24 hour period. You can only connect using a wired connection with the Ethernet cord provided.  In my opinion, that is totally unreasonable.  In this day and age, there should be wireless internet access in every room and it should be included free with your fee.  Disney really dropped the competitive ball on that one.
  • Make sure you ask where you room is in relation to the bus stop.  Ours was literally as far from the bus stop as you could get.  It becomes a long walk when you are carrying a sleeping 40 lbs 5-year old.
  • There is no lifeguard directing kids on top of the dragon slide.  So if you see the same little 3-yr old in a blue lifejacket go down the slide 5 times before your kids gets down it once, you know she's cutting in line and no one (including her parents) are doing anything about it.  You may have to go direct traffic up there.
  • Don't believe the cafeteria ladies when they tell you "dessert is included in your meal."  It's only included if you are on the meal plan.  If you are paying yourself, dessert is definitely NOT included.
Pros
  • Disney transportation.  It's such a weight off your shoulders to not have to drive to the parks, park, get the tram to the monorail, ride the monorail in, etc.  You just wait for the bus, let them drive you to the park of your choice and drop you off right at the front gate.  There are also boats that can take you to and from selected resorts and parks.  We got to ride a boat from our resort to Downtown Disney and one from our dinner show to the Magic Kingdom.  
  • New queen sized beds.  We were very concerned about the bed sizes.  Don't think badly of us, but we don't fit into a full-sized bed very well and the resort had listed the beds as full-sized.  Luckily, they have been renovating rooms and ours had 2 queen-sized beds.  Yay!
  • Cool pool.  Our pool had a cool dragon slide that you climb up it's tail and slide down it's tongue.  Most of the resorts, including the value resorts, have pools with a neat shape or cool slides, so be sure to look at the pool pictures online.
  • Disney employees.  Let me tell you, Disney employees are great.  I called the front desk with a question and they answered not with "Hello", but with "Hello, Mrs. _____, how can I help you today?"  Talk about making a guest feel pampered.  It was awesome!
  • Package delivery.  What's the worst thing about buying things in the parks (besides the price)?  Carrying it around with you all day!  If you are on Disney property, you can have it sent to your resort instead.  It will show up the following afternoon (for instance, if you shop on Tuesday, you'll get your package on Wednesday afternoon).  Our only complaint was that it was a little outdated having to fill out paperwork each time we did this.  Disney has so much information on our room card/charge card, you'd think their system would allow you to just swipe your card to get all the room info, but that hasn't happened yet.
  • Charging things to your room.  When you check in, you get a personalized room card with you name on it (kids get one too).  if you are an adult, your room key card can also be used as a charge card to charge things to your room.  Obviously, you still want to stay within your budget using this, but it is pretty handy to have.
Overall, we really thought the pros outweighed the cons in terms of staying on Disney property.  We would do it again in a heartbeat.

What about you?  Have you stayed in a Disney resort?  I'd love to hear about your experiences!

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