How Do You Choose a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel?
Thank you for listening to episode 11 of The Orlando Local Show. We really appreciate you and hope that you’ll find this episode useful to make one of your most important decisions.
Where are you going to stay when you visit Walt Disney World?
There are plenty of great hotels in Orlando, but we’re presenting this show for the visitors who already know that they want to stay on property at Walt Disney World. There are a lot of criteria to consider, so we’ll cover the issues we’ve discovered during multiple visits.
Perks of Staying at Walt Disney World Resort Hotels
The good news is that you can expect certain things from every Walt Disney World Resort Hotel. A clean room, a theme, transportation to and from the Disney Parks, Extra Magic Hours and the ability to use the Disney Dining Plan.
You also get the ability to make purchases using your Magic Band (very convenient) and the ability to make your FastPass+ reservations 60 days in advance of your visit for your first ten days. That’s up to 70 days ahead, which really annoys locals like me.
Don’t forget the Magical Express transportation that provides round trip transportation between the Orlando International Airport and Walt Disney World.
If you plan to dedicate the bulk of your visit to Walt Disney World parks, it makes sense to book your stay at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel.
Things to Consider Before You Book
Lee and I also cover some issues you may want to consider before you book that can have a big impact on your stay. Walt Disney World is always busy, but some events may cause certain resort hotels to be busier than others for a while. You also want to consider refurbishments and construction issues.
We’ll break it down so you can make the right choice for the Walt Disney World Resort Hotel that’s right for your next visit.
William: Welcome to the Orlando Local show, episode number eleven.
Hi, my name is William Beem.
Lee: Hi, my name is Lee Beem.
William: Today, we are really happy that you are here. We appreciate you and we are going to be talking about how to choose a Disney World Resort hotel. This is if you have already decided that you want to stay on site at Walt Disney World for your vacation. There are a ton of different resorts out there, going through different price ranges, different themes and a few other criteria you may not have considered.
So we just want to go over some of the things that we have experienced with some of our stays and some of the things that might be of importance to you to help you decide which is going to be the best one.
Let’s start off with some of the basics.
So Lee, you’ve done this more than I have. Why, when you were planning your trips coming over from the UK, why did you want to stay on site at Walt Disney World rather than one of the many other hotels in Orlando?
Lee: You know initially I had looked at staying off site. I priced up an offsite hotel that was nearby that had shuttle transportation that was included as part of the deal. Then Tové saw a poster or brochure or something in a travel agent window (it was that long ago you still got them in the malls and the street) and she was just taken by the picture of the pool. And I thought, you know what? Let me price this up and see if we can afford this.
And when I did – maybe transportation hadn’t been included in the one off site – but whatever happened, it worked out almost as a break even or maybe a little bit cheaper if we weren’t going to be tipping cab drivers, to stay on site.
William: That is a good reason. Particularly if your vacation plan is primarily or even specifically only Walt Disney World. You are right there. They have got a free transportation network. You’ve also got some dining options inside and you don’t necessarily need to leave the Walt Disney World resort, if that is your plan.
Now we know there are some folks who come here and Disney may be a day or two days or something like that for them, but they are looking more for an overall Orlando vacation.
For that, it may not make sense to stay at a Walt Disney World resort, so this one is going to be for people who have already made the determination: we are going to be having a Disney vacation and we made the decision we want to stay on site. The question is now where do we go?
Lee: On site for us, once we had tried it, we were hooked. I knew from the first day that we were on site that we were ruined forever. There was absolutely no way that I could ever ....
William: You could feel it?
Lee: I could feel it. Don’t get me wrong. There was a day about eight or nine days into – I think it was about a two and a half week stay that we did the first time – I suddenly had this thing where I needed a taxi. Get me out of here for a day! It was just sensation overload.
I just needed a break and needed to get away from it. We had stayed at a value resort. They tend to be a little bit more in your face with the theming. We loved it; it was a great experience! I can highly recommend the value resorts and it worked for us because I had a six year old.
William: Well, let’s talk about some of the options, because you mentioned value resorts. So value resorts are going to be the three All Star resorts, there is Pop Century and Art of Animation. So what exactly do they mean by value resorts? I presume by the name that it is going to be less expensive.
Lee: Well yes and quite honestly on our first trip I had a sudden panic because I can be a bit of a hotel snob. There are certain criteria where the boxes need to be checked and I panicked and wondered if I should change this. But our stay was absolutely fantastic.
The only difference really is the rooms are slightly smaller, they may have changed this now – I didn’t check if they updated – at the time they only had double beds. I know that after the refurbishments a number of years ago a lot of the moderates have now got queen beds, which does make a big difference. You also don’t have a sit down restaurant for dining.
William: It’s just quick service?
Lee: So it’s quick service. This is a silly thing, but I know that the All Stars and Pop Century don’t have a water slide. It sounds like a stupid thing, but for kids ... It’s the craziest thing. You pay for your park tickets and I’ve actually heard people yelling at their kids in the parks. The kids, just like mine did 8 years ago, “I just want to go back and be at the pool.”
William: And that’s the thing that you really want to hear after you’ve spent so much money on your tickets and the trip down there and travel and so forth and all the kid wants to do is go to the pool that you could have done ...
Lee: I know. I was thinking damn it! I upgraded to first class on the day of the flight out and I was horrified that she only wanted to be at the pool.
William: Not to get too much off topic, but sometimes if you are going to spend a week or two weeks or so, you need those down days outside of the park.
Lee: We never took them. And I think that is another thing to consider when you are choosing a resort. Consider how much time you want to spend at the resort, because for some people you may need that nap time if you’ve got little kids. You may just not want to fast pace things. You might want to just spend some time exploring and enjoying the resort. Just sit and relax.
If that is part of your vacation, I think there is a heavier emphasis on the resort and it might be worth splurging a little bit of extra money.
We really just needed a place to shower and sleep and a place where I could put the kid in the pool for an hour and I could say, “You’ve had your swim time.”
William: So that’s really the purpose of the value resort. You’re not going there for the great bed; you are not going there for fine dining. You are going there and this is a place where you want to sleep, be able to clean up, grab a quick bite and then get right back into the parks.
So you don’t want to spend a lot of money for a place where you are not going to spend much time.
Lee: Well, that was my thought initially. But having said that, I can highly recommend the value resorts for people with little kids. And even somebody who just wants to have fun. Maybe a first Disney trip. I think it is a great way to get immersed in the Disney feel. The theming is great, the energy is great and there is absolutely nothing wrong with those hotels. We had a wonderful time and if that had been all that was available at any given time when we had booked the trip, I wouldn’t have hesitated to re-book.
I would have probably tried different value resorts to get a different experience.
William: But you’re right about the theming of it. These are very bright, very colorful resorts. If you go to Art of Animation they have got the characters out there in large scale. The colors almost beat you over the head.
Lee: I know, but Art of Animation kind of changed the whole tune for the value resorts. There is a bit more to it. I think that is the upgraded version of what you were getting.
We stayed at All Star Music and we had a wonderful time and I would have gone back if that had been the best option for us.
William: There are other options. The next one is going to be a moderate resort. That will be resorts like Coronado Springs, Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside, which is kind of like two different resorts.
Lee: They are, but they get to share amenities.
William: And Caribbean Beach.
William: So you like Port Orleans French Quarter.
Lee: I did. I absolutely loved it. And again, I chose that because it was relatively small, it was easy for me to get to the food court. I am a coffee drinker and in fact I think at the time, I used to be a smoker so I wanted my cigarette and my coffee. I know, it’s disgusting, but that was part of my life and if it’s part of your life you’ll understand it. I needed somewhere where I could quickly get to the food court, I had a little kid and I didn’t want to leave her unattended. I needed to drag her somewhere and I could set her down, have her coloring in, go and sit somewhere where I was not in her face, get what I needed and I didn’t want to be traipsing around.
Some of these buildings are quite spread out, so French Quarter worked for me.
William: I’ve been to French Quarter and it’s got that peaceful little New Orleans feel walking around there. One of the things that I noticed, because my stays there have always been at the deluxe resorts. The big change in perspective for me was these are kind of like the old roadside motels where you walk up stairs outside the building and there is a railing out there and then you go into your room. Whereas the deluxe resorts everything is entry from inside the building.
Lee: I know.
William: That little thing right there can make or break it for some people.
Lee: Now I am a little bit different. At Disney, I didn’t like the inside entry. I mean, at Bay Lake Tower it was something I didn’t like. I felt like I was almost in an apartment. I felt like I was in a hotel.
At the resort you were outside and I don’t know what it was. It was just the sense of space for me. I wanted to open the door and see daylight.
William: That is the kind of thing that some people will like and some people will dislike it. And that is one of the criteria you may want to consider when you are looking for the right Disney World resort for your needs or your family. Does it make a difference if you open the door and then suddenly you are outside, or do you want to be walking through an air conditioned hallway to go to have breakfast?
Lee: I also found – and this is going to sound weird – but I found that the resort that you call motel style with the outside walkways, the sound proofing seems to be a little bit better than what they were in the deluxe resorts.
I had always heard stories about hearing toilets flush next door to you and everything. It was never really that bad. We were never disturbed by people in a moderate or value resort.
William: It’s been a little while, but I don’t remember any problems with the sound like that when I was in the deluxe resorts so in my case I was staying at the Wilderness Lodge. I have stayed at the Contemporary before and I have visited people in some of the other ones like over at the Polynesian. But I don’t remember hearing noises coming through the walls. But you know what? Your miles may vary. It may also depend on which room you are in and who is making a noise.
Lee: It depends on your neighbours at the time. It’s like anywhere you go, there is no way to control that. If it is a problem, go and speak to the front desk.
William: Another difference between the moderate resorts is again the beds change. You said there are double beds over at the value resorts. You get up to a queen bed in the moderate resorts.
Lee: Yes and then again, you are ruined.
Now look, I was on my own so a queen bed or a double bed for me, I could live with that and the kid was perfectly happy with a double bed. It was more than adequate.
As a couple for you and I on a double bed? No.
William: No, I’m too big for a double bed. I don’t even like a queen bed.
Lee And a queen bed as well – you get used to the space you have. We have a king and you get used to sleeping on what you are used to sleeping on.
William: Honestly, that was one of the major reasons why I stayed at the deluxe resorts. It was one of the only places I could find a king bed.
Lee: Oh all the resorts have a king bed option. There is a slight upgrade fee for it. But it’s just one bed in the room as opposed to the two doubles or queens. They do actually all have king beds in there.
William: That’s actually good to know, because I was thinking when I looked on the website I saw king bed there and thought I could stay at this hotel.
What are the differences at the moderate resorts? What is the price difference really between a value resort and a moderate resort? And I know that is going to vary from season to season.
Lee: It does. It also varies resort to resort. The moderate resorts go through seasons and weekdays and weekend stays – there are different charges for those as well through the seasons. Your moderate resorts are more consistently priced when you compare from one resort to the other. There are differences for whatever reason. It’s probably supply and demand. And you will see that.
Also assuming that you are comparing your room category with something equivalent at a different resort. The deluxe resorts, the prices vary quite greatly.
For example Bay Lake Tower cost a lot more when we stayed there than what we were quoted for a similar type room at Animal Kingdom Lodge, which was relatively inexpensive by comparison. We didn’t want to stay there. We wanted Bay Lake Tower. But then Bay Lake Tower also came in cheaper than the Polynesian at the time for a similar type of room and they were quite vast price differences. I think Animal Kingdom to Bay Lake Tower was over $100 per night difference for the nights that we had. So there are going to be more variations there depending on your deluxe resorts.
William: Well I know the deluxe resorts can get a lot more expensive because I was spending over $350 a night during Christmas season and that was maybe ten years ago. I spent a good chunk of change for that room. And honestly, the size of the room and I guess the amenities inside of it and just the way the construction was didn’t blow me away for the amount of money that I was paying for it.
Lee: No, but you’re not just paying for the room at Disney. They kind of know that somewhere, subconsciously, you know that.
William: Let me back up a step. So when we talk about deluxe resorts, they are going to be the Magic Kingdom resorts that are on the monorail loop. So you’ve got the Contemporary, the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian. You also have the Wilderness Lodge; you’ve got the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Boardwalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Old Key West and Saratoga Springs.
Lee: Which is a DVC resort, but you can reserve it without DVC points.
William: Yeah, DVC is Disney Vacation Club, if you aren’t familiar with that. And we are not really going to touch on that goo much because that’s a whole other ...
Lee: That’s a separate topic. There is just too much to discuss.
William: So we are talking about resorts that you can just come in, look and not worry about trading points or buying into a vacation club. But with the deluxe resorts, I guess what I’ve noticed is you are paying a lot more. Some of that is for – I don’t know if you’re buying the prestige of being someplace, if you are buying the proximity of being that close to the Magic Kingdom, but as far as room size and amenities, you are really not getting much more than a moderate resort.
Lee: You get more space in your room. I’ll give you a comparison from French Quarter. Well, we stayed there year after year for a number of years because it just worked for us. And Bay Lake Tower was wonderful. It cost us ... well, it’s priced significantly more. You can go at any given time and compare it from the French Quarter to Bay Lake Tower for a studio room.
The difference was that despite that we paid extra money, I think for Tové and I we went from French Quarter where we had a queen bed each to ourselves to one where there was a queen bed for me (I wasn’t sleeping on the sleeper couch) and then you had a double pull-out sleeper couch. There was a little kitchenette. Also we had the dining plan. We paid for the dining plan as well and to fill up our mugs we had to walk over to the Contemporary to do it.
It depends. If that is not a big thing to you and you’re not using the dining plan; if you are bringing your own things, those kinds of things are not going to be issues. For us it was a deal breaker. I thought it was beautiful. We loved Bay Lake Tower. Would we go and stay there again? If it were free, yeah. I wouldn’t pay money to stay there. I would rather pay the money and stay at the Contemporary. I found that being a little bit offset was inconvenient.
William: These are just the little things that we have discovered when we were looking at resorts. If I had to do it over again, I probably would have stayed at a moderate resort instead of the deluxe resort.
Now don’t get me wrong. I really enjoyed the Wilderness Lodge. I think it is a beautiful resort. I was happy with the choices that I had in there. I had my Christmas dinner at Artist Pointe. I had a lovely meal up there, but I didn’t want to eat at that kind of price point every day so I was down in the other restaurants in there – Whispering Canyon Cafe, Roaring Fork – had a great time and people were very friendly.
But my thought was the room itself didn’t really live up to my expectations and that is kind of based on the fact that I used to spend my Christmas vacations going to Las Vegas and at Christmas Las Vegas is dead. So they really drop the room rates down and one year I thought there has got to be rooms just as nice in Orlando as there are in Las Vegas. For some reason I decided I’ll just go do a Disney vacation.
I got out there and the bed was not as comfortable as what I had experienced at a number of the Las Vegas resorts. Even when I went in the bathroom, the bathroom counter wasn’t marble like I would have at some of the other ones. It’s not like I’ve got to have a marble counter, but it was kind of like a plastic ...
Lee: Vinyl finish.
William: Yeah, you know how that Disney construction is. It looks like it’s something and you touch it and it’s really not. And I though alright, so this is just basically cheap construction and a mediocre bed. For twice the price of what I was spending in Las Vegas.
Lee: Yeah, see I didn’t really care about the construction. It was clean, it was neat.
William: I don’t think most people do.
Lee: Honestly, as I say, I think the thing with Disney is that you are not paying just for the room. You are paying for the experience and the Disney experience is different.
They are assuming if you are staying at a Disney hotel – which is not actually true for everybody – that you are spending time in the parks and you have a whole host of benefits that go along with that.
William: Well, that’s something else to bring up. Not every hotel that is on Disney property is a Disney resort.
Lee: Well no. You’ve got Swan and Dolphin and you’ve got ...
William: There’s the Four Seasons.
Lee: There’s another one as well.
William: Bonnet Creek. That’s the one.
Lee: But your Disney hotels do come with perks as well. Now for us, something that would have maybe caused us to look elsewhere was not actually the transportation, but if they had taken away the Magic Hours. The Magic Hours were a major thing for us. Now they used to give us three hours at night and an hour in the morning, and I think there were more of them. They have definitely trimmed them. But Magic Hours were an advantage.
William: You’re right. If you are going to have Magic Hours, free transportation thrown in. I shouldn’t call it free, but it’s included within your paying for the resort and your park ticket.
Lee: It’s a lot more convenient than driving. I look at us when we drive in now, it would be so much easier and I don’t think it saves us any time driving versus if we had used the transportation. There are always going to be exceptions.
William: No, I think it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other. You are going to get there, you still have to pretty much go over the same roads to get there. If you drive yourself and you are out in the parking lot you’ve got to make your way in. Whereas the bus pulls right in up to the gate almost.
Lee: The other thing is if you are planning your vacation around the Disney parks and you are spending most of your waking hours there, it is expensive to eat inside Disney World. Disney has regular offers and deals on the dining plan, free dining and they have other room discounts which might actually work out a better deal. You cannot purchase the dining plan if you are not staying at a Disney resort. So that is just something and a commonly asked question. Anybody who has done Disney knows this already. To get the dining plan you need to stay at a Disney resort. It may or may not work for you, but I’m not going to discuss it now because again, that is a whole other discussion.
It’s one of the perks and I say that very cautiously, because it’s not a perk that is free, but it is something that you may need. And one more thing is FastPass Plus. You get a bonus thirty days to get first choice of the FastPass reservations. So if you are wanting to ride the Mine Train and you are not staying on site it’s a little bit of pixie dust that’s needed to get you a FastPass slot.
William: That’s a good point to bring up. With all the options of value, moderate and deluxe, you get built in transportation around the Disney parks and resorts and we’ve talked before, you can’t necessarily go from resort to resort. You’ve got to go to a park or to Disney Springs. But you still have got transportation options.
You’ve got Extra Magic Hours and depending on the park and what it is you are going to do the morning or the evening. And then you are eligible for the dining plan, which some people want, some people don’t, but at least that is the only way to get it – if you’re staying there.
Lee: That’s right. And it’s the same with any of these other perks. Some people do not want to use the Disney transportation. Some people do not want to use the dining plan and none of these things are necessarily the best option for everyone and for everyone’s family. Again, it is very difficult to say this is the only way to do it or the best way to do it, because your miles are going to vary depending on what you need and what you want.
William: One other thing to keep in mind is if you want to make purchases off of your Magic Band, which is also your room key, you can only do that if you are staying in a resort. This is associated with your credit card.
We’ve got Magic Bands, but we are not staying at a resort so we can’t purchase anything on that. I’ve either got to reach into my pocket for my wallet or one thing I do like about Disney is I can use my Apple Pay. That’s kind of the same thing to me as using the Magic Band.
Lee: You like your Apple Pay.
William: I like my Apple Pay. I would actually hook that up to my Magic Band if they would let me, but they won’t.
OK, there is one other way of staying out there without getting into the Disney Vacation Club and that is camping at the Fort Wilderness Campground.
Lee: Yeah, I’ll leave that to you. I do not camp.
William: I did all my camping when I was in the Boy Scouts. I have never been to Fort Wilderness. It’s an option and that’s all I’m going to say about it because I haven’t been there. I can’t really tell you anything in detail about it, but if you like camping you can go there. I’m going to tell you though, Florida, most of the summer season if you’re coming then, I would not camp outdoors in the summer season again. I’ve done it when I was a kid and when you’re a kid you can kind of run around.
Lee: Kids don’t care!
William: Kids don’t care.
Lee: Actually some people are just outdoors people and they have fun. I mean I know I have friends like that and they just don’t understand why I don’t get it.
William: Look, it’s Florida during the summer. It’s hot, it’s humid, you’re going to be sweating and you’re just really going to be praying for an air conditioner or even a fan for a good breeze. That’s why we have resort hotels!
William: You know, they make it a lot of fun at the Fort Wilderness Campground. I watched some of the videos on YouTube of people out there having a really good time, because they’ve got some entertainment, they’ve got the campfire stuff. But you know what? They’ve got campfires at the resort hotels too.
If you go to the Wilderness Lodge, or even if you go to French Quarter.
Lee: Well, we did one that night.
William: Yeah, they were making S’mores out there on the fire pit. Anyways, camping is an option. It’s not one that we are really going to recommend and I’m also not going to dismiss it because it’s a matter of your taste. There is a range of options and camping is one of them.
Alright, so here’s the big part. You know what the options are. Now how do you decide which one is right for your family? Obviously I think one of the first criteria that is going to come up is budget.
Lee: Yeah, it is going to be budget and that is going to vary, depending on the time of the year. It also varies on the size of your family. How many beds do you need? How many rooms do you need? Does the resort that you are eyeing out accommodate you in that regard?
Now, All Star Music does do family rooms, Art of Animation does family rooms, so you can stay at a value hotel and have more than four people and a baby.
William: What are you getting in a family room?
Lee: You’re getting two rooms, two bathrooms, there is a little kitchen area – it’s not a full kitchen, but it gives you enough space to prepare food – you can kind of get by there for your vacation.
You’ve got your double bed and then you’ve got some pull-out sofas.
William: How many bathrooms do you get?
Lee: You get two.
William: See that’s important, especially if you’ve got a family of let’s say four or even more. Because taking turns going to the bathroom to get ready is just going to slow you down when you really just want to get out, have breakfast and go to the park or something.
But the other part of it is not just the size of the family. If you are a family it’s going to be maybe the age of your children. If you’ve got a couple of toddlers, they don’t care. They’ll sleep upside down hanging from the ceiling.
Lee: Yes, thrown them in the same bed together.
William: Let’s say that you’ve got a boy that’s 12 and a daughter who’s 14, then suddenly everything gets complicated.
Lee: Yeah you don’t really want to put those two into a double bed together.
William: And you don’t want them sleeping in your bed.
Lee: Well, I don’t!
William: So the space that you need is really going to be a criteria item that you want to look at. Family rooms are nice and families can get along and they can also fight over the silliest little things.
Lee: It’s such a personal thing. And also now you get so many blended families. You know, a family where you’ve got a couple who have remarried, there might be kids from earlier on and it does, depending on the ages and the whole set up, it can be a little bit difficult or sometimes just plain inappropriate to be sleeping three feet away.
William: And the only reason we are bringing this up is just that there are different types of rooms at different types of resorts. So this is the kind of thing that you need to look for to choose what’s right for your family. So does it fit your budget? Do you have enough sleeping space? Do you have enough bathroom space? And that’s really all you are looking for out of this.
The kitchenettes I think are nice on vacation if you are going to be spending some time in your room, but for most people beyond keeping some cold beverages in there, I don’t think you are planning on cooking a meal.
Lee: It didn’t bother us at all.
William: I would say having a refrigerator where you can keep something cold, I don’t care about the kitchenette when I’m at the parks or the resorts.
Lee: I was not cooking on vacation.
William: Exactly. Alright, another thing that is really going to be a decision for you is the transportation and the proximity to the parks. Some of these resorts are much closer to different areas.
So for example one of the reasons you like French Quarter is because it is on the Sassagoula River and you could just take a launch to go to Disney Springs. Because you and Tové really love Disney Springs.
Lee: We did and that was something that was really important to us. It was almost a tradition on our arrival night with international flights. We used to come in sometime in the late afternoon or sometimes even later in the evening. It was one place that was open.
We didn’t want to burn a day’s park pass just for a few hours, but we were tired, we were hungry and excited. You’ve just got there and you want to feel like you started your vacation and Disney Springs was it. It was an easy, quick access on the boat without having to mess with the buses and we loved it.
William: And likewise, you may have a favorite park. So if you’re a Magic Kingdom freak and you really want to ride the monorail, those three resorts that are going around are important. So you’re looking at the Contemporary, the Polynesian or the Grand Floridian.
Of the three I think the Polynesian is probably the one that I would choose as my favorite, but it’s not a cheap place to stay.
Lee: No, it’s not. See I like the Contemporary. I love that you can walk to the Magic Kingdom.
William: Well we talked about this. If you want to stay at the Contemporary, I would skip the monorail and just walk that little path and in five to ten minutes, depending on your speed, you’ll be at the gate.
Lee: Yes and for example if you are staying in the Animal Kingdom area, that would include the All Star Resorts, Animal Kingdom Lodge and Coronado Springs. I love the theme of that resort. We probably would have picked that after our first stay at French Quarter if we hadn’t loved the French Quarter so much, but the only thing that put me off was having stayed in an Animal Kingdom area resort, because we didn’t spend as much time at the Animal Kingdom, it just felt like it was so far to go everywhere else.
William: It’s further out, so the plus side is if you get one of those rooms that is looking over the Savannah that they have, there are giraffe and other animals that are out there; you are close up to the action in a way. Even the food is going to be a bit more exotic because like Boma, the restaurant over there, has some flavours of Africa that you are probably not going to find at any of the other resorts.
If you want to go to Magic Kingdom, you’ve probably got a twenty minute bus ride, at least.
Lee: Pretty much, yeah. That’s what we found. Even Disney Springs, we were surprised at how long it took to get from that area to Disney Springs.
William: So think about which park or Disney Springs or even maybe the water parks – depending on what you really want to do – where are you going to spend the bulk of your time? How far is your resort? So how much travel time are you going to have going back and forth?
Lee: And again, it’s not really a big deal. Five or ten minutes this way or that, but if you are staying there for a number of days or you are pressed for time, there could be a number of reasons why you need to consider this. But just keep it in mind when you make your decision.
William: Another thing that really is going to matter to some people is just the theme of the resort. And that was why I stayed at Wilderness Lodge. I like the theme. I really enjoy it. I walked in there and it had this wonderful grand interior lobby. I liked the fact that in the restaurant there were people yelling at each other (Whispering Canyon Cafe).
Lee: That’s why Tové, she was so taken with the picture of that resort for our first trip. There were little things that she had seen and she loved it. It was loud theming, and for a six year old that was absolutely breathtaking. She wouldn’t have been impressed with a place like the Polynesian or Contemporary at the time.
William: No, but the other thing I liked was I was going on a Christmas trip and they have an enormous Christmas tree inside of Wilderness Lodge. They also have the same size tree at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. But I just loved the fireplaces, the rocking chairs, the whole theme of the place just was right up my alley! And I loved it and had a wonderful time there.
My only complaint with Wilderness Lodge was really just the room itself. It wasn’t that it was uncomfortable. It just didn’t live up to what I expected for the price. But the rest of the resort I thought was great. I loved it.
Lee: Yeah, I think it’s beautiful. Like you say, especially at Christmas time because we were there in December. Was it December this past year?
Lee: But the Christmas theme and decorations and everything were just beautiful.
William: That’s one of the little things. Every year in Christmas season, I like to go out and visit the Wilderness Lodge, just because of that tree. I love the fireplaces and it’s a silly thing, but I just want to go there and hang out and relax for a little while.
Lee: Yeah, we really enjoyed it.
William: It’s an hour drive for me to get there!
Lee: Well it is right now with the traffic and the work on I-4.
William: Another thing we want to talk about is the pools and resort amenities. You mentioned in the value resorts that there is no slide.
William: But if you go to some of the deluxe resorts and some of the other ones, they have got some pretty complicated water parks almost, inside of the resort.
Lee: They’ve got some beautiful ones. I know that everyone used to love the slides at the Polynesian. I think the Beach Club has got a very popular pool. It’s absolutely beautiful. Many people, especially people with kids, book their resort with the pool at the forefront of their mind. I wouldn’t say it’s the driving reason, but it can be a deal maker or deal breaker in the consideration because pools are important for little kids.
William: Well, pools are important. Some people want to have a view, they want to look out of the room, they want to look over water or they want to look over the woods or something of that nature.
Lee: Yeah, I’m just going to say if you are booking something that says water view and you are paying extra for any Disney hotel, be very careful. Because a statue peeing into a water fountain counts as a water view.
William: Yeah, make sure you ask which room they are going to put you in so you can see on a map.
Lee: They are not going to tell you, but when you get to check-in if you do desk check-in, you might want to point out very specifically what you want to see.
William: There was one other thing that we wanted to bring up and that is really the fact that there are times when there are going to be refurbishments going on at resorts. That is a good thing because you want the resorts to be kept up to date and you want them to be refurbished and fresh and modern, but if that refurbishment is happening during the time that you are going to be staying there, it may have an impact upon you that you want to know about before you get there.
Lee: It can and something like the pool being closed for your entire stay, I would say that is going to have a major impact on you. Likewise with the food court. Now these things happen at a number of resorts; they are still happening at certain resorts where things need to be done. I think the big challenge is you are able to make your reservation a lot of the time, way in advance of when these refurbishments are announced.
Although they will be very good to you if you want to try and change something, it’s subject to availability. So if you book in good faith a year out and you find out three months before you check in that they are going there is no food court or there is no pool for your stay ...
William: Yeah and then you are stuck having to go to another resort just to have breakfast.
Lee: That is inconvenient, to say the least. I mean, we’ve been at a resort when at French Quarter there was a big refurbishment outside of the food court. It didn’t bother us, but having stayed there for a number of years prior to that, it was a little place that we would traditionally like to sit and chill out, hang out and socialize with people and it was suddenly gone. And we felt it, I don’t want to say it took something away, but we noticed and we missed the way things were.
William: And there are refurbishments happening at Walt Disney World all the time. We were out there last weekend, you were out there when I dropped you off last Wednesday and also a week before that. You are going to find that there are times that the road just leading into the park, depending which way you come in, is under construction. There may be walls up inside of a park because they are doing refurbishment or reconstruction. There is a crane that shows up over Cinderella’s castle.
Lee: Yes, the crane is back.
William: The crane is back and it has its own Twitter handle called @cranemagic
William: So if you want to follow the goings on of the Cinderella castle crane, go to Twitter @cranemagic.
William: There are cranes over at Animal Kingdom. We went in there and found two cranes. We named them Sal and Morris.
Lee: Yeah, why not? They need names.
William: Exactly. You’ve got to know who you are talking about. I wonder if they need Twitter handles pretty soon.
Lee: They are Disney characters.
William: Exactly. So refurbishment is a part of life and you need to ask at the time that you are making your reservation, are there refurbishment plans coming up for the time that you are going to be there and then you can decide, does that have an impact upon whether you want to stay at a certain resort or not?
Lee: Yeah, the challenge is that often the cast members taking the reservations don’t know at the time. They genuinely don’t know these things or sometimes they are announced later ...
William: Can you get them to make a note that if a refurbishment comes up you have the right to change resorts?
Lee: They’ll let you change resorts, but as I say, subject to availability. I mean, if you want to change from French Quarter to Riverside and Riverside is full, what are they supposed to do? It’s really difficult. You can’t really lay blame anywhere and it’s one of those things, but it can be very frustrating. Also keep in mind that many people save up for a long time and for some people Disney genuinely is a once in a lifetime experience. When you know that this might be your only chance to go, it is worth getting upset over. For people like us, we are very fortunate. We’ve managed to make many visits and long stays and I had never forgotten that it is something that really is a privilege in this day and age. Disney is not a cheap vacation. You have to remember that for the person who has planned for years and saved for years for this and this is their one off trip, or even a special family trip and they may never be with the family as it is at this point again, this stuff is really important. Everything matters.
William: And you see groups like that all the time. There will be large groups of people who are on a tour sticking together and this is their once in a lifetime vacation and that is really why we wanted to give you this little list of things to consider.
There is no recommendation we can make that is specific to every group. We can’t say Contemporary is going to be the best ... it depends upon your needs and your criteria.
But we just wanted to have this little podcast to give you some of the things that you want to consider based upon your family, your budget, your preferences; and ask if there are going to be refurbishments or any activity going on or maybe other special events. You may stay someplace and there is a big thing going on at ESPN Wide World of Sports that you would rather not be around such a crowd.
But you know, let’s face it, if you are going to Walt Disney World there is going to be a crowd!
Lee: There is going to be a crowd, yes.
William: But just plan ahead. Think about the things that are going to impact you and hopefully that will help you have a wonderful vacation!
Thank you very much for joining us on the Orlando Local Show. We really appreciate you. We would love to engage with you and just show you a little bit of what we get from time to time that maybe isn’t on the podcast or on our blog at orlandolocal.com so you can keep up with us. On Twitter we are @orlandolocal. On Instagram we are at orlando_local and on Facebook it is Orlando Local
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