Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Disney World Hotel Tips

I finally had a chance to sit down and sort out all the tips and ideas floating through my head about Disney World.  I decided to start with hotel information since that is one of larger expenses on the trip.  Disney World has 3 categories of hotels (value, moderate, and deluxe) on their property, a campground, and then the military hotel.  There is also the option of staying off property.  I have never stayed at the deluxe level (or the deluxe villas) so I can't give my opinion on those.  I would love to stay at the Polynesian one day, but right now it is not  in the budget.

All Disney resorts offer Disney transportation to and from the airport and around the parks, extra magic hours, pools, and free parking at the hotel and the parks.  Let's get started!

Value Resorts
The value resorts are the no frills hotels.  The rooms are on the smaller side.  I have stayed in them with a friend and it was plenty of room.  I also stayed in one with the husband and kid.  It felt a bit smaller after dragging all the baby stuff with me, but it was still plenty of room.  A family of four would be comfortable in these rooms.  One of the value resorts also has family suites which can sleep 6.  The new Art of Animation that is opening this summer will also have family suites.  The rooms do not include a microwave or refrigerator.  It is also a single sink vanity.  Like with all Disney resorts, you have access to Disney transportation, which from these hotels are the buses.  They will take you to all the parks, water parks, and Downtown Disney.  There are quick service food courts in the resorts which offer a variety of food options.  The resorts do have fun themes that are reflected in the decor and pools.  However, the pools are very basic (no slides), but there are splash parks for little ones.  Right now military can get a 30% discount on all value resort rooms.  Florida residents can also receive a discount.  You also have access to the Extra Magic Hours that either allow you to enter the designated park an hour early, or stay later in the evening.  You can check the calendar on their website to see which parks have magic hours on which days when planning.  I have stayed at the All Star Movie and Pop Century resorts.  I thought they were great.

          Pros: inexpensive, transportation, many pools, food courts, free parking
          Cons: on the smaller side, no microwave or refrigerator, no balcony

Moderate Resorts
The moderate resorts are the mid level resorts in Disney's repertoire.  They are larger than the value resorts, and are also themed.  I have stayed in these with just my husband and there was plenty of room.  I have also stayed in a room with 4 adults, a one year old, and an eight month old (don't tell Disney!)  In this instance it was crowded, and I would not do it again.  In all fairness, the rooms aren't designed for that many adults.  If you had two adults and two or three young kids, the room would be just fine.  The room does come with a refrigerator which is very nice to have.  It is also a double sink vanity.  There are pools and splash parks as well.  The pools have slides for these resorts plus a hot tub.  Also with the moderate resorts, you have quick service food courts as well as table service restaurants.  As with all Disney resorts, you have access to Disney transportation to and from the airport, and around the parks, and Extra Magic Hours.  Right now there is a 35% military discount for these resorts.  Florida residents can also receive a discount.  I have stayed at Caribbean Beach Resort and Coronado Springs.  I loved both of them.  The campground and the cabins at Fort Wilderness are considered moderate resorts.  I have some pictures of the pool, but no good ones of the rooms.

          Pros: larger rooms, pools with slides, refrigerator in room, food courts and restaurants, free parking
          Cons: no microwave, no balcony

The splash pool for toddlers at Caribbean Beach
Pool at Caribbean Beach

Shades of Green
Shades of Green is open to current, retired, and veteran military as well as their family.  DOD civilian is also eligible to stay here.  Shades of Green is probably comparable to a moderate level resort.  The rooms are large (I would say they are larger than the moderate rooms), and can sleep up to 6.  They also include a refrigerator, and a double sink vanity.  Although when I stayed there was a microwave in the room.  It is not listed as an amenity, but I guess some rooms could have them. You either get a balcony or a patio with every room.  That is a bonus.  The room rates are based on rank so they aren't always the cheapest option.  When my husband was an E-5, the rate was competitive.  As an O-1, the value resorts are cheaper.  You still have access to the Extra Magic Hours.  However, Disney's transportation doesn't go to the hotel. You use their transportation to and from the parks.  They don't run as often as Disney's so sometimes it is not as convenient.  You now have to pay to park at the hotel, and if you drive to the parks instead of using their transportation, you will have to pay to park at the parks.  They do have a few basic pools, and a hot tub.  There is also an exchange to pick up necessities.  They do not have a food court, but they do have a few restaurants and a cafe with breakfast and lunch on the go which is located right by the bus stop.  I have stayed here a few times, at this point I prefer the other resorts over Shades of Green.  However, it is still a great hotel option.

          Pros: large rooms with balconies, refrigerator, possibly a microwave, pools and hot tub,
          Cons: pay for parking at hotel and parks, transportation is slower, not as many food options

Off Property
There are a ton of off property options around Disney World.  Some are great and some are sketchy.  The Celebration area right outside the property is a pretty nice area.  I have only stayed off property once and it was 8 years ago.  Off property gives you a bit more flexibility in price and amenities.  I found the benefit of off property was finding one with a continental breakfast which helps with food costs.  The con is you have to pay to park if you choose to drive yourself.  Although many hotels offer shuttles to Disney World.

          Pros: can find cheaper rates, more flexibility with amenities, free breakfast, shuttles to Disney World
          Cons: pay to park if you choose to drive your own car, no Extra Magic Hours

Deluxe Resort
I have never stayed in one, but I can tell you what I know.  They are nice, and they are pricey.  Some are located on the monorail which makes getting to Epcot and Magic Kingdom a piece of cake.  They have everything that other resorts do, but on a grander scale. The military discount at this level is 40%.  There is also a Florida resident discount.

          Pros: large rooms, many amenities, some located on monorail, balconies, refrigerators, microwaves        on request, transportation, pools with slides, food courts and restaurants, Extra Magic Hours
          Cons: the only one I can think of is the price

Those are some of your options for lodging for your Disney vacation.  It all depends on what you are looking for in your vacation.  I personally love staying at the Disney resorts and being immersed in all things Disney.  From some resorts, you can even see firework shows.  If you need some non Disney time, Shades of Green or off property are probably your better choice.  If you like being surrounded, then a Disney resort is probably what you would like.  Also remember, it depends on the time of year.  September to early December are pretty slow (minus Thanksgiving), January, then April (except Easter) to late May/early June are pretty slow as well so the prices aren't as bad as summer or holidays.  The hotels at Disney offer more than what I have mentioned.  Some are at a price while some are free.

I hope that helps some of you who are thinking of visiting Disney World.  Stay tuned for more tips in the coming week!

1 comment:

  1. This post was EXTREMELY helpful !! My husband and I are trying to go there and all your advice was so helpful !


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