June 2, 2011

Tip of the day—Disney Resorts

One of the first decisions you’ll need to make when planning your trip to Disney is whether or not to stay on site.  The only Disney park that I have been to is Disneyworld in Orlando, and the information below is based on my experiences there.  Resorts and off-site bookings might be completely different at other park locations.

The pros and cons of staying at a Disney Resort:

Pros--

  • Disney Resorts are really nice.  We stayed at one when I first went to Disney, and it was magical.  I still remember how the butters were shaped like Mickey at the breakfast tables and how the soaps had Mickey on them.  All of those little special touches make for a special experience, and that is the main reason that I wanted to have our daughter’s first trip be on site.  Does this mean that you won’t encounter problems?  NO!  We had quite a few problems with Coronado Springs housekeeping and called the front desk more than once with issues.  Everywhere you stay will have something that doesn’t work out, and I guess it all boils down to what you want to get out of the overall experience.
  • The pools are fantastic.  Each of the resorts that we visited had amazing pools.  While we only swam in the one at our hotel, we saw pools at three other resorts, and their slides and water features were really neat. 
  • You’ll have access to the Disney Dining Plan.  I’ll spend another post talking about the virtues of the Disney Dining Plan, and you’ll see what a plus that it really is.  We definitely got bang for our buck through this plan!
  • You’ll have access to extended hours at the parks.  If you have older children, this can be a big plus.  We talked to people who said that they were at the park at midnight riding their favorite rides almost without interruption because there were so few people there.
  • You’ll have access to Disney transportation.  We didn’t have to fight traffic, worry about where to park, or any of the other problems that you face when driving. (Driving into Disney really isn’t that terrible, though.  I’ve done it before, and they have shuttles from your parking place to the front gate.  There is a parking fee for those not staying on site.)  Riding the monorail is fun for kids.  Taking a boat ride at sunset is deliciously relaxing.  If you are flying you are picked up at the airport and dropped off there for free.
  • You won’t have to pick up after yourself…as much.  If you stay at a condo, you are the one making the beds, cooking your food, doing your dishes, and straightening up.  Yes, you are paying for the service through your resort cost and tips, but it is really nice when you’ve been walking all day to not have to worry about cleaning.  If you stay at another hotel off site, though, this point is moot.
  • You don’t have to schlep your souvenirs all over the parks.  This is a feature that I first learned about through Couponing to Disney, and while we didn’t use it, I could see where it would be a big bonus.  If you are staying at a Disney resort and buy something at one of the shops at the parks or another resort, you can have the store send your packages to your resort for you to pick up there for free.  We told a lot of other shoppers about this feature, and they were thrilled. 

Cons--

  • The cost is the biggest con that keeps most people from staying at resorts.  As a frugal person, it was hard for me to justify spending the extra money to stay on site.  The benefits outweighed the costs for this trip.  When we go another time, though, we’ll most likely rent a condo or stay at another hotel to reduce the expense.
  • If you have a larger family or are going with friends or extended family, it makes more sense to rent a condo.  They are plentiful in Orlando and very easy to find online.  We have friends who are at Disney right now, and they went with 3 other families.  They have 3 children in their family.  By renting a condo, their out of pocket expense for each day at the condo was only $40.  Splitting the meal duties and cost of the house as well as childcare made the condo the best option for them.  Note that there are a few options within the Disney resort system for you to rent homes, cabins, or camp in your own RV. 
  • If you stay on site, you’ll be more likely to stay on site.  There are a lot of other things you can do in Orlando—other theme parks, really neat stores, and the beach is only about an hour or so away.  If you stay at a resort, you’ll be more likely to miss out on those other opportunities. 
  • If you have hotel points that will make part of your stay free, staying at another hotel chain makes the most sense.  My cousin works in the insurance industry and has as many points for free hotel rooms that he could ever want (not that he really wants to stay at hotels since most of his work is spent staying in them).  For someone like him, his cost for Disney could be dramatically reduced by staying at another site. 
  • If you have food allergies, you can eat what you want.  My sister and I talked about this aspect, and she was wondering what she would eat on the Disney Dining Plan or at the resort restaurants.  I found many options for people with food allergies on menus, especially gluten allergies.  Her allergy picture is more complicated, though, and she said that if she were to go, she would want to stay somewhere that she could cook for herself.

If you stay at a resort or stay off site, you still have some choice in what you pay.  Disney has 3 price ranges for their resorts, and we chose to stay in the moderate option.  However, I spoke to a few people who stayed at Pop Century and said that they could never imagine doing it differently.  After all, you really aren’t in your room for that much time during the day!  As with anything on this blog, I recommend that you do what works for you.  Weigh the pros and cons for your family.  Consider factors that I might not have included here by looking on the AllEars.net site that I mentioned earlier in the week. 

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