Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Disney World: Planning your Trip on a Budget (Part 2), Resorts

Today we're going to talk about the prices and deals that can be found with Disney resorts, as well as some tips on what resort to choose.

For our upcoming trip, we will be spending six nights staying on property at Disney.  We will spend five nights at Port Orleans French Quarter (a moderate resort) and one night at Art of Animation (a value resort).  The original plan was to just spend five nights at French Quarter.  But then as I was booking plane tickets, I found it was cheaper to stay an extra night and fly back home on a Monday instead of Sunday.  So I added an extra night to our trip!  It was cheaper, so what choice did I have really??

There are about fifty million hotels in the Orlando area, so you can definitely take a Disney trip without staying on property at Disney.  I'm a big fan of using Priceline and Hotwire to save money on hotels.  If you do your research (that's a whole post for another day!), you should be able to get a nice 3-4 star hotel for $50-$70 per night in the Orlando area.  Most hotels close to Disney will offer free Disney shuttles,  so you don't have to pay for parking at the parks every day. (It is $15 per day to park at Disney).

However, I think there are a lot of advantages to staying on property.  If you are flying, Disney's Magical Express will pick you up and take you to the airport for free, so there is no need to rent a car.  Disney knows what they are doing when it comes to cleanliness and quality, and I think all of the resorts at Disney are good quality, even the cheapest ones.  The same thing can not be said for every hotel in Orlando.  Plus Disney just knows how to make your stay fun and they are pros at creating fun environments for families.

Disney resort prices change depending on the time of year, so it's hard to give an exact price.  Below are my estimates using this site as a guide.  These numbers are all before tax, so don't forget to calculate tax which is usually around 12%!

Value Resorts
(Full list of Disney Value Resorts)

We have only stayed on property at Disney once, and we stayed at the Pop Century.  The value resorts are the cheapest option, around $100 dollars per night during a slower season (with prices jumping up to $150-$180 at busier times).  The value resorts are all themed in an over the top way, making them a lot of fun for kids, and perhaps just a bit on the tacky side for some adults.  We did have a good experience at Pop Century.  Audrey was three, and she just loved all the oversized theming throughout the resort.  Our room wasn't anything special, but it was clean and worked perfectly fine for the short amount of time we spent in the room.  We didn't try out the pool, but it looked nice.

The only thing I didn't like about Pop Century was the food court.  It was insanely crowded and crazy at all times of day, and we were there in February during a slow season!  I can't even imagine what it would be like in the busier months.  All of the value resorts have a food court as the only option for eating at the resort.  So if you don't like dining in big crowds with lots of kids, a value resort may not be the best option.

Disney often offers room discounts (you can see what specials Disney is currently offering here), and for value resorts you can typically get 15-20% off your stay with these offers.  So you could potentially get a room here for as cheap as $85 per night or maybe even less depending on what time of year you are travelling.

Art of Animation is Disney's newest resort, and I am super excited about checking it out on our trip.  The standard rooms are Little Mermaid themed, and Audrey is so excited!  Because it is so new and popular, you usually cannot find a discount for the Little Mermaid rooms.  The rate for when we are travelling is $118 per night, and that is full price.  Art of Animation also offers family suites themed to different movies (Cars, Nemo, Lion King).  These would be great for larger families who want to stay together, and they are $280+ per night.  But you CAN usually get a 15-20% off deal with the suites.

Moderate Resorts
(Full list of moderate resorts here)

We could have saved about $400 if we would have chosen to stay at a value resort.  However, due to the free dining deal that we booked (more on that in the next post), I decided a moderate resort was the best choice for us.  We chose Port Orleans French Quarter at a rate of $182 per night.  That is full price for the time of year we are travelling.  Prices at moderate resorts seem to vary from $180-$280 per night depending on the resort and the season.

Port Orleans French Quarter is a smaller resort, which is one of the main reasons I picked it.  It only has a food court option to eat, however it is right next door to Port Orleans Riverside which has a bigger food court and a sit down restaurant.  We will have the option of using the restaurants and pools at both Port Orleans resorts.  There is also a boat that goes to Downtown Disney.  I have only read good reviews for both Port Orleans resorts, so I am super excited to check them out!

My sister in law, who has taken many trips with her family to Disney, says that Coronado Springs is her favorite of the moderate resorts.

Most moderate resorts have both a food court and a sit down restaurant.  They also have hot tubs, which cannot be found at the value resorts.  The moderate resorts are all themed, but they are not quite as extremely decorated as the value resorts.  For me, I like that better, but value resorts probably have more kid appeal.

Room discount offers are usually 20-25% off for the moderate resorts.  So you could probably find a room here for around $150 per night during a slower season.

Deluxe Resorts
(Full list of Deluxe Resorts here)

The Deluxe resorts all look really nice.  But they are so far out of my budget, that I have not spent as much time researching them.  Prices vary greatly, but they are in the range from $300 to $650 per night and sometimes even more than that!!

Disney does offer the greatest discounts for deluxe resorts, usually 30%.  So, if all the stars aligned, that could maybe bring your price down to a more realistic $210 per night on a cheaper deluxe resort during a slow season (but that seems a little unrealistic to me).  I think Ft. Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge are two of the cheaper deluxe options.

One option for making a deluxe resort more affordable is to rent Disney Vacation Club points.  Vacation club members can sell their points to others, allowing non-vacation club members to stay in their place.  I have heard good things about this reputable site:  David's Vacation Club Rentals.  When I plug in our September dates here, I can find a value room at Animal Kingdom for just $142 per night, as opposed to the $378 per night quoted on the Disney website.  There are pros and cons to booking your trip this way, but you can definitely get a good deal on some really nice resorts.  I seriously considered this option for our trip, but decided to go with the free dining offer through Disney instead.

In my opinion, you really can't go wrong with any Disney resort, but there are definitely some pros and cons to each resort level.  When we get back from our trip in September, I will be able to give a more detailed review of Port Orleans French Quarter and Art of Animation.  So stay tuned for that this fall!

If you want more details about the resorts, this website has pictures, reviews and information about each resort at Disney World.

Next up:  Planning your Trip on a Budget (Part 3), Dining


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