After one stay at Disney World’s Saratoga Springs, I firmly advised folks to skip expensive Disney World hotels in favor of off-site options. However, after 2 more stays on property, I need to amend and clarify my recommendations. Now that I’ve discovered fully what Disney properties have to offer I realize the answer isn’t black or white. With that in mind, I’ve create an on or off-site checklist to help you figure out which is best for you:
- If you have more five or more in your family, Off Site is probably still the way to go. Few standard rooms on Disney property sleep 5 so you’re in for at least a family suite or possibly even 2 rooms. Offsite, you are tripping over options to use points or can get a large condo or house affordably. For instance, reader Dan let me know that the Holiday Inn Club Vacations Orlando points rooms are 2 bedroom suites sleeping 8.
- After staying in all three categories I can’t recommend a Deluxe Resort if you’re also visiting the parks. The room sizes between Deluxe and Moderate are negligible and the price is double or more. I know some, like Animal Kingdom, have truly unique settings. However, you can easily access those settings with a restaurant reservation or even by just visiting the public areas. After spending all day in the parks, are you really going to use those amenities SO much a moderate won’t do? I can MAYBE see booking a deluxe hotel just for the experience and treating it like its own little island…but still wouldn’t book it myself.
- I also can’t recommend a Value Resort. This one surprises me. I booked All-Star Movies at a rock bottom $70/night after using my Orbitz coupon codes. At that rate, I didn’t expect much and was pleasantly surprised by the all-in All-Star theming. The Deal Kids and I had fun there, but the rooms are SMALL for even our family of 3. The pool also is “just a pool”…albeit with a Fantasia Statue. The other issue with our stay was the incessant noise of tour groups (think…teenagers). I’ve taken a look at other reviews and the noise and crowds seem a constant issue. If your budget is limited, that $70/night will get you SO much more off-site.
- The Sweet Spot is the middle. We LOVED our stay at Port Orleans Riverside and it was only $40 more than All-Star using a “bounce back deal” (more on those later). The resort is fully themed including an island of a main pool featuring a waterslide and many other “quiet pools” near each building to get your swim on. Our room in Alligator Bayou was a good 30% larger than the All-Stars and featured a pull-down bed that doubled as a bench during the day. Lots of on-site activities kept us entertained: we especially enjoyed the Surrey Bike Rental. We also got great use out of the ferry system, which leads me to my next bullet…
- Don’t book on site because you want Disney Transportation. Rent a car. Using AutoSlash our full sized rental came to $111 a week. You get free parking as a Disney Resort Guest. Use it instead of waiting in the sun for a bus…you’ll thank me later.
- Don’t delete emails from Disney! If you’re lucky, you’ll get targeted for a deal. The “bounce back” rate of $116/night at Port Orleans showed up an hour after we checked out of All-Star and was an impulse purchase. Disney targets past guests, Florida residents and other groups for special deals unlocked by a name-specific PIN. If you aren’t targeted, then you may be best using a 3rd party like I did with Orbitz. Then you can use a coupon code and get cash back.
What are your thoughts on Disney World lodging options? Please share in the comments.
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