Since moving to Florida we have been to Disney world, many, many times. We have Florida resident annual passes and just pop in for a couple of hours whenever we happen to be in the area. It also happens to be right in-between our favorite east coast surf break and our house so we often stop in our way across the state.
The other thing is this: I love to explore and I love hotels. We have done lots of experimenting with the Disney Hotels and the hotels near Disney and after our most recent visit, I have some final thoughts about what I think is better—-Disney Hotels or the nearby hotels.
Here is a little background:
On our last visit, we were there for Nova’s gymnastics meet. We knew most of our time on Saturday would be watching gymnastics and maybe time for a late dinner at Disney Springs. We knew we wanted to go to a park on Sunday and we knew we weren’t going to be spending much time in the pools because it is kind of cold here (for us) right now.
I booked the Hilton Bonnet Creek Resort—which is very nice and very close to Disney Springs and the Wide World of Sports for $134 on the Hilton website. I thought it was a great deal and it met all of our needs. Compared to the DisneyWorld hotels that I was looking at the same time, it SEEMED like the better deal. The Pop Century (one of the Disney value resorts) was $109; the Port Orleans was $134; and my favorite, the beach club was about $350. The Dolphin (which is not a Disney hotel but is right next to the Boardwalk and the Beach and Yacht club) was $226.
From my quick price check research, it seemed like we would be getting a great deal. The Hilton Bonnet Creek is close to the parks, has a great pool and lazy river and offers a great room, even if it is a bit generic.
However, what the quick price check didn’t describe were the parking fees ($20 to self park) and the resort fees ($25 for the use of the pool, towels and water bottles) which added an additional $45 to our seemingly inexpensive room. Our grand total for one night was $187.00. We got to the hotel at 11:00 pm (after our late dinner at Disney Springs) and left early to get to the Beach Club for a Disney character breakfast. We didn’t use the pool, the water or the towels and we barely used our room. In this case, I should have definitely gone with the Pop Century Resort or Port Orleans!
This little weekend experiment plus many friends asking for Disney advice got me to thinking about the Disney World Resort properties and the nearby hotels.
I have come to the conclusion that if you are going to be in the area to do Disney–you should definitely stay in a Disney World Resort Property!
- LOCATION: While other hotels may advertise being “minutes away from Disney”, they fail to mention that Disney World is HUGE and while they may be minutes away from the Disney property, it may still be many more minutes to the main gate of the parks. The idea of going back to the room in the middle of the day is just not convenient if you don’t stay on property. It simply is just too far away and takes too much time out of your day.
- PRICE: While other hotels may seem less pricey than the Disney World Resorts, they advertise their room rate only and you usually don’t find out about pricey parking and resort fees until you check in. Those sneaky fees can add a lot to your bill.
- FREE PARKING: Disney World Hotels do not charge for parking! And, if you are planning to drive into the parks, you don’t have to pay for parking there either, if you are staying in a Disney World hotel. Look at all this money saving! If you are paying $20 to park at a hotel and then another $20 to park at the parks, you have added $40 to your day. Save that money for souvenirs!
- TRANSPORTATION:……There is constant and FREE transportation between the Disney World hotels and the parks. Buses run all day long from every resort and there are also boats that transport between some hotels and of course, the monorail. Other non-Disney resorts do offer transportation but it is usually at set times per hour, fills up quickly and isn’t as convenient as Disney transportation. Park your car and the hotel and you don’t have to drive at all.
- DISNEY MAGIC: No one does it better than Disney. If you want to really have the full Disney experience, staying at a Disney World Resort will really help. The Disney feel continues even after you have left the parks and are just relaxing in your room or by the pool. I think it is well worth the price to stay on property and
- EXTRA MAGIC HOURS: Check the official Disney schedule to find out when these are. Extra magic hours allow Disney Resort guests to enter the parks earlier or stay later.
- PRIORITY FAST PASS: If you are staying at a Disney-owned resort, you can reserve FastPasses for attractions up to 60 days before your visit. If you don’t have a Disney resort reservation, you can begin booking FastPasses 30 days before your visit.
- MAGIC BANDS: Upon checking in to the Disney World Resort, they will GIVE YOU and your family magic bands that act as room keys, park tickets and your Fast Passes. Not to mention, you can connect a credit card to the Magic Band and all of your charges from the parks can be charged directly to your room. This is very convenient because you don’t have to pull out your wallet all day long. You can also allow your children and others to charge to your room by giving them your PIN number (that you set up upon check in). This is great for older kids who want to run around on their own.
- FOOD: Disney World Resorts are well known for their amazing restaurants. There are great character breakfasts (Cape May Cafe at the Beach Club), huge buffets (Animal Kingdom), dining with entertainment (Hoop de Doo Review at Fort Wilderness) and much more in between and beyond. All of the resorts have casual quick service dining too and they offer different things based on the theme of the resort. For example, Animal Kingdom, has Indian curries and Asian specialties and the Polynesian has some Hawaiian items. Not to mention, Disney World Resort guests can get the DISNEY DINING PLAN. We have never used the Dining Plan so I don’t really know how it works–but it does seem to be a cost saver to many families. Check this post for more information on it.
- CAST MEMBERS: At every resort, the Disney World cast members are there to help you feel like you really are at the happiest place on earth and they really do. Like I mentioned above, being at a Disney World Resort just keeps you feeling like you are still on vacation—there is no transition between your home for the night and the parks….it is a continuation.
And…..on last one,
11. SAFETY: As a mom, travelling on my own quite often, I always feel safe at the The Disney World Resort properties. Normally, I would never think to stay out past midnight and then wander back to our hotel but at Disney it just feels safe. People are always out and about, it is well lit and well designed. I know that things happen at Disney World but I have never felt threatened or scared and that is important to me.