Where To Stay
In 2002 we got a great deal staying at Homewood Suites right outside Disneyworld. This should have been terrific – a nice suite including kitchenette, a Jacuzzi, a nice pool and free breakfast every morning. But something didn’t feel right. While the price was terrific, we found ourselves with people who didn’t seem to share our same values. I don’t know how else to state this – it just wasn’t comfortable. After a few nights we decided to call DisneyWorld to see if we could move to an onsite resort. We cancelled the rest of our stay at the Homewood Suites and spent the remainder of the week at Port Orleans Riverside. The difference was amazing and Port Orleans became our most favorite resort – at least up to the point that we tried another resort. I don’t know what magic makes the in-park resorts so much more delightful, but this experience proved it yet again.
Having said that, even park resorts can have different perspectives. They have their own personality, and its important to try to match your personality to the right resort. Your personality is not static, and as we’ve matured and progressed in life we’ve found that our tastes have refined and we are much more in tune with what works and what doesn’t.
All of the Disney Resort rooms are small. Since we usually have a bunch of the kids with us, the Disney properties don’t always work. If you have four or less people then the Disney properties are the way to go for the best experience. If you have more than four, try a condo. We often will rent a condo and even once rented a full-sized house.
Disney Resorts – The Disney Resorts are more expensive than outside the parks, but also the most magical. You can use your room key to charge everything at all Disney parks back to your room, and beginning in 2014 Disney switched all rooms to work with their MagicBands. There isn’t any real benefit to doing this, it just feels a little special. One cool benefit is that purchases made at most Disney stores can be automatically shipped to your room rather than carrying throughout the park or having to rent a locker.
Condos – We got a great deal on beautiful condos by agreeing to attend a timeshare sale pitch. For the cost of a three-hour sales pitch, we got a nice condo with two bedrooms, two-baths, full kitchen, laundry, dining room and living room with big-screen TV for only $75 per night at the Wyndham Palms Resort (now renamed to Mystic Dunes). The resort included a very nice pool, and had a bunch of activities. The second time we stayed at Wyndham Palms, I paid about $150 extra in order to avoid the sales pitch which worked out to about $25 more per night. Staying at a Condo or house, while allowing you to save on restaurants, requires more time spent grocery shopping.
Just a quick note on timeshares. Jeanne and I are not fans of the timeshare concept. We’d much prefer having full flexibility with where and when we vacation. However, if we ever decided to buy a timeshare, the one at the Wyndham Palms would likely be our first choice. They have one package that is every other year for half the price of every year, and the flexibility was pretty good. The fact that we liked the package was another reason for avoiding the sale pitch on our second visit – we didn’t want to be talked into it.
House – The house was nice and had a screened-in in ground pool, plus all the normal full-size house things. It was a bit farther away from the parks, but allowed us to try different places to eat and do some off-park stuff. Having the pool was nice, and we easily took a post-park dip every night.
Our favorite Disney Resorts – in order of preference
- Beach Club (2013, 2015) – An absolutely beautiful beach house style setting, with plenty of trees and probably the best pool area on Disney property, including the best water slide. They run a campfire on their beach every night, and Ty made a point to try to cook a marshmallow or two on several nights. Easy access to several outstanding restaurants. The best part by far is the 5 minute walk to EPCOT and the boat ride or 25 minute walk to Disney Studios. Absolutely delightful to walk around in the evening and the staff is wonderful. Rooms are slightly larger, or at least feel that way and very nicely decorated. We had a wonderful time and its our new number one place to stay
- Wilderness Lodge (2007) – A beautiful, rustic setting with a seven-story lobby that is breathtaking. The rooms a relatively close to the lobby and pool, and the community atmosphere is more enjoyable than the remoteness of places like Caribbean Beach.
- Animal Kingdom Lodge (2004, 2011 & 2014) – The pool area is awesome – probably the nicest in the park. We didn’t find the savanna view to be worth the extra cost. Having animals outside our window was very cool for about 5 minutes. After that we didn’t really pay it much attention.
- Contemporary (2015) – We did this with Dave & Bev and upgraded to the concierge floor. Unbelievable!!! We had a two bedroom suite with kitchen, dining room, and full living room. the concierge level had a great lounge area that served breakfast and evening food plus alcohol. We could go out on the balcony and watch the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom. It was an awesome experience.
- Port Orleans (2002 & 2008) – Very nice, clean and romantic. The rooms are arranged around pool areas. The primary pool is a bit of a walk, but is a lot of fun and very pretty. Restaurants are excellent.
- Caribbean Beach (1997, 2007 & 2010) – Very romantic. The main building with the restaurants is a long walk, and we usually would drive. We didn’t try the pools here and would love to return with the kids.
- Polynesian Village (1978) – Mark stayed here with his parents in 1978 (or was it 1976). Very nice and we’d like to try this again sometime.
- Coronado Springs (2000) – This is a nice resort, but very obviously centered on the convention crowd. You’ll see much fewer families. Instead you see several adults who obviously are wishing that they could have brought their families. Its a little sad.