10.04.2011

Let's Talk Disney: Finding the Perfect Hotel at WDW

Do you remember the first time you experienced the magic of Walt Disney World?

Walt Disney World 
My first trip to Disney was in 1975.  I don’t remember much of it except the constant complaining from my dad about how crowded it was that day.  The park broke major records on our visit that year.

Walt Disney World has been providing its guests with a fairy-tale experience for 40 years now.  As a parent, nothing is more exciting than experiencing the magic of Disney through the eyes of a child. 


As you know, my husband and I were blessed with our little ones a little late in our life.  Some may even call us old farts who are set in our ways.  I’m not going to argue with that, but I will say that we had a set of unwritten rules when it came to a Disney trip. 

Honestly, my child was the last child in his playgroup to go to Disney. I almost felt a little guilty when all these children were off to see the mouse, but we held out and didn’t make the trip until Mr. Cool was four.


Here is why.
  • If we were going to spend thousands of dollars on a trip, we didn’t want to worry about naps and rigid bedtimes.  We wanted flexibility and some of the perks of having an older child. Luckily, our child was able to handle that flexibility without any issues at four.  He was actually really fun.  There was just one incident waiting in the long line for the Dumbo ride. 
Not happy in the Dumbo Ride line
LONG WAIT!
Next time we go, no Dumbo Ride for Baby Diva
We'll distract her and move on to something better.

Finding the Perfect Hotel Choice for Your Family

The great thing about Disney is that you can go to Orlando and stay at a resort off property, stay on resort property for under a $100 day, or splurge a little with your accommodations.  Um, make that splurge a lot.  Overall, Disney is expensive, but the memories are priceless, right?  Sure, let’s all believe that, and it will make us feel better about how much we actually spent for four nights of magic.

If you are a consistent reader of my blog, then you know I poured countless hours into trying to find the best deal in the deluxe category.  Would you have expected anything less? I had spread sheets.  I crunched numbers daily.  It was almost absurd, but so fun and perhaps even a little geeky.  

The  WDW Beach Club Resort

In the end, I chose the Beach Club Resort at Walt Disney World. The monorail hotels were still more than I wanted to pay for this visit.  We went in the spring when rates were also in the peak season.

Check for Special Promotions Often

Truthfully, I had a hard time with the prices of the deluxe rooms at Disney because I believed the rooms and service would not be the same quality as in a high-end luxury hotel such as the Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton. However, the price was more than what these hotels sometimes charge per night. With that said, I wanted interior hallways, easy access to the parks, and full-service restaurant choices daily.   Those wants require your needs to be in the deluxe category if you are staying on property. 

I had stayed at the Westin’s WDW Swan several years earlier before having children and had liked the location, so my experience staying in the same area was a factor in my final decision on our hotel.  I only chose not to stay there again because the hotel is not on the Disney dining plan, and I wanted to experience something new. 

I wanted to experience the "magic" of staying on property

We originally booked our stay for the Yacht Club with the help of Small World Vacations, and what I like about this company is that they will rebook your reservation if new deals and specials come out before your vacation.  I think that is important because one tends not to go to WDW at the last minute.  Most families plan and book vacations several months in advance. I booked in October for an April vacation. 

Here’s an example. Disney is offering dining free right now with your hotel stay through March.  If that promotion was not available when you booked the first time, Small World Vacations would rebook your reservation so you could get your stay with the free dining plan.  Small World Vacations does not do air reservations, so you may find good deals with air and hotel together, but once you’re locked into that price, that will be your final price even if new deals come out.  It’s something to think about when you plan.

Since you all know I am obsessed with hotel searching and pricing things, I never stopped playing with the WDW site after our reservations were made.  A month or two later, I found new package prices on the WDW site that weren’t that easily found for the Beach Club Resort and other deluxe properties.  The Yacht Club was not part of the special. The Beach Club Resort is right next door to the Yacht Club, and they share amenities.  I called our representative immediately.  She rebooked us to the Beach Club, and we saved ourselves $800.
 
The beach at the WDW Beach Club Resort
The Beach Club Resort at Walt Disney World

I was very happy with my choice of the Beach Club Resort for our stay.  It is a lovely property.  The magic of Disney really shines when it comes to their hotel grounds. In fact, the pool area has been touted as one of Disney’s best.  I would agree.




The rooms were nice, medium-sized, and comfortable, but I will go ahead and tell you now that they did not meet the same quality and standards of some other luxury-brand hotels I have frequented in the past.  When we arrived our TV remote was missing from the room, and housekeeping would forget to replenish our coffee/tea area daily.  When you pay over $300 per night, you want your coffee bar restocked.  These were little things, but when you pay big prices they seem annoying at the time.  I loved having two queen beds in the room. 

Our room at the WDW Beach Club Resort

In my opinion, when you stay at a deluxe property, you are paying for location, beautiful grounds, and resort amenities such as full-service restaurants.  We did not do any signature dining on this trip due to having a four year-old with us, but we did enjoy the character breakfast at Cape May in our hotel.  The regular restaurants at the Yacht/Beach Club resorts were just okay in our opinion, and we preferred the food in Epcot and at the parks over the hotel restaurants we tried.  We had room service on our last day, and it was such a treat for our sleepyhead.


Four days at a park can be a little tiring.

Would I Stay at the Beach Club Resort Again?

Absolutely. I really enjoyed our stay here, but, truthfully, I am saving our money for a monorail hotel stay for our next trip when my daughter is four because easy access to Magic Kingdom is a must at this age.  Yes, that now means I am willing to pay even more for location and perks. 

I think the Beach Club Resort is perfect when you want to spend a lot of time at Epcot and Hollywood Studios due to the location.  However, it is still a 20-minute bus ride with all the hotel stops to get to Magic Kingdom, not to mention that you have to WAIT for the bus.  It could be five minutes, or it could be 15 minutes.  It was a lot of waiting.  Also, at this location, the bus hits five bus stops to service the Beach Club Resort plus the WDW Yacht, Boardwalk Swan, and Dolphin hotels.

We are a leisurely family. (Remember that old fart comment I made in the beginning? We like to soak in the ambience and relax. We’re not a get-up-and-go family.  Eating is just as much fun as the parks to us.  It’s all part of the experience.)  By the time we had a 9:30 a.m. breakfast and waited for the bus at the hotel, it was almost noon by the time we got to Magic Kingdom.

Character Breakfast at Cape May Cafe at WDW Beach Club Resort

But, with all that said, I asked my son what he liked about our hotel today at lunch, and he said:
  1. The breakfast with characters
  2. The pool
  3. And the bus ride to the parks
So maybe the bus ride only bothers middle-aged old farts, right?  You can't go wrong with this hotel choice especially if your desire is to spend a lot of time eating in Epcot or on the Boardwalk.   They also have great activities for older children at night.  We ran out of time on our visit, and didn't make it to the Beaches and Cream Soda shop in the hotel.  It will be on my list for a future stay.

New Options for the Future

My daughter will be four at the end of 2013 so we may not make it down to Disney until 2014.  A lot will change in three years.   Luxury lovers received great news last month when the Four Seasons Resort announced that it is building a resort on the Walt Disney Resort property with a target opening date of 2014.  The property will include 444 resort rooms and 90 residence resort club units within the prestigious Golden Oak Community.  This new resort will have a rooftop restaurant with Magic Kingdom views.  I can’t wait to learn more about this future property and just how easy it will be to get to the parks.


For families needing some additional space, Disney is now taking reservations for the new Art of Animation Resort, which is slated to open with family suites in May 2012.  This hotel will be placed in the value resorts category, and from what I’m reading now the value hotels as well as the moderate hotels have tiers in which you pay more for preferred room locations.  These hotels are spread out with numerous buildings, so that is something you will need to factor in when choosing a hotel from these categories.  A lower-priced room may include a good walk to the bus stop, restaurant, or pool.

The choice of finding the perfect lodging for your family can be fun, exciting, and even magical.

Definitely listen to what past guests had to say on the website Tripadvisor, and let their reviews help you find the perfect match for your travel budget. 



There is so much to write when you talk about Disney. It’s certainly grown in the past 40 years.  Another time, I’ll share some things that I wish I knew before I took my trip.


Linking up with Whatever Wednesday today.

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