Tips to the Kingdom: Lodging.

Hey everyone, today I bring you the first official article on the tips to the kingdom series. Today’s topic is lodging and resort stay. Orlando is a relatively cheap are to stay in considering that there are so many options from so many brands that they all must have competitive pricing to fill rooms, making a Waldorf Astoria hotel in Disney cheaper than a holiday inn in New York City. So let’s say you want to stay inside the Disney resort itself, in a Disney hotel, here is how lodging in Disney owned hotels work: There are 4 categories of resorts on property that vary from accommodations and pricing, the cheaper side not being as luxurious and oriented more towards large families, the expensive side caters to those who want a luxurious and impressive property, but with a hefty price. Categories are:

Value Resorts: $80-90 cheapest rate off season + tax, average pricing – $120-140 + tax (all rates per night). These resorts are the bottom of Disney’s hotel pyramid, but are still comfortable and give you the full Disney experience.These hotel’s are perfect for large families, or those who don’t plan to spend much time or money on the hotel (perfect for those who just use the hotel to sleep and spend all day out).

Art of Animation, Car's pool

Art of Animation, Car’s pool

The value resorts are also aimed more to the economical side and the younger kids, the heavy animation or activity theming makes it appealing to kids from giant 5-story bowling pins to a life-size recreation or Radiator Springs from Disney’s Cars movie, these properties pack a fun theming punch. These properties will include the basic two double bed rooms, the new Art Of Animation Resort now includes family suites (they can be a bit pricy), central pool area and multiple other pools through out the further extents of the property, a single large cafeteria style dinning hall, arcade, gift/logo shop, complimentary parking, lobby area. There are 5 value resorts to choose from on property. I’ve stayed in two (Pop Century and All-Star Music) and like I said they serve the purpose to sleep but not much further than that.

Moderate Resorts:  $120-150 cheapest rate off season + tax, average pricing – $170-190 + tax (all rates per night). This is my favorite category, in the Spring or Fall off season (TIP! best time to go, not just for your wallet, but for your enjoyment as the parks are at their emptiest) you can snatch a room in these for the lower rates, which is what a regular Orlando area resort would cost you as well. Moderate resorts combine the best of the luxury of the expensive resorts and combine it with the value rates and functionality.

Moderate resorts are the ‘medium’ category in Disney, they offer heavy real life theming from the Mexican Riviera, to old school country side New Orleans, and even Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. These resorts offer a great value for medium to small sized single families and for those wanting to get away from the crowds but not splurge in pricing. I f you plan to spend some time at your hotel and hit the pool a bit I recommend this category. They include on property: Ornate lobby and surrounding guest areas, a dinning hall and specialty restaurants, large well themed pools with water slides (the Coronado Springs has a recreation of an abandoned pyramid excavation site including the pyramid around its main pool). Standard double bed rooms and some up to private family suites, gift shops and recreation facilities from volleyball to canoeing. There are 5 resorts in this category, I’ve stayed in three (Coronado Springs, Port Orleans Riverside, and The Cabins at the Fort Wilderness).

Deluxe Resorts:  $250-350 cheapest rate off season + tax, average pricing – $350-550 + tax (all rates per night). Disney’s deluxe resorts are the hotels you can see but can’t touch, They offer the utmost in luxury, dinning, service, and true magical experience (not the the previous ones don’t).

Grand Floridian

Grand Floridian

Deluxe Resorts offer higher class theming done in a tasteful, not over the top way, much like the moderate resorts. Deluxe resorts are great for those of you who like to spend a lot of time on property (and for that price you better!) and enjoy the luxury of fitness centers, spas, and balconies. Deluxe hotels are amazing in architecture, truly astonishing. In a deluxe hotel you can transported to old school Florida and dine in Florida’s finest restaurant (Victoria and Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort). Wake up to the sounds of an African savannah with a giraffe having breakfast right outside your balcony (Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge). Or feel the rush of a modern transportation system running through your grand atrium (Disney’s Contemporary Resort).

My balcony view at Animal Kingdom Lodge

My balcony view at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Travel to a classic atlantic coast setting complete with a boardwalk featuring street performers and food halls and yatch clubs (Disney’s Boardwalk Resort complex) Many of the deluxe resorts have become Disney icons now a days, they really are something out of the ordinary, at Disney’s Fort Wilderness you can see ol’ faithful erupt in Florida or take archery lessons. The Deluxe hotels are worth a visit even if you’re not staying in them, they are splendid and grandiose. Deluxe resorts include: Ornate grand lobbies, large themed pools with water slides, fantastic first class dinning, gift shops, luxury recreation facilities (from golf courses and boat rentals, to segway rentals and parasailing). Luxurious touches and finishes, special tours, concierge, and some feature spa’s and fitness centers. There are 8 resorts in this category, I’ve stayed in 1 (Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge).

Deluxe Villa’s: No cheaper rate off season, average pricing – $360-550 + tax (all rates per night). This option is for vacation club members or those with deep pockets.

Saratoga Springs Resort

Saratoga Springs Resort

The villa style offers full apartment style rooms, the largest and most inclusive rooms, they offer full kitchens, multiple bedrooms and spa like bathrooms with living rooms and balconies. The villa’s are either located within some of the deluxe resort properties or on their own deluxe resort style properties that offer the same luxuries as the deluxe resorts. There are 9 resorts in this category, I’ve stayed in 1 (Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa).

That is the basic run down of the Disney owned properties and styles, hopefully if you want to stay with Disney, which I recommend at least once, this helped your decision. Some to know for all Disney resorts are: They include inner resort transportation from resorts to parks as well as Downtown Disney and ESPN World, parking is included and if you’d like to take your car within property all theme park parking is included (this can cost you around $14 per car normally). There are no ‘resort fee’s’ at Disney resorts, unlike most Orlando hotels (TIP: Ask your hotel before booking if they have a resort and/or parking fee, many of them do but when you look at the nightly rate will not include it on there, it is an add-on you pay on site no matter what, these fee’s can vary from $19-$50 per room per night). My favorite perk of staying on Disney property is: EXTRA MAGIC HOURS! This is a feature offered only to property guest, in which with your hotel room key you get to stay at the parks long after the day crowds leave or before they open to the public. Check the Disney website to see which park has this feature that day, they rotate parks every day and is not offered everyday. One example is when I went a few years ago the Magic kingdom closed at midnight and offered extra hours until 3am, this is one of my favorite travel moments, riding thunder mountain 8 times not even getting off the train, running through the empty sidewalks and enjoying Disney to myself. You will not see ads for this anywhere since it’s on a need to know basis, most resort guest don’t even know they have this perk, so use it!!

So now lets say you really want to stay inside Disney but you don’t want to dish out that much money or you want more for your money, well you’re in luck. Most people don’t know Disney has two on property areas with resorts owned by major national brands that still keep the perks but slash the price. These are the two areas’s:

Downtown Disney resort area– Hotels here can vary from $70-140 per night + tax and resort fees. This is the original on Disney property but not in Disney resorts area, this is a stretch of road that come directly after the Downtown Disney complex.

Hilton with Downtown Disney in the background

Hilton with Downtown Disney in the background

In this area you can find privately owned major resorts such as the Buena Vista Palace (Where I’m staying this time at around $100 a night with all fees and taxes included) to the Hilton and Holiday Inn. Fee’s and prices vary by hotel but don’t reach the moderate category prices of Disney owned hotels. The hotels here aren’t you run of the mill motel either, most of the are hotel towers with nice pool areas, and villa style accommodations for more, these resorts offer an economical alternative that lets you keep the certain perks of the Disney hotels such as extra magic hours, and some of them transportation, be advised you will pay for park parking.

small map of downtown disney properties

small map of downtown disney properties

These hotels have great reviews and are easy to book on any of your conventional travel sites, make sure the city is Lake Buena Vista (the town inside the Disney resort) and before booking check the address on google.

Bonnet Creek resort area:  Hotels here can vary from $130-190 per night + tax and resort fees. This is Disney’s newest alternative resort area, this area is much more luxurious than the downtown area.

Waldorf and Hilton

Waldorf and Hilton

On this side you will find luxury giants like the Waldorf Astoria, a new Hilton, and the Wyndham (soon to open the Four Seasons resort, spa, and golf courses). Yet prices for these opulent stays aren’t high! Like I said competition in the area keeps prices low, you can snatch a room at the Waldorf for $170 a night plus taxes and fee’s (A steal considering the location, pool, lazy river, golf course etc.). Or grab a room at the Wyndham’s massive multi tower property for around $140 a night. Rooms here can easily be booked on conventional travel sites, simply check their location. These resorts offer transportation to the parks on their own coaches and participate in the extra hours.

Now that I’ve shared where you can stay, you choose where! My tip here is, stay at a Disney hotel at least once, you won’t regret it, shoot for the moderate or deluxe categories, however if you are without kids or with teens and you don’t want to spend 200+ to not stay in value, go to one of the two areas that offer a great stay for less on property with the perks. I personally stay at the two areas and spend what I saved on stuffing my face in EPCOT. I’m not dissing Disney hotel’s, they truly are fantastic, but they are very expensive! And if you’re without kids it’s not worth spending the money on a value level resort when for less or same money you can stay at the Waldorf. If you live in Florida, Disney property hotels have extra savings on the fall and spring off seasons, this offer is sometimes extended to Georgia resident’s as well. If you’re a Disney Visa holder you may also qualify for resort discounts and countless other discounts (some better than what pass holders get!). If you’re a pass holder check you ticket booklet for discounts that vary from 10-15% on select dates. If you’re going for a not Disney owned be well informed of all rates, taxes, and fee’s if not you could have a nice surprise on check-in at your expense, literally. I hope you all enjoyed the read and guide on to Disney lodging, know your perks and ask every detail, as for Orlando lodging in general the same concepts apply, it’s a great vacation area and my favorite part of Florida. Have a great day guys! See you tonight! Now off to the multi hour drive to the happiest place! Adventure is out there! (How many of you know that’s from one of my favorite movies UP! ?)

Cheers,

-Ian.

PS: Sorry for any grammatical errors, wrote this fast before jumping into the car to Disney.

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