My Disney Top 5 - Reasons to Splurge on a Deluxe Resortby Chris Barry, contributing writer
Our first visit to Walt Disney World as a family was spent at the Caribbean Beach Resort. That first trip went down in history as perhaps the most magical of all. Our then 4-year-old daughter Samantha was instantly hooked on the place and Disney easily "had us at hello" as soon as we arrived on property. There was no turning back from that point on. After all, what could be better than five days at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort with your family? Well, how about five days at Disney's Yacht Club Resort with your family? I didn't think we could be any more sold on Disney after that first trip, but once we splurged on a Deluxe resort for the first time, we were sold all over again.
Now truth be told, I'm a pretty simple bloke. I happily drive a 14-year-old Volkswagen van. I don't need anything newer or fancier. It's part of who I am at this point. I admit that when we go skiing, it's pretty awesome to stay in the slope-side deluxe hotel when we're able to, but I'm equally as happy at the simple, yet charming bed and breakfast across the road.
I'm not a very materialistic kind of guy. I'm quite sure that my $50 Mickey Mouse watch is the most expensive watch I've ever owned, and more than likely will ever own. It doesn't mean that I don't appreciate the finer things in life, but they're just not necessities to me. So when it came to staying at Walt Disney World, I never thought I needed to stay in one of the Deluxe resorts—that is until I actually stayed in one of the Deluxe resorts. Now, it's pretty much become the norm for us. Yes, it's meant scraping together a bit more money for our trips, but it's been worth every penny. Why is that? Let's take a look with my Top 5 reasons to splurge on a Deluxe Walt Disney World resort.
5 – More Space
We're a family of five, and for several years we did just fine staying at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside resort. At the time the Alligator Bayou section of Riverside was the only Moderate level resort that accommodated five with its roll-out trundle beds. It was really the only option for us. Once the kids grew and started taking up more space, our room needed to grow as well.
The Deluxe resorts, except for Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge, all sleep five comfortably with their daybeds. The extra square footage in the Deluxe resorts and that extra bed are pretty much essential to us if we're going to keep our sanity together in the room for an entire vacation. The first time we stepped foot inside our room at the Polynesian, it felt downright massive compared to what we were used to at Riverside. It's a shame, because sometimes we get nostalgic; we do miss Riverside but from a practical point of view, we simply can't fit there anymore.
4 – Dining Options
We were big fans of the food courts at the Moderate hotels, our favorite being the Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory at Port Orleans French Quarter. We also loved Boatwright's full service restaurant at Riverside, but once you're given more options, they really are appreciated. It's hard to beat the dining options in the BoardWalk resort area for instance.
Lately, the Yacht Club has become our favorite place to stay for many more reasons aside from just the food. Its three sit down restaurants, Beaches and Cream Soda Shop, Hurricane Hannah's Grill out by the pool, the Beach Club Marketplace for counter service, and two different lounges round out the dining options shared by the adjoined Yacht and Beach Clubs. That list doesn't even take into consideration the adjacent BoardWalk or Swan and Dolphin dining options. Throw in Epcot's World Showcase essentially next door and you're pretty much surrounded with food options. We felt the same way staying at the Polynesian with its dining options, the Grand Floridian a short walk away, and the Magic Kingdom and the Contemporary Resort just a short monorail trip around the lagoon.
3 – Balconies
Balconies have really become an essential part of our Walt Disney World resort experience. At first, when the kids were young, we wanted the balcony as an escape. The park day would end. We would come back to the room. The kids would climb into bed and pass out and Diane and I would pour a glass of wine and sit out on the balcony and wind down. It's almost like having a separate room—our little grown-ups only refuge. Eventually that evening glass of wine became a ritual that we still treasure at the end of every park day.
The Yacht Club balconies have also become my favorite place to sit in the morning and observe as the resort begins to wake up. Diane has her coffee and bowl of bran flakes. I have my orange juice and Mickey muffin from the BoardWalk Bakery and we begin our day, plotting and planning where our adventures will take us. I can't imagine not having my own balcony when I'm down there; the communal walkways at the Moderates just aren't the same.
2 – Location, Location, Location
There's simply nothing like being able to walk right into World Showcase from the BoardWalk resorts, or stroll back to your resort along the canal from Disney's Hollywood Studios. The same can be said for walking to the Magic Kingdom from the Contemporary or hopping a monorail or a boat over from the Polynesian or Grand Floridian.
My wife and I also loved our early morning boat rides over to the Magic Kingdom from the Wilderness Lodge on our grown-ups only trip. Location really is everything and the Disney Deluxe resorts are the best locations on property.
1 – The Special Touches
Maybe it's that fresh pitcher of water with the citrus wedges in the lobby of the Yacht Club, or the basket of hand towels that would magically appear inside the BoardWalk Inn doors during a Florida afternoon rainstorm, or the real towels instead of paper towels in the Polynesian's Great Ceremonial House restrooms. It's all part of the legendary Disney difference. Whether it's the afternoon live music at the Grand Floridian, Auntie Kaui teaching hula lessons at the Polynesian, or the nooks and crannies where you can find an overstuffed chair to relax at the Wilderness Lodge, things do feel different at the Deluxe resorts. They don't sound like much, but all of these little details and so many more at the Disney Deluxe resorts all add up and in turn foster a truly unforgettable guest experience.
Can you have an amazing and magical Disney experience at the Value and Moderate resorts? Of course you can. After all, it was the Moderates that got me hooked on Walt Disney World in the first place. They're beautiful and surprisingly tranquil places to spend your Disney vacation. To prove my point, I'd rather wander the grounds of Port Orleans Riverside than the grounds of the Contemporary any day. It's a wonderful place to call home during a vacation. Some of my most vivid and magical memories happened with my wife and kids at Port Orleans and Caribbean Beach. My point isn't to disparage them and hype the Deluxe resort experience. Rather, my point is to encourage you to save up and splurge at least once for one of the Walt Disney World Deluxe properties.
When we were first considering taking the leap up, we received a pin code discount via email. It was for 40% off a room-only rate at the Deluxe resorts. We priced out returning to our beloved Riverside and the same short stay at the Yacht Club was only going to cost us $500 more. Now, I realize $500 is not insignificant, but in the grand scheme of things when planning a Disney vacation, it wasn't that much more to spend to get so much more out of our time on property. We definitely got our money's worth from that bump up.
Some people feel that a hotel at Walt Disney World need only be a place to put your head down on a pillow, take a hot shower, and hold your suitcases until you go home. I get that, but the Disney resorts are a tremendous part of the whole experience. They're as magical and as special as the parks themselves. We've actually cancelled plans to go to the parks and instead have had amazing "resort nights" on many of our trips; it's always been worth it.
Plan wisely. Look for a deal. Never pay the full rack rate for a Deluxe room—we never have—and treat yourselves to one of the truly great hotel experiences out there today. The phrase, "the Disney difference," didn't come from nowhere. The Walt Disney World Deluxe resort hotels really are different, wonderful, and should be experienced by everyone at least once.