My Disney Top 5 - Reasons to Splurge on a Deluxe Resort

by Chris Barry, contributing writer
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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.


A standard room at Disney's Yacht Club offers ample room for a family of five. © Disney.

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.


Tasty truffle fries with shallot mayo from Crew's Cup Lounge at Disney's Yacht Club Resort. Photo by Donna Fesel.

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 view from our Wilderness Lodge balcony. Photo by Chris Barry.

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


To be able to sit in your pool and see Cinderella Castle off in the distance is the very definition of prime location. Photo by Chris Barry.

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


The lobby of Disney's Wilderness Lodge is full of surprises, including this geyser and spring. Photograph by Donald Fink.

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.

Comments

  1. By davidgra

    This is why we became DVC members. After the early years, in which we stayed off property at various Marriott hotels (using Marriott points from business travel), we started staying on property more in both value and moderate resorts. A couple of stays at deluxe resorts quickly changed our minds about the "value" in the lower-end resorts. Staying at the Contemporary was a real eye-opener, both in terms of the huge rooms and also the advantage to being walking distance to a theme park.

    So, about a decade ago, we took the DVC tour. We wanted to be able to always stay in a deluxe resort, and we also wanted to have more room than a standard hotel room. While not all the DVC resorts have great proximity to the parks, they do offer the advantage of having much more space. We'll always get either a one- or two-bedroom villa for our family trips (a one-bedroom in the "expensive" resorts like Bay Lake Tower, or a two-bedroom in the "cheap" resorts like Old Key West or Kidani Village). While we do have our preferences (Bay Lake Tower and the Beach Club are definitely our favorites), we've enjoyed trying out each of the different resorts. Probably the only resort we wouldn't do again is Saratoga Springs, as it's just too far from anything and not as nicely themed as the other resorts.

    For us, location is really the #1 item on our list. We like being able to walk to a park. If we're at BLT, we'll walk to the Magic Kingdom most days, even if it's just for a short while. If we're at the Beach Club or Boardwalk, we'll walk into Epcot every day and walk to the Studios at least a couple of times. Theming is the other thing we really like about the deluxe resorts; despite Animal Kingdom Lodge not being close to anything, it has arguably the best theming in all of WDW. Dining is less of a priority for us at the resorts, because we tend to enjoy the counter-service locations at almost all the resorts pretty equally, and we won't eat more than one table-service meal at our resort during a trip (preferring the table-service meals in the parks).

    Rather than dining, I'd say amenities are part of our Top 5 for the deluxe resorts. Whether it's the superb pools, the access to great shopping, or some of the extras like the Top of the World Lounge at Bay Lake Tower, the amenities are one of the things we really love about the deluxe resorts. Even the Electrical Water Pageant is great to take in from the Magic Kingdom-area resorts.

  2. By danyoung

    Chris, as always I like the way you think! My needs are minimal, and as a single park stormer I don't need all the space that a deluxe resorts gives. I find I'm more of a moderate guy, with the occasional stay at the Pop when the budget is tight. Even so, I still like doing a deluxe every 2 or 3 years, just to pamper myself a bit. There are usually pretty good rates to be found at AKL, and a meal at Boma or Jiko is just icing on the cake.

  3. By cstephens

    Our first visit to WDW, we stayed off property. Our first on-property stay was at Caribbean Beach, and we loved it. We figured, great, we'll stay here every time. We had wanted something a little nicer than the value resorts but didn't want to splurge on a deluxe resort, and we liked the theming of Caribbean Beach. Our next visit, I was able to talk myself into staying at a deluxe because it was during a 40% off discount period, and by then, I'd already figured out that Epcot was my favorite WDW park, so we picked Boardwalk, and we absolutely loved it. They have an amazing bar there, and our favorite WDW restaurant, Flying Fish, is just outside. And I think I've had my one time to stay at the Polynesian. We usually go to Kona Cafe for breakfast on our last day, and I'd thought wistfully about staying there, but it was more expensive than I was comfortable paying. In 2015, when we were going so I could do the Princess races, it turned out that the Poly was under construction, so they had hugely discounted rates, even during race weekend. It was perfect because I could walk to the TTC to catch the early morning monorail to Epcot for the start of the races and then take the monorail back after the 5K and 10K races.

    We normally don't stay at nicer hotels because we don't do much other than sleeping there, so the amenities generally aren't a concern. With WDW, it's a little different feeling, and there's definitely a difference in distance at WDW when staying on property vs. off property. At Disneyland, that's not really a consideration since there are plenty of non-Disney hotels in close proximity.

    Depending on your situation and wants, it's definitely worth staying at a deluxe resort, especially if you can go during discount periods.

  4. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by davidgra View Post
    This is why we became DVC members. After the early years, in which we stayed off property at various Marriott hotels (using Marriott points from business travel), we started staying on property more in both value and moderate resorts. A couple of stays at deluxe resorts quickly changed our minds about the "value" in the lower-end resorts. Staying at the Contemporary was a real eye-opener, both in terms of the huge rooms and also the advantage to being walking distance to a theme park.

    So, about a decade ago, we took the DVC tour. We wanted to be able to always stay in a deluxe resort, and we also wanted to have more room than a standard hotel room. While not all the DVC resorts have great proximity to the parks, they do offer the advantage of having much more space. We'll always get either a one- or two-bedroom villa for our family trips (a one-bedroom in the "expensive" resorts like Bay Lake Tower, or a two-bedroom in the "cheap" resorts like Old Key West or Kidani Village). While we do have our preferences (Bay Lake Tower and the Beach Club are definitely our favorites), we've enjoyed trying out each of the different resorts. Probably the only resort we wouldn't do again is Saratoga Springs, as it's just too far from anything and not as nicely themed as the other resorts.

    For us, location is really the #1 item on our list. We like being able to walk to a park. If we're at BLT, we'll walk to the Magic Kingdom most days, even if it's just for a short while. If we're at the Beach Club or Boardwalk, we'll walk into Epcot every day and walk to the Studios at least a couple of times. Theming is the other thing we really like about the deluxe resorts; despite Animal Kingdom Lodge not being close to anything, it has arguably the best theming in all of WDW. Dining is less of a priority for us at the resorts, because we tend to enjoy the counter-service locations at almost all the resorts pretty equally, and we won't eat more than one table-service meal at our resort during a trip (preferring the table-service meals in the parks).

    Rather than dining, I'd say amenities are part of our Top 5 for the deluxe resorts. Whether it's the superb pools, the access to great shopping, or some of the extras like the Top of the World Lounge at Bay Lake Tower, the amenities are one of the things we really love about the deluxe resorts. Even the Electrical Water Pageant is great to take in from the Magic Kingdom-area resorts.

    We took the tour as well. Had a great afternoon. The kids had free ice cream. Then they brought us pretty much straight to the door of Animal Kingdom and gave us a bunch of FastPasses. WIt never seemed like the right time financially, and so all these years later we're not DVC members. Maybe some day...

  5. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by danyoung View Post
    Chris, as always I like the way you think! My needs are minimal, and as a single park stormer I don't need all the space that a deluxe resorts gives. I find I'm more of a moderate guy, with the occasional stay at the Pop when the budget is tight. Even so, I still like doing a deluxe every 2 or 3 years, just to pamper myself a bit. There are usually pretty good rates to be found at AKL, and a meal at Boma or Jiko is just icing on the cake.


    Thanks Dan. We do think alike don't we! We still haven't stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge. We've been there. My cousin was staying there once while we were there, so we spent some time with them in the pool and got to see their room. It's a beautiful place, but only bus transportation kind of turns us off. Someday I do want to stay there though.

    As I said above, we do miss the Moderates, but we just can't fit there without getting two rooms.

  6. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by cstephens View Post
    Our first visit to WDW, we stayed off property. Our first on-property stay was at Caribbean Beach, and we loved it. We figured, great, we'll stay here every time. We had wanted something a little nicer than the value resorts but didn't want to splurge on a deluxe resort, and we liked the theming of Caribbean Beach. Our next visit, I was able to talk myself into staying at a deluxe because it was during a 40% off discount period, and by then, I'd already figured out that Epcot was my favorite WDW park, so we picked Boardwalk, and we absolutely loved it. They have an amazing bar there, and our favorite WDW restaurant, Flying Fish, is just outside. And I think I've had my one time to stay at the Polynesian. We usually go to Kona Cafe for breakfast on our last day, and I'd thought wistfully about staying there, but it was more expensive than I was comfortable paying. In 2015, when we were going so I could do the Princess races, it turned out that the Poly was under construction, so they had hugely discounted rates, even during race weekend. It was perfect because I could walk to the TTC to catch the early morning monorail to Epcot for the start of the races and then take the monorail back after the 5K and 10K races.

    We normally don't stay at nicer hotels because we don't do much other than sleeping there, so the amenities generally aren't a concern. With WDW, it's a little different feeling, and there's definitely a difference in distance at WDW when staying on property vs. off property. At Disneyland, that's not really a consideration since there are plenty of non-Disney hotels in close proximity.

    Depending on your situation and wants, it's definitely worth staying at a deluxe resort, especially if you can go during discount periods.

    Those 40% off discounts were something else. We got into the Polynesian for $279 a night. Not cheap, but cheap for the Poly for sure!

  7. By DwarfPlanet

    As a retired member of the military we stay at the Shades of Green which used to be Disney Golf Resort. The rooms are the biggest that Disney made for their resorts so we really enjoy the roominess. If I wasn't retired military you raise alot of great points which then we probably would stay in a moderate with a pampered trip every so often to a deluxe resort.

  8. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by DwarfPlanet View Post
    As a retired member of the military we stay at the Shades of Green which used to be Disney Golf Resort. The rooms are the biggest that Disney made for their resorts so we really enjoy the roominess. If I wasn't retired military you raise alot of great points which then we probably would stay in a moderate with a pampered trip every so often to a deluxe resort.

    I feel like - other than Wide World of Sports which doesn't interest me whatsoever - Shades of Green is one of the last places where I haven't been on WDW property. I need to make it a point to go have lunch there or just wander around. Am I allowed to do so?

  9. By DwarfPlanet

    How to put this, its for military members (active, retired, etc) but what your asking is not to take advantage of the resort. I have only been asked to show my ID card when checking in or riding one of the military transportation buses. I have not had to show an ID card when walking onto the property from the Polynesian. And I have never been asked to show my ID card while on property when purchasing food. So you could probably walk onto the resort and look around with no problem. But on the other hand asking ahead of time would not be remiss either from the management.

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