What better family-friendly vacation is there than Disney World!!?
We went this past December and had the best of time!!
We went back on forth with so many decisions regarding our vacations ..do we fly or drive? Do we stay at Disney Resort or cheap hotel? Do we rent a car or no? Keep in mind we wanted to do our family vacation on a budget and in the end we discovered that staying at a Disney Resort actually saved us money in the long run so I thought I would share with you how and why you should consider staying at a Disney Resort too!
By staying in a Disney Resort we were able to not have to worry about the cost of shuttle services, buying individual magic bands, parking costs, gas, and more!! Not to mention the CONVENIENCE of staying at a resort and all the perks it has. You're about to hear the word convenience used a ridiculous amount of times in this book-long blog post. Don't say I didn't warn you!
WHY WE FLEW
Since we live in Iowa, it was a huge deal for us to travel that far for a vacation.
We went back and forth whether we wanted to drive or fly and I am SO glad we decided to fly.
It would've been at least a 20 hour drive nonstop to Florida, and with 2 toddlers, driving nonstop wasn't possible the 20 hours would've turned into 2 days of traveling down and another 2 days back. We decided flying would be better for our sanity and actually cheaper (yes cheaper!!) because we didn't have to stay in hotels & buy extra food those 4 days of traveling . We preferred to have those 4 days actually in Florida so we opted for a 2 hour flight verses the endless hours of driving. And depending on when you buy your airline tickets, sometimes they have really good deals. I saw roundtrip tickets from St. Louis, MO to Orlando, Fl for as low as $99/person. You can't drive that far for that cheap!! Unfortunately I missed this deal but we paid around $150/each which was still very reasonable! It also helped that our youngest was 1 and could sit in our lap and ride free so we only had to buy 3 tickets.
Since we weren't driving, we then had to decide whether we wanted to rent a car or not. Since it was December and our kids are so young we didn't feel the need to go to the beach or venture far from Disney World so we decided we didn't need to spend an extra $300 on a vehicle (plus rent carseats!). This is what ultimately led us our decision to stay at a Disney World Resort.
CHOOSING A HOTEL
There are other hotels near Disney World that are relatively cheap! You can stay at a nice Wyndham Hotel close by for around $85/night with free shuttle to the parks! Cheap! So why wouldn't we stay there to save money?? They won't pick us up from the airport. If we decided to stay at a hotel near Disney World without staying at a Disney Resort we would've had to find an additional shuttle service to take us from the airport to our hotel and back again, in turn, adding additional costs and I really didn't want to have to mess with carseats. When we realized Disney Resorts provide FREE shuttle to their hotel we knew right away we wanted to stay at a Disney Resort and the perks we discovered afterwards were just icing on the cake!
There are a handful of Disney Resorts to choose from and since we were on a budget we looked into what they call the "Value Resorts". We were originally going to stay at the Disney All-Star Resort which was around $98/night but decided to go with the Pop Century Resort because we heard it had recently been renovated and was the nicest of the value resorts. Not to mention, unlike the other value resorts that share the same buses to the parks, Pop Century has their very own buses that take you directly to the parks without stopping to pick up people from other resorts. We didn't want to risk not being able to get on a bus that's too full when we wanted to go to the park. And did I mention Pop Century Resort only cost us $108/night?!
GETTING TO THE HOTEL-Disney Magical Express
When we got off our flight we headed straight to the designated Disney Resort pickup area. There, they scanned our Magic Bands for the first time and it automatically checked us in for pickup-it doesn't get much easier than that people! The Disney Magical Express was great and I'll say it again...convenient!! You can even register ahead of time for their luggage delivery service and they will pick up your luggage from the baggage claim and take it to your hotel room so you don't even have to think or mess with baggage! How awesome is that? We only had one suitcase so we decided we would just keep it with us but we would definitely take advantage of that perk if we went again.
PARK SHUTTLES-Disney Motorcoaches
Let me take a moment and talk a little bit about their shuttles to the parks for a moment. The Disney Motorcoaches go to every park, Disney Springs, and even the Boardwalk! A new bus comes every 20 minutes so you don't have to wait too long before a bus shows up. They are like a large city bus so all you have to do is fold up your stroller and climb aboard.
So if you're thinking you wanted the convenience of being able to go/leave the parks when you wanted then I actually think the resort shuttle buses are extremely convenient because you don't have to worry about waiting in traffic lines, paying for parking, NOR do you have to worry about directions. You just get on and ride and within minutes you are at your destination.
If you stay at a Disney Resort you will receive your Magic Bands for FREE (*or complimentary rather since technically you are paying to stay there.) If you didn't stay at a Disney Resort you would have to buy your Magic Band separately from your park tickets which would be an addition cost of $13/person. For my family that would of cost another $52 just for bracelets...So there is yet another way staying at a resort actually saved us money!!
And can I just say how AWESOME magic bands are?!! It makes hotel check-in so easy, and whenever we had questions about our trip they would just scan our bracelet and our itinerary information would show up so they could help us quickly and efficiently. Not to mention how quickly you can get on rides at the park with the fast passes linked to your band. AND they are waterproof so I just stuck them on my kids and didn't have to worry about them getting lost or them taking them off to swim. We just kept them on all week!! My FAVORITE part, seems silly, but they opened our hotel door?!! No more losing our hotel key or waiting to dig it out of my purse, or losing it at the parks...nope! We just scan our bracelet (that we never took off) and Ta-Da!! Our door opened. Quick and easy. Seems like such a minor thing but it was awesome to not have to one more thing like a hotel key card to keep track of.
The resorts are huge of course so the buildings of the hotel are broken up into sections. There is one large main pool of the hotel that can be found in the middle and main part of the hotel.
But I loved that there are also smaller pools in each section of the hotel. If you stay at the Disney Art of Animation Resort they have an entire area devoted to looking like you're in Radiator Springs from the movie Cars. And, as i mentioned each section has, it's got an adorable little pool in the "Cozy Cone Hotel"!! How fun is that?!
Smaller individual pools are nice for when you don't want to have to walk and take your kids allllll the way to the main pool or when you want to swim somewhere with less people, you can swim in a pool right out your front door in the section you hotel room is in!!
And yet another perk, they provide complimentary life jackets for your kids!
You don't have to sign up for them or rent one. They are available at each pool and are hanging up ready to grab and put on when you're ready to swim! I swear Disney thinks of everything!
And if you're wondering if there's a place for small toddlers and baby's to play they even have a splash and baby area for young kids to play in water to keep cool!
PLAYGROUNDS & EVENTS
I think it's important to have some downtime on vacation. With young kids, we didn't want to be rushing around everywhere trying to cram everything in to the point of exhaustion. I think we did a nice job of having rest but also a lot of fun. We didn't go to a Disney Park everyday and spent quite a bit of time just hanging around the resort. The resort has so much to do in itself that I think you should plan a day or two on your vacation to just spend at your resort! A few nights a week they have an outdoor Movie Under the Stars where you can go watch a Disney movie outside on the lawn. My husband took our oldest to a movie a couple nights while I put our youngest to bed early.
I love they have playgrounds on site at each hotel. I took my 1 year old there a lot while her dad and older brother were swimming or playing at the arcade! She absolutely loved it and it was the perfect pastime for a small toddler!
They even do special events and dance parties down at scheduled times down at the main pool! We didn't make it to this event but we passed it and it looked like a lot of fun! They were playing fun music and they had lifeguards teaching games and fun dances for the kids to do at the pool! They even had ping pong table by the pool and volleyball court and so much more around the resort. There was always something to do!!
The Value Disney Resorts do not have workout and exercise equipment available but they do have jogging trails. The one at Pop Century and Art of Animation was beautiful and wrapped around a small lake.
The scenery was so lovely and the weather was phenomenal in December! It was mid-seventies all week and as perfect as can be!
You're a a Disney Resort for goodness sake! You can expect it to be a magical and happy place! The ambiance and surroundings are top notch! The workers are extremely helpful and always-ALWAYS have a smile on their face! There are Disney character pictures everywhere and the statues just add to the fun of going to Disney World!! It just made our trip that much more magical. Event though we stayed at Pop Century, the Art of Animation was close by, just on the opposite side of the lake so we walked over and toured the resort one day and dare I say that was nearly as much fun as going to Magic Kingdom!!!!
Both resorts had awesome sights and art to see! Touring the resorts is an event in itself and so worth taking the time to do so!!
We had a blast just walking through the resorts seeing all the statues, trying out the playgrounds, and taking pictures with our favorite characters.
FOOD COURT & SHOPPING
Some might view this as a downfall, but I loved that I didn't have to worry about going to a grocery store to get food or going to eat out everytime we were hungry. It was nice there is a large food court at your resort for you to eat whenever you want! It's convenient. But not cheap of course. You can expect to pay around $10/meal OR you can go the cheap route and do what we did! They have these homemade lunchboxes called a "PowerPack" in the fridge section of the food court. They were around $5 each and came with a apple granola bar, package of goldfish crackers, yogurt, grapes, carrots, and your choice of milk/water/juice box. That's a lot of food for a small child to eat!! We would plan to eat a light lunch and buy 3 boxes ($15 total!) and the four of us would share the three boxes of food and be quite content! It was so much more filling than we ever imagined. Plus, it saved us money and worked out perfectly for us. We are used to eating a light lunch anyways and a larger meal for dinner so we decided to do the same on vacation and had a light lunch and then planned to eat a large dinner later at a nicer restaurant when we were at Magic Kingdom or Disney Springs. The Power Packs were great too when we just wanted a snack (my kids love to snack!!) so we would buy one box and each have a snack from it. Makes for a cheap snack for four people for just five bucks.
If you want to save even more money, you can mail snacks down ahead of time to your hotel and they will hold onto your package until you arrive. Or you can even pack food in your luggage if you have specific snacks you want or if you're just wanting to save money and make pb sandwitches for lunch. We sent food down ahead of time and unfortunately there was a problem with the postal service because we didn't get our package until the last day we were there so that was a bummer. But we were pretty excited when we found the Power Pack lunchables for so cheap. Keep in mind, you can take food into the Disney Parks so sometimes if we had leftovers we would throw the fish crackers in a bag for my toddlers to have later in the park!
What about souvenirs you ask?! There is a Disney Store on site right along with the cafe. There are Disney souvenirs as well as some essentials like tylenol, diapers, wipes, tums, etc! If they don't have what you need, just ask and they will help you find a way to get it. **
PARK MERCHANDISE DELIVERY
Another cool perk about staying at a resort is the merchandise delivery system they have! If you're at a Disney Park and wanting to buy some merchandise, instead of buying and having to carry it with you all day at the park, you can arrange for Disney to have it delivered to your resort. All you have to do is tell the clerk at the register and they will make arrangements to have it delivered to the resort you are staying at. I know I say this a lot, but how CONVENIENT!!!
If for some reason you do want to go off of the Disney premises, whether you want to go to the beach or Universal Studios, there is a car rental available. The Disney Hotel will provide a shuttle for you that will take you to the Disney Car Rental lot for you to pick up your car. (Hello Convenience!)
**Keep in mind there are plenty of other services around that will deliver various things you may need so I wouldn't recommend renting a car if you're just wanting to go to the store for groceries or medicine. There are grocery stores in the area that will deliver to Disney Resorts and even DrugStores that deliver as well! My son broke out in a rash while we were down there and they didn't have Benedryl available in the resort shopping area so we called a DrugStore that PopCentury recommended and the DrugStore delivered the medicine to our hotel and left it with the front desk who then called us to pick it up! The hotel just added it to our bill and we didn't have to worry about money exchange or anything. Holy convenience! That's right, I said convenient again!!! Disney Resorts are the masters of convenience.
So there you have it. My thoughts on why you should consider staying at a Disney Resort and how it saved us money! I realize depending on where you live or the fluctuating pricing of things sometimes a resort might not be the cheapest route, but even if it's just slightly more money, it's TOTALLY worth it for all the perks and services Disney Resorts have to offer! Thanks for stopping by!