Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Picking a Place to Stay at Disney World (Part Two of a Five Part Series)

So what exactly did we plan for Disney World? The first thing we did was make room reservations at a Disney resort.  Why "on site"? The big thing was getting an early jump on picking FastPasses, as we realized that some rides (such as Frozen and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train) might not be available to visitors not staying at Disney.  Would it cost more?  Yes, but we also figured it was part of the cost of doing Disney; either do it right or don't bother.

Picking where to stay at Disney World can be a mind-blowing exercise, as Disney has over 30,000 rooms at over 25 different resorts.  Which one to pick?  This seemed daunting until I realized what question I needed to ask:  how many beds are in each room?  That's not intuitively easy to figure out, because Disney rates their rooms by number of people, not number of beds. Once I figured out which resorts had rooms with three beds, the list was cut down to just eight...which made this a much simpler exercise of figuring out where to stay.  Disney rates their resorts into three categories:  value, moderate and deluxe.  No moderates met the cut, so it was either deluxe or value.

The instinct for most would be to go "value", but I didn't assume anything - even if it were "just a place to sleep."  And I'm glad I didn't assume, because research surprised me.  For example, while Disney does provide complementary transportation throughout their World, some places have multiple, better options.  One factor I did consider was "theming," but not in the manner that the Disney fanatics consider it. Some resorts, especially at the value end, go full-on with turning your room into a cartoon. While the kids might love it, I was sure that after a week, I'd be going insane from looking at the Little Mermaid or Mater first thing in the morning.  While some people love and dream of that over-the-top approach, that wasn't me.

As I researched my options, I learned that many of my options were actually Disney Vacation Club properties, which are timeshare properties owned by Disney. What I found curious was that one site discouraged first time visitors from considering a DVC property, but the more I looked at my Disney options, the more I realized that DVC was precisely what I wanted.

While DVC properties can be rented directly from Disney, DVC owners have first shot at the rooms. That doesn't mean that only DVC owners can get a reservation, though. Two services, David's Vacation Club Rentals and the DVC Rental Store serve as intermediaries to allow DVC owners to rent out their points. I did the math, and quickly realized that I could stay at a "deluxe" property at a cost not much more than some of the "value" accomodations.

Our actual view from Bay Lake Tower., with
Space Mountain on the right and Cinderella's Castle
in the distance on the left.
At that point, the choice was crystal clear:  we were going with a one-bedroom condo at Bay Lake Tower as our first choice.  Bay Lake Tower is noteworthy for being the closest accomodations to the Magic Kingdom, which is the park most people think of when they think Disney World.  (Cinderella's Castle, Space Mountain and Splash Mountain, for example.)  That means that rather than waiting for a bus, we could walk over to the Magic Kingdom in just five minutes.  We also got a washer and dryer in the room (meaning we didn't need to lug as much clothes along or waste time in laundromats) as well as a kitchen for dining in.  We put in our bid with David's in May, and within a few days, they found the points and got us a reservation for Bay Lake Tower for March.  We couldn't even book a room to Disney World through Disney at that time; they didn't open up 2017 reservations until late June 2016.  (I then checked the rates, and sure enough, I realized the DVC option made even more sense for us.)

The Disney World Trip Report

  1. Planning a Disney World trip
  2. Where to stay at Disney World
  3. Waiting in Line at Disney World
  4. The Magic Kingdom
  5. My Takeaways & Tips for Disney World

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