I consider myself to be a Disney snob when it comes to planning vacations, but I am at a crossroads. The extended family is going Thanksgiving 2013 and by extended family I mean 8-10 adults and two toddlers. I am torn between getting each family their own room at a value resort to save money or go big for a villa and get the convenience. I've never been Disney with little ones and all of us adults are excited to see them experience it for the first time. What do you suggest?
Suzanne, Disney vacations can be challenging to plan (especially when it comes to trips with a large group), even for a seasoned expert like yourself. It’s always okay to ask for help, and I’m glad you came to Dad. Visiting Walt Disney world with small children is magical for the kids and adults alike – but most of those magical memories will be created in the parks, so your decision of where to stay really comes down to your priorities in terms of travel style, finances, and who you’re selecting the resort for (you or the kids).
There’s no doubt about it – the Deluxe Villas at Walt Disney World are extremely cool. The Grand Villas are especially nice – it’s like having an entire house! These are luxury accommodations through and through – 2 floors, a whirlpool tub, beautiful décor, outstanding resort amenities… and outrageous prices. If you have the money to spend on them, they are beautiful accommodations, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into convenient or kid-friendly.
Saratoga Springs has a very grownup theme, and Old Key West isn’t particularly geared towards small children either. Both of these resorts are near Downtown Disney – far removed from the parks and pretty inconvenient. The BoardWalk Villas and the Contemporary Resort are more conveniently located (near Epcot/Disney Hollywood Studios or Magic Kingdom, respectively), but their themes are also more. Animal Kingdom Lodge is great for kids but is far away from everything except Animal Kingdom.
All in all, these resort are certainly not a bad place to bring children, but there is nothing particularly special for them here. Staying in a deluxe resort will not make the trip any more special or memorable for a toddler. But, if you plan to spend a lot of time at the hotel, letting the adults enjoy all the luxurious resort amenities while the kids nap, then a Grand Villa might just be for you.
On the other hand, if you want to find accommodations that will excite the kids, you should seriously consider the value resorts. Decked out in bright colors with larger-than-life icons and characters, fun pool activities, and massive food courts perfect for picky eaters, these resorts were designed with families in mind. True, they are not as conveniently located as the Monorail hotels, but they’re no worse off than a resort like Old Key West.
While it would be super neat to stay altogether in a villa, you can always request 3 or 4 adjoining rooms (Disney does their best to keep families together) and you might want some alone time by the end of the day! With 4 rooms you’d get 8 full beds instead of 3 in a grand villa, and 4 bathrooms (the same as a grand villa).
If you haven’t already done the math, let’s take a peek at Thanksgiving pricing for 2012. A Grand Villa at the Contemporary Resort will set you back $2040 per night, whereas 4 rooms at the All-Star Movies Resort would cost $516 – you could stay in 4 rooms for 4 days for the cost of one night in a villa! That’s a lot of savings!
If the most important thing on your trip is seeing the kids’ faces light up with Disney magic, I’d definitely suggest staying in a value resort to save money which can be put toward special experiences to make their trip more memorable – things like Character Dining, a visit to the Pirate’s League or Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, or more souvenirs to take home and remember the trip by!
Dad’s Bottom Line
Suzanne, it all comes down to personal priorities. Think about who the hotel portion of the trip is for – if its for the adults to have a luxurious and relaxing experience at the end of the day, go for the villa. If it’s just a place to rest your head so you can recharge for more fun in the park with the kids, you can’t go wrong with the value resorts.