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The Most Expensive Disney Resorts Aren’t Always the Best: Here’s Why

The amenities don’t change

Disney's Magical Express

Disney's Magical Express airport transportation is available to all
Image: Michael Gray, Flickr (license)

Most Walt Disney World amenities are the same across the property. You always have access to the Magical Express bus from the airport, free transportation across property, Extra Magic Hours, merchandise delivery to your room, and complimentary Wi-Fi and parking. Movies Under the Stars are a standard feature across all the resort hotels. Every resort has pools. At the Art of Animation you’ll even hear music playing underwater!

For the most part, the amenities that differ at the high-end resorts are those that are available to everyone. You can book pampering spa services at any resort, regardless of whether you’re staying there. Fishing excursions and motorized boat rentals are available to all as well.

Your housekeeper is the same

Disney Mickey towel

Image: Derek Hatfield, Flickr (license)

If you feel that you might get more attentive housekeeping services at a pricier resort, think again. Staffing is shared across all Walt Disney World Resort hotels. For most positions – including front desk, housekeeping, and merchandise – training is standardized. Cast Members learn the basics of their job at Disney University in a class with others who are employed at locations throughout the resort. The DU campus has mock hotel rooms where your housekeepers learn their trade, and they all work in the same ones no matter where they’re going.

On-site training at a particular resort is extremely minimal. During peak seasons, housekeepers are often deployed to other resorts. Their schedule will simply list a new hotel for a few weeks, and they have to pop over, grab a different costume, and acclimate quickly. There are typically a few hours of expedited training at the new resort to cover basics like where the supply closets are and how the towels should be arranged. Then you’re off.

So, your attentive housekeeper at the Grand Floridian may just be a loan from Pop Century. Cast Members get the same training resort-wide, and all hotels are held to the impeccable Disney standard, no matter how much you pay for the room.

Your resort time is usually limited

Disney's Contemporary Resort

You may spend most of your vacation viewing your resort from afar

Before you drop thousands on a high-end resort, consider your vacation style. If you truly spend long mornings lingering in your room and leisurely days taking in all the on-site luxuries, an expensive resort may very well suit your needs. However, if you get up and dash off to the parks only to return exhausted at the end of the day, you’re not really spending enough time in your hotel room to appreciate the minor differences between price categories.

You can get a room at one of the All-Star Resorts for around $100 a night. Art of Animation inches closer to $150. Head over to the Polynesian and you’ll spend over $450 per night. Go to the Grand Floridian and you’re looking at upwards of $570 nightly. Now think about what that extra $300 to $400 a day could translate to in terms of your park experience. You could book backstage tours, fireworks dining packages, dinner cruises, or other luxury experiences instead.

You’ll never get out of a Walt Disney World vacation with a small price tag, but you can allocate your funds carefully to get the most magic out of every dollar. Think about your daily routines carefully before you decide how much you want to spend on a hotel.

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There are 2 comments.

You are paying for the proximity to the parks and not be at the mercy of disney's notorious infamous inefficient bus system.

I dunno, it depends on what you want in a hotel and how much you can afford.

For us, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is the only place to stay (with savanna view). It is just relaxing watching the animals in the morning with a cup of coffee/tea/etc. and in the evening after the parks.

I also tend to prefer sit down breakfasts at Boma rather than rushing through a food court, grabbing some quick chow, and heading to the park to be first at the rope drop.

Now, we are in our 50-60's, our daughter is grown up, and we've been to mouseland a few times over the years. So for us, we tend to take it slow. But I can understand for a lot of people, the hotel is just a place to sleep and they don't need the amenities. We are all different, and Disney of course tries to meet these various needs.

In our Disney trips, I have stayed at Pop Century Music once, Port Orleans and Dixie Landings (before they merged), Wilderness Lodge, and Animal Kingdom Lodge (and the Poly many, many years ago).

I found Pop Century to be too large, particularly after a long day at the park.

The original Port Orleans was nice in that it was a smaller resort at the medium price level.

Ditto for the Wilderness Lodge at a higher level. The one time we stayed at the WL, it was nice. It reminded me of vacations growing up where my family would get in our VW minibus and go across country and camp at the various national parks (my wife on the other hand didn't find it as fun). But the animals trump the WL experience, and we've settled in at the AKL.

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