The magic of Disney is not only witnessed in their hit movies, teenage superstars, and memorable characters; there is one element that doesn’t get much publicity except through word of mouth and the occasional blog that is devoted to all things Disney and that is the wonderful experience that you and your family can have staying on a Disney Resort property.
In this post I will expose some of the magic of a Disney Vacation from the prospective of someone who not only appreciates the unbelievable customer service and vacation value, but also from a business owners point of view in that I understand that to create the magic that you will experience is not cheap and whilst the overall cost of a Disney Vacation may be slightly more than doing it on your own, the benefits greatly outweigh the extra costs involved.
So as always, lets lay out the ground rules. I have been to Disney both as a child, some 35 years ago, which I don’t remember much about it, and most recently 4.5 times in the last 3 years. We’ve stayed on Disney properties in 4 of the 4.5 trips, the .5 was due to the fact that we actually went to Universal Studios in Orlando and stayed at the Holiday Inn – Universal Studios, but ended up going to Disney almost more than to Universal, hence the .5 as we spent about 1/2 of our vacation there even though it wasn’t the intended destination.
When we stayed on Disney property we stayed at the following resorts: Disney’s All Star Music, a value level resort; Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, a moderate level resort; Disney’s Port Orleans – Riverside Resort, moderate level; and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort, a deluxe level resort. So the logical question is what are the differences between the resort levels? I’ll examine these differences in detail based on our experiences in other posts, but for now lets look at the general reasons one would stay at the Disney properties in lieu of other hotels that are in and around the World of Disney.
One of the greatest advantages of staying on Disney property is the option of purchasing Disney Dining for your trip. What is Disney dining you may ask? Well it’s a meal package that gives you a variety of dining options at a fixed cost. This is wonderful if you’re traveling on a budget, but don’t want to get stuck eating the same swill day in and day out. Unfortunately most travel agents don’t understand the dining option very well so they tend not to “push” it on you when they really should be! Everyone likes to eat, so lets look at the various Disney dining plans that are available to you when you stay at a Disney Resort.
Disney Dining: Based on the dining package you buy you get X number of self-service or counter credits and X number of table-service or menu based credits. The important thing to note here is that the dining credits are good ANYWHERE in Walt Disney World. So if you’re staying at the All Star Music resort and feel like having a dinner show experience, you can book any number of fine dining experiences at any park or resort, and yes, your credits are good there! So you can take the kids to a Character Breakfast at the Grand Floridian, or experience an amazing all you can eat dinner and Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Show at Ohana’s located in the Polynesian Resort, or try some authentic African cooking at Jiko – The Cooking Place located at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, all at no additional cost (except for tipping). Dining now comes with 4 different options, each at different price points to suit any budget, they are as follows:
- The Disney Quick (Counter) Service Dining Plan includes two (2) Quick (Counter) Service Meals and two (2) Snacks per person, per night of your package stay for everyone in the party ages 3 and over. The plan also includes one (1) Resort refillable drink mug per person, per package (eligible for refills at Quick Service locations only in your Disney Resort hotel).
- The Disney Dining Plan (Standard) includes one (1) Quick (Counter) Service Meal, one (1) Snack, and one (1) Table Service Meal per person, per night of your package stay for everyone in the party ages 3 and over.
- The Disney Deluxe Dining Plan includes (3) Meals and two (2) Snacks per person, per night of your package stay for everyone in the party ages 3 and over. The plan also includes one (1) Resort refillable drink mug per person, per package (only eligible for refills at Quick Service locations in your Disney Resort hotel). This plan allows you to have any one of the 3 meals to be either counter service or table service. This is a great option if you plan on going to a number of character meals or shows where often you need 2 credits per person, this way you don’t run out of credits and can experience all the dining magic that Disney has to offer.
- The Disney Wine and Dine Plan: Save up to 20% on wine when you take advantage of an exciting opportunity available with any vacation package that includes dining! Enjoy delectable Chardonnays, smooth Merlot, tawny Ports and more. For less than $40.00 per room per night, Wine and Dine offers one bottle of wine per room for each night of your stay. Choose from a variety of premium wines from a designated list — ranging from 15 to 140 selections — at participating table-service or Signature Dining Experience restaurants. Wine may also be redeemed at a number of merchandise locations.
Disney Transportation: Another one of the benefits of staying on Disney property is the Disney Transportation system. There are two components to this and they are both extremely valuable in saving you both time and money. Lets look at each with a little more detail.
Disney Transfer Service: This service takes you from the Airport to the resort. You get off the plane and proceed to the lower level at the main terminal at Orlando International Airport (MCO) and you get on an air conditioned bus that takes to you your resort. You don’t have to worry about luggage as it will arrive in your room approximately 2 hours after you check in. The ride from the airport to any Disney property is about 35 minutes depending on traffic. The buses are comfortable and play Disney shows and ads on televisions that are spread out throughout the bus so that no one has a bad seat. The bus drops you off in front of the main lobby for your resort where you will check in. This service is very easy to use and included with all stays on Disney property, you just have to tell them that you would like it at time of booking so that they can send you your resort tags, which is how they know which bags need to find there way to Disney. This service runs the hours of the airport, so no need to worry if you’re coming in very early or very late.
When you’re ready to go home, not that you will ever be truly ready, if you are flying anywhere in the Continental USA, you can check you luggage at the porters desk at your resort and they will take it to the airport for you and put it on the plane, you don’t have to burden yourself with lugging your many suitcases full of Disney toys all over Orlando International. About two hours prior to your scheduled take-off, you will board the same bus you came to the resort on, along with many other long faces and head back to the airport. Once you reach the airport, you will be dropped off at your airlines gate and home you go! Disney makes it very, very painless. An important note here is that if you are not flying in the continental USA you can still use the transfer service, the only difference is that you will have to take your luggage with you as they cannot check international luggage.
Disney Bus Service: This service is no different then a city bus. The Disney bus will take you from your resort to almost anywhere in Disney World and back again. This is magical as you can get to any park right from your resort without having to worry about renting cars, or if you drove to Disney, you can park it and take the bus. Buy a lot of stuff? No worries, Disney has you covered there too, anything you buy anywhere in the World of Disney will be delivered to your resort gift shop, usually the next day. This is a great feature as you don’t have to lug the stuff around all day and then on the bus, you just spend, spend, spend and it’ll magically appear at your resort. These buses, just like the Transfer buses are air-conditioned and run well after the parks close. Using the bus service you can travel from resort to resort, to any park including water parks, and Downtown Disney. The Disney bus service is a wonderful feature available to you when you stay anywhere in the World of Disney and definately adds to the ease of staying at Disney over any other hotel option.