Planning Our Next Walt Disney World Trip!

Well, we agreed we were going to skip Disney this year and take our 10 year old to Universal Orlando. But things change, and when Disney’s “free dining” promotion came out in April, I couldn’t resist the temptation to just see what was available. Luckily, the dates were extended an extra 3 weeks early to Disney Chase Visa cardholders. Meaning instead of August 20th, we could book free dining starting August 2nd (this is why having the Disney Visa is a good thing, even if you don’t plan on using it often.)

After grabbing a reservation at an All-Star resort (not exciting, but fine) I continued to look around and couldn’t believe my eyes when a value studio popped up at Animal Kingdom Lodge for a few hundred more than we would be paying for our stay at All-Star, and we wouldn’t have to upgrade from the quick serve plan (stays at deluxe resorts include the standard dining plan.) We’re normally not Deluxe resort-type people. We figure our hotel just needs a clean room and a decent pool. But hey, if you twist my arm, I guess I’ll stay at a deluxe resort complete with a savanna with zebras, giraffes, and ankole cattle, one of the best pools on property and 3 of the best restaurants in all of the Walt Disney World resort. So we are doing 4 nights at AKL with free dining! We are so very excited.

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In addition, months before I booked this trip, I decided to try out renting Disney Vacation Club points to see what it was all about so I could report back about my experience. So after we check out of AKL Jambo House, we check in for one night to AKL Kidani Village, which is the DVC only part of Animal Kingdom Lodge. We will be staying in a Savanna view studio. With me so far?

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photo credit: Loren Javier via flickr

Then, while planning our week, something else happened…Disney released the dates for the 2018 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, with the first date being the night we are scheduled to leave. And is also the day before my husband’s birthday. We happen to love the Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom, even if we have to go in August. So, we added on a 2 night stay at Pop Century, taking advantage of the room discount promotion currently going on.

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We are looking forward to seeing the brand new Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios. We have a Fastpass for Slinky Dog Dash and plan to “rope drop” Alien Swirling Saucers. I’m very excited to try some of the yummy-looking food at Woody’s Lunch Box, too. We will also be spending a lot of time in Animal Kingdom in Pandora, one of our favorite places!

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Our dining reservations are all set as well. We will be trying some new restaurants, like The Plaza in Magic Kingdom, Trail’s End at Fort Wilderness, and Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge. We’ll be hitting our faves Tusker House, Garden Grill, and Be Our Guest too. We simply love free dining and can’t wait to try some new snacks on this trip.

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photo credit: Nicole Pacitti via flickr

So, those are the details of our 7 day August trip. We can’t wait to share all the fun with you! Make sure you keep up with all our adventures by subscribing to the blog.

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Which Disney Resort is Right for You?

One of the most important steps of trip planning is determining where to rest your weary bones after a long day (and night) at the parks. There are many factors to consider when you’re deciding on one of the 34 unique resort hotels on Disney property. Here we look at the 3 resort categories and what the major differences are at each level.

Ariel's "Part of Your World" at Disney's Art of Animation Resort
Matt Stroshane, photographer

Value: The resorts included in this category are Art of Animation, The All-Star resorts, Pop Century, and the Campsites at Fort Wilderness. One of the most awesome things about the value resorts is the kid-friendly theming. Giant characters decorate the grounds, immersing everyone in the magical world of Disney before even stepping foot in the Magic Kingdom.

Each resort has one large pool and at least one other pool, although there are no slides at these pools. The only dining options at this level are quick-serve, cafeteria or food court-like dining. The room size is slightly smaller than the other categories of resorts, averaging 260 sq. ft. One disadvantage to the value resorts is the distance to the parks. They are the farthest away and the buses may take up to 20 minutes to make their way to and from the parks.That may not seem long, but when it’s standing room only after a long day of walking, you will be counting the minutes. Rack rates on average for a standard room at the values  start at around $100 and can go as high as $200 and more during peak season. If you have young children who would appreciate the theming, are on a tight budget and plan to be visiting the parks much of the time, a value resort might be the perfect match for your family.

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Moderate: The resorts in this category are Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans-Riverside, Port Orleans-French Quarter, and the Cabins at Fort Wilderness. The moderates have a slight increase in price over the values, with resorts in this category starting at just under $200 to almost $300 at popular times of year for a standard room. With that price hike, you get slides at the pools (the jaguar slide at Coronado Springs is a blast!) and more dining options. All of the moderates have table service restaurants and several bars and lounges.

Room size increases to  comfy 314 sq. ft. at the moderate level. The theming may not be as appealing to kids, but that doesn’t mean each resort is not immaculately themed and beautifully detailed. The moderates are closer to the parks, which means shorter bus rides. One thing you may not appreciate about the moderates is they tend to sprawl over a large area. This may mean walking several minutes to get from your room to the pool or dining. This is a disadvantage for some, but we always find it an enjoyable way to get familiar with the layout of the resort. If you’re traveling with older children or other adults, and plan to spend more time enjoying the pools and restaurants of your resort, a moderate could be a great choice.

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Deluxe: the deluxe resorts are Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Boardwalk Inn, Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and Wilderness Lodge. There’s not much bad to say about Disney’s deluxe resorts. The beautiful theming, various dining options, and close proximity to the parks make them all highly desirable.

Want to watch the evening fireworks at the Magic Kingdom from your room? Then a theme park view room at the Contemporary, Polynesian or Grand Floridian is a must. Of course, luxury comes at a price, and you will be spending anywhere from $380 for a standard room at Wilderness Lodge to $1000 or more for a park view room at the Poly. The room sizes vary at the deluxe resorts, but range from 340 sq. ft. to 422 sq. ft. for standard rooms. Needless to say, dining at this category is abundant and most resorts have a signature dining experience in addition to table service and quick service dining. The amenities are top-notch; from kids’ clubs to spa and concierge services, your every need is attended to. If you are truly looking to spoil yourself and your family, you can’t go wrong with a Disney deluxe resort.

Whatever you’re looking for in accommodations, Disney’s got it. No matter which resort category fits in your budget, you can expect complimentary transportation to all Disney theme and water parks, themed pools, restaurants, and access to Extra Magic Hours at the parks. Keep in mind that even if you don’t stay at a deluxe resort, you are free to tour the grounds, eat at the restaurants and enjoy the ambience. It’s a great compromise if your budget says value but your heart says deluxe.