Disney World Value Resort Rankings


Which Walt Disney World Value Resort hotel is best? This post answers that common question, with our clear-cut #1 Value Resort as well as the best of the rest. The Value Resorts are great hotels for people who won’t be in their rooms much, families with small children who enjoy Disney animated films, and guests doing Disney on a budget. While more expensive than off-site accommodations, they offer good value if you’re only visiting Walt Disney World when you travel to Orlando, as staying on-site allows you to utilize Disney transportation, including Disney’s Magical Express, meaning that you don’t need to rent a car if you stay at a Value Resort (or any Disney hotel, for that matter).

Let’s start by discussing some commonalities of the Value Resorts. All of the Value Resorts are large and spread out, and don’t have internal transportation. This means that if you get stuck in a remote room, you’ll have a bit of a hike to the lobby and bus transportation. Even in the worst case, we don’t consider it that long of a walk (they’re certainly less spread out than most of the Moderate Resorts), but if you are trying to herd around a slew of kids, you might disagree. At every Value Resort except Art of Animation, preferred rooms are available that are located closer to the lobby, but they have an additional cost. You can sort of game the system by using TouringPlans’ Hotel Room Selector to request a room with a better location that isn’t technically a preferred room.

Standard rooms are all fairly similar, too. It cannot be stressed enough that the Value Resorts are very basic accommodations in terms of the rooms. These rooms are small and along the lines of what you’d find at a nicer Best Western or Motel 6. Disney fans may gasp at that comparison, but we feel it’s true to an extent. The big way they deviate from other budget accommodations is that they include Disney decor, which alone is probably enough for the average Disney fan or guest to consider them a great deal superior to those other brands of hotels. The point is, at their core, these are not high-end hotel rooms, and in terms of pure value, you can typically do better by staying off site and use our frugal travel tips to score cheap accommodations.

Design, in general terms, is pretty consistent among the Value Resorts. All are very plain buildings that are dressed up with oversized icons that relate to the hotel name. They’re decorated, not themed. While the Moderate and Deluxe Resorts attempt to transport you to another time and place, the Value Resorts look more cartoonish. They’re style is very divisive, with some Disney fans finding them garish clutter tacked onto low-rate motel buildings and other fans finding them to be fun and whimsical ways to experience a Disney hotel on the cheap. If you are in the former camp, you probably already know Value Resorts are not for you, and there’s little point to this list of rankings for you. Regardless of how you feel about the Value Resorts, the fact is that they have plenty of fans, and many people, especially small children, prefer this larger-than-life style to the more elaborate and nuanced design of the higher-tier hotels. (more…)

Disney Vacation Club Buying Guide

If you travel to Walt Disney World or Disneyland and are able to see or hear, you probably are familiar with Disney’s “Best” Kept Secret: Disney Vacation Club (or “DVC” as the cool kids call it). Disney Vacation Club 2014 prices are higher than ever, making many wonder whether buying into Disney Vacation Club is actually a good idea for their families.

Like a lot of frequent Disney vacationers, at one time or another, you’ve probably wondered whether Disney Vacation Club is right for you. Maybe you’ve taken a tour, maybe you’ve done some research online on one of the great resources such as MouseOwners.com or DVCNews.com. Heck, maybe you’ve even crunched the numbers yourself!

If you’ve considered purchasing Disney Vacation Club, one of the biggest considerations, no doubt, is whether it makes good economic sense. Unfortunately, as with almost everything in life there is no definitive answer to this question that fits everyone. From a purely economic perspective, Disney Vacation Club will not make sense for a lot of people. However, it’s worth reading on to see if it makes financial sense for you, or if there are other compelling reasons for you to make the purchase.

As mentioned above, if your main reason for purchasing an interest in Disney Vacation Club is to save money, whether it’s a good deal for you depends of your party size and resort tier preference. Contrary to Disney’s claim that Disney Vacation Club will save you “70% off” of future resort stays, this is not actually the case. If this were true, do you really think Disney would actually be offering the program–and that it would be wildly profitable for the company? Sure, Disney might take a bit of a hit to guarantee that you will be a loyal customer for years to come, but 70% off?! As we all learned in grade school, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Disney’s 70% savings number assumes things that aren’t realistic to reality, such as paying rack rate in the most expensive Disney hotels and no return on investment for the (unfinanced) money invested in Disney Vacation Club. Even assuming these things, I’m still not quite sure how Disney arrives at its 70% off number, especially in 2014 when DVC direct prices are substantially more than they were just a few years ago. I think it might be equal parts magic and advertising puffery, but I’m not entirely sure.

It’s also worth noting that Disney Vacation Club is a pre-paid vacation plan, which differs slightly from the traditional definition of a timeshare. In the strictest sense, Disney Vacation Club can be viewed as an asset, but not a tangible one. This is an important distinction to some people, but it doesn’t matter to a lot of people.



Is Disney Vacation Club A Good Fit?

Accommodations Preferences – This is the threshold question, because if you’re (voluntarily) a Values and Moderates type person, Disney Vacation Club may never make financial sense for you. However, it can be a difficult question to answer, because it’s tough to anticipate your vacationing habits in the future. If you only roll Deluxe, and anticipate demanding posh accommodations in the future, Disney Vacation Club might be right for you. If you presently have kids or anticipate soon having kids, and are tired of sleeping in the same small quarters with them at a Moderate Resort Disney Vacation Club, and its wonderful one-bedroom units, may be right for you as it gives you the option to separate yourself from the kids at night! Similarly, if you have to book two or more rooms at a Value or Moderate, it might be for you… (more…)

Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel Review

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This Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel review details the flagship Disney hotel at Hong Kong Disneyland, which is styled after the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa at Walt Disney World (which itself was inspired by the Hotel de Coronado). Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel has a Victorian theme, and is located on Penny’s Bay on Lantau Island in Hong Kong, about a 10 minute walk from Hong Kong Disneyland itself. Like Disney’s Hollywood Hotel and the park itself, Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel opened in 2005.

Although the exterior of the hotel bears a striking resemblance to the Grand Floridian and the theme is basically the same, the interior is a substantial departure (in substance, not style). Whereas the Grand Floridian has a large, opulent looking lobby, the lobby of Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel is significantly smaller. The lobby was still quite nice, with a high ceiling, nice chandeliers, and beautiful Christmas tree, and I enjoyed a couple of late evenings relaxing in it. These large lobbies seem to be a fixture of only the Walt Disney World resort hotels, as I can’t think of any Disney hotels outside of Walt Disney World (and the Grand Californian) that have them. Even the lobbies of the gorgeous Tokyo Disney Resort hotels are compact by comparison.

This is not to say Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel is any less luxurious than the Grand Floridian–a hotel isn’t defined by its lobby. To the contrary, while the Grand Floridian is superficially classy, upon closer inspection, many of the details are woefully dated, and the whole place feels like Victorian high-class style as envisioned by the editors of Country Living Magazine in the early 1990s. It’s sort of like one of those hip, new ‘fusion’ restaurants that combine seemingly unrelated culinary styles. Except in the case of the Grand Floridian, the result of “early ’90s” plus “Victorian” does not yield the best of results. (more…)

Sequoia Lodge Review

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Disney’s Sequoia Lodge is a hotel at Disneyland Paris, with an aesthetic inspired by America’s National Park lodges with a modern twist. (Imagine if Frank Lloyd Wright designed Yosemite’s Ahwahnee.) Disneyland Paris doesn’t tier its hotels the same way that Walt Disney World does, but Sequoia Lodge would occupy about the same position as Wilderness Lodge, on the cheaper side of the Deluxes. Price-wise, it’s in the mid-range of Disneyland Paris hotels.

Actually, Sequoia Lodge has a lot in common with Wilderness Lodge. Thematically, it’s quite similar, although Sequoia Lodge feels more modern and Wilderness Lodge feels more rustic. Both offer a similar caliber of amenities, and both are across the lake from their castle park. (Although in the case of Sequoia Lodge, that park is only a 12 minute walk away.)

The short walking distance to the parks is an obvious pro, but the con is the lack of a grand and cavernous lobby. This lobby, to us, is a defining characteristic of Wilderness Lodge. Mind you, not every National Park lodge has a grand lobby like this, but it’s certainly a great characteristic that Sequoia Lodge is lacking. This is especially true at Christmas-time, when the beautiful Christmas tree makes a great centerpiece to the Wilderness Lodge lobby.

Otherwise, Sequoia Lodge is pretty much neck and neck with Wilderness Lodge. The details in Sequoia were great, with lots of nice finishing touches, murals, and art you might expect to find in a National Park lodge. Of course, this was all on the rustic side. This rustic look and feel is fine by me and perfectly on-theme, but if you’re primarily interested in luxury, the theme is inherently limiting in that department. (more…)

Disneyland Hotel Review

Disneyland Hotel is the original hotel at Disneyland Resort, and although it’s not the flagship hotel at Disneyland Resort (that distinction belongs to the Grand Californian Hotel), like the Grand, it has a AAA four-diamond rating. It’s essentially a modern, luxury hotel with Disney design touches, but without any escapist themed design. Instead, Disneyland Hotel is themed to “Disneyland,” with its three towers representing Fantasyland, Adventureland, and Frontierland.

It may not be the flagship hotel, but it’s our favorite Disney hotel in the United States. I consider Disneyland Hotel to be a lot like “Remember… Dreams Come True!,” the perfect self-referential tribute that excels because of how its treatment of the legacy of Disneyland, but is pretty impressive in its own right. This is truly no easy task, and it’s so easy to go for cheap plays on emotion (liberal use of Walt Disney’s likeness, for instance) rather than creating a quality product that successfully merges great elements of the past with a quality contemporary product, but Disney nailed it when they re-designed the Disneyland Hotel. As it stands, the hotel is a great mix of modern design and retro details.

Now, in fairness, this is not something I would want to see out of every Disney hotel. I am a sucker for themed design, and I love how other Disney resort-hotels manage to transport guests to different times and places through the execution of the hotel. Disneyland Hotel is not themed, it’s decorated. If every Disney hotel were simply a luxury hotel with tributes to the past, it would get old quickly. However, this is the only one, and it executes perfectly on the concept.

Admittedly, I’m a big fan of the history of Disneyland. I’ve been fascinated by Disneyland Hotel since reading Donald Ballard‘s Disneyland Hotel: the Early Years and his follow-up Disneyland Hotel: 1954-1959 (warning: these books are for serious geeks, not casual fans). These books gave me a great appreciation for the hotel even before we ever stayed there, and Mr. Ballard’s presentation on Disneyland Hotel at this year’s D23 Expo was actually a highlight of the weekend for me! Although much has changed at Disneyland Hotel since its early days, it still just feels like a special place thanks to its roots dating back to the Wrathers family and the opening years of Disneyland.

However, it’s not just the hotel’s many nods to Disney history (I wonder how frequently they have to replace the awesome paper-goods in the room because guests take them?) that earn it high marks from us. The hotel is also flat out nice. (more…)

Disney’s Polynesian Resort Review

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is a deluxe hotel at Walt Disney World (and soon to be Disney Vacation Club resort) that is themed to the South Pacific, with a distinct retro tiki culture styling. It is one of Walt Disney World’s original hotels, and recently reverted to its Polynesian “Village” name after years of just being Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Regardless of its official name, it’s known to most Disney fans simply as “the Poly.” It’s considered a village because of its sprawling layout comprised of 11 longhouses (hotel buildings) plus the Great Ceremonial House, which is the main lobby where the restaurants, shops, etc. are located.

We have long been fans of the Poly. For me, it dates back to when I was a kid, walking from Shades of Green to the Poly for the monorail, and going to the Neverland Club while my parents went to Pleasure Island. As adults, Sarah and I have spent a ton of time at the Poly despite never staying there. I even proposed to Sarah on the beach of the Polynesian during the fireworks back when we got engaged. We’ve since been back numerous times for dining and other purposes, but hadn’t stayed there until this year. Whenever we’ve wanted to do a stay in a Deluxe Resort, other options always had better discounts, so it was always on our “someday” list.

The point with all of this is that all of this build-up created pretty lofty expectations for the Poly. While we enjoy the hotel, we don’t think it’s quite worthy of the high praise it receives. It’s still an excellent resort, but it seems to be the overwhelming top pick for hotels at Walt Disney World, and we’re not quite that enthusiastic about it.

Before that, let’s take a look at the positives. The Poly is just a flat out cool resort. It has a ton of incredibly detailed tikis scattered around the grounds that were carved by Oceanic Arts in California. I could spend a morning just wandering around looking at these, and their cheeky designs always make me smile. In general, the Polynesian has a very enjoyable ambiance thanks to its many details and the general island ambiance that is so well conveyed, even if the resort is more a lighthearted caricature (not at all in a bad way) of island life than it is an attempt at authenticity. The feel of the Poly is a definite X-factor that might override all criticism below. In terms of theme, this is far and away my #1 resort at Walt Disney World.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Now through approximately March 2015, extensive lobby, restaurant, and pool renovations, plus construction to add Disney Vacation Club villas, are occurring at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. During this time, we strongly recommend booking a stay elsewhere.
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