Tokyo Disneyland Hotel Review

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Tokyo Disneyland Hotel is a luxury hotel at Tokyo Disney Resort just outside Tokyo Disneyland. This review features photos of guest rooms, views, and common areas, plus thoughts on the hotel in general and whether it’s worth the money. With its Victorian theme, luxurious style, and location a short walk from the most popular Disney theme park in the world, this would be the flagship Disney hotel anywhere else in the world. At Tokyo Disney Resort, it’s often overshadowed by Hotel MiraCosta (read our Hotel MiraCosta Review), which is actually located inside Tokyo DisneySea. Rooms in Tokyo Disneyland Hotel start at around $300/night, and go up depending upon the view, season, and number of guests (see this rate chart).

The view pictured above is from our room at Tokyo Disneyland Hotel, and while this view was absolutely stunning, it is not the norm. We were incredibly lucky with our room location, and because Tokyo Disneyland Hotel is located farther back from the park than its counterpart, Hotel MiraCosta, and because the roofed World Bazaar is fairly tall, many rooms–even those that face the park–offer little in terms of view.

I mention this from the outset because I think view might be the biggest consideration for those contemplating a hotel at Tokyo Disney Resort, and Tokyo Disneyland Hotel simply isn’t as consistently good as Hotel MiraCosta in this regard. If you get lucky or book one of the rooms that’s sure to have a great view, Tokyo Disneyland Hotel is definitely an incredible experience, though. If you’re trying to do Tokyo Disney Resort on a budget, there are great monorail loop hotels offering excellent views at a fraction of the cost of Tokyo Disneyland Hotel.

If you set aside the view, Tokyo Disneyland Hotel is arguably the best hotel at Tokyo Disney Resort… (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 prices are higher than ever in 2015, with the new Polynesian Bungalows being particular expensive both in terms of dollars and points, making many wonder whether buying into Disney Vacation Club is actually a good idea for their families. Maybe you’ve recently taken a Disney Vacation Club tour or heard a sales pitch and are now wondering if it’s actually as good as that emotional pitch made it sound.

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 2015 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.

With that said, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of buying into Disney Vacation Club, and what you should think about before you decide whether to pull the trigger… (more…)

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort Review

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The Wyndham is a hotel in Walt Disney World’s Downtown Disney Area. This review covers my recent stay here, featuring photos of rooms and hotel amenities at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort. The Wyndham is an interesting hotel due to its…relative uninterestingness. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, and it probably is, but in just about every regard, the Wyndham is fairly standard. Nothing over the top, nothing really bad, nothing really great. Pretty much a utilitarian hotel that gets the job done in every regard, but likewise fails to wow. Depending upon your perspective, this might be its biggest strength or greatest weakness.

From the generic tower structure of the hotel to the low-to-average prices to the pedestrian but serviceable rooms and beyond, Wyndham Lake Buena Vista doesn’t disappoint. Nor does it exceed any expectations. It’s not a diamond in the rough, it’s just a predictable, solid hotel.

Amenities at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista include a lot of the standard hotel stuff, like a fitness center, tennis, basketball, and volleyball courts, meeting spaces, restaurants (including a 24-hour cafe), video arcade, car rental, and Disney gift shop. Then there’s the less-standard stuff: a nice pool with water play area for kids, Disney character dining, and a “Director of Fun” for kids’ activities.

Let’s take a look at all of this, plus the rooms and pros and cons of the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista… (more…)

Swan & Dolphin Hotel Review

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The Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin are on-site hotels near Epcot that are Deluxe-caliber. This review features photos of a newly renovated room in the Dolphin, thoughts about the collective amenities at both hotels, and a general summary of the hotels’ value.

Reviewing the Swan and/or Dolphin is a tricky proposition for a few reasons. First, what exactly are they in terms of classification? They are operated by Starwood, but dubbed “Walt Disney World resorts” and their location plus certain amenities (Disney transportation, Extra Magic Hours, etc.) put them in line with other Disney Resorts. However, they lack other perks (Disney’s Magical Express, Disney Dining Plan, etc.) found at Disney-owned resorts, and have some policies inconsistent with Disney-owned resorts.

I’m going to dub them “official unofficial Disney Resorts” as I think that incoherent moniker accurately summarizes the arrangement here. There’s also the question of treating them as one single hotel or two distinct hotels. As best I can tell, they are akin to the Yacht & Beach Club, except without any significant thematic differences. As such, I feel it appropriate to lump them together for the purposes of this review (the infallible TripAdvisor seems to agree with this approach).

I won’t bore you with the history of how deals Michael Eisner made gave these hotels their murky status (you can read DisneyWar for that) or the contrived, now abandoned backstory of the design choices of the hotels (you can read this excellent Jim Korkis article for that). Suffice to say, the Swan & Dolphin are among the most historically interesting of all the hotels at Walt Disney World, and the size and scale of the hotels has made them controversial and divisive among Walt Disney World fans. (more…)

Disney World Deluxe Resort Rankings

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This post ranks all of the Deluxe Resorts at Walt Disney World, the highest tier of hotels there, based upon execution of theme, value for money, amenities, location, and other factors that might impact quality. The Deluxe Resorts are for guests visiting Walt Disney World for whom money is no issue, or those really looking to splurge on a hotel. It’s a tier with hotels that are easy to love…so long as you don’t get sticker shock.

All of the Deluxe Resorts are nice, high-end hotels, and each bring something unique and special to the table. This makes it difficult to rank them, since the rankings really can vary based on what you need or want. Due to this, it might make sense to group the hotels by areas (Epcot Area, Magic Kingdom Area, and Other Area) and first determine if you want to be close to the Magic Kingdom or Epcot and go from there. It also means which might be right for you depends more upon what type of theme appeals to you, which amenities matter most, and the “style” of your vacation.

It’s been over 2 years since we wrote our Deluxe Villa/Disney Vacation Club Resort Rankings and Moderate Resort Rankings, and there’s a reason for that: the Deluxe Resorts are really difficult to rank. This is something we’ve discussed between the two of us from time to time in the past, and we have never really been able to agree on anything. Worse yet, our rankings seem to change from day to day.

This fluctuation in our own opinions of the Deluxe Resorts depending upon our priorities for a given trip or the tone of it has caused our hesitation to post such a list in the past, but ultimately enough readers have sent us questions asking about the Deluxe Resorts and we thought it would be an interesting discussion-piece, so we’ve decided to put together the list. You will probably find more value in parsing the descriptions to see what matters to you than simply looking at the numbers and using those as a hard guide with your own planning.

We’re also hopeful that others share their experiences with these Deluxes in the comments, so you might look to those for a range of opinions if you’re trying to plan a Walt Disney World vacation and are wondering at which Deluxe Resort you should stay. (more…)

Disneyland Off-Site Hotel Review: Desert Inn & Suites

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Anaheim Desert Inn & Suites is a hotel in Anaheim, California across the street from Disneyland. This review features photos of the hotel, thoughts on it, plus some tips for staying here. As Desert Inn is literally right across the street from Disneyland, it’s only a 5 minute walk to the parks, and is actually closer than two on-site hotels: Disneyland Hotel and Paradise Pier Hotel.

Of the Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels at which I’ve stayed thus far, Anaheim Desert Inn & Suites is my favorite. This shouldn’t be misconstrued as me claiming it’s the best hotel in Anaheim or in any way luxurious. It’s still a 2.5 or maybe 3-star hotel with fairly basic rooms and limited amenities. However, for the low price, great location, and fairly solid rooms, I feel it offers great bang for buck, and is my preferred off-site Disneyland hotel.

People often ask us about money-saving Disneyland-area hotel options, and as we’ve stayed at a good number (although there are a lot of hotels near Disneyland, and we haven’t stayed in nearly all of them) of these “walking distance to Disneyland hotels,” we thought we’d put together some quick-hit reviews of each hotel along Harbor Boulevard and Katella Avenue. You can find an index of our other off-site Disneyland hotel reviews, and read our overall comparison of the benefits of staying off-site versus on-site in our Where to Stay at Disneyland post.

Save for Park Vue Inn and Best Western Plus Park Place Inn, Desert Inn & Suites is the closest off-site hotel to Disneyland. For me, its location is by far it’s strongest selling point. This is almost universally true of the off-site Disneyland hotels, although we’ve noticed refurbishments occurring to a few of these in 2015 and with 9 new hotels opening in the Anaheim Resort District by the end of 2015, there’s a good chance that the competition will compel other existing hotels to raise their game.

Another caveat worth mentioning that you’ll see as a preface to most of these reviews is that we do not recommend Desert Inn & Suites if you are not visiting Disneyland. For what it is, Desert Inn is priced at a premium. This is due almost entirely to its proximity to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Like I said, location is its #1 amenity, but if you are not planning on visiting the Disneyland Resort theme parks, you are paying a large amount for an “amenity” you won’t use. If you’re in Anaheim for other reasons, you can find nicer accommodations at this price point or similar accommodations at a much lower price point. All of the hotels along Harbor Boulevard are charging about a 50% premium for location.

With that said, let’s take a look at what Anaheim Desert Inn & Suites brings to the table… (more…)