Disney World Hotel Reviews (+GIVEAWAY)


Thinking about staying at a Walt Disney World resort hotel, but not sure which is right for you? In our Disney hotel reviews, we share the strengths and weaknesses of each hotel, give our opinion as to whether they are worth the money, and offer an idea of what type of guests (families, honeymooners, commando tourists, etc.) will like or dislike each hotel.

Each full Walt Disney World hotel review contains photos from the hotels, including room photos and photos of main areas of the hotel, to give you an idea of whether the decor of the rooms and the theme of the hotel will appeal to you. In addition to this, the reviews offer Walt Disney World resort hotel tips, information about amenities, and dining recommendations at the hotels.

We have stayed at every on-site hotel at Walt Disney World, so unlike many hotel review sites that crowdsource or aggregate information from other sources leading to inconsistent ratings or uninformed “opinions”, our reviews are all first-hand accounts of our personal stays at each of the hotels at Walt Disney World. You may totally disagree with our opinions, but at least you’re getting the actual opinions of the same two people who have stayed at each of the hotels.

We are missing full reviews for a couple of Walt Disney World hotels because we either forgot to take room photos of the hotel or last stayed at the hotel before we started taking room photos (hey, how many of you take hotel room photos?!). Additionally, Disney has been aggressively refreshing its hotel rooms in the last year or so, and we haven’t yet had a chance to stay in every new room and update the photos. Our goal is to have this completed by early 2015.

Off-site and third party hotels at Walt Disney World like the Swan & Dolphin, Waldorf Astoria Orlando, Four Seasons Resort Orlando, Downtown Disney Resort Area Hotels, and other similar hotels are next on our list of places to start staying at and reviewing, so check back regularly and stay tuned for those reviews! To kick off our coverage of these hotels, we’re doing a giveaway of a 3-night hotel stay at the Downtown Disney Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista, so scroll below the hotel synopses and reviews to enter the giveaway!

Below we have blurbs with quick-hit pros and cons of each Walt Disney World hotel if you just want basic information. If you want to know more about each hotel and see Walt Disney World hotel photos, click the name of the hotel to go to its full review! (more…)

Tips for Fourth of July at Disney World

Walt Disney World is a popular summer vacation destination, and that’s doubly true during the Fourth of July Independence Day holiday, when there are added crowds at Disney as Floridians and Southerners take the long holiday weekend and head down to Walt Disney World. Add to that the fact that Disney and America go together about like America and apple pie, plus great celebrations and fireworks shows, and it’s easy to see why a lot of people visit Walt Disney World for July 4th.

This post will offer tips and tricks for visiting Walt Disney World around the Fourth of July, and help you make the most of the experience! If you’re already in Walt Disney World and are looking for ways to avoid the heat, humidity, and crowds and for the best experience on and around July 4th, we’ve got you covered. If you’ve wanted to do the “Distinctly Patriotic” thing and go to Walt Disney World for the Fourth of July, but have always been afraid of the chaos and crowds, this post might just present an attack plan to convince you to go

Since we are distinctly patriotic (or crazy…your pick!), we’ve visited Walt Disney World for the week leading up to the Fourth of July (and Independence Day itself). While it was busy and hot, it didn’t feel all that much busier than normal–because we knew what to do to avoid the crowds. It was incredibly fun, and something we’ll likely do again. While the crowds and heat are a downside, the atmosphere and fireworks are some of the best in the United States.

Here are our tips for having a great Fourth of July at Walt Disney World!

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Castaway Cay Guide & Tips

Castaway Cay is Disney Cruise Line’s private island in the Bahamas, and is a common port of call for virtually all Disney Caribbean-bound cruise ships. This guide provides tips for visiting Castaway Cay, including things to do and not to do and how to make the most of your time on Castaway Cay.

For starters, some basics about Castaway Cay, and then we will get into some recommendations. It’s a 3-mile long, 1000-acre island used exclusively by Disney Cruise Line guests and Crew Members. The Disney Cruise Line ships dock right on the island, making for an easy on-off experience. You’ll want to take your Key to the World card with you when you exit the ship (to get back on!), but theoretically you could leave everything else. We don’t recommend that–packing a small day bag without any valuables in it to ‘guard’ your beach chairs is a good idea–but you could.

As soon as you get off the ship, you can pick up towels, and pass by the old gas station and post office (make sure to send something from here–they have a special Disney postmark) as you head towards the trams to get to the Family Beach and Serenity Bay, the adult-only beach. Alternatively, you can take the walking trail to fully explore Castaway Cay, which has its own touches of Disney details. We’ll start our guide with how to explore the island to see these details!

Exploring the Island

There are a couple of trams on the island, but one of our biggest pieces of advice for Castaway Cay is to not over-rely on these trams. Castaway Cay is not just a private island, it’s Disney’s private island. This means that it’s themed! Some of my best memories of the island are just its sense of place that I soaked up as I wandered around and explored the environments. It’s not as heavy on Imagineering as Typhoon Lagoon, likely because Disney wanted to strike a balance in making it appeal to Disney fans and ‘serious’ cruisers, but there is a ton to see, and plenty of Easter eggs.

I highly recommend walking out to Serenity Bay and taking the shuttle back at some point during your day at Castaway Cay, even if you don’t plan on enjoying the adult beach. This is because you’ll the Imagineered-highlights all the way there, and then get to see additional details on the ride back over the runway. The walk really isn’t that bad, and can actually be faster than the trams. (more…)

Disney Fitness Tips

Disney Fitness & Weight Loss Tips

Whether your goal is to lose weight or get in shape for your Disney vacation, or prepare yourself to run in the Walt Disney World Marathon, you need a fitness plan. If you’re a bit unsure of where to start with your Disney World fitness plan, fear not, as you aren’t alone. We originally made this plan in preparation for our first runDisney event, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler (click that link for our review of the race and to read how we did!) at Walt Disney World Resort.

It’s hard to believe that it was over two years ago when we first started to get in shape for our first runDisney event! Now we’re back to it as we have sort of fallen out of shape in the last couple of years. We want to get fit for Disney again and have a new idea about which we are really excited (scroll down to the Fitbit Community Motivation section for that) that we think might help both us and you. If you’ve already read this post before, go right to that section, as the rest of this post consisted of our original ideas…

At first, we had no idea how to get fit for running. We both used to be pretty fit, and I’ve gone running for short distances before, so I have a basic idea, but that’s about it. However, with a little research and after talking to some friends who run and re-listening to podcast episodes devoted to the topic of Disney marathons, we think we’ve developed a pretty good plan of attack that will have us first getting in shape, in general, and then start us training for the race. Not a bad plan for us to get in shape, in general, as I really enjoy water parks, and I don’t want to be too embarrassed to head to Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach!

Obviously, there are a myriad of ways to approach fitness, but I’m going to detail ours. I’m not a fitness expert, but the methods described here have worked for me and others (so they’re proven!), so your mileage may vary. I’m not going to weigh this down with countless legal disclaimers, so here’s the important one: don’t be an idiot. If following any of the advice here isn’t reasonable for you for whatever reason (pre-existing health conditions, pregnancy, etc.) don’t follow said advice. We aren’t responsible for your stupid decisions

With that said, let’s get in shape! (more…)

Tips for Buying Discount Disney World Tickets

Money-saving Tips for Buying Discount Walt Disney World Tickets (from authorized sellers!)

Walt Disney World offers a wide array of tickets. These tickets are expensive, but luckily, if you shop right, you can find good discounts on Disney tickets to save money. When it comes to a Disney vacation, the tickets are likely going to be your second-most expensive expenditure after your hotel room and perhaps airfare. For some people, they might actually be the most costly portion of the trip! Disney raises its ticket prices about once or twice per year with the last increase coming in February 2014, so it’s best to buy your tickets as early as possible, before your trip.

Given their cost, and the myriad of different ticket options, it’s important to know as much as you can about the different types of tickets, and what your family will probably need. Purchasing Walt Disney World tickets can be overwhelming, as there are many different choices and add-ons. If you’re willing to do a little homework, all of the options are a good thing, as you can buy exactly what you need and not waste money on unnecessary extras. In this article we sort through the different options and give you recommendations on what types of tickets are best, plus where you can save money on Walt Disney World tickets. (If you’ve come looking for info on discount Disneyland tickets, you’ve come to the wrong place–but we do have an article on that, too.)

If all you’re looking for is the best place to buy cheap, legitimate Walt Disney World tickets from an authorized reseller and don’t need to read this entire article, click here.

Ready to get started? Here are our tips for saving money on 2014 Disney World tickets! (more…)

How to Visit 3 Disney Destinations on 1 Airfare

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Except in this case. This post covers the concept of multi-stop airfare, including stopovers and open-jaw flights, and how these perfectly legitimate, but little understood tools can be used to book airfare to Tokyo, Hong Kong, Honolulu, and back for roughly the same price as a single round-trip flight to Hong Kong. That means visiting Tokyo Disney Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa for roughly the same airfare cost as just one of those destinations. We are dubbing this incredible trip the “Disney Grand Circle Tour of the Pacific Rim.” Who needs Adventures by Disney when you have blog posts for Making Your Own Adventures…by the Brickers?! ;)

If the airfare terms above don’t make much sense now, fear not, as by the end of this post you will be a master (or at least an apprentice…I’m not sure how the whole ranking system works!) in advanced airfare bookings.

Over the last couple of years, we have become pretty big advocates of traveling to the international Disney theme parks. Understandably, a lot of Disney fans do not have much interest in this, citing legitimate concerns like the cost of the trip and the discomfort with international travel. Still, we have tried to encourage readers to step outside of their comfort zones and plan a once in a lifetime trip to the overseas parks. While we have received a number of positive comments and emails from many of you who are planning visits to Tokyo Disney Resort, we understand that, it’s not a possibility for everyone. We get that, and our goal with our posts on the international parks is not to boast about our travels or rub how great these places are in anyone’s face, but rather, to bring awareness of these parks that are seldom-visited by Americans, but are really worth experiencing for those who have the time and finances.

We have pointed out in the past that these international trips don’t have to be as expensive as many people assume they are, and depending upon your party size, a trip to Tokyo may cost about the same as a trip to Walt Disney World. In fairness, this is typically only true for those without multiple children, those who can travel during non-peak times, and live near a major international airport or can save miles for the trip (by the way–the sample multi-stop itinerary below can be booked with a standard number of miles for a flight to Asia!). To be very clear, we are in no way saying that a trip to Asia is “cheap” or even something that anyone can do. Unless you are a local Annual Passholder or live within driving distance, no trip to any Disney theme park is cheap. For many people, a trip to the Disney Parks in Asia is absolutely out of the question from a financial perspective–and we aren’t trying to say otherwise. Our only point is that it’s worth crunching the numbers before dismissing it out of hand.

With all of that said, the biggest obstacle many if not most readers have presented to us is the cost of airfare. This doesn’t really come as a surprise, as airfare is by far the most expensive aspect of visiting Tokyo Disney Resort or Hong Kong Disneyland, and airfare is a per-person cost that (obviously) increases as your party size increases. In comparing the cost of a Tokyo visit versus a Walt Disney World visit, airfare is also where the largest price difference lies. In fact, in terms of park tickets and nice hotel accommodations, Tokyo and Hong Kong are actually cheaper than Walt Disney World in most cases!

Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to decrease the cost of a flight to Asia, short of advising you to plan early, use available tools to your advantage, and be flexible on dates. Airfare to Asia is expensive, in most cases over $1,000 round-trip per person. However, what we can do is increase the perceived value of that single, expensive airfare with stopovers and open-jaw flights? Interested in visiting Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Honolulu to do the “Disney Grand Circle Tour of the Pacific Rim,” all for about the price of a round-trip flight to Hong Kong? Read on! (more…)