The drill is always pretty much the same: I see some tidbit of news that gives me an excuse to start thinking about a Walt Disney World getaway, so I head to DVCMember.com to check availability. As I expand each resort to reveal my results in the “no availability,” “partial,” and “all dates” sweepstakes, there are always two resorts I leave for last because I’m pretty certain they will be available.
If you’re a long-time Disney Vacation Club member, you probably know the resorts to which I’m referring before I even share their names: Saratoga Springs Resort and Old Key West Resort. (Frequently, Animal Kingdom Lodge joins them, too, but I suspect that’ll end soon as Rivers of Light and Pandora make staying close to Animal Kingdom more appealing.)
It’s been a while since we’ve stayed at either resort. Sarah doesn’t care for Old Key West (which I think is underrated, but not to the point that I’ll try to override her veto) and I don’t care for Saratoga Springs Resort (which Sarah likes, but not to the point that she’ll advocate for it over other alternatives). For us, these have been the easiest to book of any Walt Disney World resorts, and yet we have spent less time at them in the last 5 years than any other Walt Disney World resort, and that includes every single All Star Resort. (Yes, really.)
This isn’t because we think the All Star Resorts are better than Old Key West and Saratoga Springs Resort (although I dunno, that Mighty Ducks mask and oversized AOL-era laptop are pretty legit!), but because we don’t want to “waste” our DVC points on these hotels, so we end up paying out of pocket for Value Resorts when our favorite DVC resorts are fully booked. Despite taking multiple trips to Walt Disney World, we actually ended up banking all but 11 of our DVC points last year.
This post is going to be unlike others in that there is absolutely nothing here that’s useful to you. We aren’t trying to help you; this is more a ‘thinking out loud’ post at the end of which, we solicit you to help us choose between the two resort options. (You owe us.)
For both resorts, I think we are long overdue for a visit. It should come as no surprise that I’m jockeying for Old Key West. (Any logical person knows it’s far superior. 😉 ) I love wandering around the resort, and I love photographing that lighthouse.
I also don’t mind the rooms, which Sarah thinks are dated and the worst of any DVC resort. It’s tough to argue that these are like visiting your grandma’s Floridian vacation house, but who doesn’t love their grandma?! (Basically, a vote against Old Key West is a vote against your grandma.) Most importantly, the rooms are spacious.
More important to me than the rooms are the amenities and potential for exploration. I love getting up early wherever we’re staying, and just wandering around the lush jogging trails until I make my way up to the Hospitality House.
There’s a lot we’ve never tried here, too, from Olivia’s (I’d love to do their breakfast) to Gurgling Suitcase to the nightly campfire to Electric Eel Game Room (okay, not that last one), we haven’t done all there is to do at Old Key West.
I’m also feeling a bit nostalgic for it. I stumbled upon DVCInfo.com’s 1993 promotional video highlighting it (back when it was “The Disney Vacation Club Resort”), and feel there’s no better way to pay tribute to Disney Vacation Club’s 25th Anniversary than by staying at the original DVC resort. Maybe it’s just me, but I think an argument could be made that there’s no better year for a stay at Old Key West.
On the other hand, Sarah is Team Saratoga (or #TeamSarahtoga GET IT?!? 😉 ). On the topic of nostalgia, Saratoga Springs Resort holds a lot of nostalgia for us. It was our stay here in 2007, during which we got a free room upgrade, pigged out on the Disney Dining Plan, attended the Pirate & Princess Party, and even met Figzilla(!!!) that really got us hooked on visiting Walt Disney World regularly.
That trip, we stumbled home from the Adventurers Club on several late nights/early mornings, and Saratoga Springs was incredibly convenient for that. Just look at us at California Grill. Ah, young Sarah and Tom, if only we could warn you about the rabbit hole you were about to dive down…
Speaking of which, that’s probably one of the most compelling arguments for Saratoga Springs: its proximity to Disney Springs and the pleasant little walking path from Congress Park to the Marketplace. For several years after the closure of Pleasure Island, Downtown Disney was dead to us. That all changed last year as the Disney Springs project started to emerge from behind construction walls, and with rave reviews coming in from the Town Center, I really wouldn’t mind some late nights sitting on rocking chairs overlooking the placid springs’ water.
Actually, the proximity to Disney Springs is probably our biggest selling point for both resorts. While it’s a bigger deal for Saratoga Springs with that walking path, both also have boat service. If park hours stay short during our trip, we’ll probably end up making 3-4 trips to Disney Springs. As a burger enthusiast, it’s my patriotic duty to try D-Luxe Burger. We also “need” to eat at B.B. Wolf’s Sausage Co., Paddlefish, and The Edison. I wouldn’t mind revisiting Morimoto Asia, too.
With regard to Saratoga Springs, specifically, the rooms have been refreshed since our last visit, we have never dined at Turf Club, and we still haven’t gone swimming in the (now not so new) Paddock feature pool. It’s also been ages since I got up early and wandered around Saratoga Springs; it was already 104 degrees with 98% humidity at 7 a.m. (estimates) during our last visit in July. (My last early morning photos of the resort are point and shoot photos from 2007s in the scrapbook layout above.)
So…give us your best pitch. Are you #TeamGrandma or #TeamSarahtoga? Why? Is there a must-have dessert at Olivia’s? A shockingly delicious sandwich at Backstretch Pool Bar? To die-for conch fritters at Gurgling Suitcase? (Are you sensing a trend here?) Or maybe the overstuffed couches in Papa’s Den are the best napping location at Walt Disney World. Perhaps I need to better explore the details that inform the upstate New York theme at Saratoga.
You control our destiny, so make your comments count. Should we give one of these another try, or stick to our less-than-ideal plan of splitting between Villas at Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas? We’re staying where you convince us to stay. That is, unless our Villas at Grand Floridian Resort waitlist comes through…in which case, all bets are off!
May 29, 2016 Update: Thanks for all of the feedback, everyone! By my count, #TeamSarahtoga won (but in analyzing some of the comments, I suspect there might have been foul play and perhaps voter fraud… dun dun dun). However, we decided to do a split stay because there were some compelling arguments for Old Key West, including the photography, breakfast at Olivia’s, and the nature trail to Disney Springs (thanks for the heads up on that!).
There’s another reason we decided to do a split stay, and it’s interestingly the one thing that commenters seemed to overlook. That’s the difference in points needed for a SSR v. OKW stay (we also overlooked this, initially). For the duration of our 5-night stay, Saratoga would cost 20 more points. At a value of $15/point (value if we were to rent DVC points), this works out to be a $300 difference, which is pretty significant. This, too, played a part in impacting our decision.
With that said, we have put in a couple of waitlists for the Villas at Grand Floridian, and remain hopeful those will come through. Our waitlist luck is nothing short of awful (I think we’re 1 for maybe 10?), so we aren’t holding our breath (although we are trying a different “strategy” this time). Even though the added cost is effectively $100 more per night (in points) to stay at the Grand Floridian over OKW, this is one point difference we can more easily justify. Especially around Christmas.
Anyway, thanks for all the feedback. Much appreciated!
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Where do you think we should stay? Old Key West, Saratoga Springs Resort, or none of the above? Share your take–and not just the 3 word name of the resort–this isn’t some majority wins vote!