Disney’s Memory Maker: How does it work and is it worth my money?

How Does Disney's Memory Maker Work and is it worth the money?

If you’re planning a Disney World vacation, sooner or later you’ll see information about Memory Maker – Disney’s photography package. Disney touts it as “the most incredible way to capture and relive your vacation memories”.I was a bit skeptical of the entire situation as first. I didn’t think it would be worth my $149. I was absolutely wrong! The first time I tried it was November last year during a conference with a group of 7 adults. We enjoyed the experience going around the parks, meeting characters, and taking advantage of the opportunity to have us all in every photo without someone being stuck behind the camera. My 2nd experience was with my immediate family and thats where the magic truly happened! It was my daughter’s first Disney World visit and capturing the smile on her face as she got to meet her favorite characters was PRICELESS! I wasn’t required to be behind the camera to preserve those moments – Disney did it for me. We ended up with at least 70 photos I was truly happy with and saved from our collection of about 300. Our most recent trip in April afforded us another opportunity to use Memory Maker. Over 7 days of park time, we ended up with nearly 800 photos at our disposal and I had hundreds of favorites to choose from (two of which are on my wall above my desk!)

Our more recent experience with the product was in January. We didn’t see as many characters this time around as my daughter took a liking to more of the attractions so about 300 photos that time around but still a great overall experience!

How does it work?

Once you purchase Memory Maker whether it’s through a package or as an individual purchase, the allotment is linked in your My Disney Experience account and all MagicBands linked to your account. If you have additional family and friends traveling with you, linking their accounts to yours will also allow them to use Memory Maker. Once on site, locate any PhotoPass photographer in one of Disney’s theme parks and ask to have your photo taken (if it’s a character experience, they will do it automatically). Scan one MagicBand from the group and voila! Your photos are uploaded to your My Disney Experience account. NEW Disney has added a preview of photos on the My Disney Experience app so you can view photos in the park in real time (allow a few minutes for upload, but it’s typically very quick) – something fun to do while you wait in line for another attraction.

How do a find a PhotoPass photographer?Fox family

Photographers are roaming around the parks and ready for your close up. You’ll see them at all of the major milestone locations and any location with a unique backdrop. Some photographers are only out at night while other locations are better during the day time. The My Disney Experience app now has a list of available locations for photographers. I think Disney heard the questions and feedback of all of you 2014 and 2015 travelers wishing to have more info on photo opportunities. You’ll find additional opportunities during special events and during the holiday season where photographers can also be found in the Disney deluxe resorts near the giant Christmas tree displays.

What are Magic Shots?

Magic Shots are fantastic little photos that Disney superimposes a character or little something special to Ellie MagicShotyour photo. The Disney photographer will pose you to make the shot work, set up their cameras and give you a few instructions for a face to make to truly make the moment memorable. You may ask for a Magic Shot from any photographer. Te general rule of thumb is that if a photographer has a camera on a tripod, they don’t have Magic Shots. If it’s a hand held camera, they may have something to help.

How long are my photos available?

You have 45 days from when the photo was taken to download them to keep them forever. You may purchase an extension if you need more time, but it’s best to just download them – throw them on your desktop and do the hard work of looking through the photos later.

I have a large group/multiple rooms. Do I need to purchase more than one allotment of Memory Maker?

Absolutely not! Guests will need to be appropriately linked through My Disney Experience under friends and family. As long as all guests are linked to the guest who purchased Memory Maker, the lead person will be able to download all of the photos. It’s best to have each party member linked to every other party member so everyone can see every photo taken online – it will have no affect on being able to download them.

I’m trying to view photos I’ve taken online but I only see a location to purchase or add it, what gives?

This is a common complaint from guests. You can view them from one of 2 places. The easiest way is by

One of my favorite photos from our April trip!

One of my favorite photos from our April trip!

visiting MyDisneyPhotoPass.com and logging in with the same credentials as My Disney Experience.You can also visit the My Disney Experience web site and go to the reservations and tickets page. The link to view photos from Memory Maker is all the way at the bottom of that page.

What do I do with my photos when I get home?

The lead guest (the person who has Memory Maker assigned to them) will have a DOWNLOAD button available (use either option in the question above to view them). Memory Maker is a digital entitlement so once your photos are downloaded, you may do whatever you’d like to with them whether its post them on Facebook or Instagram for family and friends, make a photo book through Shutterfly, or just keep them for yourself. You may take those photos to any local retailer to have them printed as well. Disney provides you with a letter of “ownership” to take with you if the retailer has any questions.

Is it worth the money?

This little girl of mine tried to beep every character's nose she encountered!

This little girl of mine tried to beep every character’s nose she encountered!

In a completely unbiased capacity, Y-E-S! I love it. Any trip traveling with a child or children, I will most definitely add it on to my package. For anyone interested in meeting characters, it’s worth it! For anyone who wants to to capture memories from their trip – YES! For anyone who is always stuck being the photographer – absolutely yes!

I heard Disney photographers will take a photo with my camera as well, is that true?

Yes, if you stop by any PhotoPass photographer and ask them to take a photo with your camera after they are done with the official photos, they will. In my previous experiences, those photos are not as good of quality as the official shots and since most of them only snap one photo, you’ll lower your chances that the entire family is both looking at the camera and smiling!

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

If you would like help planning your next Disney World vacation, I’d love to be a part of the process. Please feel free to contact me anytime for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

The Disney World Deluxe resort difference

 

It’s no secret that Disney World deluxe resorts are the top of the line in terms of available accommodations around their property. While they come with a larger price tag, I do feel like they are absolutely the ONLY option for me! After getting recharged with 2 amazing deluxe resorts over the past few days and it gave me a huge recharge of how much I absolutely love them! Don’t get me wrong, I love (almost) all Disney World resorts, but deluxe resorts are just a cut above the rest! So what makes them so amazing? Let me count the ways…

Service. All Disney cast members are trained to help traveling guests but deluxe service takes it to another level! I was greeted at Disney’s Grand Floridian at 10 am to check into my resort by a wonderful gentleman who had a conversation with me and truly engaged in the process. I was greeted by another wonderful cast member who walked me through the check in process. Now, I’m a frequent Disney goer, so the check in process is nothing new to me but this experience brought a new light to the experience and how wonderful it can be! I had an issue with my MagicBand (which my husband laughed at because it’s a pretty typical scenario for me) and I had another two cast members come to my rescue. In 10 minutes, I had touch points with FOUR different cast members who magically remedied this situation!

Dining. All Disney resorts have a quick service/grab and go dining option, but deluxe resorts have a minimum of THREE dining experiences (table service, quick service, and signature dining). That’s at minimum. You’ll likely see more than just 3 dining locations. And these are some of the best dining experiences you’ll find either inside or outside of the park INCLUDING character dining! How nice would it be to go from your room to enjoy a world class dining experience and then head back to your room to change back into park clothes to head back to the park.

Location, location, location. Almost every single Disney World deluxe resort has more than one mode of transportation to get you to and from the theme parks (exception – Animal Kingdom Lodge). This means you’ll be spending less time getting to and from the theme parks and more time enjoying them. This is great for many reasons – families that want their toddlers or young children to have a nap in the middle of the day, families that want to enjoy their resort’s amenities and not spend the entire trip inside the parks, interest in a great pool experience, or additional recreational activities. There is more to Disney than just theme parks and the deluxe resort offer some amazing opportunities to explore the surroundings and even watch fireworks right from your resort (or even your room).

Club Level Service. I’ve talked about club level service at Disney World resorts in several previous posts. I was lucky enough to stay at Beach Club and enjoy their club level service. I always enjoy the club level offerings and it really gives you a more upscale feel. This is definitely luxury travel! You have a continental breakfast each morning, light snacks and

Club level snacks offered at Beach Club resort (similar offerings at most other resorts)

Club level snacks offered at Beach Club resort (similar offerings at most other resorts)

refreshments mid-day (and this is a very quiet place to relax and work for those of us traveling on business), hot and cold appetizers in the evening and an array of lovely desserts in the evening. These meals are not meant to take over your daily meals (I still needed a dinner each evening, but it was nice to have access to drinks and some snacks while I was arriving). This is a fantastic resort opportunity for guests who want more out of their Disney World experience beyond just theme parks. Cast members are available daily to answer questions (and I put them to the test) as well as help guide you with transportation and making recommendations for dining and park plans. While there is a concierge at every Disney World resort, these special cast members are available to help on a more intricate level. For more on club level service…Club Level Service Overview and The Best Walt Disney World Club Level service.

Additional activities. If you’re looking for more to your Disney experience than just theme parks, look no further than deluxe resorts (and Disney deluxe villas). This amazing locations have water sports, special evening activities – roasting marshmallows on the beach, a view of fireworks right from your resort, upgraded pool experiences. These are really uniquely themed pool complexes with elaborate kids splash play areas and spacious pools so that every family has a great experience. In resorts like Grand Floridian, you can also book High Tea! We’ve made vacations at deluxe resorts with really limited time inside the theme parks because there is just so much to do and explore!

Space! In addition to the best locations on property, you’ll also get the most square footage in your room and even options for 1 and 2 bedroom spaces on club level floors as well as expanding your horizons to the villas. The rooms at Grand Floridian allow plenty of space for a family of 5 with 2 queen beds plus a day bed and still plenty of space for 5 suitcases (or a crib/pack n play if you are traveling with little ones) without feeling like you are tripping over each other. It’s a huge difference in the experience, especially coming from the tiny rooms at the All Star resorts!

I can’t wait for my next deluxe resort stay! I know it’s an additional cost out of pocket, but the benefits are perfect for our family! We are a fairly frugal family and I’m fairly plain as it relates to the clothing/name brand I purchase, but these “name brand” Disney experiences are absolutely worth the upgrade! If you’re looking to upgrade from your usual value or moderate resort stays, you can “try out” the lower cost rooms at either Wilderness Lodge or Animal Kingdom Lodge before you go on the very high end of the puzzle like a club level or theme park view room!

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2016 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

 

The Pros and Cons of Every Disney World resort!

There’s a lot of information out there about all of the Disney World resorts. So how do you choose? How do I make suggestions for my many wonderful guests? Typically, it’s easiest to start with price point. If you’re unsure of a budget, think about what most important: saving a bit more money and spending a little bit more time getting to and from the theme parks OR saving a bit more time and spending a bit more money to be in a more convenient location.

This at a glance guide is here to help get you closer to making that leap and choosing your resort! This is the second hardest part of any Disney World vacation (the hardest being actually waiting for your trip!!) Resorts are listed in alphabetical order.

All Star Movies, Music, Sports

PROS:

  • Least expensive resorts on property
  • Themes caters to families with young children
  • Close proximity to Animal Kingdom

CONS:

  • The 3 resorts share bus service
  • Location is remote which make trip to Magic Kingdom extremely long

Animal Kingdom Lodge & Villas

PROS:

  • Great Theme
  • One of the best pools on property
  • Standard and pool rooms among the cheapest on deluxe resorts
  • Some of the best dining on property

CONS:

  • Remote location in far southwest corner of property
  • Only deluxe resort that only has one method of transportation (bus only)

Art of Animation

PROS:

  • Great lodging for large families
  • One of the best resort quick service dining options (as rated by guests)
  • Newest Resort
  • Excellent and recognizable theming
  • Only value resort with the option of a queen bed
  • Family suites sleep up to 6
  • Only value resort with a zero entry pool
  • Each suite has a kitchenette with refrigerator, microwave and sink
  • Family suites have 2 full bathrooms
  • Interior doorways (all other value resorts have outdoor entry)

CONS:

  • Little Mermaid rooms not included in Disney Special Offer Discounts (including room only discounts and free dining)
  • Little Mermaid Rooms (non family suite) are far away from Animation Hall and buses
  • More expensive than other value resorts
  • Often busy as it is the newest Disney resort
  • Many guests report bad cell phone reception

Beach Club & Beach Club Villas

PROS:photo 3

  • Good on site dining
  • Boat service to Epcot and Hollywood Studios
  • 5-10 Minute walk to Epcot and Boardwalk
  • 15 minute walk to Hollywood studios
  • Best Pool on property
  • Great room views
  • Relaxing and tranquil theme

CONS:

  • Lack of counter service meals in the area
  • No transportation to Epcot front entrance
  • Bus to Downtown Disney is slow and shared with other resorts in the area

Boardwalk Inn & Villas

PROS:

  • 5-10 minute walk to Epcot or Beach Club/Yacht Club
  • 10-15 minute walk to Hollywood Studios
  • Boat Service to Hollywood Studios & Epcot
  • Near Boardwalk nightlife
  • Large selection of dining

CONS:

  • No restaurants in hotels
  • No children’s character meals
  • No direct transportation to Epcot main entrance
  • Shared bus service to Downtown Disney

Caribbean Beach

PROS:

  • Bright and exciting theme
  • Good for young children
  • Convenient parking
  • Good lakefront setting

CONS:

  • Large layout that can be confusing
  • Not great on site dining
  • Intermittent bus service
  • Some buildings are a long way away from main building
  • Only moderate resort with double beds

Contemporary (and Bay Lake Tower)

PROS:Pros and Cons of DIsney's Contemporary Resort

  • Proximity to Magic Kingdom – within walking distance
  • On Magic Kingdom monorail line
  • Views from Bay Lake or Theme Park View rooms are unlike any other resort
  • Able to view Magic Kingdom fireworks from upper floors
  • Recently renovated guest rooms
  • Additional restaurants available along monorail

CONS:

  • Lack of theme in comparison to other Disney resorts
  • At times, bus system is shared with other resorts along the monorail
  • Garden view rooms are somewhat of a walk to get to monorail
  • Walking to Magic Kingdom day after day can get tiring (your only other option is to take the 15 minute monorail ride all the way around)

Coronado Springs

PROS:

  • Nicely decorated guest rooms
  • Water view rooms are relaxing and romantic
  • Several dining options on site
  • Good main pool area
  • Business center/business class rooms
  • Good self park
  • Ranchos section is quiet and secluded

CONS:

  • Large resort
  • Business travelers
  • Some families complain that it’s smokey
  • Not all buildings have elevators

 

Fort Wilderness Cabins

PROS:

  • Rustic atmosphere
  • Being at Disney without feeling like you are
  • Special shows/live events
  • Boat service

CONS:

  • Isolated location
  • Large layout
  • Confusing transportation service
  • Limited dining (with no quick service option)
  • Small bathrooms
  • Some locations are very far away from amenities

Grand Floridian & Villas at Grand Floridian

PROS:

  • Great location on Disney property
  • Ample table service dining options
  • Least amount of time spent travelling to Magic Kingdom
  • Excellent customer service
  • Great beach
  • Many recreational/water sport options
  • Spa available

CONS:

  • Large layout
  • Outer building can be a decent walk to main building
  • Not a good theme for children
  • Not many good dining options for kids
  • Most expensive option on Disney property
  • Villas not included with discounts or special offers

Old Key West

PROS:

  • Very Nice Villas (especially the kitchens)
  • Quiet resort
  • Convenient parking around property
  • Quiet pool area
  • Boat service to Downtown Disney
  • No general resort traffic

CONS:

  • Large sprawling layout
  • Only ok bus service
  • No easy access to and from resort for drivers
  • Not in a great location on property
  • Limited meal options


Polynesian Village

PROS:

  • Beautiful property and theme
  • Excellent restaurants on property and more along monorail
  • Proximity to Magic Kingdom
  • Walking distance to TTC to get to Epcot monorail
  • Beach
  • Ability to watch Magic Kingdom fireworks from beach
  • Great pool

CONS:

  • Open walkways exposed to elements
  • Ongoing construction/renovations through early 2015
  • Some outlying buildings are a 6-8 minute walk from Great Ceremonial House
  • Villas will be excluded from new promotional rates and discounts when open

Pop Century

PROS:

  • Proximity to Hollywood Studios and Epcot
  • Inexpensive
  • Walking distance to Art of Animation
  • Quick walking access to Classic Hall and Bus Stop from all roomsIMG_1100

CONS:

  • Uncovered bus lines
  • Only one dining option

Port Orleans French Quarter & Riverside

PROS

  • Great food courts
  • Nice scenery/landscaping
  • Boat service to Downtown Disney
  • Romantic atmosphere
  • Small in comparison to other moderate resorts (French Quarter)
  • Convenient service to Downtown Disney

CONS

  • Very large resort (Riverside)
  • Busy busy service
  • Some rooms are very far from main building/dining options (Riverside)

Saratoga Springs (and Treehouse Villas)

PROS:

  • Very Nice Villas
  • Convenient parking around property
  • Quiet pool area
  • Boat service to Downtown Disney
  • Lively atmosphere
  • Treehouse Villas sleep the most among any of the Disney resorts
  • Among the least expensive villa options

CONS:

  • Lack of theme and Disney feel
  • Large resort
  • No wheelchair access to Treehouse villas

Wilderness Lodge & Villas at Wilderness Lodge

PROS:

  • One of the best themes in all of Disney
  • Favorite resort of children
  • Romantic setting for adults
  • Good dining options
  • Boat access to other resorts and parks
  • Beautiful view from guest rooms
  • Studio villa sleeps up to 5 guests

CONS:

  • Standard rooms only sleep up to 4 guests
  • Transfer to monorail to get to other Magic Kingdom area resorts

Yacht ClubPros and Cons of Beach Club & Yacht Club Resorts

PROS:

  • Good on site dining
  • Boat service to Epcot and Hollywood Studios
  • 5-10 Minute walk to Epcot and Boardwalk
  • 15 minute walk to Hollywood studios
  • Best Pool on property
  • Great room views
  • Relaxing and tranquil theme

CONS:

  • Lack of counter service meals in the area
  • No transportation to Epcot front entrance
  • Bus to Downtown Disney is slow and shared with other resorts in the area
A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

RReady to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Pros and Cons of Disney Deluxe Villas

 


Finishing the comparison of each resort class, today’s in depth look is at deluxe villas. These resorts are typically located in close proximity to most of the deluxe resorts, but there are a select few that have their own location.  They are typically smaller than the moderate and value resorts. These locations have options of studios, 1-bedroom, 2-bedrooms, and some 3-bedroom with limited availability. The studios have queen beds and there are various bed sizes with the other bedrooms sizes. 1-bedroom and up have a full kitchen and all have washers and dryers available. All have multiple dining opportunities including quick service and table service options. Pools also have water slides and kiddie slides. Once again I’ll start with my opinion of “the best of”…

Best Pool: Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Beach Club Villas. This pool is more of an experience than a pool. There’s a whirlpool, deep end, “quick sand” a little mini beach with a zero depth entry and more. This is a shared pool with Beach Club & Yacht Club resorts so it’s often busy, but based on its size, I don’t think it’s overwhelming.

Best Grounds: Animal Kingdom Villas wins this race! With animals roaming the Savannah and the lush, green trees, it’s beautiful! Animal Kingdom Villas have 2 locations: Jambo House (the main building) and Kindai Village. Kindai Village is a little bit more quiet and serene but away from most dining.

Best Location on Disney property: Bay Lake Tower or the new Villas at Grand Floridian. Bay Lake Tower is in close proximity to Contemporary which is within walking distance  of Magic Kingdom. The only reason Villas at Grand Floridian might have the edge is that Bay Lake Tower has a skywalk to get to the monorail, while Grand Floridian Villas is a little less of a walk to the monorail platform.

Honorable mention goes to Beach Club Villas which is within walking distance to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

Best Bus system: Each one has their pros and cons as at times bus service is shared (especially depending on the time of year). Some guests have complained that the bus to Magic Kingdom from Yacht/Beach Club is slow and monorail area resort guests have said that the buses are slow to Hollywood Studios. The only resort of the group that is ALL bus: Animal Kingdom Villas has good bus service and Kindai Village is the first stop!

Best Dining options: If we’re going based solely on dining locations in the villas, the winner is Animal Kingdom Villas with Sanaa at Kindai Village and all the same great dining locations – Jiko and Boma in Jambo House.

Best rooms for kids: Villas at Wilderness Lodge. The woodsy atmosphere and fun activities for kids are probably a big reason. Plus, this resort has boat access to Magic Kingdom which is a fun and different mode of transportation for kids.  For the animal lovers, Animal Kingdom Villas have great activities and a fun pool area. Kids can be entertained for hours at this location at no additional cost. The only downside is the travel time to three of the four parks.

Best rooms for adults: Any of these resorts are great for adults! If it’s just a small studio for two adults, or an extended family trip with a private bedroom for adults, you can’t lose! I think I would most enjoy the quiet of Villas at Wilderness Lodge or Animal Kingdom Villas for the quiet and cozy accommodations.

The good, the bad, and the ugly. Once again, it’s really about what is important to you for your vacation. If you’re thinking of staying deluxe, you really can’t go wrong with any location on property. With all the available dining, amenities, great service, and locations, close your eyes and pick one. You can either go based on theme or location.

There are current some minor renovations happening around the Villas including some intermittent construction on Villas at Wilderness Lodge and future plans for Beach Club Villas.

If I’m stretching to find something “ugly” in these resorts it would be that Saratoga Springs doesn’t really have a great Disney theme and it is quite large. Old Key West is also a large, sprawling resort, but the DVC owners that call this location home truly love their location.

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

 

Pros and cons of Disney World deluxe resorts

Continuing the comparison of each resort class, today’s in depth look is at deluxe resorts. These resorts are smaller than the moderate resorts, and have several differences than the moderates. All have interior hallways and entry doors and most are located in close proximity to at least one of the Disney theme parks. All have multiple dining opportunities including quick service, table service, and signature dining. Pools also have water slides and kiddie slides. Once again I’ll start with my opinion of “the best of”…

Best Pool: Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Yacht Club & Beach Club. This pool is more of an experience than a pool. There’s a whirlpool, deep end,

“quick sand” a little mini beach with a zero depth entry and more.

Best Grounds: This is a tough one. Animal Kingdom Lodge probably has a slight edge on Wilderness Lodge. At any point in time, take a stroll around the Animal Kingdom Lodge property and see animals roaming the savannah. This is all part of the experience.

Best Location on Disney property: Three way tie: Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian. If I had to break the tie, Polynesian wins the overall prize. These three resorts are located in very close proximity to Magic Kingdom and have monorail access to Magic Kingdom. Polynesian is set apart by the other two as it is walking distance to the Ticket & Transportation Center (TTC) which provides monorail access to Epcot. Grand Floridian and Contemporary also have monorail access to the TTC, however, it’s via transfer from the resort/Magic Kingdom monorail.

Honorable mention: The three Epcot area resorts – Yacht Club, Beach Club, and Boardwalk. These three resorts are within walking distance of Epcot and Hollywood Studios (you can also take a boat to both locations as well).

Best Bus system: Each one has their pros and cons as at times bus service is shared (especially depending on the time of year). Some guests have complained that the bus to Magic Kingdom from Yacht/Beach Club is slow and monorail area resort guests have said that the buses are slow to Hollywood Studios. The only resort of the group that is ALL bus: Animal Kingdom Lodge has good bus service, but it’s shared with the Villas down the way (which is the first stop).

Best Dining options: TOUGH choice! Contemporary has some of the most loved locations: Chef Mickey’s with a view of the monorail running through the building, Contempo Café and California Grill. I personally love the dining at Polynesian as it’s different and absolutely delicious. Grand Floridian has some great character and signature dining (Victoria & Albert’s – the only restaurant that’s no kids allowed and 2 other signature restaurants on property). The Boardwalk resort area provides a large array of dining options just steps away from your resort as well. For unique dining, Animal Kingdom Lodge has African and Indian style food that guests rave about over and over! So in short, I can’t make a concrete decision.

Best rooms for kids: Wilderness Lodge is consistently rated as the favorite resort of children. The woodsy atmosphere and fun activities for kids are probably a big reason. Plus, this resort has boat access to Magic Kingdom which is a fun and different mode of transportation for kids.  For the animal lovers, Animal Kingdom Lodge has great activities and a fun pool area. Kids can be entertained for hours at this location at no additional cost. The only downside is the travel time to three of the four parks.

Best rooms for adults: Any club level room at any of the resorts is great for adults. For those looking to save a bit of cash, try a theme park view room at Contemporary. While it doesn’t scream ‘Disney’, it’s a nice relaxing and modern design. The conveniences and dining options make it a great adults only vacation resort. For those looking for a more extravagant vacation, the beautiful Grand Floridian and Spa have the most lavish amenities plus an on-site spa for a relaxing break to a busy vacation.

The good, the bad, and the ugly. Once again, it’s really about what is important to you for your vacation. If you’re thinking of staying deluxe, you really can’t go wrong with any location on property. With all the available dining, amenities, great service, and locations, close your eyes and pick one. You can either go based on theme or location.

At all deluxe resorts you have the choice of stay club level giving you concierge service and a nice lounge for breakfast, snacks, and beverages throughout the day. Beach Club is testing their lounge open 24/7. The others are typically open from 7 am – 10 pm.

Polynesian is currently undergoing major renovations including the pool beginning this summer through spring of 2015 and the Great Ceremonial Hall (the main building) beginning in March through the end of the year. This also includes some of the walkways, beautiful scenery and tropical feel of Polynesian as they introduce Disney Vacation Club property to this resort. My advice? Stay away until the renovation is complete. If you’re going to stay at a beautiful location like Polynesian, you want the complete experience!

Boardwalk is scheduled to undergo some renovation in June of this year and Beach Club has some conversations about updating their rooms as well. While this shouldn’t affect your stay as much as Polynesian, it may make a difference in your interest in staying at these resorts.

Cost wise, from lowest to highest goes like this…Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, Contemporary (Garden View rooms), Beach Club/Yacht Club, Boardwalk Inn, Polynesian, Contemporary (Tower rooms), Grand Floridian.

Not much “ugly” to report here. Some bus service can be slow or shared, but other than that, I find it difficult to really fault these great resorts!

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Disney World Hotels: On site vs. Off Site

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Another big question I get all the time from potential clients looking at a Disney World vacation is whether to stay on site or off site. I am of course biased toward on site as I know quite so much about that and have stayed at many of the Disney resorts as well. I’ve created a handy comparison chart as well as a hypothetical comparison to include Disney resorts as well as Disney’s Swan/Dolphin, and off site hotels. The comparison is very interesting!

Disney resorts Swan/Dolphin Off Site
Airport transport Yes – free No No
Discounts Typically 2-4 months available from arrival date – % off room total discounts; sometimes ticket discounts Discounts variable. At times teacher discounts available Variable by location.
Tickets Can be included in ticket packages (at times for a discount!) May be purchased separately May be purchased separately
Extra Magic Hours Included Included None
Parking Free at resorts and parks Free at parks only (additional $15 daily at resort) Typically free at hotel, $15 daily parking at parks
Park Transport from your resort Free Free Some intermittent buses at some hotels
Disney Dining Plan Available when purchasing park tickets as a part of your package Separate dining plan for Swan/Dolphin restaurants only (Disney Dining plan not available) None available – for Disney resort guests only
Average cost per night in July Value  ~$135+Moderate ~$208+Deluxe ~294+*does not include room discount, tax included ~$209+ plus taxDiscounted teacher rates available ~$149-$179 Variable ~$79 and up plus tax
Location Variable by resort – all on Disney property Epcot resort area Variable – Not on Disney property
Park transport Variable by resort – value resorts are bus only; some deluxe resorts are walking distance, monorail, or boat Boat access or walking distance to Hollywood Studios and Epcot; Shared bus service to Magic Kingdom & Animal Kingdom Your car only
Resort fee None $17 + tax per day Typically, none
Charging privileges on Disney property (to your room account) Available Only available at Swan/Dolphin and not throughout Disney resorts and parks Not available
FastPass+ Available 60 days in advance Available 60 days in advance Available upon arrival in the park
Advanced Dining Reservations Available 180 days in advance (plus 10 days into your trip) Available 180 days in advance (plus 10 days into your trip) Available 180 days in advance (must book your reservations day by day)
MagicBands Included Included None
Average cost for a 7 days, 6 night trip for a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 children)Base park ticketsNo dining plan Includes park ticketsValue: $2170+Moderate: $2645+Deluxe: $3223.44*Non-discounted rates. Room discounts will be available (typically up to 30%) Room: $1530Park Tickets: $1216Resort Fee: $102Airport Transfer: $70TOTAL: $2918

(more if you rent a car)

Room: $775Park Tickets: $1216Rental Car:$300Parking:  $90TOTAL: $2381

(most conservatively with a hotel in Kissimmee)

Benefits No car necessary!No resort fee!Everything at your finger tips!Ability to add on dining plan! One of the best locations on Disney propertyOffers some teacher discounts Rooms are cheaper, but everything else is more expensive!

 


Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Spotlight Saturday: Disney’s Art of Animation

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Rounding out the value resorts: Art of Animation. Disney’s newest resort and already a crowd favorite.

Resort Class: Value

Dining: Landscape of Flavors

Location: Wide World of Sports Area

Closest Park(s): Hollywood Studios and then Epcot

Walking around Disney’s Art of Animation, you are surrounded by the magic of Disney animated favorites including The Lion King, Finding Nemo, Cars, and The Little Mermaid. The wonderful work by the imagineers continues inside each resort room. Guests that have visited this resort as well as other Disney resorts say it has the look and feel of a moderate or even deluxe resort. In comparison, Art of Animation has many “upgrades” over other value resorts including indoor hallways to rooms, a zero entry pool, and kitchenettes. The main pool even has a sound system built in for an even more magical experience.


Pros:

  • Great lodging for large families
  • One of the best resort quick service dining options (as rated by guests)
  • Has own bus service
  • Newest Resort
  • Excellent and recognizable theming
  • Largest resort in Disney World
  • Only value resort with the option of a queen bed
  • Family suites sleep up to 6
  • Only value resort with a zero entry pool
  • Each suite has a kitchenette with refrigerator, microwave and sink
  • Within walking distance of Disney’s Pop Century Resort
  • Family suites have 2 full bathrooms
  • Interior doorways (all other value resorts have outdoor entry)

Cons:

  • Often not included in Disney Special Offer Discounts (including room only discounts and free dining)
  • Little Mermaid Rooms (non family suite) are far away from Animation Hall and buses
  • Only one dining option on site
  • More expensive than other value resorts
  • Often busy as it is the newest Disney resort
  • Many guests report bad cell phone reception