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Families new to the travel hacking hobby typically have two trips on their mind when first starting out - Hawaii and Disney. I know those two places were high on my travel goal list before finding this hobby realizing I could travel half way across the world to a tropical island for the same out of pocket costs.
In this post, I'll show you how I have stayed at Disney deluxe resorts for a fraction of the advertised cost. I've always been the type of person who likes to stay in very nice resort areas and hotels, but love to stay on a great deal.
While the Orlando area around Disney World has a ton of options for places to stay, our family has always stayed on Disney property. There is just something magical about Disney property - all of the resorts are so well themed, there is no need to drive a car with the multiple transportation options available onsite, and it just has a different vibe than if staying offsite at condo or chain hotel.
Staying On Site Perks
Some of the perks all guests staying on Disney property will receive:
- Transportation to and from the airport with Disney's Magical Express
- Transportation (Bus, Boat, and/or Monorail) to the parks and downtown Disney
- Access to extended theme park hours - either an hour earlier than the general public or up to three hours later after closing
- Delivery of purchases made directly back to your resort.
Disney breaks down their onsite resorts into three main categories - Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. Value resorts start at $100/night while moderates start at $191/night and finally deluxe resorts starting at $307/night.
Value Resorts (5) - starts at $100/night
- All-Star Music (usually the least expensive with the other 2 All-Star resorts)
- All-Star Sports
- All-Star Movies
- Pop Century
- Art of Animation (the newest and most expensive)
The value resorts are the smallest and most basic type rooms except for the family suite offerings. Family suites are more expensive, close to a moderate resort price, but offer more space and a second bathroom. Standard value resorts rooms are designed to sleep up to four people.
Value resorts feature larger than life icons throughout the property. The pools are large but you won't find any water slides. Dining options at the value resorts are limited to food courts. If you want a mini-refrigerator in your room, you will have to request it and pay a fee.
Value resorts also tend to be the farthest away from the theme parks and require bus transportation or using your own vehicle. The value resorts also don't have extras like fitness centers, spas, or valet parking.
Moderate Resorts (5) - starts at $191/night
- Caribbean Beach (usually the least expensive)
- Port Orleans Riverside
- Port Orleans French Quarter
- Coronado Springs (usually the least expensive)
- Cabins at Fort Wilderness (most expensive, but very different from the other moderates)
The moderate resorts are in the median range. The rooms are a little larger, beds are bigger, and the decorated a little nicer. The moderates are designed to sleep up to five people - but you might be a little cramped.
The grounds at moderate resorts are larger and offer more things to do (biking, etc). The pools are also better themed and feature water slides. There is also a sit down restaurant at each in addition to a food court.
The main transportation is also the Disney bus system if you don't have your own vehicle, although the Port Orleans resorts do offer boat transportation to the Downtown Disney area. The malue resorts also don't have extras like fitness centers, spas, or valet parking.
Deluxe Resorts (8) - starts at $307/night
- Wilderness Lodge(usually the least expensive)
- Polynesian Village Resort (usually the second most expensive)
- Beach Club Resort
- Contemporary Resort
- Yacht Club Resort
- Boardwalk Inn
- Animal Kingdom Lodge (usually the least expensive along with Wilderness Lodge)
- Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (most expensive by far)
The deluxe resorts have the most space and largest standard rooms. Deluxe resorts are designed to sleep up to five people. Standard rooms will typically offer queen beds and possibly bunk beds (Wilderness Lodge) or daybeds depending on the resort and type of room booked. The rooms also feature patios or balconies and indoor corridors.
Deluxe resorts offer the most amenities including fitness centers, spas, rental of water crafts and bikes, etc. All pools have a water slide and some have cabanas available for rental. Dining options at deluxe resorts typically include multiple sit-down restaurants in addition to counter service restaurants.
The best perk of deluxe resorts is their location - so close to the theme parks. You are able to walk to take a short boat ride to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios parks when staying at Beach Club, Yacht Club, and Boardwalk Inn. The Contemporary, Grand Floridian, and the Polynesian are 'monorail' resorts - meaning a short ride on the monorail to the Magic Kingdom. Also since you are so close the views are amazing, depending on which resort you choose, you may be able to watch the nightly fireworks displays directly from your balcony.
Disney Vacation Club
DVC is Disney's version of a timeshare. There are currently 13th Disney DVC resorts with the 14th opening in July of 2017. Most are located at Disney World, but a few aren't.
DVC at Disney World
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas at Jambo House
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas at Kidani Village
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort
- Disney's Beach Club Villas
- Disney's Boardwalk Villas
- The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian
- Disney's Old Key West Resort
- Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
- Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge
- Copper Creek Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge (Opening in July 2017)
Other DVC Properties
- Disney's Vero Beach Resort (Florida Coast)
- Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort (South Carolina)
- Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina (Hawaii)
- The Villas at Disney's Grand California Hotel & Spa (Disneyland)
As you can see while there are a few stand alone DVC resorts (Old Key West, Saratoga Springs) in Disney World, most are connected to and share facilities with Disney Deluxe Resorts.
DVC resorts offer multiple different room options: Studios, One, Two, and Three Bedroom Villas. The studios include a small kitchenette area with sink, microwave, and small refrigerator - all one-bedroom and larger villas include washers and dryers, and full kitchens with dining tables.
The Secret & How it Works
The secret to staying at a deluxe resort for a moderate resort price is to stay at the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) villas. You might be asking how do I stay at these without purchasing a DVC membership? The answer is renting points from members. You don't have to know a DVC member to rent their points.
David at www.dvcrequest.com has setup a very successful site that matches DVC members who aren't going to use their DVC points to people who want to rent them at stay at DVC Villas.
DVC is based upon a points system. If you were to buy into DVC, you would be purchasing a certain number of points at a home resort (one of the above mentioned). Different size rooms at different times of the year at each resort costs different amount of points. For example, reserving a 3 bedroom villas at Grand Floridian Villas during Christmas week is going to cost a lot more points than renting a studio at the Boardwalk Villas in September.
Let me walk you through an example to show you how this works. First let's get a quote directly from Disney for a week long stay in October at Disney's Boardwalk resort in a standard view room - $3324.38.
Now we'll head over to DVC Request and get a quote.
After clicking on 'Cost Calculator', select the dates of your trip on the calendar. You will see the chart below of all of the different resorts pop up with the amount of points required for the stay.
A studio at the Boardwalk Villas costs 76 DVC points for a stay from September 16th thru September 23rd. For reservations less than 7 months away, the cost is $15 per point. As noted in the yellow box above there is a $2/point premium for 'Home Resort Bookings' more than 7 months away.
Why a $2/point premium?
Remember above when I mentioned when you become a DVC member you purchase a certain amount of points at a home resort? Let's say you bought 100 points contract at the Boardwalk Villas. Since Boardwalk Villas is your home resort - you are able to make reservations only at the Boardwalk Villas more than 7 months in advance (but last than 11 months).
If you want to stay somewhere else, you will have to wait until the 7 month or less mark to use your Boardwalk Villas DVC points. This really doesn't concern us because DVC Request has points available from all of the home resorts. The more popular resorts and room types book up quickly - sometimes right at the 11 month mark - that's why there is a $2 premium if you are booking between 7 and 11 months.
Back to our example, after clicking on the 'Show Dollar Amount' button, the points automatically get converted to the price of the stay in dollars. Here is our example:
So while Disney is charging over $3300 for a standard room at Boardwalk Inn, you can rent points and stay the same exact week at the Boardwalk Villas for only $1140. Heck you could even stay in this 2 bedroom villa at Boardwalk for the same $3300 Disney is charging for a standard room.
Comparison to Disney's Moderate Resorts
Since this post is titled - 'Stay at Disney Deluxe Resorts for Moderate Prices' - let's also get a quote from Disney at one of their moderate resorts. Here is the same week in September at a moderate resort - Port Orleans resort:
Disney's moderate resort is still $600 more expensive than our Deluxe Villa at the Boardwalk where we can walk to both EPCOT and Disney's Hollywood Studios parks. It's a no brainer to rent DVC points.
Renting DVC points and staying at a DVC resort entitles you to the same perks as if you were booking directly with Disney. You will get the same:
- Free transportation throughout Disney property
- Extra magic hours
- Free parking (if you have a car)
- Free Magical Express transportation to and from the airport
- Option to add the Disney Dining Plan
- Magic Bands and 'My Disney Experience'
While we are saving almost $2000, there are a few differences between the Disney Deluxe resorts and the DVC Villas:
- Daily housekeeping is not included - you will get trash and towel service if your stay is more than 4 days. If you stay 8 days or more, you will get a full cleaning service on the 4th day and trash and towel service on the 8th day. You can purchase additional housekeeping at $30-$75 for each day depending on the room type.
- One bedroom and larger rooms will include a full kitchen - you can get a grocery delivery service to deliver you food for breakfasts/lunches/etc if you would like.
- One bedroom and larger rooms also include a washer and dryer - not terribly difficult to wash and dry your towels each day if you don't purchase additional housekeeping.
- Since you are renting a member's points - there are no cancellations allowed. Although you can purchase travel insurance.
- As mentioned above the most popular rooms at the most popular resorts sell out quickly - DVCRequest.com has a good article on 'When To Book' - look for tab on left.
My family has personally rented DVC points on numerous occasions and have stayed at the following DVC resorts with:
- Vero Beach
- Beach Club Villas (Best pool at any resort - slides, lazy river, sand bottom pool, etc)
- Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary Resort (Awesome able to walk to the Magic Kingdom)
- Boardwalk Villas (Located half way between EPCOT and Hollywood Studios - walk to both)
- Grand Floridian (AMAZING 1-Bedroom)
- Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
I'm not sure why people would reserve directly with Disney when they can rent points for 1/3 of the cost and save tons of money.
Have you ever rented DVC points? How was your experience and what is your favorite resort?
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