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The Benefits of Disney Resorts & Club Level
The Benefits of Disney Resorts & Club Level
My family and I have been taking traditional Disney World vacations since 2000, when I experienced my first magical trip at the age of 11. We spend a couple of years saving up money in a vacation fund, and then use it to go all out on our Disney extravaganzas. We've learned quite a lot through our different stays, and as the parks themselves evolve.
One strategy in particular stands out above all the rest of our vacation tricks: staying on-location in a Disney-owned resort. Obviously Disney World and its surrounding area plays host to a huge number of hotels. Most are owned and operated by the Disney company, but some are operated by other hotel conglomerates, such as Hilton. What's the difference? We know from experience.
First and foremost, whether you stay at a Disney-run resort or not, I cannot stress how beneficial it is to stay on-property. Especially if you have small children. The conveniences more than make up for the cost. Staying on-property obviously cuts down on your travel time to and from the parks. You're paying all this money for your tickets, why waste time driving in and out of Disney just to get to the attractions? It becomes a project just to go anywhere--particularly with children. And then what? You're stuck committing to constant motion all day long. You have to pack everything you need for the day and then you're pressured to desperately milk everything out of the parks while you're there.
On our family trips, when we get tired, especially in the hottest part of the day, we just go back to our on-property hotel and take a nap or hit the pool. We have a relaxing siesta before hitting the parks again for dinner and evening attractions. If you have young children, this is a prime way to get afternoon nap-time in. Disney World can be exhausting, especially in the hotter months. Your vacation will be so much lovelier if you and your children aren't forcing yourselves to run around in go-go-go mode all day long.
The convenience of staying on-property cannot be stressed enough. One of the key components of the Walt Disney World Resort is its immersive quality. When you pass through those cheerful gates, you are in wonderland. Relax, enjoy it, embrace it, instead of carting the family back and forth to some chain hotel away from the parks. Staying on-property is truly the way to get the full Disney experience!
If you're going to stay on-property for Disney World, you may as well take it one step further and stay in a Disney-owned resort. There are many hotels that are on-site, but are not operated by the Disney Company. These include: the seven Downtown Disney hotels, the Four Seasons Resort Orlando, the Swan and Dolphin Hotels, and Shades of Green. These have their own benefits, not the least of which is price (the Shades of Green is for active and retired military, and it's where my family and I purchase our park tickets to apply my father's military discount!). Our first two trips were spent at the Swan and Dolphin, respectively. They were lovely hotels in a perfect location for our wants and needs. But they are not operated by Disney.
We are wiser now. On our third WDW vacation we stayed in an actual Disney hotel and never looked back. Since then we have stayed at the Yacht Club, the Boardwalk, and then back to the Yacht Club because we're obsessed with it now. But there are many, many other Disney resorts to experience (In fact, you are always welcome to walk through and explore the atmosphere of other Disney resorts and enjoy their restaurants, no matter where you stay). What a difference it makes to stay at a Disney-owned resort! When you arrive at their doors, they greet you by your party's name and quite literally say, "Welcome home." And it really does feel like home! Staying at a Disney resort means being treated like royalty--in true Disney fairy tale fashion. What makes Disney World stand apart as a resort destination is the impeccable and unflappable service. They set the standard for vacationing, all-around.
Staying in a Disney-owned resort puts you right in the action of it all, with nearly effortless transportation to and from the parks via regular buses and ferries (or in some cases, walking! The Yacht and Beach Clubs and the Boardwalk are in easy walking distance from the gates to EPCOT's World Showcase). Each resort has its own theme and atmosphere, from the New England nautical style of the Yacht Club to the exotic, wild warmth of the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The new Animation Resorts are a riot of color and fun, perfect for the kids (or fans of art in general!). The list goes on and on, but what they all provide is wonderful service and Disney magic.
Staying in a Disney Resort gives you all kinds of perks. One of our favorites is the fact that any purchases you make in the parks will be magically delivered to your hotel for you. No lugging around bags of souvenirs and wrestling them on rides! You simply make your purchase, indicate your resort and room number at the register, and when you get back to the hotel just swing by and pick up your items from the service desk. Staying in a Disney resort gives you access to the complimentary transportation, options for the Disney Dining plans, and you automatically get the new Disney Magic Bands, which are extremely advantageous (read all about them elsewhere!). You also have access to Extra Magic Hours. Pretty much every day, one of the Disney parks will either open early or close late for exclusive low-crowd access for Disney Resort guests only! It's a great way to get in on uber-popular rides that are otherwise difficult to get through lines or access Fastpasses for. Recenly, Disney hotels have added complimentary wi-fi services as well!
The conveniences and joys of staying in a Disney hotel speak for themselves. But you can even go one step further by staying on the Club Level of one of Disney's resorts.
Our family believes if you're going to spend all that money on Disney World, you might as well go all the way and do it right. Two trips ago, our family got a great deal on reservations at the Club Level of Disney's Yacht Club Resort. Club Level is Disney's version of "concierge level." It was devastatingly awesome. Now we can never go back to the life of vacationing peasants! We're ruined forever.
We were greeted at the door of the Yacht Club and personally whisked away to the top floor--accessible only by a registered Magic Band (or keycard). A separate, more personal check-in desk took care of us, and even offered us a choice of wine or beer to enjoy during the check-in formalities. Disney's Club Levels offer a whole different realm of service. All Disney guests are treated like family, but the Club Level treats you like you have your own Fairy Godmother.
Club Level guests enjoy their own dining area and a continental breakfast each day. It may not be a hot breakfast, but it will certainly hold you over until it's time for a fabulous lunch in the parks. On pervious vacations, we would inadvertently spend a significant amount of money on getting breakfast somewhere outside of the hotel. The benefit of breakfast alone means the Club Level pretty much pays for itself.
At any given time of day, one of the beautiful humans that service the Club Level will bring you a beer or glass of wine. Any time you want. Free alcohol. Free. Again, this bonus basically pays for itself! Food and alcohol in the parks is unsurprisingly expensive. In the afternoon and evenings, the Club Level dining rooms provide snacks and hors D'oeuvres so delicious, our family has actually used them to substitute dinner. Again--saving gobs and gobs of money and still enjoying the resort experience!
The evening services wrap up with a complimentary beer and wine hour (though again, you can ask for a glass anytime you want), and coffee and liqueurs It's hard to beat filling a cup of delicious coffee and Kahlua and hitting EPCOT for some fireworks! I can't stress enough: imagine how much money you would blow in the parks to enjoy this amount of food and drink!
Of course, it's not just food and booze that makes the Club Level special. It's the atmosphere and incredible service. By the time our vacation week is over, we've often become quite friendly with the regular service staff. They go above and beyond to make your experience truly magical. They're warm and wonderful all day long, and they will help you solve any issue you may have. Our last trip was the first time we had experienced using the new Magic Band system in the Disney Parks. We had a hiccup getting one of the bands to activate (completely user-error), and the Club Level concierge stopped at nothing to fix it for us! She even made exclusive reservations to a show for us just for the "inconvenience" of our own user-error.
Is the Club Level expensive? Yes. It may not be within reach for everyone. But is it worth if, if you can swing it? Absolutely. Look for deals, especially through your job (my father gets discounts for his military service as well as his current employment with Southwest Airlines), or use previous trips to compare how much money you might spend on food and drink, to see if the Club Level service is worth it to you!
I hope this was a helpful insight into the benefits of staying in Disney resorts. If you're going to the Mouse House, do it right! And have an amazing trip.