Ever since our first trip to Walt Disney World, it was a longtime dream of ours to stay at a Disney deluxe resort. We never thought it would happen because it is so expensive! A trip to Disney is costly enough, especially with the merciless exchange rate to take into consideration. We are of the school of thought that if you are going to be spending most of your time in the parks, you don’t need to stay in a deluxe resort because you’ll be spending big money on the resort and not getting the full experience, which isn’t great value for your money. But despite our logical cost-conscious planning, staying at a Disney deluxe resort was still on our bucket list of things to do. Plus, as Disney fans, we want to experience all that Disney has to offer, which includes its signature deluxe resorts.
The first deluxe we got to stay in was Animal Kingdom Lodge and it didn’t take long for us to figure out why people splurge on deluxe resort stays. Getting out of the car at the entrance to Animal Kingdom Lodge was a dream come true. There’s a subtle soundscape outside (music and/or thematic ambient sound) and the resort has a relaxed and tranquil atmosphere. There is lush greenery everywhere and you feel completely secluded from the rest of the world. It may sound cliché, but it’s the honest truth; we felt whisked away to a completely different part of the world and we were in love!
Staying deluxe truly is a completely different Disney experience. For us, the feeling of staying in deluxe resorts has never gotten old. It’s exciting each and every time.
However, that hefty price tag really gets in the way of our love affair with deluxe Disney resorts, and for us it’s just not worth going into debt over, which would happen if we consistently paid rack rate (full price) for a deluxe resort stay. So, the question becomes, how can we stay at a deluxe resort smartly? How can we do this without paying rack rate and make it affordable? Here’s 6 ways we have stayed at Disney World deluxe resorts.
6 – Save Your Pennies
Just kidding – don’t save your pennies, since they no longer exist in Canada! Instead, save your loonies and twoonies! But seriously, start saving. There are lots of ways to do this. If you have a serving job, save your tips, or save all your loose change. Put a percentage of your pay cheque aside for your deluxe Disney vacation. However you want to save, give yourself plenty of time to save your hard earned dollars. This is the most obvious (and most boring) way to save, but it’s also the most important and is most likely needed for any Disney vacation.
If you’re looking for a few more ways to save for (or on) a Disney Vacation, you can check out more of our tips here.
5 – Book Early and With a Travel Agent
Book your deluxe resort stay early and with a travel agent that specializes in Disney vacations. Booking early will allow you to secure the room you want. We recommend the cheapest room offered (usually a standard view) and these rooms are almost always the first to go. When, and if, an offer is released by Disney, your travel agent can apply that offer to your resort room if the dates apply. Their job is to closely monitor the offers Disney releases to get you the best price. So, if you book with an agent, they’ll do the offer-watching for you. Usually the biggest savings are offered on deluxe resorts so the savings can be significant here. Booking as early as possible will also give you more time to save!
4 – Rent DVC Points
Renting DVC points used to be one of those ‘best kept secrets’, but it’s not anymore. It sounds so easy and renting points is often much cheaper than the rack rate for rooms. You go through a third party to rent someone else’s DVC points and it can be equivalent to the cost of a moderate resort stay. But finding availability has become extremely difficult in recent years. Often there just aren’t the rooms, or the dates aren’t available due to the increased popularity of renting points. The popular resorts sell out quickly, but you can usually find something at Saratoga Springs and Old Key West. These are larger resorts that are quite close to Disney Springs. Just because they’re deemed not as popular, don’t discount them. We really enjoy Old Key West and it has one of our favourite restaurants to get breakfast at, Olivia’s. You can read our review of Disney’s Old Key West Resort here.
There are also some risks in renting DVC points. If you’re renting the points from a person who doesn’t pay their dues, or sells their contract, you lose your reservation and your money. This doesn’t happen often, but it is a risk you are taking by booking your stay with rented DVC points. You also have to pay in full at the time of booking in most cases and they do not have the same cancellation policies that booking with Disney gets you as you have to agree to the cancellation terms of the third–party vendor.
This can be a great way to save money on deluxe accommodations at Disney World and Disneyland, but read the fine print, and make sure you are fully aware of the risks associated with renting DVC points through a third–party.
3 – Buy DVC Points
This is one approach that won’t save everyone money and it’s something that you should do a lot of research before entering into. In the long run, you could eventually save money buying into Disney Vacation Club if you plan on travelling to Disney often. This approach does require a down payment, a large loan (unless you happen to have a pile of cash stowed away) and annual dues. Once you have paid in full for your points (which will be in the thousands!) you only have to pay your annual dues, which are less than the price of a regular stay at a deluxe resort. With your points, you get up to 50 years of Disney vacations, depending on the home resort you buy into. DVC can make sense for those that make annual trips to Disney and are already staying in moderate or deluxe accommodations. Again, this isn’t the quick option to save money on deluxe resorts, but eventually you will see the savings over the length of your membership.
2 – Travel with Friends
Plan a friend trip and split the cost of a deluxe resort. This is a great way to do a girls trip, a bachelorette trip, or a good excuse for a friend trip. This option won’t work for everyone, it depends on your lodging preferences and how you like to travel. For some guests, the potential savings isn’t worth the hassle of sharing a room. We on the other hand, have had amazing trips with friends and we find that this approach has really saved us money on resorts.
If this is an option for you, we highly recommend the Polynesian deluxe studio. It has one queen bed, one queen fold out couch bed and a smaller Murphy bed (if you’re a smaller adult, you would fit just fine, as did our friend). The big bonus with these rooms is the fact that you get two bathrooms, which makes for a much more comfortable stay when you have more people in the room. We also like how the beds can fit luggage under them freeing up more space in the room.
A friend or extended family trip could also make staying in a 1 or 2 bedroom villa more affordable, depending on how many people there are in your travel party.
1 – Do a Split Stay
This is one of our favourite ways to stay deluxe! A full week of vacation at a deluxe resort is often just not possible because the cost is so high. That doesn’t mean a couple nights isn’t doable. We love split stays because it allows us to experience more resorts in one trip, and it makes staying at a deluxe resort much less of a financial burden. You can find out more about why we love Split Stay vacations here.
We like to start our vacation off at an All–Star Resort or Pop Century and then move over to a deluxe resort for the last few nights. One night probably isn’t enough to really get the value of staying at the resort. Given the check-in and out times, we recommend doing at least two nights of your stay at the deluxe resort. Honestly, whatever gives you the opportunity to experience a deluxe resort is great in our books. We also recommend spending at least one of those full days at the resort. You want to be able to try out the quick service location (maybe the table service, too). There’s also the pool, the lounges and the overall experience that the resort offers throughout the day and as the atmosphere changes in the evening.
Even with these tips, staying at deluxe resorts is very expensive, and of course we Canadians are always paying more due to the exchange rate not working out in our favour. But we have never regretted spending the money we have on our deluxe stays. Ryan and I have greatly enjoyed the proximity to the parks, the escapism and the wonderful world that each resort welcomes you into. That being said, deluxe resorts are hard to pay rack rate for, so take these tips and give yourself some time to save and plan for your deluxe stay at a Disney resort.
We’d love to hear your strategies for staying at deluxe resorts at Disney, or share with us your dream deluxe resort at Disney in the comments below!