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Why I Stay At Value Resorts

I’ve read a few articles and seen the odd video laying into value resorts and that everyone should go moderate. Some of these criticisms are fine while others make vast, direction-less assumptions about the socio-economic status of those staying at value resorts.

This annoys me as I find all sorts of people staying at value resorts. I choose to stay in value resorts out of choice not out of hard, financial limitations like some of these strident viewpoints suggest.

The reasons for this are varied and are influenced by my core of Disney World experiences between 1998 – 2007. I realise this may mean my views are out of date, in which case I’d love to discuss it in the comments.

So, here we go, why I stay in value resorts?

Spending Like A Poorer Person

Okay, we all know one of the big reasons I stay in value resorts, possibly the main reasons, is I spend like a poorer person. I could afford a holiday in a Deluxe Resort. It would be a serious hit on my yearly projected savings but I could do it.

The problem is I feel the need to live well within my means and I never feel like I’m preparing for my old age well enough and that I’m going to spend it in poverty. Some of this is a good thing, living within my means, the visions of a poor old age have some negative connotations but you’ll never get me to agree it’s not a sensible fear!

These two facts alone mean once the base cost of a holiday (not food and expenses) starts to gravitate more towards £3K than £2K I get very nervous. This is true no matter what the value is in the experience.

I Have To Stay On Property

Whenever I’ve stayed off property in Orlando the holiday just hasn’t worked. It’s been okay, rather than great. International Drive was never for me. The problem was, especially during 1998 – 2007, International Drive was essentially Blackpool.

Heh, what? You’ve not heard my Blackpool theory?

The theory goes like this. A lot of places round the world are basically like Blackpool but with better weather. A bit cheap, accommodation not that great, the immediate attractions are basic and cheesy, etc. International Drive was such a place, you could also argue places like Solou in Spain are similar and so on.

I didn’t pay to go to go all the way to Florida to stay in the local version of Blackpool. I do realise that taking this view to the extreme is one reason to go moderate or luxury, right? But I send you back to my spending like a poorer person psychological hang-up.

The other problem is I never liked the hotels with their pools that amounted to square concrete holes in the ground sometimes full of brine like you’re a sardine. I also don’t drive in the US. I don’t have any interest in it. This means I never liked having to get to everywhere from a location I never valued in the first place.

Staying on property was the answer. My first trip to Orlando was an on property trip and any attempt to do otherwise hasn’t worked.

Moderate Resorts Have Some Problems

I can hear people crying out at my madness here, but I think there is some truth to it.

I have stayed in a moderate resort. We were going on a Disney Cruise and part of that packaged was a moderate resort stay before we got on the ship. We also appended more days at a value resort after we got off the ship. It was a great holiday but I really didn’t see the increased value at The Caribbean Beach.

Yes, the room was bigger but there was only two of us. It was better decorated but not phenomenally so.

The theme of The Caribbean Beach was much better. You’d wake up in the morning to more greenery and water with people doing Tai Chi. It was a whole lot more Zen. The trouble was this environment was totally trashed by the fact it was infeasibly large and had an horrendous internal bus system.

I hated that.

It was time consuming and annoying. It meant we never went in the pool during that stay as the main pool was so far away. That is correct, for all the ‘if you are going to stay by the pool at the resort go moderate’ arguments on my one experience it never happened. I happily spend afternoons by the pool at value resorts.

Since three of the four moderate resorts have this problem with size it continues to put me off.

There are other benefits like better dining and eating options at the resorts. This can be convenient but I don’t value them that much. Since I don’t drink, the idea of having a good bar, possibly with entertainment, isn’t of value to me as I’m not going to spend the evening sitting around sipping cocktails or having a beer. Better restaurants are cool but I’m not sure eating at the resort is something I’d do a lot.

The Deluxe Resort Experience

I get the deluxe resort experience.

While I don’t overly value being near the Magic Kingdom, I fully get why people like being on the monorail loop. If you have kids or really value the Magic Kingdom experience being so close to that park would be amazing.

On my last trip I did a number of Disney walks and one such walk was from Hollywood Studios to Epcot. I’d never really understood how Disney’s Beach Club, Disney’s Yacht Club and Disney’s Boardwalk Resort were placed with respect to Hollywood Studios and Epcot. They’re basically another resort hub close to the parks. I got that once I understood the placement and that is the deluxe cluster it would be cool to stay at.

The problem I have with Deluxe Resorts is I’m not a big fan of the idea that you can have a resort only holiday at Disney. The reason for this is simple. If I was going to go for a resort only holiday I’d rather go for an all inclusive option somewhere else. It would provide me with the same level of luxurious relaxation without the ‘park element’ intruding and overall it’d probably be cheaper. Plus I’d get to see somewhere else. At Disney I’d possibly pay more than I would for that deluxe resort and still have to pay for food, though I could coincide it with a free dining plan (which would make more sense).

This means paying so much for a luxury resort when you’re going to be ‘out of the resort’ for at least two-thirds of the day, possibly longer, seems like a bit of an unnecessary money sink.

I’ll will admit to being slightly unnerved by the deluxe reports. They stand a chance of being way to ostentatious and posh for me, which results in me being unsettled and not comfortable. It’s only the Grand Floridian that falls into this category at the moment.

What The Value Resort Gives Me?

There are a number of headlines values that being in a value resort gives me.

I like the fact it allows the base cost of the holiday to be under £2K. The base cost of hotel and flight can be under £1K, it’s only the addition of tickets that has it creeping towards the £2.5K+ mark. Anyone remember the time you could get a value resort and flight for under £1K per person and it included the tickets? The halcyon days.

It puts me on property and in the bubble with access to the transport. Since at least half the holiday, usually more, will be spent at Disney World location this makes sense. It also provides easy access to evening entertainment. Yes, it means using the Disney buses, which I realise some people think are for the poor masses (that socio-economic thing again), but I’ve never had a problem with them.

While the buses are a pain immediately upon park closing at any other time there is a lot of myths about value resort buses, especially around the All Star Resorts. For instance, they don’t share a buses, other than at the most ludicrously obscure times it’s not worth worrying about. This makes them better than the internal bus routes of moderates, no matter what anyone tells me! I also suspect they have advantages over Pop Century as that resort is half the size again of a single All Star Resort.

It’s a room I never have problems getting a good nights sleep in. That’s what I’m paying for as far as I’m concerned as paying for anything else just seems excessive unless it is something amazingly special, such as an Animal Kingdom savannah view.

I even like the pools, I’ll often spend 2-3 hours by the pool each day, this is supposedly a trigger reason for going for a moderate. I’ve never had a problem and often stay by the value resort pools.

I do realise my ‘hotel expectations’ are generally on the ‘basic’ side. I tend not to stay in posh hotels in the UK, my favourite place of choice being Premier Inn.

Will My Strategy Change?

Probably not, but I guess there are a few circumstances were it might.

I just can’t see myself doing a moderate. I’m just not convinced on the value return when you throw everything in. This is constantly changing as rooms are upgraded, etc, but I find it a hard sell. The last thing I want is an internal bus system. If the dining plan offer included table service that may persuade me if I wanted to make that a focus of the holiday, but alas they are just counter service these days.

I guess if I was to do a moderate I’d need to be well positioned and compare the additional cost to having the dining plan, albeit on its own I know the counter service plan isn’t really worth it for me. If I was to stay in a moderate it would probably be Port Orleans Riverside as you tend to get pretty good deals for that resort and it is impeccably themed, reaching almost deluxe levels. I have looked at Port Orleans and the counter service plan as opposed to a value and not having the dining plan and I’ve not been fully convinced yet.

Despite me really liking the positioning of the cluster of deluxe resort around Hollywood Studios and Epcot if I was to stay in a deluxe resort it would be Animal Kingdom Lodge. There is literally no doubt in this. You can also get some pretty good deals for this hotel if you do it right and book at the right times.
I think the problem with it is if I was going to do it it would have to be a savannah room. If I was not waking up to look out across a populated savannah every morning I’d not overly see the point. This then raises the issue of cost for such an experience rather than any old room.

I also recognise that large tracts of International Drive have gone ‘up market’ compared to the 1998 – 2007 experience, but I can’t see myself staying there. I do think there is a non-Disney holiday of some type in me, but that would probably involve staying at Cabana Bay. It would involve Universal, Sea World, Discovery Cove and Busch Gardens. I’ve also thought of combining it with an Orlando pop culture convention. In this model I’d still be staying at a ‘on property’ resort.

And, Finally…

I’m probably going to keep staying at value resorts while occasionally checking the other options. Though I suspect, after my trip in 2017, there will be a good Disney World break until 2020. I’m interested in how Pop Century pans out as it is a value resort with landscaping with a lot more greenery and water giving it an air of being closer to moderate fare like Caribbean Beach.

I also think the whole value resort proposition is going to have to be reviewed at some point as Universal’s value proposition is much better in terms of the hotels and this will no doubt continue as they build out more rooms as they expand.

It’ll be interesting to see how things progress, but I’m still very much in the value resort category.

About Ian O'Rourke

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