Confessions of a Disneyophile: Resort Stays, Codes, and Other Useful Park TipsTheme Parks — By Betsy Villanella on August 6, 2011 at 01:05
Series by staff writer Betsy Villanella. Photos Copyright © Betsy Villanella.
Feature photo (see right): Wilderness Lodge, A WDW deluxe resort
OUR FIRST TRIP to Walt Disney World was in 1996. Mike and I didn’t know about reduced rates on accommodations so we paid what they call rack rate, which basically means full price. As that trip was for our anniversary, we splurged, staying two nights at a moderate hotel—Dixie Landings—and for our last night we planned to camp at the Fort Wilderness Campground.
Our room in the mansions section of Dixie Landings overlooked the river and also had a fountain in the courtyard. The grounds were beautifully landscaped and made us feel like we were in the heart of the South.
In 2001, Disney changed the name from Dixie Landings to Port Orleans Riverside and included a sister resort next door called The French Quarter. We stayed at The French Quarter during later trips to WDW. One of my favorite things is the way they serve delicious beignets every morning (beignets are little fried pillows with lots of powered sugar on top). A nice way to start the day!
But back to our first trip in 1996. After two days of fun, and lots of walking through the parks, we couldn’t bring ourselves to sleep on the hard ground in our tent. We broke down and got a room at one of the value resorts, The All-Star Music Resort. The section we were in was brightly colored, with the coolest piano-shaped pool, and music icons wherever you looked.
That one night made me realize that even Disney’s value resorts are much nicer than most chain motels and the service is top-notch.
We had a great time on this trip, I wanted to return, but was determined to find a way to do it less expensively. So the research began!
Finding different codes and promotions, we have been able to stay at resorts in all categories, from moderate to deluxe. One of the nicest resorts we have stayed in was the Yacht Club, walking distance to Epcot.
For our anniversary at the Yacht Club we received complimentary champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries, with a sweet congratulatory note.
The Cast Members at all the resorts will go out of their way to see to your needs. This fact alone has brought me back to WDW—and adds to making it a “great” vacation that’s worth the price, no matter which category of resort you choose.
TIPS FOR BEATING THE RACK RATES
If you are flexible with your time, or can plan far enough ahead, you can get discounts of as much as 40% off rack rates. “How?” you say. Well, the internet is a wonderful thing. Plus, there are a ton of people that love Disney World and like to help other people enjoy WDW too.
If you go to the right websites and message boards you will learn so much on how to save at, and for, Disney World. Mousesavers.com is one of many where you can get up-to-date information on codes for Disney resorts, and packages, as well as discounts for all kinds of Disney products.
HOW TO GET THE MOST FROM WDW CODES
To use a code, you simply add it when you’re making your reservation online—or call WDW reservations and state that you have a code and would like to find out whether it can be applied to the reservation you’re making. Even if you already have a reservation made, you can still have a code applied. I have saved 20% to 40% using codes.
When you find a code, act fast, as Disney only allows a certain number of rooms for these codes.
Disney also offers special package codes, such as “Kids Stay and Play Free,” where you get free park tickets for the kids. That in itself is a nice savings. Another one is the “Free Dining” packages. Those will save you quite a bit too.
TIPS FOR ONSITE EASE AND $$ SAVINGS
We always stay in a resort on site. This way you can stay right where you’re playing. No wasted time traveling to and from your hotel. You keep that relaxed feeling—and, believe me, when you’re happy, Disney’s happy. They strive to keep you very happy, indeed, and they are good at what they do.
A couple more reasons to stay on site: (a) you won’t have to pay for parking in the parks (b) on certain days during the week you can get into certain parks an hour earlier than the general public, and (c) on certain nights during the week the park will stay open three hours later for their guests.
You also get free use of Disney transportation between your resort and the parks; including bus, monorail, and boat.
If you’re going to Disney World, it helps to do some research. Make use of Disney’s “Fast Pass,” which is a very cool thing to take advantage of. Especially in the morning. The most popular rides have kiosks where you insert your entrance ticket and out comes a ride ticket that tells you what time to come back. It has an hour window. So you can then go about your fun, and come back within that hour and walk on the ride. No more long lines!
FYI: If you miss that window, you can still use it, so don’t throw your ticket away.
Another good strategy is to send someone ahead with all your entrance tickets to get the fast passes for the group. At the beginning of your Fast Pass window you can get another Fast Pass for the next ride you want to go on. That way, part of your wait time for the next ride is happening while you’re enjoying the current one.
With just these extra bits of planning, you’ll get two of the most popular rides done before the park gets crowded.
* Most meals at WDW restaurants are large portioned and can be shared by two.
* No need to pay for bottled water: filtered ice water at any quick-service kiosk is free of charge.
* Rent a stroller for your children, even if you think they’re too big. There’s a LOT of walking and it helps to just let them ride for a bit. If you change parks during the day, just leave the one you rented and get another at the next park free, with your original receipt.
With a little research and planning you can spend less time standing in lines, less money for lodging and meals, and have more fun doing it all.
So, go ahead. Give yourselves “The World”! Your family will thank you for it—and you may find yourselves going back, like we do, time and time again.
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Our Disney specialist, Elizabeth Villanella has lived in the Montrose, Pennsylvania area most of her life. Betsy married her high school boyfriend in 1973. As an Air Force wife, she has lived in Texas, Italy, and Virginia. Between the two of them, her sons have given her fourteen grandchildren and counting. Betsy and her husband currently live with Albert K. Ninestein, a mini Schnauzer who’s as smart as his namesake. She loves to travel and wants to experience (and share) as many places in this world as she can! Betsy tweets as @betsy_v.
FTC Compliance: This is an independent review written by staff writer Betsy Villanella because she enjoys her experiences at Walt Disney World—trips that are 100% paid for by herself and her husband. This post contains affiliate links for Best of Orlando. If you make a purchase using any of our affiliate links, Milliver’s Travels will receive a percentage of the sale. See our Site Policies for more details.