Disney World Vacation In the Making: Choosing A Hotel

image from Disney_Dec_2013-2783

Last week Travelocity was offering a discount of $100 off a 3 day stay at a hotel if the cost was $350 or more. So I got busy searching. I had 2 days to decide on a hotel. Meanwhile I was running up on a deadline for work AND one of Justin's friends from California came into town for a short 2 day visit. Knowing how expensive flights to California are, I knew I had to somehow fit everything into my schedule.

Before making any decisions I always do a ton a of research. It's important for me to get the best deal and the most for my money. If you saw yesterday's post, you realize that Justin and I have a lot of trips coming up in the next year and saving money is extremely important. Given the oddness of the deal (3 days), I wanted to pick a hotel in a location I knew we would be staying at for at least 3 days and that I already had a date for. It turns out the only trip I knew of that would at least last that long was our trip to Orlando in November. I had been meaning to get Justin to Disney World and a wedding in Orlando was the perfect opportunity!

One of the key concerns I had when choosing this hotel, aside from money that is, was choosing something that would be comfortable and adult friendly. I also was hoping for something that made access to the parks fairly easy. My last trip to Disney World was over 10 years ago, and I imagined that a lot had changed. Online I've heard horror stories about the need to make restaurant reservations 180 days before your visit, getting a fastpass to get on rides quickly, and how awful parking is at the park. Could it really have gotten that much worse in 10 years?

Honestly I have no idea. I have a few friends I could ask that have visited more recently than myself, but instead I just decided to live on the edge and take a chance. Make a gamble. What's the worst that could happen?

The following are the hotels I considered:
Castle Hotel, Autograph Collection - The price went from $140 a night up to $250 a night which is when I said no. The grounds look gorgeous and the hotel fancy (and modern). The best part of all: very few negative reviews on tripadvisor! 
Grand Bohemian, Autograph Collection - Another fancy hotel that was at a discount. When I went to book, the coupon didn't work. :( Back to the drawing board. 
Disney's Art of Animation Resort - I love drawing. I think Disney animation is the bomb. I've been wanting to go to this hotel since I learned of it's existence a million years ago… For the low price, early entry to Disney Parks, and transportation to the parks, I was all in! … Until I started booking. A stay in the Ariel room? Umm… no, thanks. (To be fair, I'm not sure I would have liked that as a kid either.) Given the name of the hotel, I want to see lots of drawings covering the walls! I don't want a girl with bright red hair or a purple evil queen watching me sleep. Creepy, right?! 
Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa - This was the top recommendation I read about for adults visiting Disney World. And then I saw the price. Even on a good day $500 for one night is a bit much. That's what I paid to see the eiffel tower from my hotel room in Paris! I'm certainly not paying that to see a mouse!  
Disney's Dolphin & Swan Hotels - Offered together, I heard fantastic reviews about these two. These were another instance where I saw the price and immediately did a detour.
I was trying to consider any hotels that I did not have status at and thus would not be losing point opportunities.  Transportation to/from the park so that we wouldn't have to deal with parking also seemed like a good idea. And being able to access the park early since we would only be going for one or maybe two days also seemed worthwhile.

We ended up going with the Port Orleans Resort – Riverside. It looks like a nice property although perhaps a bit old. I like that you can take a boat to Epcot, which is my chosen park to go to. (I think all of the science, culture, and history make for the most interesting park experience.) I'm also hoping we get to explore Downtown Disney which I would have never done as a kid. I'm interested in seeing Disney through an adult lens, which, unfortunately for my possible future kids, will probably play an important role in whether I ever go back. Is Disney a worthwhile and educational experience for children? Is it enjoyable as an adult? Or do you leave feeling taken advantage of?

Have you been to Disney World as an adult? Have you stayed at any of the hotels I mentioned? And/or most importantly, did you take advantage of Travelocity's deal? Share with me in the comments! I'd love to hear about your experiences!

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