Walt Disney World - Disney Resort or Villa?

I should start by saying that every time we have visited Walt Disney World we've stayed in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. We've tried various different rooms and it has always worked for us. Now though we need to start thinking about other options, our boys are older and need their own space, even when we're on holiday. Our recent trip and the constant bickering led us to think it's time to investigate villas for our next trip and so I've put together a pros and cons list.



Animal Kingdom Lodge (or other Disney Resort)




Pros


You're on Disney property. There's a certain magic about staying in a Disney resort, there's always something going on and the kids know there's entertainment whenever they look for it. Feeling like you're coming home while being on holiday is amazing and it always makes me smile.




Extra magic hours. Being able to get into the parks an hour before people not staying in a Disney Resort is great, it means you can get on rides before anyone else and be onto the next thing before lots of other people even get into the parks. It's not just the early mornings either, the late nights are good too. The Hubby and I took advantage of those a few times when we were there and it was great once the parks cleared out a little. 

Early access to Fastpass+. When you're staying in a Disney Resort you get access to Fastpass+ 60 days before you travel and for the entire length of your stay. This is invaluable, especially given how busy the parks are getting these days. Booking Fastpasses is essential if you want to go on any rides and being able to book early means you can get the ones you want, rather than the ones that are left over.





The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.

Walt Disney





Charging to your room/Magic Band. Not having to carry money around the parks, or even think about it is brilliant. You can wander around the parks and not have to think about money at all because anything you buy you can charge to your Magic Band and it's automatically assigned to your room charges. We found this a useful thing during the summer when LP wanted to buy lots of things, we didn't have to hand him money, he could just use his Magic Band.

Delivery to your resort. On the same topic as above when you buy something in the parks you can have it sent to your resort. This means you can buy a huge teddy bear and have it delivered to your resort rather than carrying it around the parks for the rest of the day. Very useful.

Rest. It is easy to get back to your room for a quick rest between parks or just for a nap if you're wiped out. We tended to go back to our room if the rain was particularly bad, which can happen. And we nipped back to the room a few times because we'd forgotten something. Knowing that the room is close no matter where you are is reassuring. 



Cons


Confined space. The four of us crammed into a hotel room with 2 beds can get a bit much. Because of how we've booked in the past we haven't been able to specify the kind of room we'd like other than choosing the more expensive Savannah View which means we can't even book bunk beds. Not great when you have older children. Two adults and two older children in 1 room worked okay this time but next time, with the boys being older again, there's no way we could do it.


A Zebra stands in a field eating grass. Large trees are in the background blowing in the wind. Animal Kingdom Lodge, Walt Disney World.


Expense. Staying in Disney Resorts is expensive, let's face it - even the Value resorts are a bit pricey. We like a bit of luxury when we go on holiday and so in order to get the luxury we like we have to pay a lot. It ends up being very expensive.

No saving food. In a standard hotel room you don't get any way of reheating food, which means that you can't have food boxed up for you to enjoy later. This is a huge deal in Walt Disney World because the meals are HUGE. A number of times we said that we could've shared a meal because of how big they were. Being able to box them up and reheat later would've been useful.



Villa (off Disney property)




Pros


Different rooms. Not only do you have different rooms to sleep in but there are other rooms too. First there's a lounge area, a sofa, a TV even. Separate bedrooms. More than one bathroom. It's sounding good right?

More privacy. Again the separate rooms come into this, being able to go into a room and be alone is a great thing, even when you're on holiday. Having time to yourself to chill out, talk to your partner, even just to sit and read, is very appealing.


A pair of glasses sits on top of a pile of 3 books on a sofa.


Away from hustle and bustle. Once you leave the parks you're not on Disney property anymore and while I am a little disappointed by that thought the fact that we'd be leaving behind the noise and craziness in the parks sounds good. Being an introvert means I do tend to struggle when I'm bombarded with people all around and noise everywhere you go so having somewhere to go where it's quiet and no one else is around is definitely something I'd look forward to.

Kitchen facilities. Having a large fridge to store the drinks you definitely need in the parks and somewhere to heat up food if you want to sounds good to me. When in the Disney hotel room with a small fridge it can get a bit restrictive. This also means you can save and reheat food. This is not something we've ever done before, and I'm not sure we would do it anyway, but having the option there is good. 

More space. There's more space for your things. In a hotel room I often feel cramped, we have so much stuff and no where to put it that we end up with a table that's cluttered and things everywhere, which doesn't help with the 'hectic' feeling. Staying in a Villa could help with this because it's a big space and has plenty of storage.





Space is the breath of art. 

Frank Lloyd Wright




Games rooms. Looking into Villas I've noticed that a lot of them have 'games' rooms where the boys could play pool or arcade games and I think this is great. It's a reason they would look forward to leaving the parks as well as being in Walt Disney World. 

Don't have to eat in Walt Disney World. When we've stayed in the Animal Kingdom Lodge we get the Disney Dining Plan included. While this is a good thing and you can get snacks and drinks whenever you like we do end up feeling pressured to eat within Walt Disney World. We do love all the options within Walt Disney World but there are places we like to go to outside of Walt Disney World and we end up feeling like we're wasting an opportunity if we choose to eat in one of those places. Staying in a Villa would mean we'd pay for ALL of our meals and could then decide whether we'd prefer on site restaurants or somewhere else without feeling like we're wasting money. 



Cons


Far away. Staying in a Villa means you're at least a 30 minute drive from Walt Disney World - every day. That means you're adding an extra hour of travel time to your day and this might not be a bad thing first thing in the morning but at the end of the day, when you're worn out from all the walking, spending another 30 minutes or more in the car before you can relax is not an appealing prospect.




No Extra Magic Hours. There's no getting to the parks before anyone else. We do have an answer for this one though, we'll just pay attention to the parks that have the Extra Magic Hours on any particular day and avoid those parks in the morning. I'm not sure what, if any, difference this will make. 

No early access to Fastpass+. This one does concern me a little. Walt Disney World is getting busier by the day and the idea that we have to wait until 30 days before the day we'd want to go on a particular ride to book Fastpasses is worrying. The possibility of even getting Fastpasses when you want them is slim which means your plans could have to be changed at the last moment. 

No charging to room. I'm not sure how the Magic Bands work when you're not staying on property but I do know you can't charge to your room, given that you don't have one. This means carrying around a credit card or money. Not that that is a terrible thing, but it is definitely more useful not having to think about it. 

No rests in your room. You can't just nip back to the room for a quick rest. Going back to the Villa will be at least a 30 minute drive away and by the time you've got back to the Villa you may decide not to go back to the parks. We would have to work out ways to rest within the parks, or find somewhere to chill out, so that we didn't need the naps/rest in the room.

Paying for parking. When you don't stay in a Disney Resort you don't get free parking in the parks. It's not the cost here that bothers me, but the time spent having to pay for parking. When you're going to Walt Disney World you want to be in there as quick as possible and having to spend time paying for parking will definitely slow you down.

No Dining Plan. Everything you want to buy within the parks will cost, whether it's a drink or a whole meal you're going to be paying for it all. Each purchase will be something to think about rather than just saying 'yes, grab a snack' you'll think about whether you need it or not. 



Conclusion


To be honest if we could I have no doubt we'd still stay in Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Pros massively outweigh the Cons apart from one glaring thing - the cost. It's just not practical for us to have one room anymore and having two separate rooms in Animal Kingdom Lodge would cost a lot more than we'd want to spend. 


When visiting Walt Disney World where would you stay, a Disney Resort or a Villa?



Doing this exercise has made me feel better about a Villa though. I've realised there are advantages to staying in a Villa and I'm looking forward to planning our next trip so that I can look through the options available. I know there are all kinds of Villas and our budget could mean we get a little extra luxury. The boys having their own space would transform our holiday and hopefully help with the constant bickering too. And that all sounds like win to me.



When you visit Walt Disney World do you stay in a Disney Resort or a Villa?




If you enjoyed this post you might enjoy The best time to visit Walt Disney World, or if you'd like to learn more about Walt Disney World check out How to make your trip to Walt Disney World more magical.

I love chatting about our holidays and if you've got a question or simply want to chat you can connect with me on Facebook or Twitter and I'd be happy to talk about Walt Disney World. 

And if you're looking for a way to keep your kids busy while you get the chores done - or even enjoy a hot coffee(!) - why not grab these Activity Sheets.

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