I was raised in a frugal home. Not because clipping coupons was trendy in the 1980s, but because we didn’t have extra money. We didn’t go on fancy vacations, but my parents did try to take us on an annual trip. The one time I went to Disney World as a child, it was partly due to my mother having won a 3 night stay at the Ramada Inn in St. Petersburg, less than two hours from Orlando. It was May of 1989, the month that MGM (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) opened. We spent one day at Magic Kingdom and one day rushing through both EPCOT and MGM with tickets awarded to us after being tortured with sitting through a time share presentation. Regardless of how we got there, those two days left lasting memories of a magical family vacation that I have treasured my entire life. We didn’t stay on property, or even know what “on property” meant at that time.
As an adult now with my own children, a lot has changed. I’ve learned tons about Walt Disney World and have returned several times throughout various stages of my life – for a semester as a Disney College Program intern, as an employee of a residential agency for kids with developmental disabilities, on vacations with my husband, and now vacations with my kids. One thing hasn’t changed – I am always on the lookout for a good deal.
While we could technically afford to stay in a Moderate resort, I have a hard time justifying the extra expense. We have stayed at Art of Animation and Pop Century with our children and had fabulous experiences both times. Our kids love the colorful and character-laden decor. The over-the-top theming is loads of fun for children and adults alike as the resort feels like an extension of the parks, where everyone’s favorite characters are larger than life.
Staying on property, regardless of the room category, has inherent value due to offering complimentary transportation to and from the Orlando International Airport and all around Disney property during your stay. Not only do you get to take advantage of discounts during slower seasons (making room rates very competitive with non-Disney brand hotels in the area), but you are granted early or late admission to each of the parks on their designated Extra Magic Hours days.
When our boys get older, we may bite the bullet and spend a little more for the sake of trying something different. We’ve been wanting to stay at Caribbean Beach Resort or Port Orleans Riverside. We will drop a few extra dollars in our Disney savings jar between now and our next trip, but it will pain me to spend the extra money on a room (when we spend most of our time at the parks) instead of on souvenirs or fun food items. For us, staying on property and enjoying all of the included perks is enough. We don’t care about the prestige of a fancier hotel. Maybe we just don’t know what we’re missing, but this penny-pincher will always appreciate staying at the Value resorts!
Candice was raised in east Tennessee. While in college, her best friend dragged her to a Walt Disney World College Program recruiting session at the University of Tennessee and the rest is Disney history. In the Fall of 1999, Candice became a quick service food hostess for Sunset Ranch Market and Fantasmic at Disney-MGM Studios – or what is now known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios. While soaking up her time as a cast member, she met Ryan, a neighbor and a fellow college programmer who worked as a custodial host at Epcot. Four years later, Candice moved to the Midwest and married that boy from across the hall. They now live in Greenwood, Indiana with their two little boys. The Disney-loving foursome took their first family trip to The Happiest Place on Earth in 2013 and Candice is eagerly planning their return. Candice also works full-time at a community mental health center and enjoys taking photographs and blogging at Mommy in the Midwest.