Category Archives: saving money at Disney

Disney Magic Series: Resorts on a Budget

One of the most difficult decisions that need to be made when planning a Disney Vacation is deciding on a place to stay.  Do you go big and stay at a deluxe resort?  Do you save a little and stay at a value resort?  Do you save a lot, but forgo convenience and stay off the property?

There are plenty of things to consider.

We are still trying to decide how we will spend our few days at Disney.  We are traveling with a group of grandparents, parents, and two little ones – 1 and 2 – and will be staying 4 days and 3 nights.  We have looked into Disney deals, hotels off property, renting a home off property, and renting Disney Vacation Club points and staying at a villa on property.

How do you choose!?!

Let’s discuss some benefits of each.

Staying at a Disney Resort

We love the experience we get staying on the Disney property.  We’ve stayed at the Boardwalk, Dolphin, Value Resorts (All-Star Sports and Music, I believe), and have family who love to stay at the campground in cabins.

Deluxe Resorts

We are partial to the Boardwalk.  It is such a great place with plenty going on and a lot to do for free.  Most of the resorts in that area are Deluxe resorts and can cost a pretty penny.  We were lucky enough to use my Castmember discount to book a room while I was down there for the Walt Disney World College Program.  Otherwise, it’s a little steep for what we’re looking to spend.

Last year, we got a pretty good last-minute deal at the Swan and Dolphin using my dad’s AARP discount.  We had a good stay there and were still right in the action at the boardwalk.  These hotels are actually not owned by the Disney company and you can find different deals for staying there.

Value Resorts

As I mentioned, we have stayed at two of the value resorts.  We stayed there when I was in Junior High (about 1998???) and I think the All-Star Resorts were relatively new.  They may have only had one or two finished at the time.  I stayed there a second time with a friend when I was a Senior in High School.

These resorts are a great option if you are on a budget.  We decided we would like to stay a little closer to the action and these resorts are aging a little, so this is not a route we are going to go.  However, they recently finished a new resort that I’m really excited about!  The Art of Animation Resort has some amazing looking family suites.  I especially love the Nemo Suite!

What an adorable place to stay!!  This is what we’re leaning toward right now.  The suites have one bedroom with a queen bed, one double-size table bed, and a pull-out couch.  It would be great for our group of six!  We also have the bonus of being able to do our own meals in the room to save a little money.
Definitely the top contender!  This room is an experience in itself and great for a family with little ones who won’t be doing the tradition park visit each day.

Moderate Resorts

Another option on our list is The Cabins at the Fort Wilderness Resort.  They include a great kitchen and two double beds and bunk beds.

The great thing about this area is the appearance of Chip and Dale at the outdoor movie screening and campfire events.

Even though this isn’t exactly “roughing it” Grandma’s request is to stay somewhere else with a little more character and comfort, so this probably is not on the list anymore.


Ok, I know we’re talking about Disney on a Budget, but who can help but dream about staying at a Villa?  I keep dropping the oh-so-subtle hints to the grandparents that a Disney Vacation Club membership would be great for our family!  I haven’t gotten anywhere yet…  So, my next dream is to happen upon that fantastic business idea that gives us the cash flow to join.  I can always dream, right?!

David’s Vacation Club Rentals

You won’t even believe how excited I was when I came upon David’s Vacation Club Rentals. They provide an option to stay in a Disney Villa for less! 

You can head over to David’s Vacation Rentals to purchase Disney Vacation Club points. They have a handy chart to show you how many points are needed for your stay and you pay $14 per point. This can get you some amazing savings!! When we were pricing our options we found that, for $800-$1000, we could reserve the Art of Animation suite directly from Disney, OR we could get a one bedroom villa at the Boardwalk, a villa at the GRAND FLORIDIAN!, or two studio villas at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Amazing!

Here’s some great info David’s Vacation Rental supplied me with to get a good idea of what they can offer.

Benefits of renting points through David’s Vacation Club Rentals.
A guest doesn’t need to be a Member of a Disney Vacation Club in order to enjoy the fun of renting a Deluxe Disney Vacation Club Villa at a Disney Vacation Club resort.
Renting points from a DVC Member for stays at a Disney Vacation Club Property can save you hundreds of dollars off the regular rack rates. Have a look at some sample savings.
Sample Rate Comparisons
The following example is for a stay at Disney’s Old Key West Resort with a check in date of November 3rd, 2013 , checking out November 8th, 2013. It is a Sunday to Friday stay (5 nights).
Room Type
Central Reservations
Using Points
1 Bedroom
2 Bedroom
Some savings are more significant and some are less. DVC members pay premium points to stay on weekends (Friday and Saturday). Also, resorts have different point requirements.
The following example is for a stay at Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort (Lake View) with a check in date of in December 15th, 2013 , checking out December 22nd, 2013. It is a Sunday to Sunday stay (7 nights).
Room Type
Central Reservations
Using Points
1 Bedroom
2 Bedroom
As you can see, there are always enough savings to consider using rented points for your stay. Each situation will be different (room type, resort, travel dates) but the savings are real.
These examples were accurate at the time of this writing April 16, 2013. The points will not change. The Central Reservation rate may change at Disney’s discretion but was taken directly from at the time if this writing. You may qualify for certain discounts not included in the Central Reservation rate examples.
As a guest of a DVC Member you will still have access to the Magical Express (at no additional cost), DVC Dining Plans, Extra Magic Hours and free parking at all of the Resorts and Theme Parks.
I have created many magical stays at Disney Vacation Club properties for a great number of families at huge savings.

How cool is that!?!  I have already gotten some short-notice specials emails and they have been offering $9 a point!  If waiting until the last minute didn’t make me completely nervous, I would totally do that because you can get suites for amazing prices!!!

Off-Property Options

Another option we’ve considered is looking off the property.  There are some great hotels just outside of Disney and many people rent out homes and condos at far less than staying on property.  This option is out for us because Grandma is paying, and she loves the Disney Resort experience and transportation perks.  I like the idea of staying on the property for the kids too, because it’s almost as exciting as going to the parks for them.

Off Property Hotels

There are plenty of great hotels surrounding Disney.  This is a good option for people who plan to visit other attractions in Orlando.  Be sure to check with your hotel about transportation or discounted tickets because there may be options available to you.

I have heard great things about the Holiday Inn Family Suites.  I have no first-hand experience, but I know I’ve come across many people raving about them each time I search Disney tips.  They offer free transportation to and from the parks, and will even ship your purchases made on Disney property directly to your room the next day.  They will even help you with your Disney Dining reservations.
I’ve heard (so don’t quote me on this) they have a great breakfast, pool, and themed rooms as well.


Home Rentals

Especially if you’re traveling in the off-season, you can get some amazing deals on home rentals.  Some of the ones I looked at appeared beautiful and they were pricing a whole week for nearly one night stay on property. 

Now, you’re taking a chance here because you never truly know what you’re going to get, but if you read the reviews, scrutinize the pictures, and email the owners you may find a beautiful place with a lot of space for a fraction of the cost.  Another tip when looking for places in the off-season is to look ahead to pricing for the tourist season, your worries may be laid to rest when you find that they rent for nearly double during the peak season but have the property priced to rent for the off-season.

In addition to homes, my search turned up many great condos with a resort-like atmosphere. I found three bedroom condos with waterparks at the complexes.  Definitely still fun for the kids, and nearly as fun as being on the Disney property.

For us, nothing beats staying at the Walt Disney World Resorts!  Since I started this post, we have made our reservations at the Art of Animation Suites.  I’m so excited for the kiddos to see the Nemo room and experience the pool and splash pad.  Can’t wait!!

Where do you stay when you take a trip to Walt Disney World?  Leave any of your wonderful advice, I’d love to hear it!!  Don’t forget to check out what else I have planned for the Disney Magic Series!

**Disclaimer: This post contains one affiliate link.  All opinions are 100% mine and I entered into the affiliate relationship after forming these opinions.**