My family decided to cancel our Thanksgiving trip back in June. We recently got together for a socially distanced backyard barbecue and my aunt quickly called out how we would have been going to Disney in just a few short weeks, had we not canceled. My sister was quick to call out “Well, now we have more time to save for our next trip!”
Of course the saver in me views the postponed trip as simply more time to save for my existing vacation. Maybe I’ll treat myself to a few more souvenirs or an extra drink at dinner. But the realist in me knows that after a year or more of not traveling—and over two years without visiting Disney(!!)—I’m going to want to splurge on a few experiences while I’m down there and make the most of my vacation. After all, we owe it to ourselves after this year! So if you’re like me and willing to splurge a bit on your next trip, here are some luxuries worth spending some extra money on:
Stay on Property
Truth be told, I started this blog with all on-site luxuries. Midway through, I realized…well…not everyone stays on-site. Maybe you’ve never stayed on-site. Maybe you’ve never even been to Disney and were planning on staying off-site to make it more affordable.
I’ve only stayed off-site a few times (unless you count a few stays at the WDW Dolphin). I really love staying inside the Disney bubble, but in looking at how much money we’ve spent on resorts alone, I can totally understand why people choose to stay off-site.
If you’ve always stayed off-site, this may be the trip to stay on-site. I’d highly recommend finding the resort that best fits your needs and personality. For instance, if traveling with little ones who love Disney movies, this may be the trip to go to Art of Animation; or if you spent years sitting in traffic to get to the parks, this may be the time to stay at a resort with plenty of transportation options, like a stop along the Skyliner or a monorail.
Stay at a Deluxe Resort
As kids, we always stayed at Value Resorts. As we got older and required a bit of a larger room, we’d opt for the Moderate Resorts at Disney. After I found my first job out of college and my sister and I were able to cover our own portion of the trip, we decided to spring for a Deluxe Resort.
We were warned by our DVC-owning friends: “once you go Deluxe, it’s very, very hard to go back to a Moderate or Value.” They couldn’t be more correct. We stayed at Beach Club and immediately fell in love. We’d always go during Christmas and spend a night or two touring the different resorts and checking out the decorations. The pool, Stormalong Bay, was the first thing that caught our eye. Plus, there was just something about the theming and decor that put staying at Beach Club at the top of our Disney bucket list. And as our parents got a bit older and our patience for the Christmas crowds started to wear thin, we decided that being within walking distance to EPCOT and a quick boat ride away from Hollywood Studios was well worth the higher price.
Over the years we’ve also stayed at Polynesian and Disney’s Yacht Club. Sure, it gets expensive, but there are many perks that make your trip much more enjoyable and far more efficient. Nothing beat leaving EPCOT at 10pm and getting back to our room at 10:10pm, after spending years of waiting for a bus and sometimes having it take an hour or more.
Stormalong Bay rivals most waterparks, and you can easily save some money by scheduling a day by the pool rather than at the parks. And of course, there’s something so relaxing to watching the fireworks from your balcony or room; or watching Happily Ever After from the beach at the Polynesian. And if you’re like me…you need to balance all those Disney snacks with a workout or two at the fitness center, an amenity usually reserved for Deluxe Resorts (although Coronado also has a fitness center).
Higher Room Category
My family has always done the Disney Dining Plan, so we could never really justify paying for a Club Level room. It’d be far too much food. But I’d be lying if I said the thought of skipping the meal plan and going with a Club Level room didn’t cross our minds a few times.
While Club Level is certainly enticing, we’d rather spend our money on a room with a view. I know…I know…many would argue that all you do is sleep and shower in your room. Why would you pay top dollar for a room with a view?! Well…after countless trips to Walt Disney World, we’d be open to a new experience.
At the top of my Disney bucket list is a Theme Park View room at the Contemporary or its DVC location, Bay Lake Tower. Once the fireworks return, I just may have to splurge on a room with a view—even if it means cutting my park days in half. I’ll spend half the week at the parks; and the other hanging by the pool during the day, and watching the fireworks from my balcony at night.
Another experience I’d gladly save for is a Savanna View at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge during Christmas is at the top of my Disney bucket list. And as things hopefully go back to normal and the crowds return, it’d be the perfect excuse for a resort-centric trip.
A Meal at Victoria and Albert’s
Victoria and Albert’s isn’t just the best restaurant on property, it’s one of the best in the country! I’ve always been turned off by the price tag, as well as the fact that I’d need to pack a sport coat to dine at the fancy restaurant. But after six months in quarantine—and cooking or doing takeout for most of it—I’m ready for a nice, expensive, sit-down meal.
Go on a Tour
We’ve been to Walt Disney World so many times, and yet, we’ve never taken a tour. Last year my family changed things up and went to California during Christmas week, stopping at Disneyland for New Year’s Eve. Being at Disneyland really made us appreciate the history behind the empire that is Disney, and we promised ourselves that we’d take a tour during our next trip.
Of course my next trip is currently TBD, but we’ll certainly be taking a day during our following Disney vacation for a guided tour, so we can learn a bit about the history and magic behind the parks. Having gone so many times during the holidays, it’d only be right to do the Yuletide Fantasy or Holiday D-Lights and learn about the magic behind the holidays at the parks; but as Disney fans we’ll probably vouch for the Backstage Magic tour.
You don’t really have to worry about the crowds and wait times right now, but trust me, one day they’ll return. Flight of Passage won’t always have a 40-minute wait, especially after restrictions are lifted and people feel comfortable traveling again.
When that time comes, the parks will be filled with guests once again. No, it may not be as crowded as it once was. In fact, the park may never return to a pre-COVID ‘normal,’ but guests will return and wait times will jump for popular attractions.
Once that happens, the VIP Tour will once again become enticing. Easily the highest priced luxury on the list, a VIP Tour typically runs around $12,000. Yes, twelve. Thousand. Dollars. But consider this: tours can accommodate up to 10 people. So it’d be $1,200 per person or $2,400 per couple. That’s still a very lofty price tag, however, if you’re taking a trip with a large group or extended family, then it may be worth it. Imagine being able to tackle Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Land, Pandora, and Magic Kingdom all in one day, with little-to-no wait, all while learning the ins and outs of the park and receiving star treatment. I still haven’t sold you, have I? Well, it’s a tough sell, but it’s one worth considering for a once-in-a-lifetime trip, in which you don’t know the next time you’ll ever be back to Disney World.
Pete Pirone is a 32-year-old writer who loves Walt Disney World. He grew up going to Disney. His family has celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and even attended a wedding at Disney World.
Pete and the rest of the Pirone clan have celebrated every Christmas from 2009-2018 at Disney. Having spent years traveling during the most crowded time of the year, Pete uses his knowledge to develop tips and tricks for tacking the crowds and creating an efficient trip itinerary—no matter when you go!
When he's not writing, Pete is cooking and trying out new restaurants. He's a huge foodie and can often be found dining and eating his way around Walt Disney World.
Pete also hates writing in the third person...