Saratoga Springs – Our WDW Resort Stay (And a highlight of some of the others we love and have visited!)

Our recent WDW stay was with extended family for Thanksgiving, and there were 8 of us – three couples and two kids. Hence, having some space was a necessity, and with some dietary restrictions we decided having a kitchen would be nice.  We ended up getting a good deal on Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa in a two bedroom villa, which is an example of one of the Deluxe Villa Resorts at Walt Disney World.  These Resorts all have a large Disney Vacation Club population, but are also available to the general public.  Saratoga is one of the biggest properties and usually easier to get than some of the others, and a bit more affordable.  We had read a few things about it advance that the rooms were the smallest of all of them, and the busses were slow and problematic.  Hence, we were very pleasantly surprised with the large amount of space we had.  We didn’t feel on top of each other at all, especially with two huge bathrooms and an abundance of towels and house keeping everyday.  Big bonus – housekeeping even did the dishes for us (this is included with hotel guest stays but is an extra charge for DVC members) so that was fantastic.

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Christmas Tree in Saratoga Springs Lobby

We started off the trip with outstanding service from Greg Sullivan’s Magical Day Delivery & Concierge service, something offered to Travel Agents.  He got us a full list of Trader Joe’s groceries and hand delivered them to our villa upon our arrival, including wine, which was pretty fantastic!  I will definitely use him in the future for small grocery deliveries and client gifts! In general if you have a large grocery order (and don’t have a car)  Garden Grocer delivers to all Walt Disney World Resort Hotels (also including alcohol) and they will hold it for you at Bell Services.  We love having easy snacks or sandwiches for on the go, and did most of our breakfasts in the room with the kitchen, saving a lot of time in the mornings.  It also saved on our budget, and probably some on our waistlines, though I think we made up for that elsewhere!

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Carriage House at Saratoga Springs

In any case, back to Saratoga – the grounds were beautiful, the hotel was quiet, and our location was actually ideal. We used the Touring Plans request service (my travel agency has a subscription that I use for all my clients)  for a specific room in the Paddock area, and got almost exactly what we asked for! We had a quiet room with a water view, close to the Paddock Pool (which had a walk up counter pool bar that serviced breakfast pastries and meals all day, plus a few alcoholic beverages with no line, and a coffee/soft drink station), easy walk to the main lobby area, and close to transportation. The bus stop was the third one out of five, so fortunately we had no trouble finding room on busses and didn’t have to ride too far when we got back to the Resort. We actually had good luck with busses, with the exception of the last few days – after the holiday crowds left, it seemed to slow down a lot in regularity, and we did have some very long waits. This is an issue across Walt Disney World, but is generally worse at larger resorts with multiple stops. We used Uber for some hard to get to spots and dining reservations, and look forward to using the Minnie Van service in the future (it wasn’t yet available at our resort).  All in all, the kids enjoyed th epools and slides, the Cast Members were amazing (all say Welcome Home) and the Saratoga villa worked very well for our family’s needs.  We liked it a lot more than we expected! 🙂

In general, villas are the way to go if you can make them fit your budget – the kitchen is nice to have, and the washer and dryer are REALLY handy, especially if your child throws up in the middle of the night, which happened to us!  It’s hard to go back to a a regular hotel room after having a suite or villa anywhere, we found the extra space and amenities well worth the money!

As far as other Resorts go, in past trips we have stayed at Port Orleans French Quarter, our favorite Moderate Resort. We love this place because of the charm, the fact that it’s small with only one bus stop, and has a tranquil feel compared to the others. However, each of the resorts have their own perks.  Coronado Springs is known for a fantastic water slide, which Caribbean Beach has a tropical feel.

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Pretty ground at French Quarter

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Splash Pad at French Quarter

When it comes to value resorts, we have yet to visit or stay at any, but clients have loved the Art of Animation in the past.  Value Resorts do not have water slides, but AofA does have music playing underwater and some great theming. They will also soon have gondola transportation.

We visited several Deluxe Resorts during our recent stay, including the Polynesian Village Resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Contemporary Resort.  The Poly is a great tropical escape in the midst of busy Disney, has great pools, monorail access, the amazing Trader Sam’s tiki bar, and great dining.  Contemporary has the benefit of being within walking distance to Magic Kingdom, and in close proximity via monorail to Epcot.  We like how they’ve redone areas of this hotel since we last visited, and adore the California Grill on the top floor.

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Pool at the Poly

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Lobby at Poly

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Polynesian Bungalows

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View from CA Grill

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Lobby area at Contemporary

 We absolutely love Animal Kingdom Lodge for its beauty, native African cast, and of course the beautiful savannah of animals with views from hotel rooms! There are Deluxe Villas available at AKL as well. The only bummer is that it’s far away from everything but Animal Kingdom, so could be tough as a home base when trying to get around the Resort.

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Animal Kingdom Lodge Lobby

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Beautiful AKL Grounds

While we don’t have up close photos, in terms of location and overall value with pools and dining, we also love the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts because of the ability to walk into the Epcot World Showcase (a favorite), and easily walk or take the boat to Hollywood Studios.  As we don’t spend as much time at Magic Kingdom, this would omit two bus rides for us. In our ideal stay, we would do a villa at the Beach Club, followed by a few nights savannah view at AKL. 🙂

Overall, I haven’t stayed anywhere at WDW that I would never stay again.  What are your favorites?

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