We just came back from Marathon Weekend last week. I apologize for not posting daily reports like I did last time, but we were traveling with a large group of friends and had my husband’s parents with us, as well. Spare time was somewhat limited for us, but a lot of fun was still had! I’ll be taking the next few posts to share some highlights of our trip with everyone. 🙂
When we originally booked our trip, we were staying at Pop Century. Pop Century has always been our “go-to” resort when we are looking to save money. We much prefer the standard rooms next door at Art of Animation, but those rooms are never discounted, so we don’t stay there too often. Because Art of Animation is so close to Pop Century, we will book our stay at Pop, and hop over to AoA for their food court. Gotta love that create your own pasta station!! (BTW…the create your own pasta station at Art of Animation is waaaaaayyyy better than the one at Port Orleans Riverside, but that’s another story.)
A couple of weeks before our trip, one of our close friends that we were meeting down there that was also booked at Pop Century texted me about a great deal he found at Wyndham Bonnet Creek through VRBO, and asked me to cancel their reservation at Pop Century. He also suggested that I do the same.
We stayed off site back in October when we booked a family suite at Universal’s Cabana Bay Resort. At the time, we were planning on spending some time at Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure and go to Halloween Horror Nights. We also took advantage of an annual pass discount, so staying over there made sense. It wasn’t less expensive than Pop Century, but the convenience factor drew us in. We also liked having the extra space and a way for our daughter to have her own “room” when she slept.
Looking at Wyndham Bonnet Creek on VRBO really drew us in. I sent in an email for a quote, and I was amazed at what came back. We could stay in a one bedroom suite for 7 nights (our reservation at Pop Century was 6 nights), and it was about $10 LESS than Pop Century. The photos of the rooms and property were amazing. The reviews were outstanding. I was loving what I was seeing online, but could reality live up to the hype?
We booked it, canceled our reservation at Pop Century, and decided to find our for ourselves.
The Bonnet Creek property consists of 4 resorts: Wyndham Grand, Waldorf Astoria Orlando, Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, and Wyndham Bonnet Creek. It is located between Caribbean Beach and Pop Century resorts. The Wyndham Bonnet Creek is a time share facility, and we were warned that we could potentially be harassed to attend their “presentation breakfast” to try to sell us on joining. This part definitely turned my husband off, as he loathes time share presentations. This is one reason we were a little skeptical of our stay.
We decided to drive down a day early and stay with my parents in Ocala, and then head over to the resort early and put in our room request. (Room requests aren’t taken until checkin.) Based on some of the photos we saw, I was hoping for a view of Illuminations. We when got to the resort, we asked for a room on a higher floor with a nice view. We were put in building 5 on the 10th floor. I was looking forward to seeing what our view was going to be!
They then directed us to the parking desk. This is where I read online that the pressure sales take place. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that bad. Our rep was very polite and not pushy at all. So much so, that I almost agreed to the breakfast, and then I remembered I had to say no. It was easy to come up with an excuse because we were traveling with such a large group and had a lot of activities going on with the running events of the weekend. I think she might have understood our schedule when we told her we were there for the race, and perhaps that’s why she didn’t pressure us too much.
We got to our room, and I was blown away by our view. We looked out toward the lake between the buildings and down on our building’s pool We could even see the Tower of Terror and Everest off in the distance (I never realized how close these two parks are)! This view became even more spectacular when we realized we had an incredible view of the new Symphony in the Stars fireworks show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios! We could even see the Osbourne Lights dancing from our room!
The rest of our stay was just as great. We loved the location of our room at the end of the hallway next to the staircase so our only neighbors were directly above and below us, and our room was literally silent during our stay. The weather was warm enough a couple of days that we were able to swim. The pool at our building was a zero entry pool that was attached to a lazy river. Tubes were provided for guests free of charge, and the water was very warm, almost like bath water. The only issue I had with the pool was that the pool at our building only had towels available on Saturdays and Sundays, so I had to walk to another building to get pool towels, and it was a little difficult to find.
We ate at two different restaurants there, Escudos and the Bay Back Pool Bar over at the Wyndham Grand. Both were in walking distance of our room, and both restaurants were great!
Having a full kitchen in our room was also very useful, since we made our own breakfast everyday and we were also able to make a box of macaroni & cheese for our daughter for lunch before naps. Our schedule pretty much had us hanging around the resort in the morning, eating lunch there, and then hitting a park after our daughter’s nap. Two meals a day in the room made a full kitchen almost necessary. I had made a quick trip to a local Publix grocery store during nap time on our second day, and stocked up on milk, juice, frozen waffles, and a few other things we forgot or couldn’t bring with us. Having this convenience was definitely a breath of fresh air! Sure, Pop Century comes with what they call a “beverage cooler,” but I can’t tell you how many times we’ve ended up with frozen milk and had to run to the food court to buy a fresh one. It was also great having actual dishes and silverware and a full size table to eat on. Our only issue here was that our daughter didn’t have a high chair, so we had to improvise and let her eat standing up in the living room off of the coffee table. We put towels under her and her plate so we could minimize any messes.
We also had a washer and dryer in our room! What a convenience this was! It makes it nice to not have to pack so many clothes or have to camp out by the laundry room if we needed to do laundry. The room came with some generic laundry soap, so I took advantage and did a load while we were there.
We loved staying here so much that we booked it again for our trip next month for the Princess Half Marathon Weekend and again in April for Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend.
WHOA! I know what you’re thinking: “But you SELL Disney vacations? How can you sell Disney vacations at Disney resorts if you’re always staying off site?” That’s when I thought about when it’s a good idea to stay off site and share my thoughts about it here.
We were approached by a Disney Vacation Club cast member at Disney Springs on our December trip who told us that we needed to join if we visit often. Actually, it’s the other way around. I say we visit TOO often for DVC to be a good deal for us. I did a rough estimate when we were with him and figured we were spending about a month out of 2015 at Disney World. It would take a ungodly number of DVC points to cover our stays at Disney World, and we don’t typically stay in deluxe resorts. Sure, we might treat ourselves every once in a while, but we mostly stay at value or moderate resorts. But I digress…
After a month at Disney World in 2015, we’ve pretty much seen and done everything there is to see and do, and we’re not even taking into consideration the numerous trips in previous years. We aren’t in a rush to get to the parks and pack as much magic into one day as we can, because chances are, we’ll be back next month. LOL! We don’t take advantage of Extra Magic Hours because of our daughter. We don’t need to book FastPass+ reservations 60 days in advance. 30 days is fine for us. If we miss out on 7 Dwarfs Mine Train, that’s okay, we’ve ridden it about a dozen times already. Our annual pass gives us free parking, so we don’t need to worry about how we’re going to get to the parks or the skyrocketing parking fee of $20 per day. We also have 35 (yes, that’s not a typo) Magic Bands, and we get new ones each year with our annual passes. Our schedule on this last trip doesn’t fit well with the dining plan, and we haven’t purchased the dining plan outright in years. Besides, our Annual Pass gives us the option of purchasing the Tables in Wonderland card that saves us 20% on dining, so we already have savings there. I’ve gone through all of the benefits of staying on site, and they no longer apply to my family because we have been so often.
That being said, I do encourage you to stay on site if you only go once a year, or have never been. There are a lot of great advantages that will make your trip better if you stay on site. You really have to consider numerous outside costs that add up quickly if you choose to stay off site, not to mention lost time and experiences you and your family can miss out on.
Will we ever stay on site again? I’m sure of it. When? That, I don’t know. Having a young toddler makes it difficult to go back to a standard room for a while. I know we love taking advantage of the free dining plan when Disney offers it and it lines up with our fall vacation plans. I also know that after a while of not booking a Disney resort, they will soon notice and I’ll get a lovely offer from Disney Destinations that might be too good to pass up. Seriously, if you ever get an envelope in the mail or an email from “Disney Destinations,” that means you probably got a special pin code offer that not a lot of people get. They want you to come back, and they’ll lay out a very tempting offer to get you to book.
Until then, You’ll probably catch me at Wyndham Bonnet Creek, watching the fireworks from our balcony. 😉