Tuesday, September 18, 2012

[INFOPOST] Reasons to Stay On Property

I know so many people who have gone to Disney World and stayed at an outside hotel, and that's totally fine (I've done this before too.) Off property hotels work really well for large parties (the vacation homes in Orlando are surprisingly affordable to rent) or guests who plan to visit Seaworld or Universal more than Disney. But if you want to Disney World, I mean really do Disney World, and you have a party of 6 or less then the on property hotels and resorts are really the best way to go. You're close to the magic, you have complimentary travel to and from the parks, free parking at theme parks, extra time inside the actual parks before offsite guests, and amazing staff to make your stay so much easier.

The quality of the Cast Members Disney hires and trains never fails to amaze me (even after being a Cast Member myself). Everyone is extremely helpful and they want nothing more than to make your trip as worry free as they can. Plus, they're always up for more than a little fun. I've stayed at one resort at every level except for Deluxe. Value, Moderate, and Deluxe Villa. All three experience were extremely pleasant. The first Disney Resort I ever stayed in was Old Key West in a one bedroom villa. We arrived early for check in, but we were able to check in anyway and leave our bags with Cast Members and then head out to the parks right away. When we arrived back at the resort that night our luggage and our purchases from that day were waiting on us in our room.

That was my first exposure to Disney service. I didn't have to lug my bags anywhere and while shopping inside the park I didn't have to carry around my plastic bags filled with purchases. I could just have them shipped to my room and by the next day they would be there waiting on me. It was wonderful.

And then there was Extra Magic Hours. One of the best perks to have ever been thought up. Every day, one park has EMH. Sometimes it's one hour in the morning and sometimes it's up to three hours at night. At the end of this year, that extra three hours after closing is officially changing to two (which I'm sure is a great relief to Magic Kingdom CMs, who often had to work until 4 in the morning to restock and clean the park.) But those extra hours allow you to get a lot done that the crowded general guest hours may prevent you from doing. Plus, there's nothing like experiencing the Magic Kingdom at 2 AM. It's just a whole different kind of magic.

The transportation to and from the parks is an excellent perk as well. It saves a lot of gas and a lot of money. Not to mention you no longer have to worry about finding your car at the end of every night. The only drawback is waiting on the bus after park closing. Sometimes it takes forever to finally get on one due to the sheer number of people wanting to ride them.

The next time I stayed at a resort was during my College Program when my parents came to visit. We stayed at Coronado Springs. It's a lovely quiet resort with lots of beautiful theming. This resort is home to a lot of business conferences so you'll find there aren't many families staying here. But I really enjoyed the design of the lobby. It was gorgeous. This was the trip I discovered the free parking for resort guests. As a CM I received free parking anyway but to do so I had to show my CM ID. So my parents decided to drive instead of wait for the bus and I had my ID all ready to show the Cast Member's who take the money for parking, but he didn't need it. He saw the Resort parking pass and just waved us on through. It was the best surprise of the day for me because leaning forward from the back seat to the front driver side window was very uncomfortable and awkward. So from then on we had no fear of driving and no need to follow bus schedules. It was very liberating.

The last time I stayed on property was last October. I stayed at the Pop Century resort and enjoyed every minute of it. This time I was able to enjoy Magical Express, a flawless service, and the services of the CM's who greet at the front desks in the resort lobby. These two services absolutely made my trip. Michelle and I came from two seperate states but managed to end up on the same flight thanks to the genius of Southwest Airlines (who I highly recommend by the way. Their one way flights are more affordable than connecting flights most of the time.) Because of this we were able to use Magical Express, the bus service that picks you up at the airport and takes you to your resort.

Now, keep in mind that this is not a direct trip to your resort. The bus stops at other resorts in the area too. But when you sign up for Magical Express you're sent a booklet that contains your passes for the bus and directions to the terminal where you will be picked up. Essentially Disney has had a section of the baggage claim area sectioned off for bus queues. You show the CMs that are waiting your passes and then wait in the very first Disney queue of the trip for your bus. You do not have to stop and collected your bags unless you're being picked up super early in the morning or super late at night. Otherwise, lovely cast members will pick up your bags and transport them to the resort for you. You're sent special luggage tags to mark your bags.

The wait for the bus can be lengthy, but it mostly feels that way because you know you're just so close to the Disney magic. The cast members that are there to supervise this service try to make it go by as quickly as they can. They joke and entertain and try to keep you busy. There are buses that are decorated especially for the service, but there are also average yellow Mears transportation buses that pick up as well. While on the bus you're shown a video that highlights the advantages you'll be enjoying while staying on property (all illustrated with various Disney characters).

When you reach your resort you're told to head straight to check out because your bags will be brought to your room when they arrive. Check out was a very quick process, there was basically no wait when Michelle and I arrived at the Pop. We checked in and then headed to our room to take a break and settle in as much as we could. Not even a half hour after we arrived my bag was brought to our door. Michelle's arrived a little later and we were both a little worried about that, but Disney had it all under control.

Departing is just as easy as arriving. The day before you depart your boarding passes are sent to your room (provided you're flying with an airline that partners with Disney, Southwest does.) Your bags will be checked in for you and all you have to do is take your luggage to luggage services by the drop off entrance to the resort. You don't even have to check out of your hotel. You can just leave. Michelle and I took them our bags earlier that morning and then headed off to Downtown Disney until the scheduled pick up time we were given. This service saves guests so much time and effort and it really makes things worry free. I enjoyed every bit of it.

The other part of the trip that I found to be amazing was check in. The Cast Member that was helping us really paid attention and knew what we needed before we did. All I did was mention briefly to Michelle that we needed to go to the Ticket and Transportation Center and pick up the tickets we had a will call and he immediately had a suggestion for us.

We could pick up the tickets at the front desk as long as we had our confirmation numbers. I had mine so he was able to add my park tickets to my room key and then use a separate hard plastic key-card for my Halloween Party ticket. This made my life so much easier. We still had to go to the TTC for Michelle's tickets but it eased my mind to have mine in my hand when we left to check out our room. Plus having the tickets I purchased separately added to my room key left me with less to keep up with. I was really impressed with that Cast Member and how closely he was paying attention to the guests in front of him. It was truly excellent service.

And all of the above is why I encourage people to stay on property. You will not find any company more accommodating than the Walt Disney Company. They try their hardest to make things as convenient as possible for their guests because they know people really don't want to worry or think while on vacation. Isn't lovely to have someone do all the work for you, for once? I think so. And I haven't mentioned my favorite part...

Cast Members at the resort cannot accept tips unless they are servers in one of the restaurants. There's no risk of a bellman being rude to you because he thinks you tipped him too little. Or being rushed to your room because you're not expected to be a good tipper. No one to awkwardly stand around until they've received whatever tip they deem appropriate.

Not to say that some people do not truly deserve tips because some do, but in my experience, hotels with staff that expect to be tipped do not have good guest service. Yet another reason why, if possible, I try to work out a way to stay on property on my trips to Disney World. Disney cast members are so much nicer and work so much harder and yet they don't expect a tip. Now, that's a staff that deserves to be tipped and appreciated. Don't you think?

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