You may have heard the horror stories. Your friend or family member planned their once-in-a-lifetime Walt Disney World vacation. They saved for years, booked as many things months in advance as they could. They complained about the effort. And the cost. But they figured it was worth it for the kids. You know the drill. The family makes the long drive to Orlando. They’re totally blown away by the lobby at Wilderness Lodge (as they should be). But it’s dark and they crash into bed. The next morning, they wake up bright and early. Not to make rope drop, no. The familiar incessant beeping of a garbage truck in reverse serves as their very not-magical wake-up call. They angrily fling open the curtains and find …
I wish I could insert a sound effect here. The losing horn/sad trombone from The Price is Right seems remarkably appropriate. Suddenly their $500/night starts hurting a lot more. As you might guess, you could generally shell out even more money to get yourself a non-garbage view. Our recent post looked at whether these upgrades resulted in higher satisfaction or less walking at Value and Moderate resorts. Today we’ll explore Deluxe resorts to answer the same question – are preferred rooms worth the upgrade cost? Stay tuned for an exploration of DVC resorts, using points as the upgrade cost.
Explain the Math!
After each resort stay, TouringPlans users can submit a survey where they rate their overall satisfaction. And they can also submit their room number. Using those room numbers, I can determine if the room had a standard view or some upgraded version.
For each room type, we’ll need to know three things:
- The average satisfaction. This result helps us compare across room types.
- The 95% confidence interval. If we don’t have many results, or the results were all over the place, we can’t be very confident in the average that we calculated. That leads to a large confidence interval.
- The average increase in price per night compared to the next-cheapest room category.
Every graph in this post will have room types along the bottom axis. I’ll depict satisfaction on a scale from 4.0 to 5.0 on the vertical axis. That means that differences will look bigger than they actually are. A difference of 4.4 vs 4.2 looks tiny on a graph that goes from 1 to 5. But it looks larger with the zoomed-in version of the axis. I’ll only be showing room types that had enough survey results to get a really solid average (usually 60 or more surveys). And no room type had a confidence interval that dipped below 4.0.
Preferred Rooms at Deluxe Resorts
Are preferred rooms worth the upgrade cost at the Deluxe resorts around Crescent Lake?
- Standard rooms at Beach Club are those dreaded roof views. Or sometimes bus stop views. If you’re lucky, you might get a view of another wing of the building. $30/night can get you a view of vegetation instead, which is almost a statistically significant upgrade in satisfaction. Pool/Lake views are even more expensive. $110/night above a standard room. And they’re generally a HIKE from the lobby and transportation. You might end up with a view of the quiet pool, or with a peek of the lake between some trees, or a totally jaw-dropping gorgeous view. But the mixed bag yields widely varying satisfaction scores.
I don’t have an average score for standard rooms at Yacht Club because there just aren’t many of them. One or two may have a not-roof view, but they’re pretty much a repeat of the Beach Club rooms. Water view rooms are again much more expensive and a hike from the lobby at Yacht Club. And even that upgrade could grant you a view like the one to the right.
- At BoardWalk Inn, a standard view might net you a view of the bus stops or parking lots. If you’re lucky, you could be overlooking a bunch of trees interspersed with … electrical boxes (on second thought, this would actually be a benefit for some engineers that I know). Garden views are pretty much what you’d expect. If you get lucky you might get a glimpse of the lake. For $170/night on top of Standard view prices, you can get a water view. These rooms have some of the best views on the Boardwalk, but you’ll pay handsomely. And you may have to walk as far as a 1/4-mile to get to and from the lobby.
Are preferred rooms worth the upgrade cost at the Monorail resorts?
- Standard rooms at the Contemporary are all in the South Garden building. And so they don’t have the super-quick convenient access to transportation or dining options.
- Garden rooms are also in the South Garden building – easy to remember, right? Some might have canal views. But for $40/night, they’re nothing special compared to the standard views.
- To get into the main building, you’re looking to spend at least $170/night more than the Standard rooms for a Lake view. These rooms all face east and sport similar views to one another. To get on the west side of the building, with it’s coveted view of the Magic Kingdom, it’s another $90/night for a Theme Park view. Just know that for your $800-$1200/night, there will be a parking lot in the foreground. And you might have a better view of the Grand Floridian than of the Magic Kingdom. And none of these upgrades boast higher satisfaction than the Standard rooms.
- Once again, it’s very easy to immediately see that no upgrades yield significantly higher satisfaction at the Polynesian or the Grand Floridian.
For the Polynesian, the good news is that none of the rooms are remarkably far from the main building. The bad news is that most of the non-DVC rooms are a healthy walk to the bus stop. The other main watch-out is that some of the Theme Park rooms (a whopping $320/night more expensive than the standard rooms) are in Aotearoa and only provide a glimpse of the theme park if you squint really hard.
- At the Grand Floridian, a Garden room could get you a view of a pool, or the side of a building. You could be 300 feet from the lobby, or a 1/4-mile away. Your mileage may vary. Literally. Lagoon views are similar – it’s only a $13/night upgrade. You could be in almost any building, and see anything from a view across the lagoon to the Contemporary to the monorail pylons in a canal. Magic Kingdom views are just unpredictable, but at an upcharge of $200/night. You might bend around your balcony to peak at Space Mountain, or you might have a gorgeous view over the boat access dock.
Are preferred rooms worth the upgrade cost at Wilderness Lodge?
- Wilderness Lodge is a little different than the rest of its Deluxe friends. It’s not on Crescent Lake or the Monorail, so its views are a little bit different too. So far I’ve been bemoaning the subpar, 4-figure-per-night Theme Park view rooms at the Deluxe resorts. Wilderness Lodge is actually a good example of the reverse. Some Standard rooms will actually net you a better view of Magic Kingdom than the Theme Park views at the Monorail resorts.
- Nature views will get you a view of some trees (and maybe a peek at water) for a little upcharge per night. If you enjoy overlooking the hustle and bustle of the pool and geyser area, you have to spring for a Courtyard view, at just under $100/night more than a Standard.
- Fireworks views are the expensive ones at Wilderness lodge – a hefty $245/night more than a standard view. But just like room 5054 is a Standard view, room 6054 is a Fireworks view. Your $245/night could just get you bumped up one floor higher. Given the sheer amount of tree growth happening every year, that extra boost might be worth it to you. But it isn’t guaranteed to increase your satisfaction.
Are preferred rooms worth the upgrade cost at Animal Kingdom Lodge?
- The room upgrade that I’ve personally heard the most people making is for savanna view at Animal Kingdom Lodge. And it makes the most sense to me. Who wouldn’t love waking up with giraffes right outside of your window? Sure beats garbage trucks. But, just like in all other cases – no significant increase in satisfaction. In fact, standard and savanna rooms have almost the exact same satisfaction score.
The similar scores make a lot of sense. Standard rooms can be as much as a 1/4-mile from the lobby. But so can preferred rooms. Savanna rooms guarantee that you’ll overlook a savanna. But many standard rooms at Jambo are “hidden savanna” rooms, with plenty of animal viewing opportunities from your balcony. In 2017 we stayed in room 4210, with giraffes lazing outside of our balcony every night, and cattle eating hay every morning. It was close the lobby, which was important to us. And there are plenty of other similar examples.
What Does This Mean For You?
- Never ever will the expensive upgrades at Deluxe resorts guarantee you significantly higher satisfaction compared to Standard views. Objectively, preferred rooms just aren’t worth the associated cost.
- If any upgrade comes close to being statistically “worth it”, it’s upgrading away from a Standard room at Beach Club/Yacht Club so you do not have a lovely roof out of your window.
- There are terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad views even at the most expensive price points at Deluxe resorts. Do your research using the Room Finder to increase your chances, no matter which view you select.
Are you surprised by the lack of increase in satisfaction as you pay more to upgrade your room? Do you think the results will look the same for DVC resorts? Have you ever been disappointed by an invisible castle view? Let us know in the comments!