Are Preferred Rooms Worth It at Value and Moderate Resorts?

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You plan for months. The tickets, the resort, the reservations – you have them all! Everyone is really excited about vacation. You have a tough week at work. But your flight goes smoothly. You drive under the magical gate and get to the resort that you chose because it’s the best, and you paid handsomely for it, probably. Check-in is smooth, you’re told to have a magical day, and you’re sent on your way. You open the door, drop your bags, and head over to look out the window and find …

… a roof.

Totally worth the $600/night, right?! Maybe, maybe not. It might be an excellent roof. Of course, if you want to be sure of a non-roof-view, Disney has made it remarkably easy for you to part with even more of your money to guarantee no roof out of your window. But is the non-roof-view really worth your extra money? Thankfully, the answer may lay in … data!

Note: Today I’m joined by TouringPlan’s version of the father from Carousel of Progress – Len Testa. Since a preferred room frequently aims to get you closer to a main building or transportation, he’ll provide data and commentary on walking distances from different rooms.

Explain the Math!

TouringPlans users submit post-visit surveys after a resort stay. They rate their overall satisfaction. And they also have the option of entering their room number. From those room numbers, I can determine if it was a standard room or some upgraded version.

For each room type, we’ll calculate three things:

  • The average satisfaction. This will help us compare across room/view types.
  • The 95% confidence interval. Sometimes, we don’t have many results, or the results were all over the place. In this case, we can’t be very confident in that average. That’ll yield a very large confidence interval.
  • The average increase in price per night compared to the next-cheapest room category.

Each graph will always have room types along the bottom axis and satisfaction shown vertically on a scale from 4.0 to 5.0. That might be visually misleading – after all, small differences like an average of 4.2 vs 4.4 might look much bigger than you’d expect. But I only pulled room types that had enough survey results to get a really good average (usually 60 or more surveys). And no room type had a confidence interval that dipped below 4.0. I also left out any resorts that didn’t have any differences in types (like Art of Animation – suites vs regular rooms is a totally different comparison). Today we’re looking at Value and Moderate resorts. Stay tuned for future posts with Deluxe resorts, and DVC resorts – using points as the upgrade cost.

Preferred Rooms at Value Resorts

Are preferred rooms worth the upgrade cost at All-Star Resorts?

Average satisfaction at different room types at the All-Star resorts
  • At the All-Star resorts, a preferred room won’t necessarily net you a better view. But it generally will land you closer to the main building and transportation than the standard rooms. When Len crunched the numbers, a standard room and a preferred room could be as little as 100 feet apart. And at All-Star Music, the furthest away a standard room could be from a preferred room is 1/4-mile.  Let’s say you walk at a pace of 3 miles per hour. That means on average, booking a preferred room will save you about 3 minutes of walking each time you head to or from the lobby.
  • Room 8957 at All-Star Movies – “Preferred Room”. Not the best view, but at least it’s close to the lobby.

    None of the All-Star upgrades yield statistically significant improvements in satisfaction. Average satisfaction increases by about 0.2 at Movies and Music, but the confidence intervals overlap. So that means I can’t be certain that the increase isn’t just random. And the Sports satisfaction scores are almost identical.

  • $20/night is one of the cheapest upgrade prices you’ll find on property. Remember, that’s an average across all of the different rates in a calendar year. If you hate walking a long way after getting off of a bus after a full day in the parks, $20 each night might be worth it to you regardless of what the data says.

Are preferred rooms worth the upgrade cost at Pop Century?

Average satisfaction at different room types at Pop Century
  • Room upgrades are even cheaper at Pop Century than at the All-Stars. But this graph might show us why. Overall satisfaction with the room and resort doesn’t change at all with subsequent “upgrades”. If anything, satisfaction might actually decrease.
  • Unlike the All-Stars, a preferred room at Pop doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be particularly close to the main building or transportation. It’ll land you somewhere in the 50s, 60s, or 70s. So that’s … beneficial if you have a particular loathing for the 80s and 90s decades. As a child of the 80s myself, I don’t mind staying there.
  • Standard rooms exist in every building at Pop Century. So it’s a perfect resort for booking a standard view and then using the TouringPlans Room Finder to make a request that meets your needs.

Preferred Rooms at Moderate Resorts

Are preferred rooms worth the upgrade cost at the Port Orleans resorts?

Average satisfaction at different room types at the Port Orleans resorts
  • French Quarter is a nice, compact resort. No matter where you stay, you’re pretty close to transportation. So here, view is probably more important than anything else. An upgrade to a river view won’t break the bank. But satisfaction is already so high across French Quarter – no upgrade can make a large positive impact. Just don’t pay for that pool upgrade, unless proximity to a pool is your absolute number one requirement.
  • Room 8254 at Port Orleans – Riverside – “River Room”. Enjoy your “river”, and your 1/4 mile walk to the lobby.

    Unlike its sister resort, Riverside is a sprawling labyrinth of buildings and rooms. The only rooms that aren’t a hike to the main building are the preferred rooms, which cost $58 more per night than the standard rooms. Ouch – that adds up quickly. To put that cost into context, Len once again looked at the walking distance data for you. At Riverside, a preferred room can save you as little as 60 extra feet of walking to the lobby. Or it could save you as much as a 1/4-mile. So even in this spread-out feet-destroying resort, that’s still just an average of 3 minutes of walking each way.

  • River view rooms are the some of the most expensive at Riverside. Some of them are remarkably far away from the main building or any of the shared bus loop stops. But they have the highest satisfaction of any room type at that resort. Still not as high as the standard rooms at French Quarter, though.

Are preferred rooms worth the upgrade cost at Caribbean Beach?

Average satisfaction at different room types at Caribbean Beach
  • Overall satisfaction at Caribbean Beach is the lowest of any WDW resort. So maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that we find our first significant increase in satisfaction here! There was literally nowhere to go but up. If you shell out the extra $32/night to stay in a water/pool view room, you’re statistically more likely to be very satisfied than if you stay in a standard room.
  • Preferred rooms at Caribbean Beach are a whopping $101/night more expensive than their standard counterparts. Yikes. That gets you a room close to the main building. But you’re still on the shared bus loop. And you have a big hike to get to the Skyliner. It looks like it’s a safer bet to save yourself some money and stick with a standard or water/pool room.
  • Caribbean Beach is a resort with a pretty weird and walking-intensive layout no matter where you stay. A preferred room could be as close to a non-preferred room as 350 feet, and as far away as almost a 1/2-mile. That means at our average walking pace, a preferred room could save you an average of 5.5 minutes of walking each way, depending on where you’re trying to go.

Are preferred rooms worth the upgrade cost at Coronado Springs?

Average satisfaction at different room types at Coronado Springs
  • Coronado Springs is something like a tale of two resorts. You’ve got good ol’ OG Coronado, and then you have the behemoth that is Gran Destino Tower. The rooms in the Tower are more expensive, but they’re also newer, and are located close to the main building and transportation.
  • If you’re not living that tower life, a Preferred room will get you closest to the main building. But not necessarily close to transportation. Your view could be of a beautiful lagoon, or a parking lot, or another building. It’s a mixed bag that definitely requires use of the Room Finder.
  • Similarly, not all Water rooms are created equal. You might see a pool, you might see a tiny corner of some water that might be part of a lagoon, or you could have a stunningly gorgeous lagoon view. Probably because of the wide variety, neither the Preferred or Water View rooms yield higher satisfaction than standard rooms here. The only way to get statistically higher satisfaction is by upgrading to a tower room.
  • Room 9167 at Coronado Springs, Gran Destino Tower – “Standard”. Sure, there’s no lake, but I spy two theme parks!

    Len looked up walking distances again, and a preferred room could save you as little as 100 extra feet of walking, or as much as a 1/4-mile. Once again, that’s just an average of 3 minute saved to/from the lobby. I don’t know about you, but if I’m just headed to the parks and back once each day, I’m probably not going to fork out $84 to save myself 6 minutes of walking. I value my time … but not that much.

  • The two view types in the tower are an interesting case study. Water views are more expensive, and you would think that therefore they would be more satisfying and sought after. But a small insider trick is that a lot of standard view rooms in the tower look over EPCOT and Hollywood Studios, and can give you fireworks views. The water views are just … water.

What Does This Mean For You?

  1. The vast majority of the time at Value and Moderate resorts, a preferred room will not guarantee you higher satisfaction or significantly less walking.
  2. You’re much better off using the Room Finder to increase your chances of a good room location than just paying for a better room type and leaving location up to chance.
  3. Some resorts are much more compact and walkable than others. If walking distance is that important to you, select a navigation-friendly resort (which you can find in this post) instead of paying for a preferred room at a resort with an ugly map.
  4. If view is important to you, don’t just trust the name. A water view can mean many things. And sometimes a “standard” view can be remarkable. Do your research! (Or let me do it for you.)

Were you surprised by any of the results at Value and Moderate resorts? Do you have any predictions for Deluxe and DVC resorts? Is there a resort where you always (or never) book an upgraded room type? Have you ever had a roof out of your window? Let us know in the comments!

 

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Becky Gandillon

Becky Gandillon was trained in biomedical engineering, but is now a full-time data and analytics nerd. She loves problem solving and travelling. She and her husband, Jeff, live in St. Louis with their two daughters and they have Disney family movie night every Saturday. You can follow her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/becky-gandillon/ or instagram @raisingminniemes

One thought on “Are Preferred Rooms Worth It at Value and Moderate Resorts?

  • June 3, 2021 at 10:07 pm
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    I paid for a savannah view at Animal Kingdom Lodge and when I got to the room, all I could see was a small fenced in area that would fit maybe a few cars. I went right back to the front desk and got the excuse that “sometimes animals wander back there.” Spoke to the manager and changed that real quick. Don’t be afraid to challenge a poor room.

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