How Do I Use Satisfaction and Cost Data to Choose a DVC Resort?

Share This!

Back in May, I looked at overall DVC satisfaction averages and compared them to the point cost of each room type. The results were pretty neat (you can read about them here), but I prefaced the whole thing by saying that the resort-wide average was being used for each analysis. We’ve recently been able to break out those scores into room types and locations, so now I can get much more accurate with the results. I can find out just the satisfaction at studio rooms and compare that to just the point cost for studios too. This allows me to do nifty things like figure out the resort with the best satisfaction for the least number of points if you’ve already decided that you want to stay in a studio.

These data can be used lots of different ways. For example, my family almost always rents DVC points to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge. And we always stay in a studio room. We’ve gotten comfortable with the rental process, and it’s generally cheaper than if we paid out of pocket for even a moderate resort room with whatever deals Disney is offering. We’ve tried the Polynesian once. And I’ve been itching to stay at Wilderness Lodge for a long time. Pre-kids, it was my favorite spot for spending a resort day. (I still mourn the loss of the pre-character-dining dinner Artist Point.) If I were going to opt for a Wilderness Lodge stay on rented DVC points, would my chances at a satisfying stay be better at Copper Creek, or Boulder Ridge? In addition to giving you the data today, I’ll walk you through how I might apply it to my situation and decision-making process.

If you can’t have live animals outside your lodge, a geyser is totally the next-best thing, right?

Explain the Math!

After a visit to WDW, anyone can fill out a post-visit survey (and, actually, the same goes for a visit to UOR or Disneyland or a DCL cruise). One of the questions asks you to rate your resort on a spectrum of “Very Dissatisfied” to “Very Satisfied”. I convert these responses to a 1-to-5 scale, which allows me to compute averages. You’re also asked to submit your room number. With that information, I can figure out the type of room you stayed in. So now I can get average satisfaction scores for specific room types at each resort.

For the point cost, I used Disney’s 2022 point chart and averaged out the point cost per night across an entire year for each room type: studios, 1-bedroom villas, 2-bedroom villas, 3-bedroom grand villas, and special room types (like treehouses, cabins, and bungalows). Unfortunately, we don’t have enough reviews at grand villas or special room types to get a statistically valid analysis for those groups. So, if you’re reading this … go book one of those right now and leave us a review!

Studio Satisfaction vs Cost

Satisfaction for studio stays compared to average studio point cost per night
  • The blue line here (and in every graph in this post) represents the best trendline for all of the individual data points. The orange line is the lower 95% confidence interval, and the gray line is the upper 95% confidence interval. Those tell me that, given my sample sizes, I can be 95% confident that the actual trend falls somewhere within those lower and upper bounds. So it’s only when a blue dot breaks free that I can tell something significant is happening.
  • A blue dot tells me two things about each resort – the first is the average point cost per night. For example, the cheapest studio room on WDW property is at Old Key West, and it averages less than 14 points per night. On the other end of the graph, the most expensive studio on average is the Polynesian. It averages almost 23 points per night – about 70% more expensive. Remember my decision-making example? If I know I need a studio, and I just want to maximize the number of nights I can afford to be in the WDW bubble – I 100% should opt for Old Key West. As long as I don’t care about any other factor.
  • The other information I can get is the average satisfaction for this room type at each resort. Saratoga Springs studios have the lowest overall satisfaction, at an average of 4.4. And studios at the Villas at Grand Floridian have the highest overall satisfaction, at an average of over 4.9. In my decision-making example, I could assume that my tastes align with everyone else’s, and just stay at the Villas at Grand Floridian, no matter the cost! Only the “best” for my family!
  • Two dots drop below the gray line on this graph, which means that they’re statistically a poor value for their satisfaction scores. Compared to all other studio rooms, studios at Saratoga Springs and Boulder Ridge underperform. In my example, knowing that I want to stay at a studio, these would be two resorts that I would immediately rule out. There are always caveats – maybe I absolutely want to be within walking distance to Disney Springs. Or Boulder Ridge is the last resort on my bucket list. But for me, neither one is worth the “risk” of being less satisfying than what I’d expect, given what I’m paying.
  • One dot jumps above the gray line on this graph, which means it’s a statistically good value for its satisfaction scores. Compared to all other studio rooms, studios at Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House overperforms. I’m all for an overachiever, especially if it means being happier for the same amount of money. The studios at Jambo have the third-highest satisfaction of all studio rooms, and the third-lowest cost of all studio rooms. Maybe my own preferences have been aligning with the data all along …

1-Bedroom Villas Satisfaction vs Cost

Satisfaction for 1-bedroom stays compared to average 1-bedroom point cost per night
  • Which 1-bedroom villas are the cheapest? Still those at old reliable Old Key West, where a 1-bedroom villa will set you back an average of just about 28 points per night. The most expensive 1-bedroom villa is almost a tie, but Riviera wins out. A 1-bedroom villa there averages almost exactly 47 points per night. That’s a 67% increase in cost over Old Key West. So if you can afford 7 nights at a 1-bedroom villa at Old Key West, you’d only be able to afford 4 at Riviera.
  • Saratoga Springs is still hanging at the bottom of the pack for satisfaction at 1-bedroom villas, with an average rating of 4.55. And the Villas at Grand Floridian remain the satisfaction winners, with their 1-bedroom villa rating of over 4.9.
  • There is only one outlier on this graph, which tells me that as far as 1-bedroom villas are concerned, you generally get what you’re paying for. The exception to that rule is Saratoga Springs, which drops below the gray line and stands out as an underperformer.

2-Bedroom Villas Satisfaction vs Cost

Satisfaction for 2-bedroom stays compared to average 2-bedroom point cost per night
  • Where do you stay if all you want to do is have a 2-bedroom villa and maximize the number of nights you can afford to be at WDW? Once again … Old Key West. If you’ve noticed a trend there, congrats, you’re doing that data and analytics thing in your own brain! A 2-bedroom villa at Old Key West will set you back an average of 38.6 points per night. The most expensive 2-bedroom villa on property is at the Villas at Grand Floridian, with its average of 64.4 points per night. That’s another ouch-inducing 67% increase.
  • Once again, the 2-bedroom villas at Saratoga Springs have the overall lowest average satisfaction, but this time they don’t statistically underperform. And even though they’re the lowest, they still average over 4.7. I wouldn’t blink my eyes at that satisfaction score.
  • For the first time, the Villas at Grand Floridian don’t win out for the highest satisfaction for this room type. The most satisfying 2-bedroom villas are at Boulder Ridge! So Boulder Ridge is statistically a poor value for studio rooms, but if you’re in the game for a 2-bedroom villa, it’s actually a good bet.

What Does This Mean For Me?!

Ha! I tricked you. If you follow my posts, this section is usually for you, not me. Well, that section is still coming. But I want to walk you through how you can use this data for your own vacation planning purposes pretty easily.

  1. I know my travel dates. My family loves traveling the week after Labor Day. We usually fly in the day after Labor Day and stay for about a week. Sure, the weather’s hot. There’s an occasional hurricane (or pandemic). But the crowds are always super-low. So for my calculations, I’ll always have our first night be a Tuesday, and I’ll always be in the “Sept 1-19” travel period.
  2. I know the members of my party. We’ve got two adults and two toddlers. Value resorts just don’t have enough room for us, and the next-cheapest option is almost always renting DVC points.
  3. Let’s say that I have a budget of $1500 for just our room (note: this is above my typical budget, but it gives me some wiggle room to demonstrate more options).
  4. Let’s also say that thanks to the low travel season, I can find a deal for $14/point. In the past, I’ve paid as little as $10/point, and as much as $18/point. So we’ll go with an average. That means I can afford 107 points.
  5. I can use the point charts here to figure out what I might be able to afford:
    • As a point-renter, I know there’s essentially no way I’m getting the very cheapest DVC room on property, which is a value studio at my favorite resort – Animal Kingdom Lodge. But a standard studio there only costs 10 points per night during the week, and 13 points per night during the weekend. That means with my $1500 (107-point) budget, I can afford a whopping 10 nights in a standard studio. Holy moly! And using the chart above, I could expect to have an average satisfaction of 4.8. Definitely not too shabby.
    • I can regularly score views like this out of a “standard view” at Jambo, so I rarely consider the cost to upgrade to a savanna view instead.

      If I opt to upgrade to a savanna view studio, my point cost goes up by 3 points per night on weekdays and weekends. That means now I can only afford 7 nights instead of 10. In my mind, I’d always choose the 3 extra days. I can sit on the back porch of the lodge and make up for not being on my own balcony. But that’s a personal choice.

    • What if I really really just want to maximize the length of my trip? Looking at the chart above, the cheapest studio room is at Old Key West. Old Key West costs 9 points per night during the week, and 13 points per night during the weekend during my travel period. That’s actually not that much different from Animal Kingdom Lodge. If I choose to stay there again, with my 107 point budget, I can still only afford to stay for 10 nights. But I’ll be saving 8 points (or $112) compared to staying at Jambo.
    • What if I decide to forget nightly cost and just go for maximizing my chance at high satisfaction? Overall, the highest satisfaction at any room type at any resort is a 1-bedroom villa at the Villas at Grand Floridian (an average of 4.93). Thanks to my analysis, I know that satisfaction doesn’t differ between standard and lake views. I can use the room request to get a view that I’ll like. A standard view 1-bedroom villa will set me back 32 points per night during the week, and 41 points per night on the weekend. My brain can barely comprehend those high numbers, but we’ll roll with it. At that cost, I can afford a whole 3 nights within my higher-than-normal budget. Maybe for a special occasion, but usually I’m not flying halfway across the country for a 3-night trip.

What Does This Mean For You?

  1. There are many things to consider when picking a resort for your WDW vacation. You know you and your needs and wants better than any data does. But you can use data to help guide and inform your decisions. It’s one factor.
  2. If you’re solely focused on maximizing your time in the WDW bubble, you should almost always opt to stay at Old Key West. The satisfaction scores fall within what you would expect for what you pay.
  3. The resort that regularly falls below the expected satisfaction range is Saratoga Springs. That doesn’t mean you should absolutely stay away, but you should think through why you might want to stay there (lots of available rooms, proximity to Disney Springs, etc).
  4. The only room type at any resort the over-performs for its cost is a studio at Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House. It’s one of the cheapest rooms that you can get, no matter when you’re travelling. But you have to be prepared to balance the slightly longer travel times to most parks from that resort. (But … animals! And theme!)

 

How do you usually go about choosing where you’d stay when you plan a WDW vacation? If you have a set budget, do you opt for a longer stay or more expensive accommodations? Let us know in the comments!

 

You May Also Like...

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

3 thoughts on “How Do I Use Satisfaction and Cost Data to Choose a DVC Resort?

  • July 7, 2021 at 9:05 pm
    Permalink

    What a wonderfully interesting post for a data geek/market researcher like myself. With this said, is this still inclusive of 3-year data? If so, I’m guessing that’s because you wanted a statistically signifcant sample size of reviews, but I think that very long tail in arrears skews the results too much because of 1- the significant amount of renovation that has taken place in the past 2 years specifically, and the 2- global pandemic potentially impacting expectations and satisfaction.

    How does this change with just 2 years of data (understanding that 1 year is likely far too limiting given the pandemic). I think it might change a good deal.

    Reply
    • July 7, 2021 at 10:01 pm
      Permalink

      Astute observation, Joey! Unfortunately, when I narrow to two years – especially thanks to the months-long closure followed by several months of really low attendance, there just isn’t enough data to make tight correlations. The 95% confidence interval gets much larger. That’s partially due to the lower sample sizes, and partially due to the fact that hotel satisfaction hasn’t been as reliable post-reopening thanks to closed dining options, lower staffing, etc.

      If we can start getting more submitted surveys (thanks to increased attendance and hopefully a more user-friendly survey in the future), and we get more time in “normal”, then I’ll be able to tighten up those windows.

      To your point about renovations, generally renovations don’t have a large impact or shift on the satisfaction scores. It’s an interesting anomaly – I might have to write a post about it sometime.

      Reply
      • July 7, 2021 at 10:49 pm
        Permalink

        Thank you very much for the very thoughtful and thorough response, Becky. And indeed – maybe that post about renovations and satisfaction scores would be interesting to some readers. It’s a bit surprising to me bc – for example – the renovation at Saratoga is so much more upscale, modern, and functional, that it has transformed my opinion of the resort. But I’ve been called ahem, “unique” more than once or twice, ha!

        Thank you again for the great work and super interesting content!

Leave a Reply to Joey C. Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.