Chicago mom: To Disney, or not to Disney, that is the question

Sometimes my husband has to travel for work. And some of these trips are to fun locations. When he has a trip to say, Orlando, we put forth every effort to tack a family vacation onto it. Last month he had to work two and a half days at a conference in Orlando, so we added an extra five days to vacation together.

We took another trip like this to Orlando three years ago. That time we stayed two nights at the All-Star Movies Resort in a teeny-tiny room with two double beds (there were four in our family at the time). This is the resort decked out with a giant Buzz Lightyear and many other larger-than-life Disney characters. We also stayed five nights at the Contemporary Resort, the triangle-shaped hotel in which the monorail runs through. There, we stayed in a larger one-room, two double beds unit.

For our trip last month (our family has grown to five now – kids aged 9, 7 and 4) we chose a different route after some friends told us about a timeshare company they use to rent a condo at Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort.

The condo had two bedrooms (slept six to eight) with a full kitchen, washer/dryer in the unit, and a Jacuzzi tub. The property had five swimming pools, one with a pirate ship theme, two lazy rivers, eight hot tubs, two large water slides, mini-golf, a playground, ping pong, a pool table, Wii and Xbox for rainy days, and a plethora of scheduled activities we could join if we desired. And it was only a five-minute drive to Epcot either by your own car or the resort’s shuttle.

It was a much more economical stay at under $900 for eight nights versus the $1800+ for eight nights we paid three years ago to stay on the Disney property in crammed spaces. We attended a non-required two-hour timeshare meeting for a $100 American Express gift card while our kids played in a supervised childcare area.

We arrived with few plans other than to spend at least one day at Disney. We considered a second day at a park, but after spending 12 hours walking all over Epcot punctuated by our children’s whining, complaining and fighting, we decided that what would be best would be to save the money and lay low and hang out at the resort for the remainder of the trip.

One of the advantages of staying on Disney property is that you can spend a day or more traveling around to visit each of the other resorts in the park via monorail, boat or other means. This is what we did three years ago. It was “free” entertainment. We loved it.

But this time our family was content staying within our non-Disney resort, checking out each of the swimming pools, playing in the lazy rivers, followed by a round of mini-golf or a game of Bingo. My husband and I often chose to lie by the pool enjoying our time on social media and hearing the joyful screams and laughter of our children swimming only a towel flick beyond our reach.

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