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Friday, February 23, 2018

Saratoga Springs at Disney: An Underrated Disney World Resort


by: guide4wdw - Collin

The Saratoga Springs Resort at Walt Disney World is one of the best resorts on Disney property for the money. It features a great location, fairly effective transportation, and retains the perks of being a Deluxe tier resort while avoiding some of the costs of other deluxe tier offerings. In short, I put Saratoga Springs at Disney right next to Old Key West in regards to the best overall value for your money on property, especially when booking with larger groups (we'll get to more on that later).

While it may not be the ultimate "sought after" destination featured in the Disney TV ads or even the resort your friends and family tell you you have to at least go and visit, but it's debatably a hidden gem of a well planned Disney vacation. As one of the largest Deluxe resorts geographically, Saratoga Springs offers legitimately a room type for any type of group or party size. On top of that, it features multiple pools, and activities for guests of all ages. Without spoiling all the details in the introduction, we'll jump right into it and share a bit more below on why this has been a top pick for our vacations.

As always our preferences and yours may differ. We tend to travel in somewhat larger groups, and typically stay in villa style resort rooms or deluxe resorts, but that's just what works for us. If you fall into that same vacation style category, or even if you may not, I'd give this place a second look before booking anything else.   

(Photo: Jason Pratt - Flickr

Resort Accommodations
The Saratoga Springs resort offers a diverse lineup of lodging accommodations. From the typical and rather spacious deluxe studio rooms featuring 1 queen bed and one double size sleeper sofa to massive Treehouse Villa accommodations that can comfortably accommodate 9 guests, there's a little something for everyone. It's not the perfect resort, but one where no matter what your party size is, you can almost always find something that suits your needs. 

Personally, I recommend a preferred two bedroom villa here for a few select reasons. First, when you purchase a preferred room you are essentially guaranteed one of the better building locations on the property. What that means is that not only will you walk shorter distances to the main area, dining, and pools, but also remain close to transportation via bus or boat (boat to Disney Springs). Second, two bedroom villas are ideal if you can find another family or group of friends to travel with you and split up the costs. If you can work it out, typically you can put 7 guests into that particular villa comfortably (8 by capacity standards), and if you can split the costs you can occasionally catch a room at this particular resort for relatively close to moderate tier resort prices where you would have to book two or more rooms for larger parties. It sounds crazy, but I've done it on multiple occasions and it works out great if you can find the accommodations you're looking for available for your given dates. Villas tend to go quickly, so be sure to book early or book with our preferred travel agent or another group that can continually check for resort room openings for you. Here's why I recommend an Authorized Disney Travel Planner!

If you can find the accommodations you need, this can be a pretty significantly overlooked offering for those of us who are not DVC members, despite it technically being a DVC resort. DVC members tend to love the place and I can't say that I blame them, but many first time and retiring guests completely overlook this potentially perfect offering. Of course, as with any resort, it has its flaws and if you want to hear our largest concerns jump down to transportation.         

(Pictured: Treehouse Villas - Photo: Disney)

Resort Activities
At the resort, you do have a few huge bonuses. First, you have two pools which are both excellent "resort style" themed pools in addition to smaller pools throughout the property. The two main pools are excellent and with one of them only steps form the main quick service location, it's easy to take your refillable mug inside for a refill without having to pack up all your stuff and make the hike across property as you do at some select resorts. 

Additionally, scattered around the pool deck you'll find ping pong and other games to enjoy. Of course, they're not quite as enjoyable in the heat of the day as a dip in the pool, but nonetheless an excellent offering and a perk for those spring trips or a night off from the parks to relax and enjoy the resort. 

Last but certainly not least, the resort is home to Disney's Lake Buena Vista golf course. Personally, I see this as the better of Disney's golf facilities. The driving range is iconic and features a unique water element utilizing aqua balls that float in the case of an errant shot. Plus, opposed to hitting off of more typical mats, players utilize real turf on the range and are even provided a golf cart just to drive out to the range with your clubs even if you don't plan on playing the course. As an added bonus, as you hit golf balls, you can peer through the trees over at Disney Springs from a rather unique angle that many guests will completely overlook. It's a great facility and a great way to convince a non-Disney fan to join you on a Disney vacation in order to play an excellent golf course. The golf offering even made our 4 Unconventional Ways to Enjoy Disney That You May Have Never Considered list. 

Excellent Quick Service Offerings
As mentioned, just steps away from the main pool and check-in area you'll find The Artist's Palette. As one of my favorite quick service offerings at any resort location, The Artist's Palette is one of the best locations for variety you'll find at a resort hotel quick service location. Everything is made to order and hot and ready at basically any time of day. The location even stays open until late at night for those guests returning from the parks. It's a great first meal or last meal at Walt Disney World and a great place to grab a quick bite to eat before heading to the parks. 

If you're looking for something a little more upscale, take a few steps down the hall to The Turf Club for a Table service meal with a classic view of the on-property Lake Buena Vista Golf Course (which starts at the clubhouse downstairs) in addition to the boat launch over to Disney Springs.     

Proximity to Disney Springs
The proximity to Disney Springs is something that I see as increasingly valuable as time goes on and the transformation of Disney Springs continues to develop and change in the coming months and years. The offerings at the Springs are vast and the dining opportunities are some of the best you'll find. It's a largely varied shopping and dining experience with a little bit for everyone to enjoy with dining and shopping options for all price points. 

The quick boat ride over only takes around 10 minutes and is incredibly picturesque as the sun starts to fade over the horizon and the colors of those classic Florida sunsets reflect off the water. It's a view of the Springs that gets vastly overlooked but one of the most iconic views you'll ever experience from the little pontoon-esque boats that ferry gets back and forth from this resort, Old Key West, and Port Orleans. As the shortest of the three boat rides, it's truly hard to beat the convenience and the multitude of entertainment options just a few short minutes from your resort.        

(Pictured: Homecomin' Kitchen at Disney Springs: AKA - Our New "Must-Do" Disney Dining Location!)

Transportation... The Good and the Bad
The entire Saratoga Springs Resorts utilizes Disney's bus theme park transportation. They don't have any monorail, or boats to the parks, but for many the cost savings more than makes up for the transportation limitations. Of course, as mentioned, you do still retain the boat transportation to Disney Springs, but the transportation to any other park requires the use of multiple bus stops within the resort (similar to Caribbean Beach or other more spread out resorts) and the ride through the property can be fairly time consuming. It's certainly not the ideal situation for someone who gets carsick (like me) easily with the multiple stop and go segments, but you can always hop in your car and drive to the parks as an alternative. Also, the parking is typically only a few steps from your resort room, so it's easy to access a vehicle or rental car if you have one for your vacation.         

Wrapping Up
With all of this being shared, it's easy to see how the resort can be viewed as a "diamond in the rough" by our standards. It's not the perfect resort but one with some of the most varied options on all of property accompanying a price tag that isn't all that unreasonable. The amenities are excellent, the rooms are incredibly classy and nicely laid out, and the staff (as with any Disney resort) is truly excellent. If you're like many guests and have overlooked this property, I certainly recommend you bring it into consideration in a future vacation planning process. It even made our Three Vastly Underrated Walt Disney World Resorts You May Want to Consider for Your Next Vacation - A Few Thoughts post. 

Your Thoughts
As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don't hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you're there, and we'll keep the conversation going in the future. We're not the largest Disney community, but we're one that's there and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are! 

Ready to Plan?

Need help planning your vacation? Let our friends over at Destinations to Travel (FREE - no obligation quote request form below) help you out at no additional cost to you! Their services are free and a great way for you to help out the site at no extra cost to you! Here's a closer look at why I recommend an Authorized Disney Travel Planner!
Last but certainly not least, if you're starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections!

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